Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Trojan War: A New History

Barry Strauss' new (published last year, or approximately 3200 years after the events in question) account of the Trojan War is the best kind of history -- written by an author sufficiently versed in the applicable literature to be able to both comprehensive and brief.

Strauss turns a critical eye to the work of Homer (who actually wrote the Illiad and Odyssey in the 700s, or close to 500 years after the Trojan War), and the (lesser known) Epic Cycle (the Cypria (on the outbreak and first nine years of the war); the Aethiopis, about the Trojan allies; the Little Illiad, about the Trojan Horse; the Iliupersis, on the sack of Troy; the Nostoi, on the Greek heroes; and the Telegony, a continuation of the Odyssey) (all from pages xxi-xxii). The effect is a checking of Homer's sources, claims, and conclusions -- and a general conclusion that the story, while embellished, is probably at core, true.

But while the main story is not true, the two major facts -- the Trojan Horse gambit, and the length of the war (10 years) -- are probably not. The Horse is probably an allegory for some other deception the Greeks used; the ten year struggle is merely a Bronze Age euphemism for a 'long time.'

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