THE TROJAN AND PERSIAN WARS.
[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."]
Stn,—I am unwilling to make any further demand on your space, but in justice to myself I must ask leave to say that I purposely refrained from speaking about the point which the reviewer says I have failed to apprehend. The one question to which I confined myself was the direction in which the children of the Sun seeking to recover Helen might be supposed to journey, and which your reviewer said should be from east to west, and not, as I had stated, from west to east. About the Persian war, I only said that Herodotus would speak with some authority, while he could but give his opinion on the nature or cause of the war of Troy.
I feel bound, however, now to add a few words on what seems to me the serious fallacy involved in your reviewer's remarks on what he calls the central fact of the Trojan war. Certainly, in the carrying off of a famous beauty from Greece by a band of Asiatic pirates, and in the combination of various Greek tribes, who after a long siege destroy the city of the marauders; there is nothing improbable. It is, indeed, not so improbable "as that the Persian king led two millions of men against Greece" (only the stoutest champions of the history do not now maintain that this number followed Xerxes). But the vital question is whether we have the right to get at one "central fact" by discarding every' single feature from a narrative teem- ing with supernatural or miraculous events,—whether, as Mr. Grote says, in words which I have been constantly compelled to quote, we are justified in talking about a Trojan war without Helen, without Amazons, without Ethiopians, under the beautiful son of &Is. If we are so justified, still we can say no more than that, as Mr. Grote has put it, the reality of it cannot be affirmed if its possibility cannot be denied. Anything in the world, the story of Jack the Giant-Killer, or Beauty and the Beast, or any other tale, can be made inherently probable by manipulating it in this way. There is nothing wonderful in the marriage of a beautiful woman to an ugly man, or in the killing of a big man by a little man ; but this is no more the story of " Jack " or the " Beauty " than the reviewer's central fact is the story of the Trojan war as given in the Iliad.
In truth, the question of probability seems to me wholly beside the matter at issue. The account given by Thucydides of the life and policy of Minos looks even more probable than the history of Sir James Brooke's career in Borneo ; but it is as complete a romance as the story of Gulliver; and the legend of Helen can no more be reduced to a central fact in this way than the myth of Minos.
But taking the story as we have it in the Iliador the mythographers, —a story full of astounding and impossible incidents,—we com pare it with the other epic poems of the Eastern or the Western world, and marking the coincidences in names, and in the causes and the sequence of events, and we come to the conclusion that the stories of Achilleus and Sigurd are substantially the same, and that the germs of both are to be found in the earliest literature of the Hindoos, as certainly as many of the German stories of
Grimm's collection are identical with the tales of Southern India recently published by Miss Frere. It is no answer to these facts or alleged facts to say that each of these stories may by a certain process be made to look possible or probable, for this no one dreams of disputing.
I know of no question in the whole range of literature more im- portant than this, for in it is involved all our power of distinguish- ing between fact and fiction, between truth and falsehood ; and I must plead the earnestness of my desire to get at the truth of the facts involved in this inquiry as my apology for the length of my