A long time ago, when I started the Rumors of War project, I decided that the one Trojan War was going to be three instead. I did this for a couple reasons: one, I was (and still am) hopelessly irreverent. Wait, that might be the only reason. But I had other reasons on my mind at the time I made the decision, I promise!
I wanted to create a parallel to the World Wars (I know we’ve only had the two) to help drive home the idea of massive depopulation across the world, and an era of people being truly afraid of all that their hands have wrought – an undeniable, sharply-defined moment of historical (mythical?) “My God, What Have I Done?”
…Which people could then forget, deny, or blame on someone or something else, I could create haunted or abandoned forts, towns, and temples for characters to loot, an even greater demand for labor, craftsmen, and resources than an ancient world might otherwise have, and lots and lots of shell-shocked veterans.
But you know, when I made the decision, I didn’t really know when the other Trojan Wars might have taken place, or why. I just kind of made the decision and figured I’d work it out later, in a “seemed like a good idea at the time” form of storytelling. Well, I think I’ve kind of figured out why there’s more than one war, and who started it.
There are myths that tell of a Trojan War before the big one described in the Iliad, led by none other than the legendary Heracles, who sacked the city and ransomed it back to the Trojans. A young prince Priam (old by the time of the Iliad) was part of the deal, and his name in Greek was understood to mean something like “sold,” or “paid for.”
Well, there are some things suspect about the Iliad itself. One might almost conclude that it fell victim to executive meddling, revisionist history, or perhaps something more pragmatic like “editing for historical accuracy.” It seems there were at least two wars, one by the Argives (Agamemnon), and another by the Boeotians (Heracles).
I actually had this insane idea of giving the myths of Heracles’s sack of Troy to his father, Amphitryton, since he was kind of a big deal, but didn’t get much love from mythology near as I can tell. There’s a further complication in that Heracles was a king of Tiryns (in the Argolid), and thus may have been in the same Trojan War.
Except not. Probably. I mean, of course not.
Giving the war stories to his father (paternal guardian? adoptive father? whatever) makes more sense to me, and it lends a bit more. Besides, Heracles has the Labors. Everybody knows about those. Who even knew he sacked Troy? I mean, come on.