A Pre-War Prologue

kleiner, in korinthischem Stil gemalter Aryballos aus rotgelbem Thon (small Corinthian black-figure Aryballos from c. BCE) from jahrbuchdeskaiserlich page 431 Kaiserlich Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, 1887

Why is the Trojan War Still so Popular?

(Author’s Note: This content is significantly updated and expanded in my new book, Reconstructing the Shield of Achilles, now available on Amazon.com!)

Unsurprisingly, the Trojan War did not significantly differ from any other war in the long history of human combatants. It is, however, one of the earliest wars in the long history of recorded combat. Homer’s Trojan War saga, the Iliad, together with its “sequel,” the Odyssey, are among the oldest extant works of Western literature. Although previously documented by Vidal-Naquet to be dated generally around the eighth century BCE, more recent analysis by Altschuler dates Homer’s Iliad more closely to 760-710 BCE.

Enjoying the advantage of so many ages of storytellers and scholarly study may be one of the bigger reasons why the Trojan War is among the great legends of both human history and recorded words. But time alone does not fully explain the popularity of this classic account of the war between the Ancient Greeks and Trojans. The uniquely compelling accounts of great deeds, both heroic and treacherous, certainly also account for the fame of this narration.

A Timelessly Fascinating View of Human Behavior

Homer’s brilliant ability to portray these historic deeds from the perspective of an enlightened, reasonably neutral, narrator allows us to see the events from each participant’s perspective. He provides a rich and complex view of human behavior that is timelessly fascinating – creatively blending a narration of an ancient history with political analysis, psychoanalysis, and philosophical enlightenment… all with a respectful nod to the religious faith of his time.

The roads leading to war are never short and straight. Long and winding paths criss-cross each other, back and forth and back again. The travelers jostle each other threateningly, muddying the way with drizzling tears and torrential bursts of anger. Soon the arrival of war can be blamed on every interested participant, with no one singularly guilty, and no one without dirt on his feet.

The following articles briefly introduce a few historic paths which may account for at least a little of the mud on the feet of Ancient Greeks and Trojans:

The Timeless Roots of the Trojan War

Attic Black-Figure Neck Amphora by Swing Painter c. 540-530 BCE

With a history seemingly stretching into the earliest roots of time, the Trojan War consumes a long time in the making. Although commonly blamed on the legendary beauty of Helen, daughter of the union between Zeus and Leda, in fact it is another, even more legendary beauty whose earlier union plays a seminal role in the instigation of the Trojan War…
(click here to continue reading)


A Mother’s Sad Request for Her Son

Rising up to aid Hephaistos,
maids of gold moved like lively young girls;
Perfectly made, they had speech, wit and motion,
and other skills immortal.
Briskly surrounding their lord for support,
he made his way to Thetis,
Gracefully waiting for him to join her
upon a silver throne…
(click here to continue reading)

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