The fall of troy? Oh yes! Homer, The Illiad, Helen of Troy, the Trojan horse and all that! Well not exactly, the Trojan horse never appeared in Homer’s epic. Homer leaves us hanging after the funeral of “Hector the breaker of horses” and people of the ancient world wanted to know what happened next.
These gaps were first filled in by the Epic Cycle. “The Epic Cycle (Greek: Επικός Κύκλος , Epikos Kyklos) was a collection of Ancient Greek Poems that related the story of the Trojan War, which includes the Cypria, the Aethiopus, the so-called Little Illiad, the Iliupersis, the Nostoi, and the Telegony. Scholars sometimes include the two Homeric epics, the Illiad and the Odyssey. among the poems of the Epic Cycle, but the term is more often used to specify the non-Homeric poems as distinct from the Homeric ones.” (Wikipedia article). Oddly this work has by now been lost and is available only in fragments and a summary by someone named Proclus.
Quintus was apparently a native of Asia Minor who wrote at the end of the third century A.D. He viewed himself as the successor of Homer, Hesiod and other great Classical poets. Quintus writing is filled with the idiosyncracies of ancient times such as “Into the Ocean’s deep sea sank the sun,” (p. 5). Ocean is capitalized because it pertains to Oceanus the god of the great river which encircles the Earth. Tenneyson, faithful to antiquity, has his Ulysses say “For my purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset and the baths of all the western stars until I die!”. This is not poetic metaphor. The sun and the stars sank into the sea. If you had been there, you could hear the Pssss! as the hot orbs contacted the water. In the morning, when they rose, their dispelling the water was what caused the dew. The Bible contains no such scientific inaccuracies. Our God “sits above the circle of the earth.”( more faithful to the Hebrew ‘the sphericity of the earth’). The entire history of the world, prior to World War ll, was conducted in a giant geographic fog.
The excellent introduction by Geoffrey W. Bakewell points out that the discovery of Quintus writng had an impact on many writers including Tenneyson’s beautifully written, Oenone. This poem concerns Paris’ first wife, jilted by him in favor of Helen. It begins:
There lies a vale in Ida, lovelier
Than all the valleys of Ionian hills.
The swimming vapor slopes athwart the glen,
Puts forth an arm, and creeps from pine to pine,
And loiters, slowly drawn. On either hand
The lawns and meadow ledges midway down
Hang rich in flowers, and far below them roars
The long brook falling through the cloven ravine
In cataract after cataract to the sea.”
When, in 1870, Heinrich Schliemann discovered the ruins of Troy right where Homer said they were, it radically changed the prevailing, somewhat idiotic notion, that people in ancient times were so childish that they would believe the cowed jumped over the Moon. Myth and legend, more often than not has an historic core. In addition to this, ancient technology proved to be much more advanced than originally thought. In the first century AD the Romans had mechanical computers used as an aid to navigation, 3,000 years ago the Egyptians had wet celled batteries, etc. A good book to read is Vitruvius Pollio, Roman engineer, “On Architecture”.
All in all, this is an excellent, readable translation of an important and somewhat neglected classic.Another great book is Troy and Its Remains by Heinrich Schliemann.