The connections between belligerence and sexuality are well known to ethologists and anthropologists and have received some attention in literary analysis. This study examines the Trojan War, in the mythical matter itself and in its treatment by Homer, as a figurative amatory conquest. We note first the element of female eroticism in the background: the war begins with a beauty contest and Helen’s abduction, and Homer’s Iliad begins in a symmetrical pattern with a quarrel over desirable captive women. These events reflect a primal relationship between combat and access to females. But we also notice that the Trojan males are slightly feminized. Men of the royal line – Ganymede, Tithonus, Anchises, and Paris – are notable for beauty, and Ganymede becomes the passive object of Zeus’ desire. Homer appears to emphasize this phenomenon in the battle scenes of the Iliad, which emphasize single combats that take on the character of aggressive courtships. Trojans die in far greater numbers, and are often depicted as passive victims of superior Greek masculinity. The beauty of the Trojan warriors is often described in feminine terms. They plead in the “soft words of maidens,” they are slain and left stripped on the battlefield. The Trojan forces exhibit indiscipline and panic far more commonly than the Greeks. This tendency climaxes in the defeat of Hector, who likes his plight to that of an unclad defenseless woman or a lover (22.128-9), who flees in helpless terror and whose stripped body his Greek enemies admire after his death (22.367). We conclude that this archaic vision of warfare over connubial rights subsumes a strong homoerotic impulse wherein the defeat and domination of foemen has the nature of a sexual conquest, and killing figures as a negative procreation. This mentality seems limited to archaic combat dominated by duels, which can be understood as symbolic couplings, and it diminishes greatly in later periods.
Department, Program, or Center
Department of English (CLA)
Dayton, John, "Eros and Polemos: Eroticized Combat in the Trojan War Myth" (2018). Exploring Erotic Encounters: The Inescapable Entanglement of Tradition, Transcendence, and Transgression, 65-80. Accessed from