The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War

The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War

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by Caroline Alexander
     
 

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The Iliad is celebrated as one of the greatest of all works of literature, the epic of all epics. But while the dramatic events of the Trojan War are legendary, the true theme of this ancient poem is often forgotten: the horror and enduring devastation of war. Written with the authority of a scholar and the vigor of a bestselling narrative historian, The War

Overview

The Iliad is celebrated as one of the greatest of all works of literature, the epic of all epics. But while the dramatic events of the Trojan War are legendary, the true theme of this ancient poem is often forgotten: the horror and enduring devastation of war. Written with the authority of a scholar and the vigor of a bestselling narrative historian, The War That Killed Achilles is a superb and timely presentation of one of the timeless stories of Western civilization. Caroline Alexander has taken apart a narrative we think we know and put it back together in a way that illuminates its true power, relevant to all wars, past and present.

Editorial Reviews

Whether we regard them as pure myth or history creatively reshaped, the events of the Trojan War are part of our cultural heritage; but don't think for one moment that Homer's epic Iliad attempts to recount the ebb and flow of that ten-year conflict. Instead, as Caroline Alexander demonstrates in this book, Homer approached the field of battle and death through the moral dilemma of one man and, by doing so, raised the most essential questions about human behavior. Piercing insights about a literary classic.
Dwight Garner
Caroline Alexander's new book, The War That Killed Achilles, is not a new translation of "The Iliad"…but an attempt at a fresh reading of it, one that focuses almost solely on what this martial epic has to say about the conduct and meaning of war…[Alexander] pursues her thesis relentlessly, and brings to its pursuit many of her gifts as a narrative historian.
—The New York Times
Steve Coates
Alexander is best known as the author of The Bounty and The Endurance, well-received books about sea voyages that took place long after the Achaeans set out to avenge Helen. But she is also a trained classicist, and The War That Killed Achilles suggests a joyful re-embrace of an early love. In its bones and sinews, the book is a nobly bold, even rousing, venture, a read-through of the Iliad, from beginning to end, always with a sharp eye to half a century of revealing scholarship, by great Hellenists like Gregory Nagy, Jasper Griffin, M. L. West and many others. The book's best ideas won't be new to readers versed in this work, but it would be hard to find a faster, livelier, more compact introduction to such a great range of recent Iliadic explorations.
—The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
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.—T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, GA\
From the Publisher
"In her spectacular and constantly surprising new book, Caroline Alexander has taken the 'original' war book and turned it upside down, making it, as all wars are, an excruciating story of loss...The War that Killed Achilles is a triumph."
-Ken Burns

"This riveting tale of ancient wars, legendary warriors, and mythical gods is at once a great adventure story and a cautionary tale of the enduring perils of hubris and ego. Achilles' life and death are instructive lessons for all of us today."
-Tom Brokaw

"Spirited and provocative...a nobly bold even rousing venture...it would be hard to find a faster, livelier, more compact introduction to such a great range of recent Iliadic explorations."
-Steve Coates, The New York Times

"Penetrating...reflecting her own skills [Alexander] provides her own translation of an entire chapter...a real bonus for the reader, comparing favorably with Lattimore and Fagles."
-Boston Globe

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670021123
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/15/2009
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

 Caroline Alexander has written for The New Yorker, Granta, Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, Outside, and National Geographic and is the author of four previous books.

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The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
ReaderFred More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. Ms. Alexander's words were a canvas of the Trojan War, giving life to its characters, and letting you into its setting in time. The main focus of the book, Achilles, is allowed to emerge from Homers work, and be given the respect that was taken from him in earlier interpretations of works from the Trojan War. The recent movies which have used the Trojan War as a backdrop would have been more vibrant and less stiff if they used this book as a reference for the characters inner workings. Finally, it is a well written book. It is for the intelligent reader, one who can savor the sentences as they come from the pages, and guide the reader to the fields of Ilium.
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MarioRiosPinot More than 1 year ago
I've read about 100 pages so far and it is very interesting. I've read the Illiad maybe four times and I have it on CD which is also fun. I never bothered to look into it other than looking on the wikipedia. The oral history theories and other war epics and the uniqueness of the Illiad are stimulating to read more on it. Thank you.
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This is a wonderful story. The characters get into your heart.
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