The Trojan War A New History
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This feels like it started out as an annotated edition of the Iliad, and then ballooned into its own book, but it's still an entertaining read. Do we have evidence for similar events around that time? Do we have archaeological evidence for similar wars happening at Troy? An example: When the Greeks sacked the city, they put Troy to the torch. Cities that did not surrender would, if they were captured, be destroyed.
This rule goes as far back as the first well-documented interstate conflict, the border wars between the two Sumerian city-states of Lagash and Umma between and B. All the while Strauss is a great narrator - often starting out with "Now imagine the scene", going into living detail how it could have been, then switching over to the primary text with comparison of secondary sources.
The Trojan War is a good introduction to the Iliad and its events, it doesn't purport itself to be an academic work, in fact, the introduction explains most basic archaeology. If you've never had a university course in Greek history or literature go for it. Apr 01, Adam Balshan rated it did not like it Shelves: history , r-greece. Historians will justifiably scoff at Strauss for presuming to put the word "history" in his subtitle. Basically, the author weaves several hundred generalizations enriched by unending conjecture into a somewhat systematic, somewhat chronological narrative.
He tells what could have happened in the campaign for Troy, based upon Homer and broad historical data from the Hellene and Hittite cultures. It was difficult for me to read 1. It was difficult for me to read more than one chapter at a time. Strauss punctuates almost every page with some quasi-related generalization from the more reliable historical record in order to support his conjecture. However, it is forgivable if you are interested in the period, and if you don't set your expectations too high. I picked up the book because I am interested in ancient Greece and in Bronze Age warfare.
If you have a similar interest, it is at least worth reading once. A clear and concise primer to the Trojan War as a historical event rather than an epic poem. I enjoyed Strauss's sense of humour and his defense of Homer as a source, but there was also an awful lot of romantic imagining that got in the way of his evidence. Sep 24, [redacted by S. There's about 30 pages of actual history in here, but I guess at least it's written well. Pity, I usually love Strauss. Feb 24, DivyaRani rated it really liked it Shelves: Did really Trojan war happened? Barry Strauss gave more historical analysis and comparisons about the war.
A lot to know about the war. Nice book. Sep 18, Kenneth rated it it was amazing. The author's understanding of what "really" happened insofar as we can reconstruct the story from Homer and the archaeological discoveries of the last years. Sep 21, Rick Davis rated it really liked it Shelves: greece-and-rome-history , archaeology , ane-and-egypt-history , nonfiction.
The Trojan War is made up of two strands of narrative interwoven throughout the book. Strauss pulls from recent archaeological discoveries, ancient records and letters, and ancient poetry and literature in order to reconstruct the politics and paraphernalia of war. I especially appreciated this aspect of the book.
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The other strand of narrative that runs through the book is a retelling of the Trojan War story, primarily that presented by Homer in the Iliad and Odyssey, in light of the real methods of war at the time period. The book is well written, fun, and easily accessible for any reader. It has timelines, maps, a glossary and some great resources in the back. I only have two quibbles with the book as a whole. There was a war at Troy and the city was burnt sometime between and ish BC, but Strauss is not intending to say that the story of the Iliad is absolutely historically true.
The way he writes can give this impression at times, though. Overall, I would highly recommend this book to any person interested in classical literature or history. From teachers, to students, to the merely curious, The Trojan War is an engaging and lively read. Sep 09, NanoCyborg rated it liked it.
Pretty decent book. This book's goal is to basically legitimize the Trojan War into something that really happened using both old and new evidence. It's very interesting because the way the author puts it at the very minimum, it genuinely looks like something did happen. One of the best thing in this book was the description Pretty decent book.
One of the best thing in this book was the description of the war itself, especially the personal battles and sieges. It gave a sense of gritty realism that really isn't present in a lot of "history" books. This guy, Mr. Strauss, could honestly become a fiction writer pretty easily with his level of detail he puts in describing everything.
The only thing I didn't like in this book, and maybe this was unavoidable due to the time period, but when referencing to another soldier, army, leader, etc to prove his point of the reality of the situation I think he had to reference Ramses II, the two Hittite kings Can't recall their names because they were obnoxiously long , and Akkad if I recall correctly, about a o times each. It just got a bit tiring after awhile hearing them referenced again and again, since most of the reference was stuff that was already covered or hinted towards.
Overall this was a great book, and I think a pretty decent primer for the Illiad, because it paints it in a realistic narrative. Aug 06, B. Rule rated it liked it. In fact, I'd say only a third of the book, at best, conforms to that description. There are occasional references to new archaeological discoveries, and a fair number of comparisons to other Bronze Age cultures, together with basically baseless extrapolations to what may have been true for the Greeks and Trojans.
