The Black Ships Before Troy a GREAT book. Some will love the blood, guts, and gore. Some will enjoy
the love stories that are in the background. Never a dull moment.
Ch 1-important idea…a very small act (throwing the apple into the crowd)=big consequences
Brainstorm ideas about what other antagonistic ideas could cause such a huge argument—between
schools, between people in countries, between students in GT…
“But the immortal gods do not know time as mortals know it.” Ask them to explain the quote
Pg 3-it is a bad thing (even among gods) to try to/or succeed in killing your children. Hera thought
Hephaestus was ugly and tossed him from Olympus. She may be queen of the gods, but this is
punishable by others (maybe even the Fates).
Synopsis: Wedding of Thetis and Peleus (who will be Achilles’ parents) Eris, goddess of dischord, is NOT
invited. She shows up anyway and tosses the golden apple (‘to the most beautiful’) in to the party.
Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite all claim it. Gods aren’t dumb enough to say who should get it. When the
other gods would not make a beauty pageant decision, they just knew better than to make an enemy of
ANY of the three goddesses…too bad for Paris. They argue for YEARS. In the meanwhile, Paris is born to
Priam of Troy and Hecuba. Fortune tellers warn them he would burn down Troy. Priam sends him away
(to die), but of course a shepherd finds him and raises him. ***important to note (since Paris, even
though raised by mere mortals stands out) naturally gods and demigods and heroes stand out from
everyday people…but so do the royals (like Paris) and their children. They were supposed to just be
‘better’ looking; brains; athletes; etc. Paris doesn’t know he is the king’s son, marries a nymph and is
happy…until Hera (power), Athene(wisdom), and Aphrodite(most beautiful girl) bribe him – naturally he
wants the beauty. **It is not wise to make Hera and Athene mad, I’m just sayin’. Paris goes into Troy to
rescue his bull, his mom recognizes him…hurray lost son home! Page 6-Helen’s father knew he had a
beautiful daughter (somewhere in my brain I think she may have had immortal blood) and that marrying
her off would make someone somewhere mad. So he had a list of suitors, Odysseus is the one that came
up with the plan for ALL her suitors to sign an agreement to defend her and whichever king/prince she
married. I think her dad went for the $$ and married her off to a rich old man, Menelaus. Helen is
famous throughout the Greek world for her beauty, Paris goes to see—he wants his prize from Aphro.
He abuses Menelaus’ hospitality and steals his wife. (Helen even leaves her daughter)
Quiz question-Oenone was Paris’ wife (before he stole Helen) what was her gift? To be able to heal
mortal men, no matter how seriously injured.
Ch 2-Menelaus calls in the suitors who signed the ‘we will defend Helen’ deal to come help get his wife
back from Paris/Troy. Achilles’ mom had dipped him in the river Styx (to make him invulnerable) except
for the heel (Achilles’ heel). He has a best friend, Patroclus, and a mentor, Chiron (Percy Jackson).
Thetis (his mom) is always afraid for him because of the heel thing. So Menelaus summons all his war-
lords, but Ach mom hides him with another king, dressed as a girl! Greeks KNOW they can’t take Troy
w/o Ach, so Odysseus tricks him into revealing himself and joining The Black Ships (Thetis tells him, stay
with me and live a long time or go to fight, die young, be famous—he obviously needs the fame) so
Helen is the ‘face that launched a thousand ships’. Ach is given his father’s weapons (made by
Quiz question-What had Odysseus hidden in his peddler’s pack that Achilles grabbed and gave himself
away? A great bronze sword
The role of soothsayers and the Fates are important to Greek mythology. They depended on the
soothsayers (when they chose to) and when the Fates were against you, too bad.
Odysseus is already showing his sly/tricky/clever mind.
Ch 3-page 16, Greeks get to Troy; page 17, they have been there 9 years (you know time flies when you
are having fun). Protesilaus is the first Greek to die (he won the race to get to the beach first, but lost
his life by an arrow). The Greeks did not understand how to wage siege warfare (Troy is a walled city),
so they couldn’t take Troy. They did raid other towns up and down the coast. On one of these raids,
they captured two women – one given to Agememnon, the most important king; one given to Achilles,
who led the raid. Agem’s was the daughter of a priest, who begged for her back. Agem says TOUGH,
sickness, men die, they plead with Agem to return her – he fumes and rages, says if he has to give her
back he should get the girl they gave to Ach, because he is HIGH KING. Ach is ticked. Agem ‘s girl is
returned to appease the gods, Agem takes Ach girl. Ach is so mad he won’t fight for the Greeks any
more, so there! His mother (the goddess) goes to talk to Zeus about getting even with Agememnon for
hurting Achilles’ feelings. (Zeus happens to be out at the moment, so Ach sulks.)
