In Euripides’ Women of Troy (415BC), the Trojan women become “spoils of war”, each attributed to one of their Greek victors. Set after the siege of Melos in 416 BC, which occurred during the Peloponnesian War (431 BC to 405 BC) Euripides foregrounds the savage consequences of a war that, owing to despicable acts of retribution, has no real victors and no foreseeable end to the cycle of trauma. In a world that has rapidly been “overturned”, the brutal death of Astyanax forms the dramatic offstage climax, whilst the agons of the gods provide ample warning to the Greek perpetrators. Not only are the women the desperate and mournful victims, but through various foreshadowing techniques, Euripides also suggests that the Greeks will not escape harm. The capricious nature of the gods also play a role in the revenge agenda that takes centre stage in this ancient but presciently modern play.
Whilst women such as Hecuba and Andromache act graciously and stoically, there are no real heroes. According to Euripides, the complicity and capricious nature of the gods renders human endeavours futile. In war-stricken communities, human value systems and stereotypical notions of courage are undermined by the chaos and indiscriminate nature of the war.
(See the Wooden Horse 5, 27)
The legendary Trojan or “Wooden Horse” was a clever “stratagem” employed by the Archaean troops which changed the course of the Trojan War. The war reportedly took place from around 1194 – 1184 BC. The Trojans interpreted the wooden horse as their victory gift. However, it was a ploy by the Greeks who smuggled themselves into the streets of Troy, unleashing carnage and ultimately claiming victory – thus turning the tide of war.
In the Illiad, Homer refers to the Trojan Horse, which the Greeks used to deceive the Trojans: “What a thing was this, too, which that might man wrought and endured in the carven horse, wherein all we chiefs of the Argives were sitting, bearing to the Trojans death and fate”.
In Women of Troy, there are several references to the “Wooden Horse”. In the opening prologue, Poseidon refers to “A horse whose capacious belly was pregnant with armed commandos, and managed to get it – Together with its murderous payload – Inside the walls; so that no one/ In the future will ever forget the stratagem/ That goes by the name of the Wooden Horse”.
See “Women of Troy: Package of notes, themes, essay plans, narrative devices, and useful greek terminology.