The so-called Mykonos Vase, discovered in 1960 on the Greek island of Mykonos, is the earliest depiction of the Trojan Horse. The vase dates from about 670 BCE, while the idea of the Trojan Horse is about 500 years older.

Photograph by Travelling Runes, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Download this file

  • Audience versions of this page: Family

    On April 24, 1184 BCE, the city of Troy fell to invading Greek armies, ending the Trojan War. The Trojan War is an important story in Geek mythology and literature. The ancient Greek poet Homer wrote about the final days of the Trojan War in his epic The Iliad. (Troy’s ancient name was Ilion or Wilion.)
     
    The Trojan War began when a Trojan prince ran off with the wife of a Greek king. The woman, Helen of Troy, became “the face that launched a thousand ships,” when her husband, Menelaus, assembled a fleet of ships to retrieve her from Troy. The war between the Greeks (who actually called themselves Achaeans) and the Trojans lasted ten years. 
     
    The Trojan War ended when the Greek commander Odysseus devised a plan to invade the walled city. The Greeks pretended to give up. Before leaving the Trojan beaches, they gave the Trojans a present—a giant wooden horse. The Trojans opened the gates to accept the horse. Inside the hollow horse were armed Greek troops, who sacked the city. 
     
    Of course, all dates surrounding the Trojan War are total guesses. Many historians didn’t believe Troy existed at all until the 19th century, when archaeologists found evidence of the legendary city on a hill near the modern town of Hisarlik, Turkey. Even that evidence is disputed—and there is no evidence of a giant wooden horse!
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    archaeologist Noun

    person who studies artifacts and lifestyles of ancient cultures.

    assemble Verb

    to put together.

    city Noun

    large settlement with a high population density.

    clever Adjective

    very smart.

    epic Noun

    long story of a hero and his or her adventures.

    evidence Noun

    data that can be measured, observed, examined, and analyzed to support a conclusion.

    fleet Noun

    group of ships, usually organized for military purposes.

    invade Verb

    to enter and attack.

    legendary Adjective

    famous, heroic, or celebrated.

    literature Noun

    written material, including novels, poetry, drama and history.

    myth Noun

    legend or traditional story.

    proverb Noun

    short, popular saying usually conveying wisdom or truth.

    retrieve Verb

    to bring back, restore, or recover.

    sack Verb

    to capture, loot, and largely destroy a city or other targeted area.

    soldier Noun

    person who serves in a military.

    troop Noun

    a soldier.

    war Noun

    large-scale armed conflict.