Quiz question-Do the other Greek leaders think Agememnon should return the girl to the priest? YES
Ch 4-Zeus comes back to Olympus. Thetis begs for victory for the Trojans to get even with Agememnon.
Zeus grudgingly says OK. Zeus sends a dream to Agem to GO! Fight! Win! Agem believes in dreams,
sometimes. So he tells the war leaders to tell the Greek team they are packing up and going home…and
the Greeks are excited to go home (after 10 years). Odysseus says WHAT! And makes them all go back
to camp. O beats the snot out of one of the Greeks who protests still fighting, the other Greeks laugh
and say YEA Big O! Nestor (and old and wise advisor king…he is important in the next book I think) and
Odysseus pump the Greeks up to fight again, but w/o Achilles (which cheers up the Trojans). Trojans
and Greeks face off in 2 long lines (first time face to face in 10 years?). Paris (the not so bright, wimpy,
pretty-boy) challenges the Greeks to a one on one AND Menelaus (Helen’s real husband) say OK, bring it
on. Paris hides. Hector (very brave, well-loved, admired Trojan-brother of Paris) rips Paris up and down
(YOU CHICKEN) and Paris says he will fight Mene one on one, winner take Helen, end of war. Greeks say
YES. Helen comes to watch and Trojan men think maybe it is time to send her to her real hubby, but
Priam (Trojan king, Paris/Hector dad) says no. Paris and Mene fight, Mene is winning-grabs Paris by the
hat, the strap breaks (Aphrodite causes), Paris disappears. Mene has won, but Helen is not handed over.
She goes to her room where Paris has run. Helen is not a happy camper (she has stood by a wuss), but
Aphrodite tells her to appreciate what Aphro did for her OR ELSE. So Helen takes Paris back, even tho
Helen is ticked off.
Quiz question-Who wins the right to the first throw in the Paris-Menelaus throw down? Paris
Ch 5- Zeus and Aphro have been helping the Trojans, so Athene helps the Greeks. She prompts one of
the Trojans to shoot at Menelaus, who is wounded. So the truce is broken, and the fighting goes back
and forth. Things are not going well for Troy, soothsayer says all the women should make a plea to
Athene to LET UP. Hector goes into Troy and finds Paris in his room playing with his battle weapons. He
lights in to Paris and fusses, then Helen does the same thing (she is quickly losing all respect for Paris).
Hector sees his own wife and child and goes back to fight.
Look for all the nature references. Also, notice the use of epithets…Diomedes of the Loud War Cry;
Athene, Thetis of the Silver Feet. Very typical throughout the real version of the story. They could write
epithets for themselves. Page 38 Andromache speech is very moving
Quiz question-Where does Hector find his wife inside their house or outside? Outside on a tower/gate.
Ch 6 – Paris and Hector put on a good front and head out to fight. Athene ignores what the Trojan
women have given to her (a jeweled robe), because she is on the side of the Greeks and gives the idea
to Hector to not give up fighting. Hector challenges one Greek, Ajax is picked to fight. They fight and
are even. They agree to rest and give each other presents! The armies fight and it goes back and forth,
nobody wins. Nestor tells Agememnon ‘we need you to make up with Achilles.’ Odysseus and
Diomedes go to talk to Ach—who while mad at the world is still a good host…very important to be a
good host. They make a plea for Agem, but Ach says ‘I don’t trust him. I won’t fight until Hector gets to
my ships and my camp!’
Quiz question-what do Hector and Ajax give each other? A sword and a belt.
Ch 7-nobody is sleeping well, so Menelaus says let’s send spies to see what the Trojans (who are
camped outside their walled city) to see what they are up to…Trojans have the same idea. Greeks send
Diomedes and Odysseus, who catch and kill the the Trojan spy, Dolon (who had been promised two of
Ach horses…killed after after he spills the beans about Troy’s plans and Rhesus’ horses). They steal the
horses and return to camp.
