Dares the Phrygian's

History of the Fall of Troy (De Excidio Troiae Historia)

Contents of the History:
Introductory Letter
The Mission of Jason
The Mission of Hercules
The Trojan Response

Introductory Letter

Greetings from Cornelius Nepos to his friend Sallustius Crispus.
When I was busy researching in Athens, I came across a history by Dares the Phrygian written in his own hand, which (as the title indicates) he wrote for posterity about the Greeks and Trojans. I was so strongly taken with it that I immediately translated it. I thought that there was no reason to add or remove anything in an attempt to recast the contents, otherwise it could be seen as my own work. So I thought it best to translate it word for word into Latin just as it had originally been written, truthfully and simply. That way readers could decide how the events had happened, that is, whether they judge as more reliable the account passed down to posterity by Dares the Phrygian, who lived and fought during the period in question when the Greeks attacked the Trojans, or whether they feel that we should trust Homer, who was born many years later after this war was waged. There was a trial about this question in Athens at which Homer was judged to be a madman because he had written that the gods fought with mortals. But enough of that. Now let us return to what I promised.

The Mission of Jason

[1] King Pelias had a brother Aeson, and Aeson’s son was Jason, who surpassed all others in bravery and had many men under his command. He considered all of them friends and he was loved very much by them. When King Pelias saw that Jason was so well liked by everyone, he grew afraid that Jason would do him harm and drive him from power. He told Jason that there was a ram’s golden fleece in Colchis that was a fitting object for his bravery. He promised that he would hand over all his power and wealth to Jason, in order to induce Jason to try to take the fleece from that place. Jason was a most courageous man and wanted to explore the whole world. He also thought that this would make him more famous. So when heard this, he told King Pelias that he would be willing to go there so long as he did not lack troops and allies.

King Pelias ordered the master-builder Argus to be summoned and commanded him to build the most beautiful ship he could and to do it in whatever way Jason wanted. Rumor spread through all of Greece that a ship was being built in which Jason would go to Colchis on a quest for the golden fleece. Followers and friends came to Jason and promised that they would go with him. Jason thanked them and asked them to be prepared when the time came. In the meantime the ship was built. When a year’s time had passed, Jason sent letters to those who had promised to go with him and they immediately assembled at the ship. Its name was the Argo.

King Pelias had what they needed loaded onto the ship. He urged Jason and those who were going to set out with him to go forth resolved to complete the task that they were undertaking, for he thought that this mission would bring glory to Greece and to the men themselves. But I do not think it my job to give an account of the men who set out with Jason. Those who want to become acquainted with them can read the Argonautica.

[2] When Jason arrived in Phrygia, he brought his ship into the port of the river Simois. Then all those on board went ashore. The news was brought to King Laomedon that a wondrous ship had entered the port of the Simois and that many young men had come from Greece on it. When King Laomedon heard this, he was upset. He thought it a threat to national security if Greeks made a habit of landing on his shores in their ships. He sent men to the port to tell the Greeks to leave his territory, and if they did not obey his order, he himself would remove them from his territory by armed force. Jason and those who had come with him were offended at the cruel way they were treated by Laomedon since they were doing him no harm. At the same time they were afraid of the large number of barbarians. If they tried to remain in violation of the royal order, they feared that they would be crushed since they theselves were not prepared for a fight. They boarded the ship and withdrew from the shore. They set out for Colchis, took the fleece, and returned home.

The Mission of Hercules

[3] Hercules was aggrieved that he and those who had set out for Colchis with Jason had been treated so insultingly by King Laomedon. He went to Castor and Pollux in Sparta and pleaded with them to help him gain satisfaction for the wrongs done to them so that Laomedon would not go unpunished for having forbidden them from his land and port. He said that they would have many helpers if the two of them would lend him their support. Castor and Pollux promised that they would do everything that Hercules wanted. He left them and came to Telamon on Salamis. He asked him to come with him to Troy to gain satisfaction for the wrongs done to them and their friends. Telamon promised that he was ready for anything that Hercules might want him to do. Then he set out for Peleus in Phthia and asked him to go with him to Troy. Peleus promised him that he would go. Then he set out for Nestor in Pylus. Nestor asked him why he had come. Hercules said that he had been stirred by resentment and was going to lead an army to Phrygia. Nestor commended him and promised him his assistance. When Hercules was assured of everyone's support, he prepared ships and chose soldiers.

