The Classical Association of Scotland invites submissions for the Gilbert Murray Essay Competition each year and, this year, the best in the S3/4 category was our very own Hilary E-M, now in SIV.
Hilary's submission was a piece of creative writing about an episode which took place during the Trojan War. The panel of judges was so impressed with her work that it was judged not only the best submission within her age category, but also worthy of the additional £50 prize for the best submission in the whole competition. An outstanding achievement for this young classicist.
Hilary’s winning entry:
Rumours spread through the city of Troy like a blazing wildfire. This was especially the case due to the siege of Troy, so it was impossible to tell whether news was real or not. My father, a priest named Laocoön, always gave me excellent counsel on the subject. Generally, he would say “Do not listen to their idle gossip; the word on the street cannot replicate the word of Truth.” Usually, he was right. This meant when I heard rumours of a mountainous, wooden horse left outside the city gates, I simply shrugged them off and continued with my duties. It was only later I considered the rumours could be true.
My father and I were making sacrificial preparations when my brother rushed in, his tunic torn and his eyes wide and blazing.
“Pater! Pater!”, his words were a torrent of speech. “There’s a huge, wooden horse outside the walls and they are saying it was a gift from the Greeks and…”. My father quietened him.
“Slow down. We are preparing for tonight’s sacrifice. Repeat what you said slowly.” My brother gulped and continued:
“Well, I heard people saying there was a horse outside the gates, so I went to investigate, and I saw it. I swear I saw it! The soldiers were saying it was a gift from the Greeks and that they have stopped the siege. They are going to hold a meeting to decide if it should come inside the city.” My father’s face darkened and, grabbing his spear from the corner, he stalked towards the door.
“Follow me,” he ordered. “We must stop them. I swear by Zeus they will kill us all.” We hurriedly scampered after him.
Usually, the city was too crowded as everyone went about their daily business. However, today the dusty streets were abandoned and silent apart from the occasional stressed merchant weakly crying “Necklaces? Tunics? Togas? Anyone?”
As we neared the edge of the city, we could hear the excited cries of hundreds who were vying to glimpse at… a horse! My brother was right! We had fought our way through the crowds and now gaped at a wooden monstrosity. Towering over the crowd, it commanded attention as it stood as straight as any mighty warhorse about to charge into a battle. I swear I could nearly hear it breathing!
“Citizens of Troy,” my father’s bellowing voice snapped me from my daydreaming as it cut through the crowd like a knife, “for ten years the Greeks spilled the blood of our soldiers. Clearly the Gods are on their side, not ours. Why should we anger them anymore?” Whispers spread through the crowd as my father stalked over to the soldiers.
“Our enemy,” he continued lecturing, “would not gift us such a fine creature; it is surely a trick, or a gift meant for the Gods alone. Either way, we would be doomed to bring it into the city.” The soldiers began to look uncomfortable.
“We were only following orders,” muttered one of them, sulkily. “I shouldn’t have to deal with this.” My father glowered and demanded to know where the meeting was being held. They pointed behind them and he pushed past them, stalking towards a small cluster of men, dressed in expensive togas, who were arguing loudly.
“This is a gift from the Greeks to us! It must go inside the city.”
“That is too risky! It should stay out of the city walls.”
“Surely it’s too magnificent for that!”
“You should not bring this horse into the city at all!”, Pater began to shout. “The very idea is simply absurd! Do you wish to…”, he continued yelling as the men started to squabble and bicker again. My ears began to hurt as I watched them shriek at each other.
After what felt like an age, I turned away to continue marvelling at the horse. It was incredible! I could barely – what was that? Something was rippling in the sand behind the horse. I squinted in the sunlight. The ripples were becoming enormous as they made a beeline for us. I frantically tried to get my father’s attention. The argument had reached its peak as he had flung his spear into the horse’s leg so, like a fly, I was batted away. My hands vibrated as I did anything I could to get his attention. I screamed.
The snakes flew at us, like arrows from a bow, with the ferocity of a predator. Their eyes brimmed with seething hatred as their jaws snapped open, revealing fangs soaked in inky poison. They were prodigious in size and their eyes shone and glowed like red-hot coals. Surely these weren’t ordinary, mortal beasts. I tried to run from them, but I fell towards the sand. I felt the snakes coil themselves around every inch of my body as I desperately clamoured and tried to fight them off. I heard the screams of my brother muffled as his mouth became gagged and my father continued to roar warnings to the men as we were dragged, kicking and screaming, further and further from the horse. A sharp sting shot through my leg and I could feel my body grow suddenly limp. My consciousness grew steadily weaker. As we were pulled into the icy sea, I felt my eyes cloud black. The light left my vision and water filled my lungs as I gasped, despairingly, for air.
Rumours spread through the city of Troy like a blazing wildfire. As I went to Hades, I wished I had never listened to them.