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The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story…

The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the… (original 2009; edition 2010)

by Caroline Alexander (Author)

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6112132,481 (4.04)1 / 37
Many have forgotten that the subject of the "Illiad" was war--not merely the poetical romance of the war at Troy, but war, in all its enduring devastation. This groundbreaking reading of Homer's epic poem restores the poet's vision of the tragedy of war, addressing many of the central questions that define the war experience of every age.… (more)
Title:The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War
Authors:Caroline Alexander (Author)
Info:Penguin Books (2010), Edition: Reprint, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War by Caroline Alexander (Author) (2009)

  1. 10
    Story of the Iliad by E. T. Owen (librorumamans)
    librorumamans: An older, book-by-book companion to Homer's poem that opens up the richness of that work by its close, yet highly readable, analysis of the events, the themes, and the structure of the Iliad. With Owen's book in hand, you will come to understand why the Iliad holds such a place in Western literature.… (more)
  2. 00
    Troy and Homer: Towards a Solution of an Old Mystery by Joachim Latacz (longway)

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» See also 37 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Excellent exploration of the true anti-war themes of the greatest war epic of all time. ( )
  ReaderWriterRunner | Jul 27, 2021 |
I thought this would be a study of the history of the Trojan war and it was actually a study of the poetry of Homer's Iliad with reference to Greek mythology. Yeah, I know, it says that right on the cover, but I thought they were being colourful. At any rate, if you like poetry or Homer, this is the book for you. If you enjoy history, not so much. ( )
  Meggo | Jul 10, 2021 |
Caroline Alexander has written a book that briefly explores what Homer's Iliad is all about and what the epic poem tells us about war. This is not a translation of the Iliad, nor a history of the war, with archaeological evidence etc, so the sub-title is misleading. It is simply a description of the epic poem (with quotes) follwed by the author's commentary and analysis. The writing is clear and the author's arguments and observations easy to follow. Alexander also includes additional historical details to help add context to the story. An especially interesting aspect is what the Iliad has to "say" about the psychological effects of this war on the humans involved, and how this is still relevant today. I found this to be an interesting and thoughtful examination of the Iliad and the characters mentioned in the epic. However, it would have been wonderful if Caroline Alexander had decided to explore some of the themes more fully. ( )
  ElentarriLT | Mar 24, 2020 |
Really 3 1/2 stars. I started out really liking this book, then got bored with it as the second half became repetitive. The first half, though, is full of interesting insights and anecdotes and factoids, so still well worth reading. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Mostly straightforward literary discussion of The Iliad, and quite interesting, with speculation on potential authors based on textual analysis (i.e., Homer vs. somebody else); speculation on the dates and times of various sections and added or omitted material (for example, that there should be a “catalogue of horses” after the “catalogue of ships”), and links to older works (is the relationship between Achilles and Patroklos based on the relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu?). In this last case, author Caroline Alexander notes that Achilles, being raised in the wild by a centaur, is more like Enkidu than like Gilgamesh. The Iliad, of course, is a world literary treasure and reading this discussion is well worth it; however I found myself just as interested in Alexander’s historical and archaeological notes.

This historicity of the Trojan War was a subject of much debate among archaeologists, until Heinrich Schliemann came along and demonstrated a site that fit the descriptions for Homer and Virgil. Unfortunately, Schliemann was more of a looter than an archaeologist, and the fact that he was right about the location of Troy didn’t do much to endear him to the professionals, nor did the fact that he smuggled a lot of gold jewelry out of the Ottoman Empire, which didn’t make things easy for subsequent archaeologists). (The jewelry - dubbed “Priam’s Treasure” by Schliemann but at least 1000 years too early - disappeared from Berlin in 1945. In 1993, to no one’s particular surprise, it turned up at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. The Russians have not expressed a great deal of enthusiasm about giving it back). Schliemann was wrong about the specific stratum identified as the Homeric Troy (Schliemann thought Troy II; turned out to be Troy VI). However, the archaeological world now agrees that yes, there was a city called “Ilios” in the Bronze Age and “Troy” later, and that yes, something unpleasant happened to it. A lot of cities were destroyed at the end of the Bronze Age, but the destruction layer at Troy VI is somewhat earlier than that (about 1250 BCE). Troy seems to have been a Hittite tributary/dependency/something; Hittite documents refer to “Wilusa” and there’s a fragment of a cuneiform letter from Hittite king Hattusili II to an unnamed Great King of “Ahhiyawa” concerning some sort of issue over “Wilusa”. The general archaeological consensus is “Ahhiyawa” is “Achaea” and “Wilusa” is “Ilios” (strengthened by the fact that the “W/digamma” had dropped out of the Greek language by Homer’s time; apparently there’s a few verses in The Iliad that work better metrically if an initial digamma is assumed – suggesting those verses are older than Homer). There’s another letter (dated to around 1300 BCE) from Hittite king Muwattalli II binding the king of “Wilusa” and his descendants to a treaty; the Wilusan king is named Alaksandu – and Alexandros is an alternate name for Paris in The Iliad (it’s also definitely Greek, which raises the question why a Hittite king was dealing with a Greek ruler of Troy). Homer refers to a people living around Troy – and sometimes the Trojans themselves - as the “Dardanoi”, anglicized to “Dardanians”; among the allies of the Hittites against Ramses II at the battle of Kadesh (around 1275 BCE) was “He of Dardany”. Lots of fruit for speculation if you allow a little creative etymology.

