Dionysius of Halicarnassus, a Greek historian writing in the 1st century BCE, quoted an interesting opinion coming from Menecrates of Xanthus. This Menecrates provided a very unorthodox view on the role of Aeneas in the fall of Troy. Forget about the heroic escape carrying an old father. Aeneas is the villain in this one. He is responsible for the sack of the city and not by some unconscious mistake or lack of bravery, but by a cold-hearted betrayal.
Supposedly, he handed over the city to the Achaeans (Greeks) just after the funeral of Achilles.
“The Achaeans were oppressed with grief and felt that the army had had its head lopped off. However, they celebrated his funeral feast and made war with all their might till Ilium was taken by the aid of Aeneas, who delivered it up to them. For Aeneas, being scorned by Alexander and excluded from his prerogatives, overthrew Priam; and having accomplished this, he became one of the Achaeans.”(quote from Dionysius quoting Menecrates)
What made him do this? According to Menecrates, it must have been the hatred for Priam and his son Paris. Honestly, one could see this coming. Homer himself did the foreshadowing in the Iliad:
“Aeneas was angered at great Priam, because he showed him little honour, though he was among the finest warriors”(Iliad, Book XIII; translated by A. S. Kline)
It was just a matter of time until someone noticed the potential of this subplot and started building a story on it. Luckily for the image of Aeneas, the more favourable versions gained much greater popularity, so he became the celebrated heroic ancestor of the Romans…
- Homer: Iliad; translated by A. S. Kline
- Dionysius of Halicarnassus – The Roman Antiquities