The Trojan War: A New History Summary & Study Guide

Barry Strauss

The Trojan War: A New History

  • 40-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 11 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer with a Master's degree in English
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The Trojan War: A New History Summary & Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 40-page guide for “The Trojan War: A New History” by Barry Strauss includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 11 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Marriage, Alliances and Honor and Divine Intervention.

Plot Summary

Recorded in Homer’s epic poems, which are widely considered seminal in the canon of western literature, the Trojan War continues to enjoy mythic status within contemporary culture over two millennia later. In the light of new archaeological evidence, Barry Strauss re-examines the most fabled war in history in his 2006 text The Trojan War: A New History.

Strauss returns to the era when the war actually took place, some 500 years before Homer, and examines the epic poems in the context of Bronze Age (ca. 3000-1000 BCE) culture, customs and civilizations. Opening with an overview of Bronze Age warfare, Strauss delves into the subtext behind the famous story. Strauss begins by shedding light on the motivations that might have ignited the war, and reflects on Trojan-Greek tensions recorded in Hittite texts and other contemporaneous documents.

Drawing on such evidence as human remains and weather patterns within the Dardanelles, Strauss contextualizes Homer’s claims about the famous black ships and their voyage to Troy. Reflecting critically on early historians such as Thucydides, the Greeks’ landing and encampment on the plain of Troy is re-examined. A plethora of primary resources, including a newly-recovered papyrus fragment from the British Museum, lend credence to Homer’s representation of Bronze Age warfare. The story is set within contemporary Linear B and Hittite accounts of the slave trade and looting parties.

Strauss next weighs up the relative strengths of the two opposing armies, drawing from primary sources. Tracing the trajectory of Homer’s account of the battle, Strauss contextualizes the events within the Bronze Age, for instance drawing parallels between the relationship between the famous Trojan brothers and that of two Mesopotamian princes who lived almost contemporaneously. Strauss shows that the contests between champions that dominate The Iliad were a feature of Bronze Age warfare. He compares contemporary Babylonian, Sumerian and Egyptian approaches to subterfuge in war, and offers a range of evidence-based theories about the precise nature of the storied Trojan Horse that sealed the city’s doom.

Strauss draws comparisons with ancient literature, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, and the customs of neighboring ancient civilizations to elucidate significant Homeric subplots and motifs. Aspects of the Homerian and Virgilian myths are translated through recourse to Hittite symbology. Finally, recent archaeological discoveries at Troy shine new light onto the events that followed the Trojan War. Finally, Strauss draws a picture of the fragmentation of the Hittite empire that followed the Trojan War through a web of references to primary sources.

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