Four last conditions controlled Troy’s fate. The first was that Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus, a brave but brutal warrior, be summoned from Scyros. (In early tradition the siege of Troy may have lasted not ten but twenty years, which makes Neoptolemus’ age more plausible.)
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Neoptolemus helped in the fulfilment of the next precondition, too. Only with Heracles’ bow and arrows could Troy be taken. These were owned by Philoctetes, a Greek hero, who, before reaching the Troad, was bitten by a snake. The stench from his wound was so obnoxious that he was abandoned on Lemnos (an island associated in the Argonaut myth, too, with unpleasant smells). Now when Odysseus arrived, demanding his presence at Troy, Philoctetes gave him short shrift. Only Neoptolemus’ pleas – and those of Heracles’ ghost – persuaded Philoctetes to rejoin the army. At Troy he was cured by Machaon, the son of the healing god Asclepius.
Watched by Athene, Greeks and Trojans clash shields fighting for possession of the ‘huge and heroic’ body of Achilles.
Philoctetes proved his worth, soon shooting Paris in the wrist and ankle and blinding him in one eye. The prince crawled to Mount Ida, where Oenone had once promised to cure him should he ever be mortally wounded. Still piqued by Paris’ infidelity, however, the nymph refused – though later in remorse she hanged herself. Meanwhile Helen tried to leave Troy, lowering herself down on ropes, but she was caught and given as wife to Deiphobus.
The penultimate condition, that one of Pelops’ bones be brought to Troy, was easily fulfilled, but the last took guile and planning. Ownership of Athene’s statue, the Palladium, guaranteed Troy’s safety. So Odysseus plotted to steal it. In a disguise made more realistic when he was voluntarily beaten by his comrades, he undertook a reconnaissance mission, presenting himself at Troy as a Greek deserter. Helen recognized him, but, longing to escape Deiphobus’ unwelcome clutches, she kept quiet. Then Hecabe too discovered his identity. When Odysseus desperately supplicated her, Hecabe’s piety forbade her from exposing him and he escaped – only to return that night with Diomedes and steal the statue.