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The Trojan War: A New History [Kindle Edition]

Barry Strauss
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.99
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Book Description

The Trojan War is the most famous conflict in history, the subject of Homer's Iliad, one of the cornerstones of Western literature. Although many readers know that this literary masterwork is based on actual events, there is disagreement about how much of Homer's tale is true. Drawing on recent archeological research, historian and classicist Barry Strauss explains what really happened in Troy more than 3,000 years ago.

For many years it was thought that Troy was an insignificant place that never had a chance against the Greek warriors who laid siege and overwhelmed the city. In the old view, the conflict was decided by duels between champions on the plain of Troy. Today we know that Troy was indeed a large and prosperous city, just as Homer said. The Trojans themselves were not Greeks but vassals of the powerful Hittite Empire to the east in modern-day Turkey, and they probably spoke a Hittite-related language called Luwian. The Trojan War was most likely the culmination of a long feud over power, wealth, and honor in western Turkey and the offshore islands. The war itself was mainly a low-intensity conflict, a series of raids on neighboring towns and lands. It seems unlikely that there was ever a siege of Troy; rather some sort of trick -- perhaps involving a wooden horse -- allowed the Greeks to take the city.

Strauss shows us where Homer nods, and sometimes exaggerates and distorts, as well. He puts the Trojan War into the context of its time, explaining the strategies and tactics that both sides used, and compares the war to contemporary battles elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean. With his vivid reconstructions of the conflict and his insights into the famous characters and events of Homer's great epic, Strauss masterfully tells the story of the fall of Troy as history without losing the poetry and grandeur that continue to draw readers to this ancient tale.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Classics professor Strauss has demonstrated talent for popular history writing (The Battle of Salamis, 2004) that continues with this rendition of the granddaddy of Western literature. Homer's Iliad, acknowledges Strauss, has been regarded skeptically as a record of a real war, but he pitches the epic as credible in its fundamental narrative of a Greek naval force landing and sacking Troy around 1200 BCE. Although he concedes that the Iliad's characters are likely fictional, Strauss adopts the device of treating them as real, modified in light of the Bronze Age's practice of diplomacy and warfare as interpreted through archaeology, fragmentary ancient writings, and the Iliad and the Odyssey. So, neither a titanic war instigated by Paris' abduction of Helen, nor champions such as Achilles and Hector, nor the war's culmination in the subterfuge of the Trojan Horse are necessarily far-fetched notions in Strauss' telling. Combining caution with a stretch of historical imagination, Strauss' depiction of the Trojan War yields a conflict shorn of the Iliad's heroizing but restored with historically plausible causes, chronologies, and conclusions. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"The second best book about the Trojan War I have ever read." -- Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae and The Afghan Campaign

Product Details

  • File Size: 2481 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 074326441X
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (September 12, 2006)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000MGATX0
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,662 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
90 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Face That Launched a Thousand Books September 24, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Over the years, I've read quite a few books and articles about the Trojan War, but this one really hits the mark. For one thing, Strauss doesn't dwell on the oft-repeated story of Heinrich Schliemann's discovery of the "Mound at Hisarlik," which most archaeologists now agree was the site of ancient Troy. Instead, Strauss dives straight into the narrative in the Iliad and related but lesser-known works, treating Homer's probably fictional heroes as real characters and using them to illuminate the nuances of Greek and Anatolian culture during the Bronze Age.

In this narrative, Troy is a prosperous client state of the Hittite Empire and the Greeks are the Vikings of the Mediterranean. The Trojan War may or may not have been about the abduction of a Spartan queen named Helen, but it could easily have been about Mycenaean raids to capture booty and Trojan women. And while today's reader is skeptical of the active participation of gods in battle, Strauss makes it clear that the gods of the Iliad were an integral part of the thinking of Bronze Age warriors, not just a poetic device.

To top it all off, Strauss is simply a good writer. There are other good books about the Trojan War (Rodney Castelden's recent "The Attack on Troy" and Michael Wood's classic "In Search of the Trojan War" come to mind), but Strauss does the best job of integrating the powerful narrative of the Homeric epic cycle with our current knowledge of the Bronze Age world. "The Trojan War" is a fast and compelling read.
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read - but Fact or Fiction? January 1, 2007
The Trojan War (circa 1200 BC) is a conflict shrouded in mists of myth, fragmented historical evidence and often-inconclusive archaeological clues. Most of our views on the war are shaped by Homer's heroic epics, not recorded history. In his book The Trojan War, Cornell University Professor Barry Strauss attempts to depict this conflict as a coherent historical narrative, accepting much of Homer as a starting point, but embellishing the tale with other neglected literary sources and all currently available archeological evidence. This is not a stuffy academic tome on Homer but rather, an attempt to depict Helen, Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, Paris, etc as real historical characters and the author succeeds in this effort. On the one hand, this is a pleasing effort that brings life to our otherwise hagiographical image of these characters. On the other hand, the reader is constantly brought to wonder what the author has surmised and what he has simply invented whole cloth. Since we are not even sure of the existence of many of these characters - did Homer invent some of them? - it is disconcerting to see the author describing their appearance, thoughts and actions. Although this book provides wonderful insight into the Trojan War, I found myself torn whether I should consider it history or historical fiction; there is a huge gray area at the heart of this book.

The author's narrative is clean and strait forward, laid out in eleven chapters that begins with Helen's flight from Sparta with Paris to the fall of Troy. As a starting premise, the author accepts much of Homer's The Iliad as based upon real events, but he notes exaggerations and omissions that make certain sections suspect.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting--But Very Speculative November 3, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Barry Strauss examines the Trojan War in terms of what our contemporary knowledge might tell us in illuminating this sanguinary contest between Greeks and Trojans. The underlying conceit to this book is to assume that Homer's listing of actors is a useful starting point. Thus, he speaks of Paris, Helen, Achilles, Menelaus, Agamemnon, Odysseus, Ajax, Hector, Priam, and others as if they were actual historical figures. As Strauss notes (page 11), ". . .this book will refer to Homer's characters as real-life individuals. The reader should keep in mind that their existence is plausible but unproven." If the reader accept this, then the book is interesting reading. If not, then the book will be most unconvincing.

The volume uses historical information, archaeological findings, and texts (such as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey) to create a narrative addressing what might have happened at Troy.

Issues addressed include the gathering of the Greek army and navy to attack Troy after Paris' abduction of Helen (Menelaus' wife), the amphibious landing of the Greek forces before the city of Troy, the network of alliances among both Greeks and Trojans, the tactics and strategy of warfare at this time in the Bronze Age, various scenarios as to how Troy was defeated, and so on.

This short book (189 pages of text) will not convince those who want concrete evidence. For those who are interested in a sense of what might have occurred at an historical Trojan War, there is much here to think about.

Useful features of the book, for those able to move beyond the premise, include some very nice maps at the start of the volume and photographs of the geography and artifacts of the era.

All in all, a thought provoking work. If the reader can accept the conceit, then this is a volume that gets one thinking about what might have been at 1180-1210 BC at Troy. If one does not accept that conceit, then this will likely be a frustrating work to confront.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A well written account exploring the possible realites of the ...
A well written account exploring the possible realites of the actual trojan/mycanne conflict ...well researched and reads as well as the Illiad
Published 1 month ago by Steven Nix
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
I have not started it yet, so I can't give a review.
Published 2 months ago by butterflykaty
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Gives a nice solid overview of the Trojan war. Very readable.
Published 2 months ago by Alfred L. Shull, Jr.
3.0 out of 5 stars Tiresome
It was a tiresome book to get through. Lots of conjecture, lots of unnecessary comment, supposition and unneeded comparisons to modern politics. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Thomas R. Johnson
1.0 out of 5 stars Speculation, not history....
Not a scholarly work. Not a viable screenplay. Not novel in any sense. Not worth the effort.
Published 3 months ago by amw
5.0 out of 5 stars A Real History of the Trojan Wat
Barry Strauss tells a deeper story of the conflict between Greece and Troy then the story I heard as a student. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars TERRIBLE.
"Historical" "Factual" "Non-fiction". These are things I was supposed to be looking for in a book to review for college. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Brian
5.0 out of 5 stars rather he offers a far more useful, practical
There are countless interpretive views of The Iliad, The Trojan War, and the historical epochs within which each was written and/or possibly occurred. Read more
Published 3 months ago by doced
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent study guide on Homer.
An erudite narration of Homer's epic with a historical backdrop. This should be treated as a Study Guide for students.
Published 3 months ago by Sekhar Banerjee
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting and informative
In this fascinating book, author and historian, Professor Barry Strauss examines the Trojan War. Pulling together such sources as ancient epics and poems, and recent archaeological... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Kurt A. Johnson
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