Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The War that Killed Achilles by Caroline Alexander [reviews]
The Guardian, New York Times ^ | October 13, 2009 -- December 18, 2010 | Tom Holland, Vera Rule, Steve Coates, Dwight Garner

Posted on 12/23/2010 8:35:56 PM PST by SunkenCiv

...In the earliest days of their history, so the Greeks recorded, a city in Asia by the name of Troy had been besieged by their ancestors for 10 long years, captured, and burnt to the ground. Why? Responsibility for the conflict was pinned on Paris, a Trojan prince whose abduction of Helen, the fabulously beautiful daughter of the king of the gods, had set in train a truly calamitous sequence of events. Not only Troy had ended up obliterated, but so, too, had the age of heroes. War had consumed the world.

No wonder, then, that the Greeks should have been torn between a desire to find some meaning in this terrible conflagration and a suspicion that it had never had any meaning at all. In the 5th century BC, the historian Herodotus concluded that "the utter ruin of the Trojans, and their annihilation, had served to demonstrate to humanity how terrible crimes will always be met, courtesy of the gods, with a terrible vengeance". Elsewhere, however, he reported an entirely contrary view: that the rape of Helen had been barely a crime at all, and that the Greek response had been grotesquely disproportionate. The implication of this was potentially most unsettling: that the destruction of Troy, far from demonstrating the workings of a divine order, reflected instead a chill and unheeding universe. "Why should I call to the gods?" Such was the question that the Athenian tragedian, Euripides, put into the mouth of the queen of fallen Troy in his tragedy, The Trojan Women. "Long have I raised my voice to them, but they do not listen."

...it is hard to escape a nagging feeling that the image which Alexander sees reflected in the Iliad is too much her own...

(Excerpt) Read more at guardianbookshop.co.uk ...


TOPICS: History; Science; Travel
KEYWORDS: godsgravesglyphs; homer; iliad; trojanwar

The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homers Iliad and the Trojan War The War That Killed Achilles:
The True Story of Homer's "Iliad"
and the Trojan War

by Caroline Alexander

KindlePaperback
Unabridged MP3 CD Audiobook

Audible Audio Unabridged Edition
sample chapter (NYT)


1 posted on 12/23/2010 8:36:06 PM PST by SunkenCiv
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

Although Caroline Alexander quotes chunks of the Iliad as translated in a plain, brusque manner by Richmond Lattimore, her gloss reads better with a complete text beside you. Her scholarship works as a theme-by-theme, not book-by-book, commentary -- an epic, running footnote, branching into its own footnotes, 40 pages of 'em, cross-referring to archaeology, legends of the eastern Mediterranean proved linguistically to have had origins in historical catastrophe, fictional back stories and their alternative versions, ditto sequels, psychological truths and the precise medical understanding of Homer (or sequential bards of the oral tradition anthologised into Homer). That is, he knew where the major organs were, but not what they did, only that a sword swipe or a spear thrust to them was fatal. She's at her best on Homer's -- and his fellow Greeks' -- bleak acceptance that death is it, the end, nothing beyond but shades flitting and twittering by the Styx, unable to luxuriate in war-earned glory, no fame worth an hour's real life. -- review by Vera Rule

2 posted on 12/23/2010 8:42:33 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

Alexander's own interpretations aren't always persuasive. Achilles is at once a starlike demigod and a raging monster. In order to present him as an ideal commander, a serious theoretical critic of the social order and, most dubiously, a peacemaker, Alexander has to play down both his human flaws and his deeply disturbing Dark Angel aspects. Distracting, too, are the modern war parallels she draws -- from World War I, Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq; fleeting and uninspired, they are, one suspects, an unnecessary effort to suggest contemporary "relevance." Yet, "the Trojan War represents Total War," Alexander insightfully maintains: by the end of the "Iliad," the cumulated grief of doomed Trojans, ordinary men, women and children, "is a match for the heroic and outsize grief" of godlike Achilles. This, after all, is the import of the epic's title, she writes: "The 'Iliad' relates the fate of the soon-to-be-extinct city of Ilion" -- and, by extension, the fate of the Mycenaean cities from which the distant ancestors of Homer's audience fled; the fate of Carthage and then of Rome, in the imagination of cultured Romans; and ultimately, the fate of any human society subject to the sword. -- review by Steve Coates

3 posted on 12/23/2010 8:42:37 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

In the entirety of "The Iliad," she notes, "no warrior, whether hero or obscure man of the ranks, dies happily or well. No reward awaits the soldier's valor; no heaven will receive him." In the epic, "words and phrases for the process of death make clear that this is something baneful." The problem with "The War That Killed Achilles" doesn't lie in Ms. Alexander's intelligent readings, her combing through the text looking for ambivalence about, or fear and loathing of, war, even if she might have paid closer attention to what Chris Hedges, a former correspondent for The New York Times, has called war's enduring attraction -- which is that "even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living." The problem is that her book is such a dutiful walk-through of Lattimore's translation. Ms. Alexander quotes from, and summarizes, Lattimore's words so frequently that without them her book would threaten to collapse into a heap of thin if shapely sticks and twigs. -- review by Dwight Garner

4 posted on 12/23/2010 8:42:37 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; 2ndDivisionVet; 31R1O; ...

· GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach ·
· join list or digest · view topics · view or post blog · bookmark · post a topic · subscribe ·

 
 Antiquity Journal
 & archive
 Archaeologica
 Archaeology
 Archaeology Channel
 BAR
 Bronze Age Forum
 Discover
 Dogpile
 Eurekalert
 Google
 LiveScience
 Mirabilis.ca
 Nat Geographic
 PhysOrg
 Science Daily
 Science News
 Texas AM
 Yahoo
 Excerpt, or Link only?
 


To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
 

· History topic · history keyword · archaeology keyword · paleontology keyword ·
· Science topic · science keyword · Books/Literature topic · pages keyword ·


5 posted on 12/23/2010 8:42:46 PM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv


6 posted on 12/23/2010 8:43:39 PM PST by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv
"whose abduction of Helen, the fabulously beautiful daughter of the king of the gods"

Unstoppable hotness, baby.

7 posted on 12/23/2010 8:57:03 PM PST by fieldmarshaldj (~"This is what happens when you find a stranger in the Amber Lamps !"~~)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Troy has not been discovered...what an adventure awaits to find her walls..look for her and have the immortality of Achilles..


8 posted on 12/23/2010 9:23:40 PM PST by bushpilot1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: bushpilot1

Troy has almost certainly been discovered tho there still is debate as to which one of the 9 or more layers of destroyed cities is the one of the Iliad.


9 posted on 12/23/2010 9:42:59 PM PST by yarddog
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

So is the book just a translation and retelling of the ‘Illiad’, or does it tell the entire story of the siege?


10 posted on 12/23/2010 10:07:00 PM PST by Lucius Cornelius Sulla ('“Our own government has become our enemy' - Sheriff Paul Babeu)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: yarddog

The ruins of a small medieval fortification is not Troy.

The west coast of Turkey is full of them..


11 posted on 12/23/2010 10:12:20 PM PST by bushpilot1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Thanks, SunkenCiv!

I’ll look forward to reading this book. When I first read The Iliad so many years ago, I felt Andromache’s pain - loving her husband so desperately and yet having no power to influence their fate. A woman’s interpretation of this great Classic is much to be desired.


12 posted on 12/23/2010 11:54:44 PM PST by Island Girl
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

The reviews make it sound as though giving this for Christmas is the literary equivalent of coal in the stocking.


13 posted on 12/24/2010 4:11:50 AM PST by gusopol3
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: bushpilot1

Latest excavations at the presumed city of Troy reveal that was formerly thought to be the entire city was merely the citadel. The actual newly discovered perimeter of the settlement’s circuit walls which encompassed the entire city were immense and well bear out the story as presented by Homer in the Iliad.

I just looked briefly at the critique of this book and I don;t think I’m going to read it.

Each generation interprets history and stories and epics from their own perspective. And I think this presentation of an interpretation is perhaps the worst and well reflects the ideas of liberals of our time.

War is indeed terrible at any time and place.

But there are MANY MANY things WORSE than war - like slavery and oppression. And the founding fathers of this nation JUSTLY felt that under those circumstances war is indeed justified.

I read the Iliad in the original Greek and I came away with an entirely different feeling about the story.

It is a tragedy, but it combines many feelings and motives. Its HONOR which drives Hector to accept the challenge of Achilles. He could easily have stayed behind the walls. Compassion which moved Achilles to return Hector’s body to Priam. Greed which led Agamemnon to refuse to release the daughter of the Priest of Apollo and pride which drove him to take Achilles slave girl. And on and on.

Many different emotions. The opening titles of the First Book are ANGER and PLAGUE. And the opening line is about the wrath of Achilles and how it wrought woes a thousandfold on the Achaeans.

A great book. A Great story - and I mean the Iliad. And the real war and story a continuing intriguing mystery.


14 posted on 12/24/2010 6:00:04 AM PST by ZULU (No nation which tried to tolerate Islam escaped Islamization.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: bushpilot1

And the presumed site of Troy is a Medieval site - its a bronze age site.


15 posted on 12/24/2010 6:06:06 AM PST by ZULU (No nation which tried to tolerate Islam escaped Islamization.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: fieldmarshaldj

OK, that was uncalled for.