There’s an endpaper map that shows the ancient and modern shorelines around Troy, but no other illustrations. The endnotes are extensive and voluminous; the suggested reading list is, like the bulk of the text, focused on the literature rather than the history but there’s enough to go on if you’re interested. ( )
2 vote setnahkt | Dec 31, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Alexander, a professional writer who has been published in Granta, The New Yorker, and National Geographic, holds a Ph.D. in classics from Columbia University. Her new book explores her deep fascination with Homer's Iliad. Essentially, she offers an extended discussion of the plot, elaborating and contextualizing it by reference to extant fragments from other epics and other ancient texts and archaeological and historical evidence. She also relates the resonances of The Iliad in the modern world, from Muhammad Ali's refusal to serve in the Vietnam War to the account of an American war widow responding to the death of her husband in Iraq. Verdict Alexander's book is vigorous and deeply learned yet unpedantic. Highly recommended to general readers interested in a full appreciation of the power and the enduring relevance of The Iliad.-
added by jburlinson | editLibrary Journal, T.L. Cooksey (Jan 9, 2017)
"She shows that The Iliad is sharply relevant to conflicts of our own day, as well as a key to understanding the distant world of the Bronze Age."
"The War that Killed Achilles is certainly a worthy memorial to Homer's poem: compassionate, urgent and unfailingly stimulating. Yet it is hard to escape a nagging feeling that the image which Alexander sees reflected in the Iliad is too much her own."
added by bookfitz | editThe Guardian, Tom Holland (Jan 16, 2010)
The problem with “The War That Killed Achilles” doesn’t lie in Ms. Alexander’s intelligent readings, her combing through the text looking for ambivalence about, or fear and loathing of, war... The problem is that her book is such a dutiful walk-through of Lattimore’s translation. Ms. Alexander quotes from, and summarizes, Lattimore’s words so frequently that without them her book would threaten to collapse into a heap of thin if shapely sticks and twigs.
Though Alexander (freelance writer) aims this well-written book at general readers, she includes brief discussions of technical issues such as history, archaeology, and linguistics, with frequent footnotes pointing to more detailed accounts. However, her chief goal is to discover "what the Iliad says of war." Indeed, by focusing on the character of Achilles and posing questions such as "who is the real enemy?" and "what is the point of (this) war?" she succeeds in making the ancient epic completely relevant for readers only too familiar with current wars.
added by jburlinson | editChoice, G. D. Bird

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alexander, CarolineAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Álvarez-Flórez, José ManuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Page, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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οὐ μὲν γὰρ ζωοί γε φίλων ἀπάνευθεν ἑταίρων
βουλὰς ἑζόμενοι βουλεύσομεν
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PREFACE: The Iliad is generally believed to have been composed around 750 to 700 B.C. and has been in circulation ever since.
The Things They Carried [Chapter 1]: It is the epic of epics, the most celebrated and enduring of all war stories ever told.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Many have forgotten that the subject of the "Illiad" was war--not merely the poetical romance of the war at Troy, but war, in all its enduring devastation. This groundbreaking reading of Homer's epic poem restores the poet's vision of the tragedy of war, addressing many of the central questions that define the war experience of every age.

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