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The Trojan War: A New History

As I was reading The Odyssey, I ran across The Trojan War: A New History by Barry Strauss at the local bookstore.  Paging through the first few chapters, I was fascinated by the descriptions of other minor epic poems about the Trojan War and that the city of Troy was associated with the Bronze Age Anatolian culture rather than Greek.

Unfortunately, many of the most interesting and meaty sections of the book were in the introduction and early chapters.

I think the problem I had was that the author attempted to validate the writings of Homer and other traditions based on manuscripts, artifacts, and inscriptions of other Bronze Age peoples.  Perhaps I was hoping for too much:  evidence from the site of Troy itself.

While the anecdotes of the Hittites, Assyrians, and Egyptians (for example) were interesting in themselves, I was a little skeptical that their cultures were complete analogues.  Also, the examples that were used covered perhaps 400 years around the currently assumed date of the war.

Later sections become a rehash of The Iliad itself, summarizing the main action and then inserting a comment or two about the likely armor used or how the conscripted commoners would have been treated in the Greek army.  My interest in the other non-Homeric epics was dashed by the statement about two-thirds into the book:

“Only sketchy summaries and a few quotations survive from the Cypria, Aethiopis, Little Iliad, Sack of Ilium, and The Returns.”

I don’t want to give the impression that the book was all bad, but it seemed a bit like a thesis where the student can’t seem to find enough evidence so they brought in somewhat related information and then widened the margins of the paper.

2 1/2 stars out of 5

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