Trojan Horse Story – Greek mythology

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Earliest picture of the Trojan Horse story, on a vase ca. 670 BC

Earliest picture of the Trojan Horse story, on a  Greek vase ca. 670 BC

The end of the Trojan War

After the events of the Iliad and the death of Hector, the Trojan War still wasn’t over. Neither the Greeks nor the Trojans seemed to be able to win, until one of the Greek kings, Odysseus of Ithaca, had an idea.

A big wooden horse on wheels

“Build a big wooden horse on wheels,” he said, “big enough for a bunch of Greek soldiers to hide inside it.” So the Greeks did. Then the Greeks all pretended to sail home (except the ones hiding inside the horse!). They acted like they had given up and left. But really they hid just around the corner.

An offering to the goddess Athena

Soon the Trojans found the horse. “What is it?” they asked each other. Nobody knew. (The Greek soldiers hiding inside kept very quiet). Then they found a Greek soldier hiding nearby. He said (though this was part of the trick) that the other Greeks hated him and they had left him behind. So the Trojans asked him what the horse was for. He said it was an offering to Athena.

Well, the Trojans didn’t want to upset Athena either, so they rolled the big horse into the city of Troy. It was so big it wouldn’t go through the gate, and they had to tear down a piece of the city wall to get it in. They left it at the temple of Athena, and then the Trojans had a big party to celebrate the end of the war. (Still the Greek soldiers inside the horse kept very quiet).

The Greeks take the city of Troy

Ajax drags Cassandra away from the altar

Ajax drags Cassandra away from the altar during the sack of Troy

Finally everyone fell asleep, and NOW the Greek soldiers came out of the Trojan Horse and killed the guards on the walls. They signalled to the other Greeks to come attack Troy. They could get in now because the walls were torn down. There was a big battle and the Greeks won. All the Trojan men were killed, and all the women and children were taken back to Greece as slaves.

The Trojan Horse and Virgil’s Aeneid

This story does not actually appear in the Iliad or the Odyssey, but it is told in Virgil’s Aeneid and in other ancient sources. But this is probably a Greek version of an older story – compare it to the Jewish story of the battle of Jericho, for example, which was probably being told about the same time.

Learn by doing: act out the story of the Trojan Horse
More about how Odysseus got home from the war

Bibliography and further reading about the Trojan Horse:

The Trojan Horse: How the Greeks Won the War (Step-Into-Reading, Step 5), by Emily Little. For beginning readers. 0394896742

The Iliad of Homer (Oxford Myths and Legends), by Barbara Leonie Picard. A retelling of the story. Does NOT actually include the Trojan Horse story.

The Trojan War, by Olivia E. Coolidge (2001). Clear and interesting, a retelling for kids. Includes the episodes that aren’t in the Iliad (like Paris, and the Trojan Horse).

Approaches to Teaching Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, by Kostas Myrsiades (1987).

The Iliad (Penguin Classics) by Homer. Translated by Robert Fagles. A great translation! Again, the Iliad stops before you get to the Trojan Horse.

How Odysseus got home
Ancient Greece home

By |2017-12-27T12:09:25+00:00July 16th, 2017|Greeks, Literature|10 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Trojan Horse Story – Greek mythology. Study Guides, July 16, 2017. Web. December 9, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. Jack September 16, 2018 at 9:17 am - Reply

    Reminds me of the Obama years in the WhiteHouse. You
    Package the guy. He gets elected
    Then he ushers in an era of changing America

    • Karen Carr September 16, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      Really? Are you some kind of bot? Obama did exactly what he said he would do – there’s no Trojan Horse there.

  2. bob August 23, 2018 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    how do i cite my work with this page?

    • Karen Carr August 24, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      There’s a “Cite this page” box right under the end of the main article, above this comment section.

  3. jeremiah April 25, 2018 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    when was this published

    • Karen Carr April 25, 2018 at 4:21 pm

      Publication date is in the citation info below the article (above this comment section).

  4. Cody Craig April 5, 2018 at 11:22 am - Reply

    thanks for the info

    • Karen Carr April 5, 2018 at 4:40 pm

      You’re welcome, Cody! Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Eloise January 22, 2018 at 7:18 am - Reply

    Cool beans

    • Karen Carr January 22, 2018 at 9:50 am

      Thanks, Eloise!

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