Paris, son of Priam, and prince of Troy had kidnapped Helen, wife of the Spartan King Menelaus. Helen, it was said, was the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris had been promised Helen by Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, for naming her the most lovely of all goddesses.
Helen had always been beautiful beyond words and also a source of trouble for the powerful men of the Achaeans. Helen’s hand in marriage had been sought by so many powerful princes that Helen’s father, King Tyndareus, had all the suitors swear an oath that whomever he selected as her husband would be supported and defended by all the others, thus there would be no war over who he picked to be her husband. Tyndareus chose Menelaus to marry Helen and this also made him Tynderous’ heir.
In some versions of the story, Helen was taken against her will, along with many riches. In other versions she went willingly with Paris and took her dowry with her. Regardless of how she went, she was gone and Menelaus invoked the oath of the suitors to get her back. First he turned to his brother Agamemnon, King of Mycenae-rich in gold, and the most powerful of the Achaean kings-to be the commander of the expedition. The King of Mycenae agreed and sent messengers to all the other former suitors and told them to gather their forces at the port of Aulis.
Most of the kings, eager for glory and wealth readily agreed to join the expedition. Odysseus, King of Ithaca and the cleverest of the Greeks had recently married Penelope and had a son named Telemachus and had no desire to go to war. Odysseus pretended to be mad, by plowing a field and planting it with salt. Agamemnon’s envoy, suspecting a trick, put Telemachus in front of the plow. Odysseus turned the plow aside and so was shown to be faking madness and had to join the war.
Swift-footed Achilles, only 15 years old, had a reputation as a fierce warrior. Also Agamemnon had heard from a seer that the war could not be won without Achilles. Achilles had heard a prophecy that he could live the life of easy and die in bed of old age, or live a short but glorious life and be remembered forever. Achilles mother, Thetis, not wanting him to go, had Achilles dress as a woman, but Odysseus who was on a mission to bring Achilles to the gathering was not fooled. Odysseus brought some jewelry and dresses and weapons into the women’s quarters and while all the rest of the women admired the jewels, Achilles admired the weapons and so was discovered.
With all the kings and now Achilles at Aulis the Achaean forces set off, but didn’t know the way to Troy. They landed at Mysia, a kingdom ruled by Telephus the son of Hercules; mistaking it for Troy a battle soon started. Telephus was wounded by Achilles but finally managed to convince the Achaeans they were at the wrong place. The Achaeans left but were scattered by a storm. Telephus’ wound would not heal. An oracle told Telephus that he would only be healed by the man that wounded him. Telephus sought out Achilles and asked to be healed. Achilles refused stating he was no medical man. Odysseus thought that the weapon that caused the wound could heal it, so bits of the spearhead were placed on the wound and it healed. In gratitude Telephus told the Achaeans how to get to Troy.