Trojan Cycle: Summary of Events

The Trojan cycle is one of the longest of all the sagas of mythology, and also one which has inspired epic poetry, drama, art, and literature from ancient times until today. This outline is designed to help you remember what happened when, and the relationship of events and characters to one another. Click here for a sample chronology quiz based on this summary. For some images related to these events, see Images of the Trojan War Myth.


A. Pre-Iliad stories

B. The Iliad

C. Post-Iliad Stories


A. Pre-Iliad stories

rape of Ganymede

rape of Leda

birth and abandonment of Paris

wedding of Peleus & Thetis

oath of Helen's suitors to support her chosen husband

judgement of Paris2

elopement of Paris & Helen

gathering of the army at Aulis

the trickery necessary to recruit Odysseus & Achilles for the expedition

sacrifice of Iphigenia

wounding of Philoctetes3

landing at Troy

death of Protesilaus

nine years of indecisive warfare, including raids by the Achaeans on Troy's allies

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B. The Iliad

quarrel between Achilles & Agamemnon

duel of Paris & Menelaus

episodes of war--valor of Diomedes4; character & abilities of Hector & Ajax (the Greater)5

embassy to Achilles & his refusal to rejoin the Achaeans

spying expedition of Odysseus & Diomedes; capture of the horses of Rhesus6

entry of Patroclus into the battle

death of Sarpedon, the Lycian7

death of Patroclus at the hands of Hector & Apollo

vengeance of Achilles

death of Hector, killed by Achilles--and Athene

ransoming of Hector's body by Priam

funeral of Hector

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C. Post-Iliad stories

arrival of the Amazons as Trojan allies

death of Penthesileia, their queen (killed by Achilles)

assistance of the Ethiopians on the Trojan side

death of Memnon king of the Ethiopians8

death of Achilles (shot by an arrow aimed by Paris & Apollo)

contest for the arms of Achilles between Odysseus & Ajax (see Ovid for details)

suicide of Ajax

arrival of Achilles' son Neoptolemus (or Pyrrhus-"red-haired)

successful attempt to get the bow & arrows of Heracles9

death of Paris (killed by Philoctetes with Heracles' bow)

marriage (?) of Helen & Deiphobus, another of Priam,s sons

theft of the palladium (statue of Athene) by Odysseus and Diomedes10

strategy of the wooden horse

story of Sinon & death of Laocoon, priest of Poseidon11


death of Priam at the altar (killed by Neoptolemus)

escape of Aeneas11

rape of Cassandra by lesser Ajax

sacrifice of Polyxena to Achilles' ghost12

murder of Astyanax12

enslavement of the Trojan women12

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1. Thetis is the woman who would have a son "stronger than his father" whose identity Prometheus knew & finally revealed to Zeus to the generation before the Trojan War. Zeus married her to a mortal, for whom it would be an honor to have a strong son.

2. Before Paris was born, Hecuba dreamed she had given birth to a firebrand that destroyed Troy and the prophets said this meant the child would be the destruction of the city. Priam shrank from killing him & gave him to a shepherd to expose ("unwanted child who survives"). Paris was brought up as a shepherd & not revealed prince of Troy until after the judgement.

3. Philoctetes was the recipient of Heracles' bow & arrows.

4. Diomedes was one of the Epigoni who defeated Thebes (his father Tydeus was an Argonaut & one of the seven against Thebes).

5. Son of Telamon; his half brother Teucer was half Trojan (son of Telamon & Priam's sister Hesione) & the greatest Achaean had to fulfill.

6. The capture of Rhesus' horse was one of three conditions for the taking of Troy that the Achaeans had to fulfill.

7. See the genealogy of Bellerophon for Sarpedon (& his cousin Glaucus).

8. Memnon son of the Dawn (Eon) & a Trojan, was great enough as a hero to kill Achilles' friend Antilochus (son of Nestor) & threaten Achilles himself before suffering his fate.

9. See Sophocles' Philoctetes. (This is also an essential condition for capturing Troy).

10. Another one of the conditions for the taking of Troy, revealed to the Achaeans by Helenus, a captured Trojan prophet & another of Priam's sons.

11. These are most important in Roman legend & will be stressed there.

12. Read Euripides' Trojan Women, for the story.

D. The Returns (Nostoi)

For their misuse of the victory to which the gods had helped them, the Achaeans were cursed by Athene & Poseidon to have a wretched homecoming and in some cases to envy the Trojans their death before the doomed city. There are three basic groups into which the fates of the Achaeans can be divided: A) those who died on the way; B) those who arrived home safely only to meet disaster there; and C) those who wandered for years before regaining their homelands. The only exception to this was Nestor, who arrived home safely & was granted a peaceful and prosperous old age by the gods.

A) Those who died on the way home included:

Ajax the lesser (& a number of obscure heroes)--driven apart by the storm poseidon sent; drowned or shipwrecked--Ajax was impaled either by the trident of Poseidon or the thunderbolt of Zeus (hurled by Athene) for his impiety in dragging Cassandra from the altar (& in one version raping her.

B) Those who arrived home safely to meet disaster there included:

1. Agamemnon--with his prize Cassandra arrived home first, to meet treachery and death from his wife Clytemnestra & his cousin Aegisthus (see Mycenaean cycle).

2. Diomedes--returned to find his wife unfaithful and his kingdom taken away--wandered in exile for some time & finally settled in Italy.

3. Philoctetes--expelled by nobles who had seized the rule in his absence--eventually like Diomedes settled in Southern Italy & founded a new city.

4. Neoptolemus--got his kingdom back could not settle down--burned the shrine of Apollo at Delphi because Apollo would not give him satisfaction for death of Achilles--was finally killed at Delphi & buried near the shrine.

C Those who wandered for years before regaining their homelands included:

1. Menelaus--blown by the storm to Egypt--contrary winds kept him in Africa for seven years--finally, after travels in Ethiopia & Libya as well as Egypt, he & Helen were allowed to return to Sparta.

2. Odysseus--see the Odyssey (Odysseus' fate is a combination of #2 & #3). Aeneas, leader of the surviving Trojans--see the Aeneid.

Professor Thomas J. Sienkewicz has used this document in his mythology classes at Howard University and at Monmouth College for many years. If you have any questions, you may contact him at

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