Although many of us believe the Trojan War was as much a myth as Hercules or the Greek gods and goddesses, the event is generally assumed to have actually transpired. “Why” it transpired is certainly a question historians will struggle to answer as long as they’re not entirely certain it did at all, but if the war was real then we can make one educated guess: there is some truth to the idea that it started over a man losing his honor.
The story is one of the simplest ever told. Helen of Troy — said to be the most beautiful woman in the world — is captured by a lover. Her husband has a huge problem with this of course, and so a war begins over her honor.
Consider this: Whether or not the Trojan War really took place is probably irrelevant. What matters more is its eternal place in history, as myth, legend, or a kernel of the truth. That’s because people will always remember the story and how it was presented — and how it was presented certainly has consequences that are just as serious and just as long-lasting. The story is a much-romanticized notion that a woman’s honor is worth starting a war over.
But the story also lends itself to believe in a romanticized notion of violence for love and family. It lends itself to the belief that death can wipe away “dishonor” and that perhaps violence is the only way — and publicized violence at that. Honor killings might be said to represent the Trojan War but on a smaller scale.
And the fact that these romanticized notions of violence mingling with honor have been passed down for millennia is why they still occur. It doesn’t matter that they have no basis in rational thought — neither does religion. But the stories still maintain their relevance because we learn about them when we’re young enough to be indoctrinated.