Pan Drakopoulos: The Archaeology of European Identity (Part I)

by Pan Drakopoulos


1. Troy, City of Dreams

WHENEVER THE RIVER Skamandros overflowed its banks it descended rushing and foaming over the slopes of Mount Ede into the wide valley below, and it went on roaring and carving out a deep, wide gorge, until it encountered a smaller brother, the river Simoen. For a while the two rivers continued to run parallel with each other, and then the smaller one poured into Skamandros, which no longer wild, continued its course, depositing its yellow mud on the fertile land, creating marshes and small gullies that were aptly called “Stomalimni”,(1) until dirty and sluggish, emptied into the open Aegean Sea.

In that same valley, where the wild rivers stared at each other before they embraced, rises a low hill which can still be seen today. Once on that hill there stood immensely strong walls –a creation of the gods!(2) And within those walls and all around them there were the most magnificent temples, a great palace (3) , mansions, shops and evidence of fabulous riches. It was Priam’s great city: the powerful, well-loved and immensely rich Troy, built upon fertile land, with many horses.

2.The Destiny of the Enemies

IT WAS under the imposing walls of that city that a conflict among many races took place. Races that were deeply divided into two sides.

That conflict in the valley of Skamandros was to be decisive for both armies, although the result would not mean the same for each of them. What the Trojans wanted was to maintain their power and dominate the northern Aegean and the straits of Bosporus. If they lost the war, they would disintegrate. If they won it, they would remain what they already were. Homer, a great master of stage craft, places Hector to take leave of his wife not in her rooms, but before the walls of the city where her anguish has led her (while he shows Paris laying in Helen’s rooms, sinking into an ultimately and indolent melancholy). Homer dresses Hector –the most excellent of the brave– in a bright suit of armor and a shiny helmet; he wants him to hold a 27-foot spear, and speak to his wife tenderly, with a sweetness alien to the manner of a warrior. Therefore, he introduces a silent but important actor, a boy, their son, so that the atmosphere is tempered by his presence. Homer also makes Hector converse with her, not in the words of a conceited soldier who thinks he is about to kill and win, but in those that are more suited to a brave and prudent man who knows that he is about to fight and die. Hector knows that the war is lost for the Trojans, and he also knows that even if it were to be won, the only thing he could hope for is that life in Troy would continue to be as it always had been, and that the Achaeans would melt away into a valley mist and disappear like an incubus with the first silver light of morning.

For the Achaeans, unlike the Trojans, whatever the outcome of the war, they would no longer be what they used to be. Having throughout the ten years war experienced an unprecedented comradeship in the battlefield, and having at last found a common leader and a common enemy, for once they would either all of them be losers, or all of them winners. In any case, whatever the result of that age-long conflict would be, it was there, before the impregnable castle of Troy that their unity would be forged.

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