Penetrating a Pack of Trojans
I am sure that many of you have traded with the Trojans and found them for the most part an honourable lot. And I am equally sure that many of you have traded with the Danaans and found them for the most part an honourable lot. Had anyone but Paris, the son of Queen Hecuba and King Priam, eloped with just about anyone but Helen, the Spartan queen and daughter of Zeus, then perhaps the situation could have been sensibly sorted out before anything so devastating as a war was entered into.
Odysseus for one would have been happier to avoid the conflict. She was quite content with her husband and her new little daughter, Telemakhe, and so held back from joining the others. Menelaus sent Palamedes to remind her of the very pledge that she arranged on the behalf of Helen. At his arrival Odysseus feigned madness, yoking an ass and an ox together to a plough, sowing salt and reciting the parrot sketch, so that he would leave her to her family. However, Palamedes was not so easily fooled. He placed Odysseus' baby on the soil before the plough and she swerved in order to avoid harming the beloved infant, thus proving her sanity. She left the next day leaving Telemakhe to Penelopos' gentle care.
Achilles also tried to avoid joining the war, since his mother, the deity Thetis, foresaw that he would be killed in the conflict. He fled to the court of King Lycomedes and hid amongst his daughters disguised as a maiden. However, Odysseus was sent to find him. She came to King Lycomedes court disguised as a merchant selling both jewelry and arms. The young women enjoyed looking at and touching all of the items Odysseus brought. Tall burly Achilles who only just fit into the gown they found for him made a great deal of the jewelry, demonstrating his boys school understanding of femininity. "You're not fooling anyone," commented Odysseus. Thus Achilles was brought to join the Danaan fleets.
I would not impugn these heroes' character for wishing to dodge the draft . They had been in fights before. During a war you do not personally know your opponent and they do not personally know you, but no doubt like yourself, they have friends and family who love and will miss them if they are killed. Warriors often find themselves feeling or believing themselves separate from the rest of humanity, and the rest of humanity becomes as meaningful to them as a field of hay needing mowing. No person stands behind the face that they see before felling the body. Nevertheless, each slaughter is like chopping off a bit of themselves, until no one is left inside.
Many people died horribly as the battles wore on: Patroklos, dear friend of Achilles; Antilokhos, son of Nestor; Sarpedon, another son of Zeus; the noble Hector, brother of Paris and heir to Troy; Achilles himself, poisoned in the heel, his armour went to Odysseus; Ajax who committed suicide not because he did not receive Achilles' armour but for a broken heart; and others.
Odysseus, who found the war senseless to begin with, finally decided that she would discover whether or not Helen had really been abducted, as she was told by Menelaus, or if she wanted to remain with Paris. For if the latter were true, Odysseus planned to quit the war for home. She had sworn to defend Helen not to enforce her marriage to Menelaus.
On the pretense of capturing from the Trojans the Palladium, a statue of Athena, Odysseus along with Diomedes disguised themselves and crept into the city. The deities apparently favoured them in their errand and they found Helen at the door of the temple. Odysseus asked her how she came to Troy and if she wanted to remain.
Helen wept, admitting that she had left of her own will, but that it was a mistake. Paris was young and exciting when she met him, but he was not the friend Menelaus had been. She loved Menelaus and long wanted to go home. They did not have the means to smuggle Helen out of the city that moment, but Odysseus agreed to return for her soon and put an end to this nonsense.