“Equo ne credite, Teucri. Quidquid id est,
timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.” *
I read a curious mythological reference this past week to the “current American situation.”
Greek mythology can provide a rather frightening parallel to the situation in which the citizens of the United States find themselves. That situation is the decision made by the male citizens of ancient Troy to break down their city walls and bring in the wooden horse left to them as a “gift” by their enemies, the Greeks. As we all know, that was a disastrous decision. Why did the Trojans make the choices that brought their own destruction, when they could have so easily saved themselves? All they had to do was leave the horse where they found it, outside the city walls—or better still, set it on fire.
Homer never tells us why the Trojans made that bad choice. The Roman poet Virgil wrote about the fall of Troy in the Aeneid. Prince Aeneas tells us that his fellow Trojans went out of the city to examine the deserted Greek encampment and found this enormous wooden horse. Was it a gift? Was it something of value that they just didn’t want to haul back home? They did not know it was filled with Greek soldiers.
The Trojans were split on what to do with the horse but, at the urging of Thymoetes, they brought the horse into the city.
In Virgil’s Aeneid, Book II (trans. A. S. Kline), he tells this:
After many years have slipped by, the leaders of the Greeks,
opposed by the Fates, and damaged by the war,
build a horse of mountainous size, through Pallas’s divine art,
and weave planks of fir over its ribs:
they pretend it’s a votive offering: this rumour spreads.
They secretly hide a picked body of men, chosen by lot,
there, in the dark body, filling the belly and the huge
cavernous insides with armed warriors.
In our time, a “Trojan Horse” has come metaphorically to mean any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or place. For example, a malicious computer program which tricks users into willingly running is a “Trojan horse” or simply a “Trojan.”
Does Virgil’s account of the sacking of Troy have similarities to our current political situation? If you say Yes, what situation? Is it broadly that Donald Trump or his administration is the horse we allowed into Washington D.C.?
We had the chance to decide what to do with the horse, and we let it in. Trump’s critics would say that was our mistake. Those who voted for Trump, but are now disappointed, would say that they didn’t know what was hiding inside the horse and may regret their decision. And those who voted for him and are satisfied might say,”Hey, look at the nice, big horse we have.”
Homer and Vigil might tell us, “Do not trust the horse, Trojans! Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks, even bringing gifts.” *