16 posted on 12/24/2010 7:26:12 AM PST by chesley (Eat what you want, and die like a man.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: gusopol3

Yeah, the book sounds like an op-ed of leftist agitprop.


17 posted on 12/24/2010 7:44:38 AM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Island Girl

Be sure to see my earlier reply.


18 posted on 12/24/2010 7:49:23 AM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Lucius Cornelius Sulla

It’s leftist screed, by the sound of it. These reviews were all favorable — I just included the stuff that wasn’t.

BTW, the Fagles translation is excellent.


19 posted on 12/24/2010 7:52:31 AM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: bushpilot1

http://www.freerepublic.com/tag/trojanwar/index


20 posted on 12/24/2010 7:56:45 AM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: fieldmarshaldj

The real Helen would be much younger.


21 posted on 12/24/2010 7:57:20 AM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: ZULU

Was assigned to Izmir 79-80 when I was in the army. Met several archaeologists during my travels.

They were interested in Sardis, Ephesus, Miletus and others...not the site believed to be Troy.

Homer..the Illiad and Virgil the Aeneid.

Two years..in the area was a dream for me..


22 posted on 12/24/2010 7:58:24 AM PST by bushpilot1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: JoeProBono

Mmmm.... Genevieve Bujold...


23 posted on 12/24/2010 8:00:42 AM PST by SunkenCiv (The 2nd Amendment follows right behind the 1st because some people are hard of hearing.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv
The real Helen would be much younger.

And her face launched ships, not lunches.

24 posted on 12/24/2010 8:01:05 AM PST by Tijeras_Slim (Pablo lives jubtabulously!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Maybe blaming the snatching of Helen for the Trojan War is like blaming the assassination of the archduke for WWI.

It’s also simpler when you’re sitting around the campfire singing. Running off with the king’s wife makes for better lyrics than a long dissertation about socioeconomic disequilibrium.

On the other hand, they could’ve sung Rock Island Line ;)

IMO the big factor was Troy sitting at one end of the Dardanelles (access to the Euxine cities), pinching everybody for tolls both ways.

But when a queen is taken, the story takes on heroic dimensions you just can’t apply to being fed up with paying off a gauntlet of pirates.


25 posted on 12/24/2010 10:30:23 AM PST by 668 - Neighbor of the Beast (Merry Christmas!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: bushpilot1

Hattusas and the Hittites are interseting too.

Anatolia is a treasure trove of ancient history.


26 posted on 12/24/2010 10:37:01 AM PST by ZULU (No nation which tried to tolerate Islam escaped Islamization.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Thanks for the reminder, I have been meaning to read “War Before Civilization” for a couple of years. This thread jogged my memory just down loaded the kindle edition.


27 posted on 12/24/2010 10:48:49 AM PST by Little Bill (Harry Browne is a Poofter.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

I’d seen it at a public library; it sounded good on the dust jacket!


28 posted on 12/24/2010 11:03:45 AM PST by gusopol3
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Achilles? He was such a heel!


29 posted on 12/24/2010 11:07:09 AM PST by Larry Lucido
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

Achilles? He was such a heel!


30 posted on 12/24/2010 11:07:13 AM PST by Larry Lucido
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SunkenCiv

I liked the Brad Pitt version.


31 posted on 12/24/2010 11:07:45 AM PST by Hacksaw (“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy” — H.L. Mencken)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: bushpilot1
actually Troy has been discovered, and more recently a German archeologist named Korfman found that the hillside mound excavated by Schliemann was merely the hillside fortress, but a large town dating to 1200 BC confirms it was there.

Michael Wood's "in search of the trojan war" speculations are now considered accurate 20 years later...you might want to buy the series (I downloaded it from a Chinese yuku video site, if you google you might find it) or watch it on streaming video .

link

and check out LINK

32 posted on 12/24/2010 3:25:07 PM PST by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: fieldmarshaldj

The face that launched a thousand ships

33 posted on 12/24/2010 4:02:17 PM PST by Bratch
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: fieldmarshaldj

The face that sunk a thousand ships!


34 posted on 12/24/2010 5:09:19 PM PST by Ole Okie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: bushpilot1
I lived at Cigli AFB near Izmir during the late 60’s. Loved going on Boy Scout hikes thru the ruins. Totally amazed that the local Turks had no appreciation for them, except as ways to gain greenbacks from tourists.

By the time we left, the poppies were growing just past the base fences and there was no love for Americans if they ran out of dollars.

35 posted on 12/26/2010 6:40:42 AM PST by texas booster (Join FreeRepublic's Folding@Home team (Team # 36120) Cure Alzheimer's!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson