October 23, 2009


Alexander, Caroline, The War that Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War (New York: Viking, 2009) ("Homeric scholarship goes back to the dawn of literary scholarship, to the work of Theogenes of Rhegium, around 525 B.C., and in most Western--and some non-Western--universities continues to this day. . . ." "This book is not about many of the things that have occupied this scholarship. although inevitably it will touch on the same themes. This book is not an examination of the transmission of the Homeric text or of what Homer has meant to every passing age. It is not an analysis of the linguistic background of the epic, and it is not about the oral tradition behind the poem; it is not about formulaic expressions or whether "Homer" should refer to an individual or a tradition. It is not about Bronze Age Greece nor the historicity of the Trojan War. This book is about what the Iliad is about; this book is about what the Iliad says of war." Id. at xvii. "'Thus, drawing on its long tradition, the Iliad used conventional epic events and heroes to challenge the heroic view of war. Is a warrior ever justified in challenging his commander? Must he sacrifice his life for someone else's cause? How is a catastrophic war ever allowed to start--and why, if all parties wish it over, can it not be ended? Giving his life for his country, does a man betray his family? Do the gods countenance war's slaughter? Is a warrior's death compensated by his glory? These are the questions that pervade the Iliad. These are also the questions that pervade actual war. And in life, as in epic, no one has answered them better than Homer." Id. at 14-15.)