In fact, a great deal of this book is sort of pipe-puffing "what ifs" with often dubious historical sourcing. The remainder of the book, and the bulk of the material, is a retelling of the Iliad in extremely purple prose. It becomes more bearable as the book goes on, but it's not really what I was expecting based on the promises in the introduction. I'd rather just read the Iliad again.
That said, this is an okay companion piece to Homer's works for students or those who want a condensed, somewhat silly retelling. It feels a bit like listening in on a lecture by an earnest, dorky college professor who wants to make history "come alive" for his students. It's embarrassing to watch but you have to grudgingly admire the enthusiasm.
Mar 12, Will Jeffrey rated it it was amazing. I loved this book so much I immediately lent it out to my mother, and I hope it has made the rounds of the family. Ever since I was a kid with my children's Goldenbook version of both of Homer's epics I have been fascinated with the stories.
As an adult I have come to appreciate the storys' plot, dialog, reflection of Bronze age life and culture. Yet always I loved the heroes, the adventure,and of course the percentages of fact and fiction to the legend.
For years, I followed the latest archeolo I loved this book so much I immediately lent it out to my mother, and I hope it has made the rounds of the family. For years, I followed the latest archeological evidence, read every article and watched every documentary with interest trying to keep up with the new findings and the plausibily of each new theory.
At last, a book has come along to fit things together closer than ever before.
The first chapter, depicting the character of Helen had me glued to my airline seat with my eyes swimming and whispering yes,yes, under my breath. It is an easy to follow, smooth flowing narrative that never dulls or dries up. The book is short, but satisfying. By the way, I still think the Trojans got a raw deal, and Hector was twice the man Achillies was.
The book is structured around the story of the Trojan War, which is then clothed in modern archaeology, and decorated with Homer. And it works. Taking the view that the Trojan War is based on something that happened, the book gives the I was expecting Strauss' The Trojan War: A New History to be a scholarly study of every detail we have about the Trojan world; basically an updated version of In Search of the Trojan War. Taking the view that the Trojan War is based on something that happened, the book gives the 'history' of the war, cross-referencing with what we know of other nearby Bronze Age cultures.
There's plenty of passages where something from the Iliad is compared to existing Bronze Age writings and shown how it is typical of the time. In fact, the book hides a fairly good overview of Bronze Age politics and warfare. In all, it is a short but quite worthwhile book. Jul 30, Sean rated it it was ok Shelves: abandoned-for-now. I've read a few chapters of this and I think I know why I'm not sold on it -- it's written by a Classics professor. While the book purports to include a story bolstered by archaeological evidence, this basically boils down to "Well, Homer describes similar stuff to that which has been discovered in Anatolia, so let's assume that Helen was a real person.
That is, Strauss is concerned with the narrative first and foremost, and making that reconcile with the existing archaeological evidence, and I don't see that as a particularly interesting project. I'd much rather read a book about the Trojan War that simply summarized and described the insights drawn from the post digs at Troy, not more rehashing of Homer.
I might go back and finish reading, but it's abandoned for now. Nov 17, Owen O'Neill rated it it was amazing.
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A fascinating book, very well researched. I had the pleasure of discussing this book personally with Prof. Strauss, and my only complaint is that his publisher did not allow him to go into greater depth. His work clearly shows the sophisticated nature of the conflict behind legend. Highly recommended! Aug 29, Marcus rated it it was ok. The cover says 'New History', but it should really say 'Homer had it right from the start'.
Barry Strauss basically narrates the classic work and throws into the mix referencesto whatever archeological finds that suit his interpretation. A nice read in some respects, but fast and loose play with scant factual evidence makes it as plausible as a Hollywood movie. Nov 27, Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing Shelves: challenge This is actually the second time I have read this book. In fact, although I got this particular volume that I read this time from the library, I own or at least owned a copy of this before from my earlier military history reading during the age before I blogged all of my book reviews.
Is this work reading twice? It's an enjoyable and easy to read book by a contemporary classicist and military historian who views Homer as a generally reliable source when it comes to Bronze Age warfare when r This is actually the second time I have read this book. It's an enjoyable and easy to read book by a contemporary classicist and military historian who views Homer as a generally reliable source when it comes to Bronze Age warfare when read carefully, so if you have an interest in Bronze Age warfare , this work is certainly one that is worth reading at least once. In general, this book is revisionist history done right, one that takes ancient sources seriously and comes at the subject with a large degree of context both in archaeology as well as textual history, and which is appropriately careful in not exaggerating evidence and in presenting consistency between textual and material evidence rather than seeing archaeology merely with a confirmation bias.
