|The Burning of Troy, Francisco Collantes|
And it explains why imagination clings so desperately to those lucky few who make it out alive. Odysseus, Aeneas, Cassandra (for a while), Andromache, the house of Atreus - all are names to conjure with. They're the survivors. Be it luck, courage, or determination, they were still standing at the end. They're the ones we want to know more about.
But there's a very distinct line drawn even among the survivors. It's apparently not enough to survive a ten-year siege of nonstop brutality. The survivors who live past the war are the ones who get as far from the war as they possibly can.
|Captive Andromache, Frederic Leighton|
|Ajax and Cassandra,|
Solomon J. Solomon
husband. Cassandra - princess, priestess, and prophet - is raped by two Greek commanders and murdered as collateral damage in Clytemnestra's vengeance. (An alternate version lets her run away to start a new line, but while I'd love to believe it - Cassandra's one of my Iliad favorites - I can envision a bloodthirsty Clytemnestra mowing down everyone in her path much more easily than I can see an escape for Cassandra.) Hecuba, powerless to save her husband or her children, gets claimed as a slave by Odysseus, which means that unless she was on the ship he himself left Troy in, it's very likely that she drowned en route to Ithaca. Only Helen manages to be female and in a safe place by the end of the war, and even her peace comes through depressing self-slander. Women in a society shaped by fighting men have very few tools for forging their own paths beyond destruction.
Even among the men, it's tough to break away from the defining episode of their lives. Agamemnon is most obviously tripped by
|Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, Pierre-Narcisse Guerin|
|Ulysses and the Sirens, Roman mosaic, 3rd century CE|
|Aeneas and Dido, Pierre-Narcisse Guerin|
The Trojan War is a paradigm-breaker. It's massive, spanning generations and continents; its consequences define "far-reaching." It makes sense that a world trying to patch itself back together in the image of the past is a world doomed to failure. Aeneas and Odysseus are the only ones who realize the impossibility of going home after the breaking of the world, and only Aeneas realizes it in time.