Fresh takes on the fall of Troy

Science-fiction inspired by Virgil’s stoy of Aeneas

The story of Aeneas’ flight from Troy and his arduous search for a new home has inspired at least two science-fiction greats: the videogame Homeworld and the television series Battlestar Galactica.

Josho Brouwers

As far as stories are concerned, one of the more acclaimed strategy videogames of the past few decades are the Homeworld games, originally developed by Relic Entertainment and since then spruced up and re-released by Gearbox Software.

Particularly noteworthy is the plot of the first game in the series. The Kushan (our protagonists) have found a hyperspace core with which they reach for the stars. However, the evil Taiidan Empire wants to prevent them from doing so and destroys Kharak, the world of the Kushan. A ragtag fleet, centred on the mighty Mothership, manages to escape and goes in search of the Kushan’s original homeworld, Hiigara, from which they were exiled millennia earlier.

Familiar echoes

Many have noted the similarities between the game’s plot and that of the science-fantasy television series Battlestar Galactica. The original series launched in 1978 and was heavily inspired by Star Wars and rather campy. In 2004, a reimagined series was created, darker and more serious in tone to the original, which has received much (deserved) critical acclaim.

In both versions of the TV show, the humans living on the Twelve Colonies, each named after a sign of the zodiac (e.g. Tauron, Caprica) have their worlds destroyed by the Cylons, the descendants of intelligent machines that, in the reimagined series, were originally created by the humans. A relatively small number of human survivors flee the system in a fleet led by the eponymous “battlestar” Galactica, setting out to find a new home.

The television show has some Christian themes, and is said to have been inspired by Mormon theology. But the story of people becoming exiles after their home was destroyed, and going in search of a new place to go home is, of course, much older, and some of the names of certain characters (like “Apollo”) hint at other influences, most notably Graeco-Roman ones.

In these new takes on the story of the Trojan War, the Taiidan (Homeworld) or the Cylons (Battlestar Galactica) assume the role of the Greeks: they invade and attack the home of the Kushan and the humans (i.e. the Trojans). They succeed in destroying the defenders’ home (i.e. the city of Troy, Kharak, or the Twelve Colonies, respectively), but they don’t manage to fully exterminate the population – though certainly not for lack of trying.

In search of a new home

Some survivors of the destruction managed to escape the city. Led by the hero Aeneas (Karan S’jet in Homeworld; Commander Adama in Battlestar Galactica), a son of the goddess Aphrodite, these Trojans managed to sail away from Anatolia. After a brief stop on Sicily, they ended up in Tunisia, but just like the planet that was briefly settled in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, it proves only to be the cause of further pain.

The Trojans are pushed onwards, back to Sicily, where they meet with further setbacks, and then to Italy, until they end up in Latium. There, the arrival of the newcomers leads to war and bloodshed, and only after Aeneas succeeds in killing the strongest of his opponents, Turnus, do the Olympian gods decide that enough has been enough.

In the story of Aeneas, the Trojan men end up marrying the local women and thus become the ancestors of what would later become the Roman people. In the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, the wanderers of the Twelve Colonies eventually end up settling another planet, namely Earth. They, too, mix with the local population and become our ancestors, as it is revealed that their story is set around 150,000 years before the present day.

In the case of Homeworld, the story is resolved in a simpler way: the Kushan reclaim their homeworld and their birthright, founding a new Hiigaran Empire; their loss of identity occurred when they were originally relocated, so the fact that they don’t intermingle with another group of people makes sense. The rise of this Hiigaran Empire calls to mind the Empire that Aeneas’ Roman descendants would eventually found.