With the great hero Achilles dead, the Greeks began to fear that they would never capture Troy. But as the lords of the Greeks gathered in council, clever Odysseus stood up and said:
"The goddess Athena wishes us to capture Troy and destroy it to avenge Prince Alexander's insult to her, so she has revealed to me how to take the city. Long ago, the goddess made a promise to the Trojans that as long as her idol remained safe in their temple, she would never allow the city to be captured. However, she has told me a secret way that we can enter the city and steal the idol. Once we have stolen the idol, she will tell me how we can capture the city."
The Greeks were glad to know that the powerful goddess was on their side.
That night, Odysseus and Diomedes snuck into Troy with Athena's help. Disguised as beggars, they crept through the streets to Athena's temple, and stole the idol which had kept the city safe for so long.
The next day the Greeks gathered in council again, and Odysseus told them how Athena had promised they could capture the city. "We must build a giant wooden horse, big enough to hold forty armed men inside its belly. Then the rest of you must sail away and hide the ships behind a nearby island. The Trojans will think that the wooden horse is an offering, and that we have given up and gone home to Greece."
The Greeks did as the goddess has instructed, and the forty greatest warriors were chosen to hid inside the belly of the wooden horse. Then the rest of the Greeks boarded their ships and sailed away.
When the Trojans looked out from the city walls the next morning, they saw that the Greeks were gone. They came out of the city walls and went down to the shore where the Greek camp had stood, and there they found the wooden horse with a garland of flowers draped over its neck, just like an animal ready to be sacrificed to the gods.
Some of the Trojans said that since it was an offering to the gods it should be brought inside the city walls and placed near the temples. Athena went among the people and whispered to many of them, "Bring the horse into the city." But others said that they did not trust the Greeks and the horse should be burnt. A priest of Apollo named Laocoon shouted, "Do not bring this statue into the city. I do not trust the Greeks or the gifts they bring!"
Laocoon grabbed a spear and threw it at the horse with all this strength. The spear stuck in the horse's side, and everyone could hear from the echo that the horse was hollow. Perhaps the crowd would have listened to him, but at that moment Athena sent a pair of giant, magic snakes and they devoured Laocoon and his sons.
Now the Trojans were afraid to do any damage to the horse, so they tied ropes to it and pulled it up inside the city walls. At the feet of the horse they held a great feast to celebrate their victory, and they drank wine and sang songs.
Late that night, when the Trojans were all asleep, a door opened in the belly of the horse and the Greeks inside climbed down. They ran to the city gates, slew the guards, threw open the gates, and set the guard tower on fire. The fire was a signal to the other Greeks (who had rowed silently back in the dark) that the gates were open.
The Trojans awoke to find their city on fire. Greek soldiers ran through the streets killing all the men they found, and taking the women to become slaves. Menelaus killed Prince Alexander, and took Queen Helen back to his tents. The Greeks stole all the gold and jewels they could find, and they burned the city and threw down its walls.
In the confusion, only one of Troy's great warrior's escaped: Aeneus, a son of Aphrodite, who led his father, his son, and a small group of soldiers out of the burning city and sailed away. We will hear more about him in a later story.
After destroying the city, the Greeks divided the treasure and the slaves they had captured and prepared to sail for home. But not all of the gods had been happy to see Troy sacked, and some of the Greeks would not find it easy to return home.
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