Vergil's Aeneid, Books 2-3

Week 5: Ancient Rome - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Sinon Deludes the Trojans

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 550 words.

According to Sinon, the gods are angry at the Greeks because Ulysses stole the "Palladium," the sacred statue of Pallas Athena from the temple (the Roman name for Athena is Minerva). In order to appease the angry goddess Athena, the Greeks have built the wooden horse as an offering to her. The Greeks are leaving the wooden horse in Troy, while they return back to Greece in order to appease the goddess and win her favor before they launch another attack on Troy. And it is true that the Greeks have sailed away: but they have sailed away only a little distance and are hiding just out of sight, ready to return to attack Troy immediately. But the Trojans don't know that...

With these tears we grant him his life, and also pity him.
Priam himself is the first to order his manacles and tight bonds
removed, and speaks these words of kindness to him:
"From now on, whoever you are, forget the Greeks, lost to you:
you'll be one of us. And explain to me truly what I ask:
Why have they built this huge hulk of a horse? Who created it?
What do they aim at? What religious object or war machine is it?"

He spoke: the other, schooled in Pelasgian art and trickery,
raised his unbound palms towards the stars, saying:
"You, eternal fires, in your invulnerable power, be witness,
you altars and impious swords I escaped,
you sacrificial ribbons of the gods that I wore as victim:
with right I break the Greek's solemn oaths,
with right I hate them, and if things are hidden
bring them to light: I'm bound by no laws of their country.
Only, Troy, maintain your assurances, if I speak truth, if I repay you handsomely:
kept intact yourself, keep your promises intact.

" All the hopes of the Greeks and their confidence to begin the war
always depended on Pallas's aid. But from that moment
when the impious son of Tydeus, Diomede, and Ulysses
inventor of wickedness, approached the fateful Palladium to snatch it
from its sacred temple, killing the guards on the citadel's heights,
and dared to seize the holy statue, and touch the sacred ribbons
of the goddess with blood-soaked hands: from that moment
the hopes of the Greeks receded, and slipping backwards ebbed:
their power fragmented, and the mind of the goddess opposed them.

" Pallas gave sign of this, and not with dubious portents,
for scarcely was the statue set up in camp, when glittering flames shone
from the upturned eyes, a salt sweat ran over its limbs,
and (wonderful to tell) she herself darted from the ground
with shield on her arm, and spear quivering.
Calchas immediately proclaimed that the flight by sea must be attempted, and that Troy
cannot be uprooted by Argive weapons, unless they renew the omens at Argos,
and take the goddess home, whom they have indeed taken by sea in their curved ships.

"And now they are heading for their native Mycenae with the wind,
obtaining weapons and the friendship of the gods, re-crossing
the sea to arrive unexpectedly, So Calchas reads the omens.
Warned by him, they've set up this statue of a horse
for the wounded goddess, instead of the Palladium,
to atone severely for their sin. And Calchas ordered them
to raise the huge mass of woven timbers, raised to the sky,
so the gates would not take it, nor could it be dragged
inside the walls, or watch over the people in their ancient rites.
Since if your hands violated Minerva's gift,
then utter ruin (may the gods first turn that prediction
on themselves!) would come to Priam and the Trojans:
yet if it ascended into your citadel, dragged by your hands,
Asia would come to the very walls of Pelops, in mighty war,
and a like fate would await our children."

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what information did King Priam want to get from the Greek Sinon?
  • according to Sinon, why did the Greeks build the wooden horse?
  • according to Sinon, what will happen if the Trojans bring the horse into their city?

Source: A.S.Kline, translator. Vergil's Aeneid (2002). Weblink. Kline has made his English translation of Vergil's Aeneid freely available over the Internet.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM