The Greeks had gone. After ten long years of war and siege, it seemed that they had given up and left Troy in peace. The Trojans could hardly believe their eyes when they saw the Greek ships sailing away. It was amazing.
Just as amazing was the strange wooden horse they had left behind, standing just outside the city walls. Was it a gift or was it a trick?
King Priam of Troy certainly suspected that the wooden horse was some kind of trick.
"The Greeks are the most cunning people on Earth," Priam warned the Trojans. "We must be very careful!"
Priam knew that some Trojans thought the horse was a sign of luck and victory. They wanted to drag it inside the walls of Troy. Priam forbade them to do so until scouts had gone out to make sure the Greeks really had gone home.
The scouts armed themselves with swords and spears, in case they ran into a Greek ambush. Then they slipped out of the city to investigate the place where the Greeks had made their camp. There was no ambush. What was more, there was no camp. When the Trojans reached it, they found the Greeks had burned their huts and tents. All that remained were a few heaps of blackened wreckage.
While the scouts were picking their way through the ruined camp, they discovered one solitary Greek man trying to hide behind some bushes. They dragged him out, kicking and shouting, and threw him on the ground.
"I beg you, do not kill me!" he shrieked.
Then he started moaning. "Oh, what misfortune has overtaken me! How unlucky I am!" As he wailed and lamented, the Greek man wept so much that the Trojans began to feel sorry for him.
"Who are you?" they wanted to know. "Why have the Greeks gone and left you behind?"
"My name is Sinon, and the Greeks hate me!" the man sobbed. "When they realised they could never capture Troy, they decided to go home. They feared the gods would think them cowardly, so they sought the advice of the oracle..."
"What did the oracle say?" asked the Trojans curiously.
"The oracle said that the gods would not think the Greeks were cowards if they left behind one man as a sacrifice," Sinon continued. "I am that sacrifice. Agamemnon, our leader, never liked me and as for Odysseus - the cunning, cruel man - he often said he wanted me killed! Now they have got their way."
Sinon had stopped weeping now, and his tears had been replaced by fury and resentment. "They have betrayed me!" he cried. "Well, I will betray them!"
Sinon got to his feet and gripped one of the Trojans by the arm to make him pay close attention. "I will tell your King everything," Sinon promised. "I know the secret of the wooden horse. I will reveal that secret, but only to King Priam."
When Sinon mentioned the wooden horse, the Trojans pricked up their ears.
"Let's take this wretched Greek to Priam," the Trojans' leader decided.
"No, there's something odd going on," protested one of the scouts. "I don't trust this fellow - let's kill him now!" He looked Sinon up and down with fierce, suspicious eyes. Sinon trembled and cringed before his gaze.
"Look at him!" the Trojan leader replied. "A man as terrified as this can be no danger to us. Besides, he has been betrayed and wants revenge such a man will always tell the truth."
Sinon buried his face in his hands and started to make loud weeping noises once again. Unseen by the Trojans, Sinon was smiling behind his hands 'The plot is working,' he thought. 'Everything's going exactly as Odysseus planned.'
If the Trojans had any suspicions left about the departure of the Greeks those suspicions soon vanished after Sinon told his story to Priam "The Greeks built the wooden horse as a gift for the goddess Athene, Sinon explained. "See the smiled carved upon its face The Greeks put it there to turn away Athene's anger. They were afraid she would send storms to wreck their ships as they sailed home... but here is the really cunning part of their scheme..."
"What? What?" asked Priam, longing to know Everyone in Priam's court strained their ears to hear what Sinon had to say.
"The Greeks were certain that you would burn the horse when you found it thinking it was some trick on their part," Sinon went on, "If that happened, then the fury of Athene would fall on Troy and she would send a great thunderbolt and a cloud of fire to burn down this beautiful city"
"So the wooden horse was a trick, after all, said King Priam. We shall show the Greeks we are not fools here in Troy. We shall treat this horse with respect and honour. Bring it inside the city. We will hold great celebrations around it. Priam clapped Sinon on the back in a friendly fashion. We have much to thank you for, Sinon. You shall join us as an honoured guest. Sinon chuckled secretly to himself. Of course, everything he had told King Priam had been a lie - except that the Greeks had indeed despaired of winning the war. That at least was true.
"If we cannot defeat the Trojans by force of arms," Odysseus told the other Greeks, "we must defeat them by cunning. Listen - I have a plan". When Agamemnon, the Greek leader, heard Odysseus' plan, he ordered his army to take their axes and chop down trees in the forest on nearby Mount Ida. Then Epeius, the Greeks' most skilful carpenter, got to work with his men. He cut the trees into thousands of planks and set about constructing the wooden horse. It took Epeius three days to complete it.
As soon as the horse was ready, Agamemnon gave orders for the Greek camp to be burned. While the ships in the nearby harbour were made ready for the sea, Odysseus, Epeius and a number of Greek warriors put on their armour. They wrapped their swords and spears in their cloaks. When it grew dark, they climbed up a long ladder and entered the hollow belly of the horse, through a trap-door in one side. When everyone was inside, Epeius pulled up the trap door and bolted it. There they sat, in the darkness, holding their weapons tightly so that they did not rattle while the horse was hauled to a spot outside the walls of Troy. Then Agamemnon and the rest of the Greeks, all except Sinon, embarked into their ships and sailed away. Sinon was left behind in the camp, waiting for the Trojans to come and find him.
The Trojans were so completely convinced by Sinon's story that they ?ung open the city gates and hauled the wooden horse inside. A crowd followed behind singing, dancing and cheering.
'They think they have won the war,' Sinon thought. 'They will soon discover they have lost it!'
At length, the Trojans grew tired and started to go home. Sinon stayed behind. When the last Trojan had disappeared, he ran swiftly to where the wooden horse stood and gave three raps on one of its legs.
"At last!" murmured Odysseus in the darkness of the horse's belly.
"The time has come for action!"
Odysseus and his companions unwrapped their swords and spears. Epeius crawled to the trap-door, unbolted it and let it down. He drew out the ladder and carefully lowered it to the ground. Within a few minutes, all the Greeks had climbed down and two of them sped swiftly to where Trojan sentries stood guard in front of the main city gates. The sentries were dozing. They had had too much wine to drink during the celebrations. Suddenly, the Greeks were upon them. Two swifts with their daggers and the sentries.
This was the moment for Sinon to climb the staircase to the ramparts. He carried a torch in his hand. Sinon waved it back and forth over his head. Far away, across the water, he saw an answering signal: a torch, like his own, moving from side to side. It was a lookout on the Greek ships. The ships had not sailed out to sea, as the Trojans thought. They had simply sailed out of sight round a nearby headland.
The rowers pulled hard on their oars and the Greek ships began to move back towards Troy. Inside the city, the Greeks were pulling the gates open. Agamemnon and his soldiers were soon pouring into the city, and before long Troy was filled with shouts and screams and the crackle of burning buildings. The Greeks burst into the King's palace and killed Priam and his family. Others ran through the streets, swords in their hands, slaying every Trojan they could find. Others threw flaming torches into the houses and horrible screams were heard from within as the people inside burned to death.
Soon the streets of Troy were strewn with the bodies of the dead and the whole city was covered in thick, black smoke. Men, women and children were running about shrieking in terror. There was no escape. They were killed or bound in chains and dragged to the ships.
By the time dawn came, the once splendid city of Troy was nothing but a smoking, silent ruin. No one was left alive.
When the Greeks finally left, carrying off their prisoners and all the gold and treasure they had looted, the only structure left was the wooden horse. Untouched by the flames, it stood in the square, smiling a triumphant smile.