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

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Overview

The dramatic events of the Trojan War are legend—but Homer’s epic poem, Iliad, is devoted entirely to a few mundane weeks at the end of a debilitating, waning ten-year campaign. The story’s focus is not on drama but on a bitter truth: both armies want nothing more than to stop fighting and go home. Achilles—the electrifying hero who is Homer’s brilliant creation—quarrels with his commander, Agamemnon, but eventually returns to the field to avenge a comrade’s death. Few warriors, in life or literature, have ...

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

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Overview

The dramatic events of the Trojan War are legend—but Homer’s epic poem, Iliad, is devoted entirely to a few mundane weeks at the end of a debilitating, waning ten-year campaign. The story’s focus is not on drama but on a bitter truth: both armies want nothing more than to stop fighting and go home. Achilles—the electrifying hero who is Homer’s brilliant creation—quarrels with his commander, Agamemnon, but eventually returns to the field to avenge a comrade’s death. Few warriors, in life or literature, have challenged their commanding officer and the rationale of the war they fought as fiercely as did Homer’s Achilles.

Homer’s Iliad addresses the central questions defining the war experience of every age. Is a warrior ever justified in challenging his commander? Must he sacrifice his life for someone else’s cause? Giving his life for his country, does a man betray his family? Can death ever be compensated by glory? How is a catastrophic war ever allowed to start—and why, if all parties wish it over, can it not be ended?

As she did in The Endurance and The Bounty, Caroline Alexander has taken apart a story we think we know and put it back together in a way that reveals what Homer really meant us to glean from his masterpiece. Written with the authority of a scholar and the vigor of a bestselling narrative historian, The War That Killed Achilles is a superb and utterly timely presentation of one of the timeless stories of our civilization.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423399216
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 10/15/2009
  • Format: MP3 on CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Caroline Alexander is the author of the international bestsellers The Endurance and The Bounty. A Rhodes Scholar, she was a lecturer at the University of Malawi, where she established the department of Classics. She received her doctorate in Classics at Columbia University, where she was a Mellon Fellow in the Humanities. Alexander is a contributing writer for National Geographic Magazine and has written for The New Yorker, Smithsonian, and Outside.
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Table of Contents

Map: Landscape of the Trojan War

The Things They Carried 1

Chain of Command 16

Terms of Engagement 39

Enemy Lines 64

Land of My Fathers 83

In God We Trust 106

Man Down 123

No Hostages 149

The Death of Hektor 174

Everlasting Glory 192

Acknowledgments 227

Notes 229

Selected Further Reading 273

Index 279

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 12, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a book that puts the Trojan war into perspective. It also opens up the reader to the majesty of the bronze age poetry with sufficent anotation to give an appreciation of what Homer alludes to.

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2010

    A Guide to the Birds of East Africa

    This is a wonderful story. The characters get into your heart.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Nice introduction to Illiad and interesting details.

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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