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Myth in the ancient world Instructions Write an essay of no more than 2000 words about the trojan war Example

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Myth in the ancient world

Oral composition is whereby a singer or poet sings ancient tales of historic happenings such as great wars or heroes together with accompaniments such as harps of lyres. However, the unique feature about oral composition is that instead of memorizing the poem of oral song, the poet or singer composes it while singing or edging the poem from the memorized phrases that are often regarded as formulas that go in in-line with the meter of the song. The song or poem is therefore composed orally by bards who are considered to be illiterate and recited in a chant to the audience. Some of the common examples of such poems include the Odyssey and the Iliad.

However, considering the fact that such songs of poems were orally composed, they often exhibit certain unique characteristics. Looking at the Iliad, some of the signs of oral composition exhibited include continuous repetition of phrases and lines, for instance approximately one third of the whole poem is comprised of blocks of lines that have been repeated more than once (Finley, 1977). Besides, the Iliad is characterized by fragments of formulas, which is a characteristic of oral poetry. The other feature is that the audience was composed directly without the bard having to memorize the lines. The Iliad also exhibits digressions, also known as breaks, a major feature of oral composition. Digressions provide breaks form the main line of story in an aim to enable the audience understand the living and full cultural background of the entire story.

It is apparent that oral poetry assists in preserving information about the past in various ways. For instance the history and truth about various important people can only be traced by the use of oral poetry. For instance, significant information regarding Homer isoffered by physical data recorded in various poems, for example the design of costume and armour (Rubin, 1995). As known from archeology, these reflect life realities at two specificperiods. In addition, oral poetry helps in the preservation of ancient language and words whose original meaning could have been entirely forgotten(Morris, 1986).

Furthermore, it is true to support the argument that most of the institutions founded in our texts may have been fully vanished and/or may be dead if it were not for oral poetry. However, most of these institutions which date centuries ago are still and have accelerated to be faithfully defined by bards.Moreover, oral heroic poetry usually defines wars that are set some hundred years before the audience and the poet lived, for instance, the epics of Northern Europe that were composed between the seventh and eleventh century are typically set in the period of fifth century migrations (Morris,1986; Rubin, 1995).

Additionally, oral societies generally live in a present that keeps itself in equilibrium by sloughing off memories that no longer contain present relevance. Habitually, oral poetry reflects the cultural values of a society rather than the past’s idle curiosity. For instance, while telling a story to the audience, a poet usually employs such audiences to particular assumptions regarding the conditions and sources of action, thus taking a view of culture(Morris, 1986). From this we can conclude that, oral poetry is part of the present as it brings fourth most of the information that could otherwise have been forgotten.

The 13th century saw the final flowering of the Mycenaean Greece. During this time, the Greeks perhapswent to war against their enemies- Troy and this is thus the period of happenings recalled, in epic form, contained in the story of Iliad (in the Trojan War).Following the Trojan War, in the unsettled centuries, the art of writing which is termed in the Mycenae as Linear B, is replaced with the oral poetry. Most the happenings of the war between the two territories are recalled, celebrated and also highly embroidered by different generations of the bards. For example, in festivals, the bards habitually recite various incidents from the story.

The Iliad preserves various features of the account which encompasses the Mycenaean palaces, but in the story, there is no reference to the Mycenaean application of fine plaster, but instead, the megaron’s floor which seemed to be plain earth. Others include the characteristics of burial rituals for instance, wailing, that is indicated in exactly same fashion with the late Mycenaean Tanagra Larnakes. In addition, the field of religion, different names which were used to refer to the Greek Gods can be founded in Linear B (Dickinson, 1986).

Next, the use of bronze tripods by the Mycenaean worldas symbols of wealth is also preserved in the Iliad. These were named as gifts and prizes, and they were even first amongst the presents that Agamemnongives to Achilles as compensation for his wounded honour(Dickinson, 1986). The bronze tripods were greatly valued and symbolized much wealth.

In the Iliad, the warfare field is also greatly described. The emphasis of the heroes’ activities makes for an unreal image of battle at any particular period that can definitely fit a Mycenaean age. The use of weapons such as spears and swords, and the helmets for protection during wars, body covering shields and the use of chariots are also stressed and described in the Iliad(Dickinson, 1986). These symbolize how the Mycenaean world went to wars with their enemies during the early periods.