All in all, this book is a good book to read about the Trojan War for those who combine a love of ancient history with an interest in texts and archaeology. This book, at a bit more than pages of core material, is not filled with fluff, but rather focuses on a close reading of texts, a sound knowledge of geography and material remains, and a shrewd interest in understanding human behavior. After some initial notes and chronological material, the author begins by introducing the Trojan War.
After that there is a discussion of Helen and her theft of Menelaus' gold bars as a classic causis belli 1 , and the pressure that Agamemnon faced as a wanax to respond to this by mobilizing the strength of Greece against Troy 2. The author examines the struggle the Greeks faced to ensure a beachhead, aided by their naval superiority 3 , and looks at the initial failed assault on the walls that they did to try to keep the conflict short 4.
The author looks at the dirty war of attacking the logistical basis of Trojan strength 5 and the trouble faced by the army in light of the rivalry between Achilles and Agamemnon 6. There are discussions of the killing fields in the Trojan Plain 7 , the night moves that led to the desperate fight at the ships 8 , and Hector's fatal charge that prompted Achilles to fight him and kill him 9. After that the author discusses the remainder of the war 10 and its successful conclusion by a ruse 11 , after which the author concludes.
There is a great deal of interest in this book, and the author's style and approach are winsome enough that even if one does not think that all of the author's speculations and interpretations are correct that the general picture is at least a plausible and reasonable one. Moreover, the author's general interpretation is one that values shrewdness and cleverness and that denigrates a meat-headed approach that focuses only on straightforward attacks and glory. By giving praise to moderate and savvy figures Odysseus and Aeneas come off well here, as does Patrocles , and subtly denigrating those who lack such nuance, like Hector and Achilles and Menaleus and Ajax, the author points to some of the ways in which classic literature can help to inform contemporary approaches to war and conflict by cultivating both mind and body and not neglecting a shrewd understanding of issues of psychology or logistics.
As someone who values irregular warfare and also pays attention to matters of psychology and logistics, the author's approach is definitely one that plays to my own interests in history, in this or any age. Jul 08, K. This is not the book I wanted it to be. The biggest problem is the book has no idea whether it wants to be fact or fiction, so it tries to be both. It takes This is not the book I wanted it to be. Which, what? He was tall and striking, and his handsome face was crowned with a mane of long, dirty-blonde hair.
You have to flip back and forth and guess which line the note might be referring to. And beautiful equals dirty-blonde hair. Slept with? This kind of weird squeamishness about the hard truths of the era are visible throughout. He even hedges about admitting that women were considered property at the time. Heavens forbid his heroes not be perfect, I guess. I made it to page 90 of and officially decided that life is too short.
Dec 07, Robert rated it really liked it Shelves: histories-of-war-warfare. I first read the stories of Troy, Ulysses, Paris, Achilles, et al, in one of those popular juvenile prose versions way back when. I watched all of the big feature movies and some of the various television and cable documentaries. I even had the chance to see the treasure retrieved by the German archaeologist when it was exhibited in Moscow. So I figured that there was little new that would require me to rush out and buy the latest retelling of this story. Okay, you heard it here first — I was wrong — very wrong.
In retelling a familiar tale, Barry Strauss has brought to the subject an interdisciplinary approach that very much matches my own preferred method of study and analysis. He tells the story — but he also talks about the regional and international politics and economics of the day, of the geography, of the military and naval technology, the weaponry, logistics, etc. This resulted in an account that was fresh and informative in so many aspects, yet without being overly pedagogical or academic.
I highly recommend this book to anyone just beginning to be interested in the story of Troy or of Ancient Greece for that matter. Overall, an interesting book that was well written. I did have a few issues with the book however.
Summary of 'The Trojan War: A New History,' by Barry Strauss
This bothered me on a few levels: first, how can we assign any motivation to a historical figure without his own first hand account explaining his motivation? Second, this feels like an omission of evidence. He chose the one line that support his stance that Achilles fought for game while ignoring the many lines in both the Iliad and the Epic Cycle that he fought to avenge Patroclus. Lastly, it betrays his own thesis. This begs the question-do we believe Homer because the historical evidence supports him or not?