Quiz question-how does Dolon die? Diomedes cuts off his head.
Ch 8-Starts with red rain, never a good sign, but the Greeks ignore the sign and go to battle. It is
horrible and bloody, Hector gets knocked out but is safe, Paris hangs at the edges of the battle (what a
chicken) but manages to injure Diomedes. Odys is surrounded by Trojans, but escapes with Menelaus
and Ajax help. Achilles stands by and watches, torn up about it. Patroclus, his bestie, goes to find out if
Machaon (the healer for the Greeks) will live. Nestor tells Patro to tell Ach—if you won’t fight, send
Patro in YOUR armor, the Trojans will think it is you and will be scared. The Greeks are taking a beating.
Quiz question-where does Paris shoot Diomedes? In the foot
Ch 9-Hector would win, but he can’t get his horses to cross the ditch the Greeks have built around their
camp. Trojans attack at the gates to the camp. Zeus is paying attention to the battle so the Trojans are
winning! BUT Zeus gets distracted and the Greeks get help from Poseidon and resurge. Ajax and Hector
are in hand to hand combat. Ajax wops Hector (who is carried away by Trojans) and the Greeks YAY!
BUT Zeus suddenly remembers the battle, sees Hector vomiting blood, and sends Apollo to help him.
Hector leads those Trojans back and they start whipping Greek fanny and head to destroy their ships.
Then Patroclus sees how bad it is going…
Quiz question-what god did Zeus send to help Hector when he was so badly wounded? Apollo
Ch 10-Patroclus tells Achilles ‘it’s really bad and YOU could turn the tide’ Achilles still won’t fight, but
gives Patro his armor to wear to scare the Trojans. Achilles WARNS Patroclus, DO NOT CHASE THEM
DOWN. Does Patro listen? No and surprise, he is killed. The Trojans and Greeks then fight over his
body. Hector then takes the armor that belonged to Achilles (that Hephaestus made). Naked, Patro is
taken back to camp (with much fighting).
Quiz question-Whose words does Patroclus use to convince Achilles to let him borrow his armor?
Ch 11-Ach hears of Patro’s death (and the loss of his armor). Thetis (his mom) then goes to Hephaestus
to request more armor**I will do an activity with them that concerns the fabulous shield Heph makes
Ach—don’t warn them**Ach gets the new armor. Odysseus makes Achilles and Agememnon kiss and
make up before Ach goes to fight. Hera has empowered Xanthus (Ach’s horse) to talk and Xan tells Ach
he is going to die, but Ach is BRAVE and MAD so he goes to face Hector. Now Hector is really brave, but
when he sees Ach in his new armor, he has a Paris-like moment and runs around the city 3 times in
terror. Then Hector sucks it up and goes to face Ach, who KILLS him (Hec pleads that his body be
returned to his father). Ach does a BIG no-no and ties Hector behind his chariot (gross description) to
Quiz question-How many times does Hector run around Troy before facing Achilles? 3
Ch 12-Achilles is so mad, he doesn’t even take time to burn or bury Patroclus (and his ghost comes to
talk to Ach). So then he does honor him with games and all. Then Achilles drags poor Hector’s body
around Patro’s grave 3 times and then around Troy for 12 days. However, Apollo puts special protection
around Hector’s body, so it isn’t messed up. Big, bad no-no to not let Hector be honored by his family.
Quiz question-Who is on top of the gate tower watching Hector’s body? His wife, Andromache
Ch 13-The gods were not happy with Achilles’ treatment of Hector. They send his mom down to talk to
him. Priam goes with all kinds of goodies to exchange for the body. Priam appeals to Achilles (‘think of
your own father’) and Achilles releases Hector’s body to Priam (keeps the goodies). 10 days of mourning
for Hector, tamer of horses.
Quiz question-who does Priam tell Achilles to think of when he is begging for Hector’s body? His father
Ch 14-After 10 days, the siege continues. Odysseus is tired of waiting and decides to steal the ‘Luck of
Troy’ (a black stone). He dresses up and acts like a beggar, gets kicked out of the Greek camp and is
given to the Trojans. Helen feels sorry for this poor old beggar and takes him home and cleans him up.
