The Trojan Horse a battering ram? Bible Archaeology

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Bible Study Resource

The Trojan Horse: a battering ram?

It's a fact that many otherwise impregnable cities in the ancient world were captured because their walls were demolished by battering rams. 

Wall relief of Tiglath Pileser showing battering ram attacking the wall of a cityWe know that some of these battering rams looked remarkably like covered horses - see the photograph at right of a wall relief made by one of the ancient world's great kings, Tiglath Pileser III, who conquered most of the known world at the time.

Now here's something interesting. These battering rams were around at about the time Homer was assembling the stories that became the 'Iliad', in which a 'wooden horse' is used to finally conquer the ancient city of Troy. 

This raises many questions asked about the Wooden Horse:

  • What exactly was it?

  • Why did the Trojans allow it inside their walls, when they had already withstood a long siege and were well aware of how tricky the Greeks could be?

There are several theories:Artist's impression of an Assyrian battering ram attacking the walls of an ancient city

Theory 1

The horse may in fact have been a battering ram that, covered by its leather armor, looked remarkably like a horse, as in the wall relief of Tiglath Pileser above right. 

Was the Greeks' use of this horse-shaped weapon transformed by story-tellers into a 'wooden horse'? 

Battering rams were made of wood, and men hid inside them as they attacked the walls of a city. Did a battering ram finally break through the walls of Troy, allowing the Greeks to take the city?


Theory 2

Poseidon, god of the sea: Roman mosaic 3rd century ADDid earthquakes weaken the walls of Troy, as they did at the Cretan city of Knossos? Were the attacking Greeks able to break through because the walls were unstable? 

This idea may be woven into Homer's story of the Trojan War since Poseidon, god of earthquakes and of horses, had attacked Troy even before the war began. 

A 'horse' might be code, or a symbol, for an earthquake, both controlled by Poseidon.

Theory 3

There is also a theory that the 'Trojan Horse' may be a reference to the cavalry used by the army of the Greeks. This cavalry or 'horse unit' may have tricked the Trojans into letting them enter the city, probably using the armor and horses of a defeated Trojan cavalry unit. 

This last theory is appealing, but logistically unlikely: it is hardly feasible the Trojans retained a cavalry unit inside their cramped city after a long siege. Any animals within the city would have been slaughtered and eaten long ago.

Battering ram attacking the walls of an ancient city

Battering ram attacking the walls of an ancient city


So what's your opinion?


The Triumph of Achilles by Franz Matsch

The Triumph of Achilles by Franz Matsch


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Bible Study Resource for Archaeology: The Trojan Horse: what was it? A battering ram?

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Copyright 2006 Elizabeth Fletcher