The Trojan horse and Helen – who was so beautiful her face ‘launched a thousand ships’ – fragments of the ancient story of Troy are still told to children today. Troy, the city in the ancient world that was plunged into a ten-year war when the Trojan prince, Paris, stole Helen from her husband King Menelaus of Sparta and brought her home across the sea, continues to fascinate and has lead to numerous retellings in every art form.
There was such a city, and there is evidence of a war around the 12th or 13th centuries BC. Stories were spoken until they were gathered and written down around the 7th century BC, known as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. They were an essential part of young people’s education in the classical period.
The British Museum exhibition has several strands – telling the stories though the pottery, carved stone and poetry of the ancient world – looking at the myths alongside historical evidence, and exploring modern concerns, for instance with the figure of Helen and how different societies across the centuries have treated her. As a group discussing it afterwards, we discovered that each of us had ‘got into’ the exhibition from completely different angles – literary, scientific or sociological depending on our own knowledge. There is a lot to explore so, whatever your interest, there is likely to be something in the Troy exhibition for you. On till 8 March.