When the day of departure was appointed, he sent letters to all those whom he had asked, telling them to come with all their troops. When they came, they set out for Phrygia and landed at Sigeum during the night. Hercules, Telamon, and Peleus led the army out from there. They left behind Castor, Pollux, and Nestor to guard the ships. When the news was brought to King Laomedon that a fleet of Greeks had landed at Sigeum, he himself came to the sea with his cavalry and engaged them in battle. Hercules had gone to Troy and was pressing the attack on the unsuspecting people who were in the city. When the news was brought to Laomedon that Ilium was being attacked by the enemy, he immediately turned around, fell in with the Greeks en route, and was killed by Hercules. Telamon was the first to enter the city of Ilium. For his bravery Hercules gave him Hesione, King Laomedon's daughter, as his prize. Now the others who had gone with Laomedon were killed, but Priam was in Phrygia where his father Laomedon had put him in charge of the army. Hercules and those who had come with him took a great deal of plunder and carried it off to their ships. They then decided to set out for home. Telamon took Hesione with him.

The Trojan Response

[4] When the news was brought to Priam that his father had been killed, that his citizens had been robbed, that the booty had been hauled away, and that his sister Hesione had been taken as a prize, he was aggrieved that Phrygia had been treated so insultingly by the Greeks. He went to Ilium with his wife Hecuba and his children Hector, Alexander, Deiphobus, Helenus, Troilus, Andromache, Cassandra, and Polyxena. He had, in fact, many other children born by concubines, but none could claim to be of royal blood except those born by his legitimate wives. When Priam came to Ilium, he constructed higher walls and made the city very secure. He brought in a large number of soldiers so that he would not be caught unawares, as his father had been taken by surprise. He also built a palace and consecrated to Jupiter an altar and a statue there. He sent Hector to Paeonia and constructed the gates of Ilium. These are called the Antenorean, Dardanian, Ilian, Scaean, Thymbraean, and Trojan. After he saw that Ilium was stabilized, he waited a while. When it seemed right for him to avenge the injuries done to his father, he ordered Antenor to be summoned and told him that he was going to send him as an ambassador to Greece. Grave injuries—the murder of his father Laomedon and the abduction of Hesione—had been done to him by those who had come with their army. Still, he would be willing to put up with it all, if only Hesione were returned to him.

[5] Antenor, just as Priam ordered, boarded a ship, set sail, and went to Peleus in Magnesia. Peleus received him as a guest for three days and on the fourth day he asked him why he had come. Antenor told him of Priam's message: he demanded that the Greeks return Hesione. When Peleus heard this, he was aggrieved and, because he saw that this involved him personally, he ordered Antenor to depart from his territory. Without delay Antenor boarded his ship, traveled along the coast of Boeotia, and sailed to Telamon in Salamis. He asked him to return Priam's sister Hesione, saying that it was not just to hold a girl of royal blood in servitude. Telamon responded that he had done nothing to Priam, and would not give anyone what had been given to him for his bravery. He therefore ordered Antenor to depart from his island. He boarded his ship and went to Achaea. Then he was brought to Castor and Pollux and demanded that they give satisfaction to Priam by returning to him his sister Hesione. Castor and Pollux denied that Priam had been injured in any way and ordered Antenor to depart. Then he went to Nestor in Pylus and told him why he had come. When Nestor heard this, he began to rebuke him: why had he dared to come to Greece when it was the Greeks who had first been affronted by the Trojans? When Antenor saw that he had accomplished nothing and was being treated insultingly, he boarded his ship and returned home. He explained to Priam what the response of each of them had been and how he had been treated by them. At the same time he urged Priam to prosecute war against them.