The issue about the historicity of the Trojan War is still a controversial topic since most of the classical Greeks deem this war as a historical event, while many believe that the Homeric poem exaggerated the whole events to go well with the requirements of poetry. For instance a historian known as Thucydides, famous for his critical spirit, supports the fact that this war took place and should be considered a historical event, though he still has some doubts concerning the fact that 1,186 ships were taken to Troy. However, the Euripides tried to alter the Greeks myths together with those of the Trojan War at will. It is even written that there was a general agreement in the entire Western Europe, around 1870, than the Trojan War never took place and that Troy, as outlined in the Iliad never existed. However, it was after Henrich Schiemann found out the ruins regarding Troy together with those of the Greece Mycenaean cities that the earlier agreement about the non-existence of the Trojan War was changed (Finley, 1957).

Today, most historical scholars from all over the world have concurred with the notion that the Trojan War is grounded on a historical foundation about a Greek expedition that took place against the Ilium city, events that have been captured in the Homeric poems. The results about the archaeological findings about the ruins of the Trojan War were presented by geologists in November 2011. These results were compared with the contemporary geology with the coastal features and landscapes as Homer has described in the Iliad, and from the comparison, it was postulated that there is a consistency between the geographical location of Troy, the depiction of its topography, the geological findings and the descriptions of the Iliad battle (Geddes, 1984). However, it is also evident from the geological findings that Troy had stronger ties with Bronze Age. This has even been clearly outlined in the poems, for instance, the overall settlement description displaying mud-brick architecture and ceremonies such as cremation burials. These events have only been identified with the help of the archaeological findings since there is no evidence of their existence in the contemporary world (Geddes, 1984). For instance, it is from the findings that we have to know about the existence of heaps of sling bullets and skeletons that we are able to know that the war took place. There is no first hand evidence about the existence of the war and this is probably the main reason as to why this war is considered historical.

It is evident that the Trojan Warcan be used to supplement archeological findings to tell us about the Mycenaean world. As explained in the Iliad, the period of Trojan War is deemed as one of the happenings mostly recalled in epic form. For instance, most of the features of the Mycenaean world, including the spears, swords, helmets, body covering shields and the chariots used by the warriors during the Trojan War are well emphasized in the Iliad story(Dickinson, 1986; Crouwel, 1981). Others include the iron tools used in the Mycenaean times such as daggers, shield bosses and socketed spearheads(Dickinson, 1986).Thesetools and war features are examples of archeological indications.

The eighth century is the time when writing returned to Greece. However, it is not a situation of individuals just writing down existing poems. As a writer of genius, and for this case a single writer, Homer completed literary form of the Odyssey and Iliad. These separate happenings that constitute the two stories should indeed have been in the range of different performers. However, it is true that, compared to Homer, no single could have composed all the material that he used. Homer was considered to have the opportunity and the incentive to fashion proficiently shaped narratives from the start, middle and at the end.

The Dark Age is referred as a period when only little can is known about its existence (Calhoun, 1934). Most of the claims about its existence are basically grounded on the archaeological findings. This world probably had a central government headed by a central king who would issue orders to his subordinates, for instance the chiefs that headed the smaller regions. However, power was defined in terms of how much territory the king acquired, therefore, there were constant battles that aimed at expanding the territorial grounds. This is probably the reason why the dark ages are characterized by numerous fights battles. Besides, these people engaged in ceremonies and feasts to marks various occasions such as the burial ceremonies, as well as the wedding ceremonies. However, most of the songs or poems presented during such ceremonies could be considered to be orally composed since they were basically composed in line with the occasion being addressed. Furthermore, most of the people were illiterate (Calhoun, 1934). Land could be considered to be communally owned since there were no title deeds to identify single owners. Basically, a model could be constructed, incomplete, imperfect, untidy, but having the ability to put together the fundamentals of social and political structure with suitable value systems in a manner that gives the present geologists the ability to compare it with the modern societies, regardless of the fact that there is no external documentation (Snodgrass, 1971).


Calhoun, G, 1934. Classes and Masses in Homer, Classical Philology vol. 29, pp. 30-192.

Crouwel, JH. 1981. Chariots and other means of land transport in bronze age Greece, Amsterdam, Ch.VI, pp.121-124.

Dickinson, OTPK. 1986. Homer, the poet of the Dark Age, Greece and Rome, Oxford University Press, vol. 13, pp. 20-37.

Finley, M, 1957. Homer and Mycenae: Property and Tenure, Historia 6

Finley, M, 1977. The World of Odysseus. London: Ghatto and Windus.

Geddes, G 1984. Who’s who in the Homeric Society? Classic Quarterly, vol. 34, pp. 017-36.

Morris, I. 1986. The use and abuse of Homer, University of California, vol.17, no.1, pp. 81-93.

Rubin, DC. 1995. Memory in Oral Traditions: The Cognitive Psychology of Epic, Ballads, and Counting-out Rhymes. New York: Oxford University Press.

Snodgrass, A, 1971. The Dark Age of Greece. Edinburgh: Marcus.