The Trojan War: A New History

Written by Barry Strauss
Review by Adelaida Lower

This is a wonderful book that will enchant neophytes as well as enthusiasts of the subject. Cornell University professor Barry Strauss is a charmer with a knack for images readers instantly understand (i.e., the Trojans as used car-salesmen). Drawing from Egyptian, Hittite, and other Bronze Age cultures, from the Iliad, the Odyssey, and from poems of the Epic Cycle, Barry Strauss starts The Trojan War with an analysis of the historical and archaeological sources, and the disagreement between scholars. At once he poses the questions: Did Troy really exist? What really caused the Trojan War? Did it really happen?

And then he opens the book marvelously: “Troy invites war.” No academic jargon follows, but the grand old story is retold with gusto, with delight, putting the contenders into their geographical and cultural contexts. Thus the reader is also immersed into the ancient city, its economics, politics, and its inevitable demise. Brimming with new life, Strauss brings forth the well-known characters of the conflict: Helen, beautiful and ambitious, formidable Achilles, and the doomed Hector. The depiction of the other participants, from kings to ordinary soldiers, their armors, the terrain—everything is detailed colorfully, and at a thrilling pace. To top it all, at the end of the book, there is a discussion on the current scholarship, including Internet sites that researchers will appreciate.

Read The Trojan War, and you just might catch yourself going back to Homer. I sure did. It’s probably what Barry Strauss intended all along.