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The Trojan War: A New History by Barry Strauss Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: May 17th, 2020

“The Trojan War: A New History,” written by a historiographer Barry Strauss depicts an issue that had been examined and studied widely for years; moreover, more and more studies are published in history works and belletristic narrations. The author made an effort to present the story of the Trojan War in a different light by giving inventive apprehensions and authentic assertions about the subject. The intentions of Strauss are displayed at once in the title of the book: the author claims to introduce an updated view of the Trojan War to the general public. The book is written in such a manner that both people involved in Trojan War studying and primers with broad interests would find it alluring and approachable without any doubts.

In this review, we will determine the approach of Barry Strauss to the history and reasons for the Trojan War. Moreover, my point of view regarding the “The Trojan War: A New History” its strengths and weaknesses; we will try to conclude whether Strauss provides enough background information to allow us to understand the arguments of the author. Furthermore, the references to Homer and his theories about the connection between Troy and the Bronze Age will be discussed, and the accuracy of the book will be determined (Latacz 82).

Barry Strauss is a specialist in the military progress of ancient times, who has a reasonable point of view on many hoary wars. He rewrites the history of the Trojan War within the frameworks of its experiences, culture, economy, and topography; nevertheless, despite the practical approach, Strauss keeps in mind the literary value of these historical documents. In this connection, the author works with various appliances that allow shedding new light on the subject of Trojan Was, such as freshly-interpreted written records of Hittite. These memorials provide proof of the significance of the Troy Empire during the Bronze Age; moreover, they concede the relations of Hittite with the Trojan nation as allies during the war (Bryce 73).

This method of research gives the author a chance to establish the influence of Hittite on the life of Trojans, including their traditions, means of war, and their presumptions, the beliefs in divine powers, and contact with their gods along with the economic value and Greek’s interest in Troy. Moreover, the author uses a translation of the Iliad written by the Pope in 1720 as a confirmation of his theories. To be precise, the original Iliad state that the main characters Hector, Odysseus, and other characters, conduct themselves in ways that were inherent in the Bronze Age (Thomas and Conant 73).

The literary work of Barry Strauss is enjoyable, entertaining and reachable, but controversial and informative at the same time. The new accession of the book, which gives an opportunity to look at the Trojan War at the new angle, is considered to be intriguing and provocative. While the traditional justification of the Trojan War submits the altercation over the magnificent Helen as a small flicker to inflame already existing conflicts on internal and foreign political grounds, Strauss claims that the essential motive of the Trojan War was entirely different (Morris and Powell 344).

While writing “The Trojan War: A New History,” the author confided on the original Odyssey written by Homer; as a result, Strauss detected that Helen was practically the sole reason for the conflict; which is characteristically symbolic for the people living during the Bronze Age (Hughes 58). This theory was stated at the beginning of the book: “The Bronze Age was an era that preferred to put things in personal terms rather than in [political] abstractions” (Strauss 17). So, according to the author, the participants of the Trojan War preferred to resolve family and friendship questions rather than political and justice concerns, as it was described in the first chapter. The following chapters of the book depict how the war unfolded; moreover, he dedicated the whole episode to Hector, Achilles, and other main characters, showing their personality changes.

While reading the “The Trojan War: A New History,” a question rises inevitably: can the book be considered as historical? Sometimes it is hard to tell where historical evidence end and the imagination of the author begin. In the first chapter Barry Strauss introduce Helen, the main character of the composition and the war generally, to the reader: “Helen is dressed in a flowing, woolen gown… in black, taupe, and crimson stripes… The…sleeves leave exposed the pearl skin of her lower arms….” (Strauss 13). Such accuracy casts doubt on whether Strauss pursues strictly historical purposes. Furthermore, Strauss’s view of the Trojan War history failed to confirm his arguments with more predominant historical or academic rhetoric.

The book declares that the Trojan War was revolving around personal revenge rather than an economic or political issue; this is the point that is being contended throughout the whole composition. From chapter to chapter Strauss advances to defend the interpretation that was stated in the title of the book; as a result, we have a book with dynamic, diligent, and dramatic story with a vivid description of the characters rather than a clear recital of the historical facts, dates, and events that took place during the war. Based on this, it is hard to believe the claims of the author about the historical value of the book. The traditional historical approach to renovations seems to be utterly missing from the publication.

Nevertheless, the author stretches to historical facts in order to find evidence in support of his theory about the intentions of the Trojan War participants. For example, Strauss makes remarks towards various archeological discoveries; the author mentions the bronze disk, each side of which was carved with calligraphy. The disk was described in detail; however, unfortunately, this is an example of the evidence that was described but not explained to the contentment of the demanding reader of the book who is willing to obtain more credible arguments towards the connection of the object and historical events.

In conclusion, I would like to assert that “The Trojan War: A New History” is a fascinating and thoroughly delightful piece of writing; nevertheless, the question that arose at the beginning of the reading stays until the end of the book. Without any doubt, Barry Straus is confident in his theories regarding the motives of the Trojan War; however, in my opinion, several of his arguments could be classified as unreliable. There is almost no proof that is able to provide a firm foundation for the applications of the author. So, my overall impression of a book is positive, as the author suggests a new theory to what has already been studied for plenty of times. Barry Strauss revealed himself as an exceptional and alluring writer; nonetheless, it would be a mistake to consider “The Trojan War: A New History,” strictly historical writing.

Works Cited

Bryce, Trevor. The Trojans and Their Neighbours, London, Great Britain: Taylor & Francis, 2006. Print.

Hughes, Bettany. Helen Of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore, New York, New York: Random House, 2005. Print.

Latacz, Joachim. Troy and Homer: Towards a Solution of an Old Mystery, Oxford, Great Britain: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.

Morris, Ian, and Barry Powell. A New Companion to Homer, Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Publishers, 1997. Print.

Strauss, Barry. The Trojan War: A New History, New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006. Print.

Thomas, Carol, and Craig Conant. The Trojan War, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007. Print.

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