The Bottom Line
Read carefully -- as it deserves to be, Barry Strauss' The Trojan War: A New History is a gold mine of information on the Trojan War and Bronze Age in Greece, Egypt, and the ancient Near East. It would also work well as a companion to the Iliad. The language is often moving and always clear.
- Literary style
- Rich in anecdotes
- Up-to-date evidence
- Chapter sub-headings would have helped.
- Endnotes should be easier to use.
- Covers the events of the Trojan War including Epic Cycle material.
- Compares the Trojan War story with relevant Hittite, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian historical data.
- Plenty of resources for further reading.
- Strauss situates the Bronze Age between 3000 and 1000 B.C.
- N.B. The events in Mesopotamian and Egyptian history and their dates appear in a timetable at the front.
- Many plates with photographs of relics and scenes.
Guide Review - The Trojan War: A New History, by Barry Strauss
Barry Strauss takes the story of the Trojan World out of the literate Greek archaic age and places it in its context in the Bronze Age world of Anatolia. Strauss shows that Homer was in many areas recreating the ancient world even when its mores conflicted with the world he knew. Thus, when Plato criticizes the Homeric Achilles for crying, Strauss remarks that the Mesopotamian hero Gilgamesh wasn't above crying. That the Trojan War was fought over a woman seems an oversimplification, but Strauss says, in the Bronze Age, personal causes were more valid than abstracts, and, anyway, the Greeks were little more than pirates or Vikings.
Why did Helen go with Paris? How could Hector have been so cavalier about his wife's future? What really made Achilles return to the fray? These are some of the psychological issues Strauss competently addresses:
- Helen may have gone because she would have had greater power as an Anatolian princess;
- Hector was so consumed with lust for glory that nothing else mattered;
- Achilles was a dead weight and his Myrmidons would have deposed him.
Strauss also addresses concerns about the historical/archaeological accuracy of the Iliad with conclusions that Troy could easily have won (if only it had employed a "rope-a-dope" strategy), and even if a literal wooden horse is unlikely, a ruse was distinctly possible as a cause of the fall of Troy.
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