The Trojan War: A New History Summary

Barry Strauss

The Trojan War: A New History

  • Plot overview and analysis written by an experienced literary critic.
  • Full study guide for this title currently under development.
  • To be notified when we launch a full study guide, please contact us.

The Trojan War: A New History Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics.  This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of The Trojan War: A New History by Barry Strauss.

The Trojan War: A New History is a 2006 non-fiction history book by American author and historian Barry S. Strauss. Strauss focuses his book on one of the most famous conflicts in human history, the source of legends and many debates over whether events actually happened as described in The Iliad. Although most historians believed Troy to be a minor player in history that never had a chance against the Greeks, we now know that Troy was a large and prosperous city just as Homer described. Strauss goes into detail on what was likely the culmination of a long feud over power, territory, and honor and brings the conflict to life in detail. Breaking down the places where Homer’s tale was accurate, as well as showing where he embellished for dramatic purpose and exploring themes, including the nature of war and how human ego intersects with national conflict, The Trojan War: A New History is considered to be one of the most detailed and historically accurate works on the Trojan War ever written. Critically acclaimed by reviewers and historians alike, The Trojan War: A New History is now regularly assigned reading in Ancient History studies.

Divided into an introduction, eleven chapters, and a conclusion, The Trojan War: A New History begins with Strauss laying out the new archaeological evidence supporting the existence of Troy, and proving that it was a powerful city-state that posed a legitimate threat to Greece. Rather than being a simple series of duels, the Trojan War was more likely a long, ongoing conflict. In chapter one, Strauss goes into the causes of the Trojan War, looking at the legend of the kidnapping of Helen of Troy, and how that was likely just a single example of Troy’s history of plunder in the surrounding cities. Wife-stealing was not uncommon, and rather than being a single incident, the kidnapping of a Greek noblewoman was the inciting spark that led Greece to unite to take on and plunder Troy. Chapter two looks at the Greek military machine, the hierarchy of their armies, as well as the mighty black ships that set sail from Troy carrying five hundred men apiece. Chapter three describes the landing of the Greeks and the formations of their armies. While Troy was a seaport, they were not used to fighting at sea and were likely taken by surprise. This chapter also goes into the land weapons the Greeks used, such as the chariot.

Chapter four looks into the diplomacy attempted between Greece and Troy, as Greece was obligated to give Troy a chance to return what it took. King Priam, fearing looking weak, refused, and that launched the full war. Troy focused on defense, while Greece waged an assault on Troy’s massive walls. Chapter five focuses on the most iconic warrior of Troy, Achilles, who is said to have destroyed twenty-three cities in his raids. Although Achilles was a ruthless warrior, his travels left Troy less well defended. The Trojan War was a slow-boil conflict that expanded far beyond Troy’s borders. Chapter six deals with Greece’s darkest hour, as a plague afflicts the Greek armies and weakens their defenses, allowing Achilles to run wild as King Agamemnon attempts to rally his men with tales of a prophetic dream from the Gods. Chapter eight focuses on famous duels between major players in the war, including Paris and Menelaus, and looks at ancient Greek medicine designed to stem battlefield infections. After a burial ceasefire, chapter nine looks at battles at night, as the Trojans begin to press their advantage in the war. Chapter nine covers some of the most iconic battles of the Iliad, including the death of Patroclus and Achilles’s return to the battlefield and confrontation with Hector.

Chapter ten features the death of Hector, the introduction of Odysseus to the battle, and the most famous death of the saga as Achilles meets his end when he forces his way inside the walls of Troy. The theft of the palladium of the Trojans is considered to be a turning point in the battle, although Strauss stresses that it may have been a false palladium stolen. Chapter eleven deals with the image most people are familiar with in the Trojan War—the famous Trojan horse. Although most scholars do not believe the Trojan horse as described is plausible, Strauss emphasized that the Greeks likely were able to sneak inside the walls of Troy, likely with the help of spies and traitors from within Troy. The conclusion covers the aftermath of the collapse of Troy, and the relationships between the royal families in the years after, as well as Odysseus’sfamous journey home. In the end, although he concedes that Homer clearly embellished and fictionalized elements of the Trojan War, Strauss states that its depiction was largely faithful to Bronze Age warfare.

Barry S. Strauss is an American historian, and currently a Professor of History and Classics at Cornell University, as well as chair of the University’s history department. An expert on ancient military history, he has written or co-written ten books and edited two. The majority of his books focus on Greek, Roman, or Carthaginian civilization, as well as the implications their wars and conflicts hold for today’s strategists. He is also the editor of The Princeton Review of the Ancient World. He is considered one of the foremost experts today on the history of warfare.