Learn more about Iliou persis
The Iliou persis (Greek: Ἰλίου πέρσις; also known as Iliupersis, esp. in Latin; English: Sack of Ilion) is a lost epic of ancient Greek literature. It was one of the Epic Cycle, that is, the "Trojan" cycle, which told the entire history of the Trojan War in epic verse. The story of the Iliou persis comes chronologically after that of the Little Iliad, and is followed by the Nostoi ("Returns"). The Iliou persis was sometimes attributed by ancient writers to Arktinos of Miletos (see Cyclic poets). The poem comprised two books of verse in dactylic hexameter.
The Iliou persis was probably composed in the seventh century BCE, but there is much uncertainty. Ancient sources date Arktinos to the eighth century, but evidence concerning another of Arktinos' poems, the Aithiopis, suggests that he lived considerably later than that.
Only ten lines of the original text of the Iliou persis survive. For its storyline we are almost entirely dependent on a summary of the Cyclic epics contained in the Chrestomathy written by an unknown "Proklos" (possibly to be identified with the 2nd century CE grammarian Eutychios Proklos). A few other references give indications of the poem's storyline. A further impression of the poem's content may be gained from book 2 of Virgil's Aeneid (written many centuries after the Iliou persis), which tells the story from a Trojan point of view.
Note that different sources record some details differently: for example the manner of Aineias' departure from Troy, or the identity of Astyanax' killer. The version told here specifically follows what is known of the early epic poem, rather than any other source.
The poem opens with the Trojans discussing what to do with the wooden horse which the Greeks have left behind. Kassandra and Laocoon proclaim that there is an armed force of Greeks inside, but others say it is a holy relic of Athena. The latter opinion prevails, and the Trojans celebrate their apparent victory. The god Poseidon, meanwhile, sends an ill omen of two snakes which kill Laocoon and his sons; seeing this, Aineias and his men leave Troy in anticipation of what is to come.
When night comes the Greek warriors inside the horse emerge, and open the city gates to let in the Greek army, which has sailed back from Tenedos. The Trojans are massacred, and the Greeks set fire to the city.
Neoptolemos kills king Priam, even though he has taken refuge at the altar of Zeus; Menelaos kills Deiphobos and takes back his wife Helen; the lesser Aias drags Kassandra from the altar of Athena and rapes her. The gods consider whether they should stone Aias in retribution, but he takes refuge at the altar of Athena. Later, when the Greeks are sailing home, Athena kills him at sea. Odysseus kills Hektor's baby son Astyanax; Neoptolemos takes Hektor's wife Andromache captive; and the Greeks make a human sacrifice of Priam's daughter Polyxene at the tomb of Achilleus, to placate his angry spirit.
- Online editions (English translation):
- Print editions (Greek):
- A. Bernabé 1987, Poetarum epicorum Graecorum testimonia et fragmenta pt. 1 (Leipzig: Teubner)
- M. Davies 1988, Epicorum Graecorum fragmenta (Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht)
- Print editions (Greek with English translation):
- M.L. West 2003, Greek Epic Fragments (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press)
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