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The Trojan War: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 30 May 2013
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The author's writing is so clear and his arguments so well structured and complete that this book will appeal to both interested amateurs and those familiar with the extensive literature on this subject ... Highly recommended. (D.A. Slane, CHOICE)
About the Author
Chair, Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations; professor of classics, Anthropology, and History; director, Capitol Archaeological Institute, The George Washington University. Author, Biblical Archaeology: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2009), winner of the 2011 Biblical Aracheology Society Publication Award for the Best Popular Book on Archaeology; editor, The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (forthcoming) et al.
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The author begins by telling the tale of "The" Trojan War as recounted in various Greek epics. These he puts in the context of the likely timeframe of the Late Bronze Age in the Aegean.
Then he addresses the questions of whether Homer existed and was the Iliad an accurate account of "The" war before dealing with what we've learnt from those Hittite texts that have been translated to date (there are more still to be worked on). These show that, if as seems likely Hittite Wilusa was (W)Ilios/Troy then there were a number of Trojan Wars which leads on to the question - which of these is "The" war? He goes on to show that there is internal evidence that the Iliad may amalgamate stories about more than one of the wars.
Having dealt with the literary texts the author goes on to discuss the archaeological evidence.
As someone who grew up reading of Schliemann's exploits I was a bit taken aback to see him described as "apparently a scoundrel", even though I knew he didn't have an unblemished record. I didn't know the half of it and a few pages later I had to concur with Mr Cline's assessment of him.
The work of later, more honest, archaeologists is then reviewed and the question asked - which Troy was Priam's Troy, Dorpfeld's prosperous Troy VIh or Blegen's post-earthquake ravaged VIIa?
There is much we don't know and will never know on this topic but I feel Mr Cline has given a fine layman's summary, assuming it's accurate, which I have no reason to doubt, and it's only my reluctance to award five stars except for works that I find truly exceptional that prevents me from awarding it a fifth star.
Not a precis of Homer's Iliad, as I thought or was expecting it to be (Having ordered online, it wasn't terribly clear what it was going to be about!) but actually far more interesting. Chapters are divided into the Epic Cycle as a whole, Homer's identity and the search for the 'real' Trojan War, including short explanations of the evidence for Mycenaean and Hittite cultures as well as an investigation into the tablets at Hattusa which possibly identify Troy, as well as the excavations at Hisarlik and various interpretations of evidence.
Peronally I really enjoyed the evaluation of evidence, and thought there could have been even more on this, as of course with perhaps such a topic, some statements were made that could be challenged (or so my students have informed me, they want more answers than Cline gives them!)
Some of the structure can be a little jumpy - Cline tends to summarise the main issues/findings, then the rest of the chapter explains this, summarises, and explains some more - but I think most people will find it helpful given the large amount of names and dates to keep track of.
Nevertheless, very pleased I bought the back, a bargainous introduction to the world of Troy and the debates over its peoples.
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