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The Trojan War by Barry Strauss: Critical Review

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The Trojan War

The Trojan War is a book by Barry Strauss in which he describes the Trojan War in a more modern view. The Trojan War is a highly controversial war that scholars debate over today as some believe it occurred while others believed it was made up by the ancient Greeks. Within the book, Barry talks about what he believes actually happened in the war and I will be taking a closer view on what the soldiers’ lives would have been like in the war. It is in my opinion that how Barry depicts the average soldier’s life within this long war is as close as factually accurate as one can get.

The first chapter of the book doesn’t pertain to my specific area of analysis of the book because it is about the political and social reasons the war was started and thus has nothing to do with the ordinary soldier fighting within the war. The second chapter of the book deals with the Greek warships sailing to Troy in order to fight over Helen. “Before him [Agamemnon] in the harbor lie hundreds of wooden ships… carrying men and supplies…” (31) This quote illustrates that the soldiers were seen more as objects for war however, later in the chapter, Strauss compliments the Greek army on being very proficient in naval warfare which means that the Greek soldiers have a lot of pride in their warfare. As the Greeks sailed to Troy, they prepared to fight a long ongoing battle.

Chapter 3 begins with the Greeks getting ready to land near Troy and the Trojans seeing them, “… shiver at the flutter of the polished firwood oars…” (49) This description shows that the Trojans were not a warfare-based society and that they valued other things such as trading. The chapter then depicts the Trojan soldiers getting ready to face off against the Greeks as they are about to land. However, before the Greeks landed they stopped at an island called Scyros and pillaged it. The book illustrates that the soldiers “lived like Olympians” (53) and this shows that the Greek soldiers lived an even better life when they were out fighting versus living at home because whatever they took, they kept. After the men had their fill and the generals discussed their strategy, they headed for the mainland. When they landed, the battle began and the first casualty was Protesilaus who was the king of Thessaly. This first battle was very important but, Strauss tells us that not a single ordinary soldier’s role is not talked about. This demonstrates that the Greeks didn’t care about the ordinary man as much as a hero. In the end, the Greeks won the first battle and were about to attack Troy.

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Chapter 4 begins with the Greeks giving the Trojans “… one last chance for peace; the alternative was enmity and death.” The Trojans refuse to surrender and choose to fight. The Trojans are surrounded by 33 feet high walls and it is up to the Greeks to go on the offensive. This chapter doesn’t go into too much detail about the ordinary soldier but, it does talk about the shortage of food and that the armies would need a group to always be hunting for it. He does also mention that the Greeks tried to fight the Trojans to reach the walls of the cities but always failed. For an ordinary Greek soldier, this must have been exhausting because they were in a foreign land and constantly low on supplies such as food. However, for the Trojans, this inspired them as they were able to keep defending their homeland against this great army. In the end of the Chapter Strauss talks about the Greek soldiers climbing up siege ladders and getting to the top of the wall only to be stabbed and falling back down. This portrays the life of the ordinary soldier as they are only used as pawns to achieve a goal.

In Chapter 5, Strauss describes the Trojan War as a series of hit-and-run tactics by the Greeks on many Trojan cities outside its walls. He tells the reader that the Greek soldiers mainly attacked civilians and this gives the sense that the soldiers did not care about killing those who were defenseless. The ordinary soldier within this chapter seems as if they are greedy and don’t care about who they kill or what they do as long as they become richer after the fight. Strauss also says that the soldiers fought amongst themselves over who got the spoils after a raid. This shows that the soldiers weren’t as interested in defeating the Trojans themselves as much as obtaining their goods. This chapter paints the soldier in a bad light as they only care about themselves.

Chapter 6 begins with the Greek soldiers suffering from a plague that has been rampant for 9 days. This would have demoralized the soldiers as they were now not only dying from the enemy but also a disease. On top of this, about 5% of the Greek army pulled out because Achillies told his men to leave since the king, Agamemnon took his prize, Briseis. All of this would have led the average soldier to want to leave too and it showed when the Greek army was about to get back on their ships if it wasn’t for Odysseus to call them cowards and even beats a Greek who favored leaving. Odysseus’ speech “… had broken the mutiny with sharp, well-chosen words…” (113) and instilled within the soldiers, a feeling of pride. This showed that an ordinary soldier is quick to retreat and collapse without a good leader and a sense of purpose.

In the beginning of chapter 7, Strauss doesn’t talk about the typical soldier only of the champions Paris and Menelaus. However, later on when the Trojans break the truce during the battle of the champions “… a pitched battle ensued.” (120) Strauss then goes on to talk about the weapons used such as spears or swords, and formations of battles. Strauss describes what battle is like for the normal soldier and shows it is blood-shed. Afterward, the two armies call for a ceasefire in order to bury their dead. This must have been a very sad time for a soldier as they are now having to bury their comrades who they had just fought with. This chapter shows the excruciating truth of war and what the ordinary soldier had to go through in every battle they faced.

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The Trojan War by Barry Strauss: Critical Review. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from
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