Our port of call was Canakkale, Turkey near the Dardanelles coast which has territory in both Europe and Asia. It is the city nearest the sight of ancient Troy. The wooden horse from the 2004 movie “Troy” is exhibited in Canakkale.
Troy is the site of much of Homer’s epic “Illiad.” This classical work is considered by many to be a splendid embellishment of deeds of piracy and war carried out by Greek ships on the Anatolian coast in the 13th century B.C.
In the narrative Paris kidnapped Helen, the wife of Menelaus, and carried her to Troy and married her. The Greek Menelaus brought a coalescent army to avenge the honor of Helen.
After an unsuccessful siege of Troy, Menelaus devised a clever strategy. He had built a large wooden horse, which was placed outside the city gates during the night.
When the citizens awoke and noted the Greek fleet had gone away, they assumed victory and brought the horse in the city as a symbol of victory.
The wooden horse was filled with Greek warriors. After a day of celebrating their assumed victory, the drunken city of Troy slept well while the warriors came out of the horse and opened the city gates. The Greek fleet under the command of Agamemnon returned from just over the horizon to invade the city.
Perhaps if we had come as did Alexander the Great did later with a copy of Homer’s “Iliad” in hand we might have heard the battle cry of Agamemnon’s fleet of warriors roll across the plain.
That which seemed so appealing proved to be the downfall of Troy. The application to us today is too clear to make the illustration have to crawl.
The second battle scene was that of a more contemporary true battle. It is known as the Battle of the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I in 1915-16.
The initial campaign was largely between the British Royal Navy and the entrenched Ottoman forces.
The two sides hammered each other with heavy cannon fire. As we sailed by the site, I could see at least 30 major gun emplacements along the shore at a narrow point in the waterway.
The battle gave the appearance of being a standoff. The British fleet withdrew and sailed away. A land assault ensued involving mostly British and Australian forces. The Australian forces suffered numerous casualties. Each year April 25 is commemorated in Australia as the day of these great casualties. Many Australians still make pilgrimages to the area.
There is a lesson to be learned from the sea/land battle. The British withdrew not knowing the Turks had less than one minute of ammunition left. A bit more staying power could have turned the course of the battle and saved many lives.
Had they had the willpower of a later war-tempered Sir Winston Churchill, who said at Harrow School in 1941 of the World War II battle against the Nazi forces, “Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great of small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force, never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.