by Anthony Castleden
Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2020. Pp. x, 166+.
Illus., maps, plans, append., notes, biblio., index. $22.95. ISBN: 1526766760
A Classic Revisionist Account of the Trojan War
Despite having been originally published in 2006, Castleden’s revisionist account of the story of Troy remains a most insightful treatment of the seemingly mythic events that make up part of the foundation of Western history.
Castleden offers an analytical look at various interpretations of the archaeological evidence. He also examines what has been and still can be learned from Homer’s Iliad and the fragmentary remnants of the other, now largely lost, epics about the great war between the Achaeans and the Trojans. He also draws on the substantial corpus of Hittite documents, many of which offer a perspective from “the other side of the hill”.
Castleden argues, cogently, that there was a “Trojan War”, though perhaps it didn’t unfold as recounted in the epics. The war seems to have arisen as the Mycenaeans spread across the Aegean into Anatolia, and began to rub up against the allies and client states of the Hittite Empire. The most prominent of these states was the Kingdom of Wilusa, with its capital at the place we call “Troy”. He compares the political, cultural, and military institutions of the rival blocs, and gives us an outline look at how the war, which does seem to have taken place around 1250 B.C. more or less as found in the epics seems to have unfolded. Castleden notes that the epics seem to incorporate events that took place prior to and after the actual war, which suggests that “Homer” and the other poets were drawing on a rich tradition of epic literature when they crafted the relatively seamless tale that has come down to us.
Oddly, Castleden doesn’t consider that the tradition of a ten year siege may actually have arisen because people of Homer’s day, in the aftermath of the devastating collapse of the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern Bronze Age civilizations, could not conceive of a protracted war. Perhaps the war there were years of campaigning against Troy’s allies before the Achaeans finally arrived at the walls of the city, to begin a siege, similar to the way in which the war in Europe from 1942 onwards could be interpreted as a “siege” of Berlin.
The Attack on Troy is an excellent book for anyone interested in the story of Troy, ancient literature, or war in the Bronze Age.
Note: The Attack on Troy is also available in hard cover and e-editions.
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