[6] Immediately Priam ordered his sons to be summoned, along with all of his friends, Antenor, Anchises, Aeneas, Ucalegon, Bucolion, Panthus, and Lampon, and all of his sons who had been born by concubines. When they assembled, he told them that he had sent Antenor to Greece as ambassador to demand that the Greeks give him satisfaction for killing his father by returning Hesione to him. He explained that they had treated Antenor insultingly and that Antenor had obtained nothing from them. Since they refused to do as he wished, it seemed right to him that an army be sent to Greece to make them pay so that the Greeks would not think that barbarians were a joke. He urged his sons to be the leaders of the operation, Hector in particular, because he was the oldest.

Hector said that he would carry out his father's will and avenge the death of his grandfather Laomedon and whatever other injuries the Greeks had committed against the Trojans, so that the Greeks would not go unpunished. But, he went on, he was afraid that they would not be able to accomplish what they were attempting to do. Greece would have many allies, for Europe had many warlike men, but Asia had always lived a life of idleness, and for that reason did not even have a fleet.

[7] Alexander urged that a fleet be built and sent against Greece. He himself would command this venture, if his father so wished. He had complete faith in the favor of the gods that he would return home from Greece after defeating the enemy and gaining glory: when he had gone hunting on wooded Mt. Ida, he had dreamed that Mercury had led Juno, Venus, and Minerva to him so that he could judge their beauty. Then Venus promised him that if he decided that her appearance was beautiful, she would give him as wife the woman who was thought to be the most beautiful in Greece. So when he heard this, he chose Venus most beautiful in appearance. Because of that Priam conceived a hope that Venus would help Alexander. Deiphobus said that Alexander's plan sounded good to him and he hoped that the Greeks would return Hesione and render satisfaction if, as had been decided, a fleet were to be sent against Greece. Helenus prophesied that the Greeks would come and destroy Ilium, and that his parents and brother would perish at the enemy's hand if Alexander brought a wife from Greece for himself. Troilus, the youngest but no less brave than Hector, advocated that war be waged, saying that they should not be deterred by fear of Helenus' words. For this reason everyone decided to prepare the fleet and set out for Greece.

[8] Priam sent Alexander and Deiphobus to Paeonia to gather soldiers. He ordered his people to come to an assembly at which he impressed upon his sons that the older held command over the younger. He spoke about the injuries the Greeks had done to the Trojans and about sending Antenor as an ambassador to Greece because of those injuries to demand that they return his sister Hesione to him and make amends to the Trojans. Antenor had been treated insultingly by the Greeks and he had been able to gain nothing at all from them. He had decided, he said, to send Alexander to Greece with a fleet so that he could avenge his grandfather's death and the Trojan's injuries.

He then ordered Antenor to describe how he had been treated in Greece. Antenor urged the Trojans not to be terrified and made them more fervent to conquer Greece. In a short speech he described what he had done in Greece.

Priam said that if the idea of waging war displeased anyone, he should speak his mind. Panthus related to Priam and his kin the things he had heard from his father Euphorbus. He said that if Alexander brought a wife home from Greece, it would mean utter destruction for the Trojans. It was a finer thing to spend life in peace than to lose their liberty in conflict. The people paid no heed to Panthus' advice and asked the king to say what he wanted done. Priam told them that ships had to be prepared to go to Greece and also pointed out that the people had plenty of materials to build them. The people cried out that there would be no delay on their part in carrying out the king's orders. Priam thanked them greatly and dismissed the assembly. He sent them right away to the wooded slopes of Ida to cut down wood and to build ships. He also sent Hector to Upper Phrygia to prepare the army. After Cassandra heard her father's plan, she told what was going to happen to the Trojans if Priam persevered in his plan to send the fleet to Greece.