Lo and behold, she knows him (childhood friends). (Paris is trying to bring Amazon women to help in the
fight.) Helen kind of blabs the plan to Odysseus, who swears he will not tell and will protect her while
he is alive. He gets dressed in the beggar clothes again, and Helen gives him a gift of sleep (a sleeping
potion) in a beautiful vial. Odys goes to the temple of Athene (where the ‘luck of Troy’ is kept). He lays
the vial out, a priestess sees it and drinks it. He steals the stone and gets back to the Greek camp while
the Trojans figure out what was taken.
Quiz question-Odysseus steals a gold cup so he (the beggar) will be kicked out of Greek camp and given
to the Trojans. From whom does he take this cup? Nestor
Ch 15-Paris arrives with the Amazon women, but Ajax and Achilles kill them.
Quiz question-Do the Amazon women kill any Greek warriors? Yes
Ch 16-Paris (the wimpy, self-centered little git) has a chance to give Helen back and end all the fighting.
He won’t. King Memnon from Ethiopia arrives to help Troy. Ach kills Memnon, but Paris-of all people-
shoots an arrow that hits Achilles in the HEEL. This is his death wound. Odysseus saves his body, with
Ajax guarding his escape. Thetis comes to mourn (with other sea nymphs) and leaves the marvelous
armor for the best and bravest Greek. Nestor says let Ody and Ajax contend for the armor…since no
Greek wants to be the one to choose between them (shades of the apple contest), they opt to have the
captured Trojans decide. Ajax spoke first, but Dionysus made him sound drunk, so he said rude things;
Odysseus just reminded them about stealing the ‘luck of Troy’ and being wounded. The Trojans pick
Odysseus and Ajax sulks, then goes on a killing rampage—poor sheep, he thought they were Odysseus.
He comes to his senses at dawn, is mortified at what he has done and kills himself.
Quiz question-What two warriors are nominated to have a chance at Achilles’ armor? Odysseus and Ajax
Ch 17-The Greeks decide to ask a fortune teller for help. He says, go get Philocletes. They had
abandoned Phil on the island of Lemnos after he had been bitten by a dragon. It was a nasty wound
that stunk, so they left him…the nasty stuff that oozes from the wound is poisonous and they need the
poison. One of the nasty arrows scratches Paris, but that is all it takes. He goes back to his first wife,
Oenone the healer, but she turns him away. Paris dies and the women build a pyre to send him off,
Oenone regrets turning him away and throws herself on the flames.
Quiz question-Where was Philocletes when they returned to the island? In a cave
Ch 18-Paris is dead, but Helen is still not returned to Menelaus (slow learners or something). More
fighting. The Greeks talk to their soothsayer AGAIN, who tells them a dove/hawk story (they really are
into signs from nature) about fooling the victim. Athene gives Odysseus the idea about the wooden
horse, which he shares with the others. They build the horse (Ody and friends hide inside), get in their
boats and sail away (OK, so they just sail around the bend), leave a Greek planted with a story about
their leaving and the horse. During all this Menelaus makes a promise to Odysseus and owes him a BIG
favor. The Trojans see the burning camp and the boats gone and the marvelous horse. Laocoon (priest
of Poseidon) says ‘are you idiots, they are trying to fool us with this horse’ but since 2 giant sea serpents
come up and eat Laocoon’s children and him…the serpents then go to Athene’s temple (Athene is
definitely on the side of the Greeks). Sinon, the Greek plant, says they got weary, made Athene mad,
left this horse for her, and sailed home. They haul the horse into their walled city. Cassandra (Priam’s
daughter) says leave it outside **Cassandra is blessed with the gift of prophecy, but cursed to never be
Quiz question-name someone hiding in the horse. Odysseus, Menelaus, Diomedes, Epeius
Ch 19-The Trojans then PARTY. In the night, the Greek ships sneak back, Sinon signals and the horse is
opened, Ody and friends come out and kill the guards, open the gates, and going on the killing spree
(men only, the capture and enslave women and children) they have been trying to accomplish for 10
years…but where is Odysseus? Menelaus finds Helen, but Odysseus is there to cut a deal for her (she
did save him in chapter 14. He calls in the favor/promise Menelaus made and says ‘save Helen because
she saved me.’ Menelaus takes Helen back and the Greeks sail home (with Trojan treasure and women
Quiz question-Who ‘saves’ Helen’s life? Odysseus
Odysseus is not the star of this story, but a major player. He is the main character of The Adventures of
Ulysses (his Roman name). many of the same character traits that he displays in this book, will help/hurt
him in the next.