Aug 17, Larry Massaro rated it really liked it. Troy thus had its own allies in its wealthy pockets. In addition, its defensive walls and fortified citadel were considered second to none in the ancient world. Through a combination of wealth, diplomacy and internal defenses, Troy hoped to fend off any advance. The Greeks of this time, referred to by most scholars as Myceneaens, are what Strauss calls the Vikings of the ancient world.
Around a nominal king or "Wanax" existed many lesser nobles and their retainers whose interests lay in raiding and warfare which they often employed against each other. The Myceneaen aesthetic culture was not as advanced as their neighbors, but they were foremost in sea-faring technology, and their people proved to be hardy warriors. A united Greece would have been a major threat to any rival. Fortunately for its neighbors, few things could unite Greece into action. But there was Helen.
More than the famed beauty of the princess, the Sparta of this time was known for its great wealth. Without Helen, Menelaus has no claim to the Spartan throne, and without the Spartan throne the house of Agamemnon would be considerably weaker. Enter the Trojan prince, Paris. He comes to Sparta as a guest of state. Then while Menelaus tends to other affairs, Paris steals Helen back to Troy, taking Helen's dowry with him. It is obvious what Paris wants; a beautiful wife, the riches she possesses, and an embarrassment to the ruling family of Greece that may very well diminish its power. As to how Helen may profit, the status of royal women in Troy is better than in Greece.
She would be more of a partner than a submissive beauty symbol. The two adulterers carry on a relationship of mutual exploitation. Strauss believes the tale of Helen and Paris is real, but he doubts love had anything to do with it. The House of Agamemnon is forced to respond. Their honor has been slighted.
Their riches have been stolen. Their ruling position in Greece is now precarious. They summon the other warrior nobles of Greece to join them on an expedition of revenge. Why do the other Greek chieftains cease their own petty quarrels to unite behind the Wanax?
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Because the riches of Troy beckon. The motivating factor for many an ancient army was not loyalty to the crown, but promise of plunder. Homer portrayed the Trojan War as a divine quest to punish Paris for the two taboos of adultery and betraying hospitality.
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Strauss obviously does not give credence to literal interpretations of divine agendas, but he argues the Greeks themselves believed it. In addition to the aforementioned reasons of power and plunder, most Greeks would have sincerely believed the Olympian gods would be on their side for punishing Paris' sacrilegious expedition. Indeed, Strauss points out that every passage of divine guidance in Homer's tale did not happen literally, but is a reflection of what the Greeks themselves believed was happening on a divine level. The stage is then set for the invasion of Troy.
The Greeks defeat the Trojans and their allies in an initial encounter to establish a beachhead. There was however, no siege of Troy. Much of the Greek force is actually engaged in fishing, farming and foraging for food supplies to feed the vast army. Instead the available Greek forces probe the Trojan defenses for weak points. Finding few weak points in the famed walls of Troy, they are bloodily repulsed.
The Trojans adopt a defensive posture, hoping that in time a war weary Greek coalition will disburse and sail home. The Greeks are forced to engage in what Strauss calls a "dirty war. They hope to deny Troy valuable supplies and cut off its allies.
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In this manner the conflict would have endured for a long time, though Strauss is not sure if Homer's ten years is fact or a literary exaggeration he leans toward the latter. The point, though, is that the Greeks resorted to protracted irregular warfare, or what we moderns call guerrilla warfare, in order to wear down their adversaries. After some back and forth between the two sides, culminating in the death match between their two great champions, Achilles and Hector, the Greeks realize final victory cannot be achieved except through stealth.
He doubts there was a giant wooden horse in which Greek soldiers actually hid. However, he believes the Greeks did retreat just out of sight in a feigned departure. Possibly the Greeks did leave some kind of wooden horse as a deceptive recognition of defeat, for Troy's wealth did depend on horse-trading and that is exactly the kind of trophy they would have accepted. Later that night, the Greeks would have sailed quickly back into the region. Spies within Troy would have opened the gates and signaled the approaching Greeks via torchlight.
The rest is history. The archaeological evidence indicates the town of Troy was in fact suddenly destroyed by fire around BCE. If the above seems incredulous, you will just have read the book and analyze Strauss' methods. What he does essentially is take choice passages of The Iliad using Alexander Pope's famous verse translation and places them within the context of history and archaeology.
By identifying commonalities in Bronze Age culture and warfare, Strauss paints a plausible portrait that many of the Homeric details could have happened, and probably did happen in said manner if they happened at all. All that Homer would have done then is embellish the action for effect, and add a pronounced divine element which transformed it from a war of piracy to a heroic epic.