[9] So the time came. The ships were built, the soldiers gathered by Alexander and Deiphobus in Paeonia arrived. When they deemed that sailing was possible, Priam addressed the army, put Alexander in charge of it, and told Deiphobus, Aeneas and Polydamas to go with him. Priam ordered Alexander to go first to Sparta, meet Castor and Pollux, and ask them that his sister Hesione be returned and amends made to the Trojans. If they refused to do so, he was immediately to send news back to him so that he could send the army to Greece.

After this Alexander sailed to Greece, taking with him as guide the man who had sailed before with Antenor. A few days before Alexander arrived in Greece (before he reached the island of Cythera), Menelaus, who had set out to go to Nestor in Pylus, crossed paths with Alexander and wondered where the royal fleet was headed. Actually, both of them saw each other when they passed, uncertain as to where the other was headed. Castor and Pollux had gone to visit Clytemnestra and had taken with them Helen's daughter, their niece Hermione, because there was a festival day of Juno in Argos. This was the time that Alexander came to the island of Cythera, where there was a sanctuary of Venus. Alexander sacrificed to Diana there. The people on the island wondered at the royal fleet and asked those who had come with Alexander who they were and why they had come. They responded that Alexander had been sent as an ambassador to Castor and Pollux so that he could meet with them.

[10] Now it happened that Menelaus' wife Helen decided to go to Cythera at the same time that Alexander was on the island. Therefore she went to the shore. There is a town on the sea, Helaea, where there is a temple of Diana and Apollo. This is where Helen had decided to perform a sacrifice. After the news was brought to Alexander that Helen had come to the sea, he, well aware of his own good looks, would walk within her sight because he wanted to see her. The news was brought to Helen that Alexander, King Priam's son, had come to the town of Helaea where she herself was. She also wanted to see him. When they caught sight of each other, the two of them were aroused by the other's beauty, and so they afforded each other mutual pleasure. Alexander gave orders for all his men in the ships to be prepared to launch the fleet at night, abduct Helen from the temple and take her with them. When the signal was given, they invaded the temple, took Helen (who was not unwilling), and brought her to the ship. Some other women were also kidnapped along with her. When the townspeople saw that Helen had been taken, they fought for a long time with Alexander to keep him from kidnapping her. Alexander, relying on the large number of his companions, overcame them, despoiled the temple, and took as many people as he could with him as captives. He put them on the ships, weighed anchor, and decided to return home. He arrived at Tenedos, where he calmed Helen with soothing words because she was sad. He also sent news of what he had done to his father. After the news was brought to Menelaus in Pylus, he set out for Sparta with Nestor. He sent a message to his brother Agamemnon in Argos, asking him to come to him.

[11] In the meantime Alexander had come with many spoils to his father and related the way events had unfolded. Priam rejoiced and hoped that in their desire to recover Helen the Greeks would return his sister Hesione and the other things they had taken from the Trojans. He consoled Helen, who was sad, and gave her to Alexander as his wife. When Cassandra saw her, she uttered another warning, reporting those things that she had earlier predicted. Priam ordered her to be hauled away and locked up.

After Agamemnon had come to Sparta, he consoled his brother. They decided to send recruiters throughout Greece to summon the Greeks and proclaim a war against the Trojans. These men gathered: Achilles (with Patroclus), Euryalus, Tlepolemus, and Diomedes. After they arrived in Sparta, they decided to take vengeance for the injuries done by the Trojans and to prepare a fleet, and they made Agamemnon commander-in-chief. They sent ambassadors to tell the whole of Greece to assemble fully prepared and outfitted with ships and troops at the port of Athens, so that they could set out for Troy in unison to avenge the injuries done to them.

Castor and Pollux, soon after learning that their sister Helen had been kidnapped, had boarded a ship and followed. After they weighed anchor off the shore of the island of Lesbos, it is believed that after a great storm arose they disappeared (later it was said that they had been made immortal), and so the Lesbians went out with their ships to search for them as far away as Troy and brought word back home that no trace of them was found.

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