Troy's Fallen Star

Troy's Fallen Star

During the remote Bronze Age some 3500 years ago, a great and terrible war raged over the ownership of a trophy wife. Greeks besieged the city of Troy for ten years and in the end burned it to the ground. This would have meant annihilation of the Trojan people, but for a sensible woman and a falling star.

In the midst of chaos, the Trojan hero Aeneas gathers his family — crippled father, small son, beloved wife — to make a choice. Aeneas and his father Anchises want to be noble and die with their city. Creusa, a mother, is, as mothers tend to be, more pragmatic. She tells her husband: You’re a warrior. For heaven’s sake use your sword. Either kill us all now or get us the hell out of here.

An omen appears. The poet Virgil gives our hero these words to describe the portent:

Thunder crashed on our left, and a star shot down from the sky, sliding through the dark
And trailing a luminous flood of sparks.
We watched it glide over the palace roof
And bury its splendor in Ida’s forest,
Leaving a shining furrow in its wake.
The air reeked with sulfur all around.
Overwhelmed, my father lifted himself up
In adoration of the star and spoke to heaven:
No more delay. I follow, and where you lead,
There I am. Gods of our fathers, save this house,
Save my grandson
. ...”

— Virgil's Aeneid 2:816 (translation, Stanley Lombardo)

The family runs from the burning city, up a hill, to an ancient cypress where the star has fallen onto a deserted temple of Ceres. Aeneas carries his old father and grips his boy by the hand. They escape, all but Creusa who falls behind.

Horrified to realize she is not with them, Aeneas returns to the city. Amid smoke and blood he meets her ghost. Dead Creusa remains practical, reminds her husband how life goes on, and charges him with the care of their child.

Legend tells that among the descendants of that child are the feral twins Romulus and Remus, suckled by a she-wolf and fed by a woodpecker. As in so many twin myths, one must kill the other. The victor will build what Virgil called

the high walls of everlasting Rome.
Aeneid 1:11

 
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