Achilles and Troy—The Legend, The Movie, The Truth

The Hollywood trend of basing stories on legends, books, and historical events is not new and the fact that the movies are always different than what really happened is widely known and accepted. However, individuals who choose to simply view “Troy” as opposed to reading Homer’s The Iliad really miss out on some key events. Most importantly, the legend of Aquilles. 

Interestingly, the Troy War is one of the major surviving pieces of Greek mythology and with the 2004 movie of “Troy” many people became interested in what really happened. Basically, in the second year of the conflict King Agamemnon, ruler of the Greeks, and Achilles’ dispute began. The dispute began for many reasons, but basically because the Greeks could not win without Achilles and Achilles listened to his own warrior’s voice rather than Agamemnon’s directions. It is amazing Achilles fought for the Greeks when he was predestined to die in the engagement.  

According to legend it was Achilles’ destiny to die in Troy despite his mother’s efforts to keep the prediction from coming true as well as the fact that without Achilles warrior skills the Greeks could not win despite Agamemnon’s desires. When Achilles was a child his parents dressed him as a girl and sent him to live with a King. Also, Achilles mother tried to increase his protection and bathed him in the river to make him immortal, however the only vulnerable spot was his heel where she held him to immerse him in the immortal waters. As a result, Achilles’ only vulnerability was his heel.  

Achilles had nothing to do with the beginning of the war, which was started by Trojan prince Paris kidnapping King Menelaus’ wife Helen and taking her to Troy. The movie depicts her stowing away and happily leaving her husband while the text shows that Paris kidnapped her. Regardless, King Agamemnon, brother of King Menelaus, responded by declaring war on the very secure city of Troy.  

However, not long after the war had begun between the Greeks and the Trojans the Greeks realized they needed help to win the war, and as such Achilles was sought to be a leading warrior. Of course, he had problems with Agamemnon the Greek king, and knew his destiny was death, but he fought anyway. The war raged on, and finally there was a strategy to build a Trojan horse and hide Greek warriors inside. The reasoning behind this was that if the Greeks never got inside the Trojans walls they would never win. The Greeks accepted the Trojan horse and pulled it inside their massive gates. As night approached, the Greeks poured out of the horse, opened the gates, and the war entered the streets of Troy. During this engagement Paris, son  of  Priamo King of Troy, and the man who kidnapped Helen, killed Troy with an arrow in the heel of Achilles, his only weak spot. As such, the predestination of Achilles came true and Achilles died in Troy. To this day the legend rings true as individuals regularly recall the weakness of  Achilles’ heel.  

The movie “Troy” is based on the legend however it is not an exact representation. The movie depicts the Trojan War as a relatively fast engagement that began and ended within a short period of time. Obviously, in a two hour movie it is easier to depict a war that lasts two weeks as opposed to ten years. Also, the movie ignores many characters that played a huge role in the actual Trojan War as is told by Homer. For instance, Aenus was barely mentioned in the film, but to Homer he played a huge role in the war. The movie was also placed in a desert like area, which is completely different to the forest area of olive and pine trees found in Turkey where Troy really existed. The movie also had many famous faces including Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, and Eric Bana. The movie placed some significance on the predestination of Achilles death in Troy, but was not emphasized as it is in the book.  

The legend and the movie do not have as many likenesses as one might think a movie based on a legend should have. In fact, there are so many gross differences in how the war is depicted, the characters, and general facts that anyone trying to learn something Homer wrote about will simply learn wrong facts. Also, any college student who chooses to see the movie as opposed to reading Homer’s Iliad will surely have gross errors in their research paper or exam.  

The reasons there are so many differences are many, and most of them boil down to selling the movie rather than the legend. Apparently, it is ok for a movie’s facts to differ from the legend or true story as long as the movie producers make viewers aware of the changes i.e. simply say the movie was based on or inspired by a certain historical event, legend, book, you get the idea. However, Warner Brothers promoted their movie “Troy” as inspired by the legend and the following quote was part of the movies press: “There is a legend 28 centuries old that tells of a queen who betrayed her king, and the warrior he called upon to lead a war for vengeance. If love is worth fighting for, it has known no greater battle than this.”  

This particular quote is so vague that it could apply to all sorts of things, even Homer’s Iliad and the movie “Troy.” Significant differences between the movie and Homer’s depiction include  the facts that the war lasted 10 years in the book while in the movie it seemed like a brief encounter; Helen appeared to be sweet, innocent, and abused by her husband in the movie and was applauded for escaping, while Homer depicts her as selfish, egotistical, and utterly self absorbed kidnapped queen who launched a 1000 ships; the other characters also experience some changes from Homer to Warner Studios that include King Agamemnon, Aenus, and Hector. With Homer the good and bad guys were not so easily distinguished, however in the movie it was very obvious King Agamemnon was considered very bad while Hector seemed completely perfect. Of course, neither of these was the exact situation with Homer’s telling of the story.  

The biggest difference of all between the text and the film is that the text is full of gods and goddesses while the movie seems to conveniently forget this aspect. However, the movie is only based on the text rather than a remake of it.  

Of course, whenever a 28 century old story is taken and changed into a movie there are bound to be different interpretations and changes. The only thing readers and/or viewers should understand is that the movie is not representative of the book and is for entertainment purposes only. If you really want to know about Troy, try reading Homer’s The Iliad and even The Odyssey. Even if you are not a scholar, you will easily note the differences between the text and the film.



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