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4.1 out of 5 stars
The Trojan War
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on 6 June 2008
In his reaching for both Homeric and contemporary literature from other cultures and civilisations, Strauss draws a convincing and immersive picture of one of history's great epic stories.

Weaving the gods into his history in an unpretentious manner, he offers explanations and interpretation but doesn't make a hubristic attempt to tell the tale better than Homer. Where there is a paucity of direct evidence for the events and characters portrayed, he brings to bear a convincing number of alternative positions from which to view these mostly familiar stories. Hector and Achilles are shown to be tragic heroes, both driven by a reckless pride and lust for glory. But we also see their human side through an examination of the characters around them - the grieving wives, the lost friends, the flawed leaders and crafty generals.

This is an academic but thoroughly accessable work and I don't think that the author's approach to weaving a convincing narrative around his subject should be considered a shortcoming. Quite the reverse, this is history at it most engaging, enlightening and enjoyable.
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on 24 September 2013
In 'The Trojan War' Barry Strauss writes a convincing and cogent text the weaves Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey together with archaeological facts, findings and extrapolations; the weave also includes diverse ancient literary references and historical events. The result is a carpet of colour that brings the war at Troy to life.

The book contains a useful chronology at the front and an extensive section on sources at the end. Both are highly valuable and focus the reader on the period and it's extensive investigation. The level of knowledge and understanding about the late Bronze Age period has expanded hugely over the past 30 years. What Strauss does (and quite brilliantly) is bring much of this knowledge to the reader in a very easy but academically rigorous manner. Whether you have read a great deal or nothing at all of the increasing body of Troy-related knowledge, this book will enthuse and enlighten readers with an interest, not matter how cursory, in Tory and the Trojan war.

I am delighted to have added this volume to my growing library of books on the subject.
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on 25 November 2008
I don't usually write book appraisals for the simple reason that what I wanted to say after reading a book has already been said by somebody else. This book has already got fairly good amount of appraisals. But for once, in my opinion, has not been said the right things.

Prof Strauss' purpose is to place Homer's Epic in the context of the times it meant to represent. Homer is often put in doubt by people that see his story from the perspective of a modern man or from the perspective of Classical Greece. Prof Strauss uses his vast knowledge of the Bronze Age, from archaeology and other contemporaneous cultures to show that Homer's story is not only credible but also very much in accordance with the customs, practices and creeds of the times.

Much criticism of Homer, both today and in the classical times, was because we didn't know much about the Bronze Age and we tend to assess the credibility of the story by comparing with what we know of Classical Greece at best, with our own times at worst. Prof Strauss shows the Epic in the light of what we know of Bronze Age instead.

The great credit of this book and his author is that it manages to give us not only a wealth of evidence and examples of similar events in other contemporaneous cultures, like Hittites and Egyptians, but also that it gives us a glimpse of the way people of the Bronze Age saw it happening. Prof Strauss, in contrast with many other scholars, shows respect for the beliefs and frame of mind of the people of yore, and tries to put the frequent allusions to Gods and omens in context. The principle he follows is that whether the gods did intervene or not is irrelevant; what is important is that by believing that the gods did intervene, the people of the times acted in accordance to it. The result, therefore, is as if the gods did interfere.

We tend all too often to take for granted that just because we now believe in other gods (like science) we are cleverer or wiser that our forefathers. This arrogance leads us often to misunderstand History and misinterpret facts. Prof Strauss seems to strike a perfect balance between keeping the insight modern science gives us and the way these events were seen by the people at the times.

In addition to these rare qualities for a modern scholar, Prof Strauss also shows to be an excellent writer. He manages to tell the story, feed us with loads of Historical research and insights in the psychology of Bronze Age people in a smooth, easy reading and exciting way. The book is a pleasure to read.

