There is perhaps no military strategy in history – real or fiction — more famous than the Trojan horse. The tale told in the Aeneid by Virgil is set in the Trojan War between the city of Troy and the Greeks. A giant wooden horse, the symbol of Troy, was left outside the city gates before the frustrated Greeks sailed away. Pulling it inside as a war trophy, the Trojans had no idea it was loaded with Greek soldiers, including Odysseus, who opened the gates to let in the rest of the army who had sailed back under the cover of darkness. The Greeks destroyed Troy and the “Trojan horse” entered the lexicon – used even in modern times to name a computer virus that sneaks into a software program disguised as something harmless. Historians and literature professors have long debated whether the tale is history or fantasy, but the debate may now be over — multiple sites report archaeologists excavating at the Turkish site of ancient Troy have discovered a large wooden structure that they believe is what’s left of the real Trojan Horse. Should we believe them … or should we beware of media bearing news of Greeks bearing gifts?
“The carbon dating tests and other analysis have all suggested that the wooden pieces and other artifacts date from the 12th or 11th centuries B.C.,” says Professor Morris. “This matches the dates cited for the Trojan War, by many ancient historians like Eratosthenes or Proclus. The assembly of the work also matches the description made by many sources. I don’t want to sound overconfident, but I’m pretty certain that we found the real thing!”
The Jerusalem Post and The Greek Reporter this week describe the discovery of dozens of fir planks and beams up to 49 feet (15 meters) long at an archeological site on the hills of Hisarlik believed to be the location of Troy. THey said archeologists Christine Morris and Chris Wilson from Boston University noticed the unusual way the planks were assembled and buried inside the city’s walls and suspected this meant something. They were led to the Trojan war and horse conclusion by a damaged bronze plate with this inscription:
“For their return home, the Greeks dedicate this offering to Athena.”
According to the reports, a plate such as this was referred to by Quintus Smyrnaeus in his epic poem “Posthomerica,” which covers the period between the end of Homer’s Iliad and the end of the Trojan War. This brings up problem #1 with this ‘discovery’. There are no verifiable historic records of the Trojan horse – just mentions in epic poems. Some historians believe in the part about the military ruse but think the vessel may have been a wooden ship. Others think it was a battering ram that knocked down the gates of Troy. A few think the ‘Trojan horse’ may have just been a metaphor for an earthquake that brought down the walls and allowed the Greeks to enter.
Whatever the reality of the ending of the Trojan war was, this ‘discovery’ story has a another problem. A search finds that it was originally ‘reported’ by other media sites back in 2014 and the account was nearly identical to the one making the rounds in 2021. However, one of those articles in newsit.gr has one additional key piece of information missing from all of the others – the source it used was Weekly World News Report. Unfortunately for Trojan horse discovery believers, that is a satirical fake news website that incorporates a few bits of real news amongst the hoaxes, rumors, religious and scientific fakery, political conspiracy theories, and more.
In other words, this “Trojan horse” story making the rounds in the media this week is an actual Trojan horse!
Beware of Greeks and anybody else bearing gifts of news of the discovery of the Trojan horse.