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 hero Achilles. Today, the Iliad is celebrated as one of the greatest works in literature, the epic of all epics; many have forgotten that the subject of this ancient poem was war - not merely the poetical romance of the war at Troy, but war, in all its enduring devastation.
Using the legend of the Trojan war, the Iliad addresses the central questions defining the war experience of every age: Is a warrior ever justified in standing up against his commander? Must he sacrifice his life for someone else's cause? Giving his life for his country, does a man betray his family? 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 with The Endurance and The Bounty, Caroline Alexander lets us see why a familiar story has had such an impact on us for centuries, revealing what Homer really meant. 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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Rated of 5
Opens up the Iliad
Caroline Alexander's The War that Killed Achilles opens up the Iliad in a breathtaking series of insights on the nature of war and a scene-by-scene explication of the poem.
Caroline Alexander was born in Florida, of British parents and has lived in Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. She studied philosophy and theology at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and has a doctorate in classics from Columbia University. She has written for The New Yorker, Granta, Condé Nast Traveler, Smithsonian, Outside, and National Geographic. Her books include The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War (2009), The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty (2004), and The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (1998). She taught classics at Chancellor College in Zomba, part of the University of Malawi, from 1982 to 1985.
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