Derisive comments lamenting that the book is made for the masses are unfair and snobbish. We seldom notice erudite, scholarly-made books because theses are all but forgotten in dusty shelves of libraries, nobody reading them because, frankly, they are a bore to read. To criticise a book for easy accessibility to the hoi polloi is to confound form and context. The difference between an intellectual and a pseudo-intellectual is that the intellectual tries to explain complex things in a simple way in order to come across other people. A pseudo-intellectual complicates what he says in order to hide that he has very little to say. Prof Strauss definitely has a lot to say to us and he says it well. I hope to see more books from him in the future.
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on 9 May 2010
Back in the 1980's I became glued to my TV set by Michael Wood's series about Troy. I bought the book based on the series and virtually wore it out reading and re-reading it. I even went as far as buying a new adition because it had an additional chapter covering new evidence unearthed by archaeologists. Now Barry Strauss has gone one better by considering the "Iliad" and asking whether it could reflect actual people and events. Well he's got me convinced. This is a real tour-de-force, analysing parts of the "Iliad" that other books have never reached. Informative, clever and inspiring, this is a must read for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject. It reminded me very strongly at times of a novel written recently with the same title by Chris Ray. Try reading them side by side - it's quite illuminating.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 21 September 2008
This book works chronologically through the course of the Trojan War and compares everything Homer writes to what is known about Bronze Age Mediterranean society - warfare, weaponry, the position of the nobility, the treatment of women, even the clothes that they wore. It's very good and very comprehensive, although it's a bit too 'written-for-the-layman', if that makes sense. I could have done with it being a bit more scholarly. It almost reads like a non-fiction thriller, with no small amount of poetic license being taken in some of the descriptive passages!
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on 28 September 2015
What a waste of time and effort!
Despite the back cover promising 'spectacular new archaeological evidence', all we get is yet another step-by-step précis of Homer's epic - and written in a rather 'sloppy' manner.
After ploughing through several chapters and then reading the conclusion - surprise, surprise, Strauss comes to the same conclusion as everyone else - insufficient evidence, maybe future excavations will help us out.
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VINE VOICEon 11 September 2009
This is a superb history book, which happens to be about the siege of Troy. My knowledge of ancient Greece was limited, as was my interest. There is an awful lot to know but where to start? My first illustrated history books (in vibrant colour) were of heroic warriors and beautiful maidens, a wooden horse and the epics of the Iliad and Odyssey. Bronze Age Greece presents complex archaeology, it is easy to forget that archaeology is a modern discipline (post Darwin); its' originators (Schliemann, Dorpfeld, Arthur Evans, Carl Blegan et al) were larger than life. So much has been learnt in Greece and sites continue to yield significant advances in our knowledge. But you have to get excited about pottery shards, the frustrations of layers of history merging and the politics of squabbling city-states.

What Professor Strauss has done is to blend the writings of Homer and the facts revealed by archaeology to tell the story of the siege of Troy (circa 1210-1180 bc). Homer - who wrote five hundred year after the event (700bc) - was writing from an oral tradition. Did Troy exist, did a siege occur, and was Homer accurate? The answers - without spoiling the book - are probably yes. How Strauss reaches this conclusion is what makes the book fascinating. He works through Homer, tells the drama and interprets with empirical data. Strauss is clever enough to apply common sense accepting what we cannot know but seems likely.

What Strauss does well is present and analyse information in such an accessible form. There is a lot of hard data blended into a narrative, he writes with enthusiasm so by the end I was comfortable with Mycenaean and Hittites empires, Linear B, Troys' 1 to ever so many, as well as the characters - Agamemnon to Thersites and more. I am prepared for more Greek history.

This slim book is a work of intellect and imagination, a model for other historians to emulate. Strauss swims in the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean, confident in his expertise but not drowning us in jargon and footnotes. There is a good chronology, glossary and illustrations. I remember the Michael Woods BBC series "In Search of the Trojan War". Please would some commissioning editor find Strauss and ask him to update this?
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on 14 January 2008
Drawing largely from various Ancient examples from the Egyptian, Hittite and Anatolian Kingdoms, Professor Strauss has reconstructed the various tales that combine to create a narrative history of the war between the Greek Kingdoms and Ilium at Troy.
By using the evidence, Strauss illustrates that the story may well have been true - although embellished for dramatic effect. Although the Gods probably didn't play a role as prominent as that ascribed by Homer et al, Strauss fully places the conflict in its historical context, comparing the political and military context.
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on 7 October 2014
An excellent and intriguing read into the trojan war that reveals more fascinating facts about the legendary war and helps shapes the myth into a more exciting story. For anyone who enjoys greek mythology and the trojan war, I recommend this book to read.
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on 31 July 2013
A tremendous, realistic but yet epic telling of the Trojan War in a way that if it happened how it would be!!!! Combines myth with history, true details and a hard and undeniable historical background..Five stars!!!!!!
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