The Right Coast

May 24, 2004
By Mike Rappaport

I caught the movie Troy over the weekend. While it departed significantly from the Iliad and the usual story of the Trojan War, it nonetheless was enjoyable and kept to the essence of the story in most respects. The special effects, including the city of Troy, were really quite spectacular.

Some of the departures from the usual story were quite annoying, but I suppose they were done mainly for dramatic purposes. For a summary of the Iliad, see here.

One significant change in the movie is that Hector slays Menelaus after a fight between Menelaus and Paris. Of course, in Homer Menelaus returns to Sparta with Helen, and is sitting on the throne ten years later when Odysseus's son Telemachus visits them. Here is a summary of how Homer handled the fight between Menelaus and Paris:

Paris and Menelaus arm themselves and begin their duel. Neither is able to fell the other with his spear. Menelaus breaks his sword over Paris’s helmet. He then grabs Paris by the helmet and begins dragging him through the dirt, but Aphrodite, an ally of the Trojans, snaps the strap of the helmet so that it breaks off in Menelaus’s hands. Frustrated, Menelaus retrieves his spear and is about to drive it home into Paris when Aphrodite whisks Paris away to his room in Priam’s palace. She summons Helen there too. Helen, after upbraiding Paris for his cowardice, lies down in bed with him. Back on the battlefield, both the Trojans and the Greeks search for Paris, who seems to have magically disappeared. Agamemnon insists that Menelaus has won the duel, and he demands Helen back.
The gods don't make it into the movie, so clearly this scene needed to be changed. But there is something unforgettable about Aphrodite whisking Paris away, and then having the most beautiful women in the world sleep with him, after criticizing him for his cowardice.

In the end, the movie experience is most rewarding if, after watching it, you go back to the Iliad (or the summary) to consult the real stuff.