"The Trojan War": Analysis of Barry Strauss's Perspective on the Ancient Conflict

July 19, 2023
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Table of contents

  1. "The Trojan War": Analysis by Chapters
  2. Conclusion
  3. References

"The Trojan War" penned by Barry Strauss, presents a contemporary perspective on the ancient conflict. Amidst fervent scholarly debate about its authenticity, some perceive it as a historical event, while others consider it a product of ancient Greek imagination. Barry delves into his interpretation of the war's events, offering a closer examination of the soldiers' lives during this prolonged strife. In my estimation, Barry's portrayal of the average soldier's life in this enduring war is remarkably close to factual accuracy.

"The Trojan War": Analysis by Chapters

The initial chapter, although unrelated to my specific analysis, explores the political and social origins of the war, bearing no relevance to the ordinary soldiers engaged in combat. The second chapter, on the other hand, recounts the Greek warships' journey to Troy, setting the stage for the conflict over Helen. Agamemnon gazes upon the multitude of wooden ships in the harbor, each carrying men and supplies. This depiction underscores the soldiers' dehumanization for the purpose of war. However, later in the chapter, Strauss commends the Greek army for their exceptional naval warfare skills, revealing their pride in military prowess. As the Greeks sail towards Troy, they prepare for an enduring battle.

Chapter 3 depicts the Greeks preparing to land near Troy, prompting the Trojans to shudder at the sight of polished firwood oars. This showcases the Trojans' focus on pursuits other than warfare, emphasizing their value for trade and commerce.

Subsequently, the chapter portrays the Trojan soldiers as they ready themselves to confront the Greeks upon their arrival. However, before the Greeks land, they stop at the island of Scyros and pillage it. The soldiers "live like Olympians," revealing that they experience a better life when fighting abroad than when at home, as they retain whatever they seize. Following their feast and strategic discussions, they make their way to the mainland, commencing the battle. The first casualty is Protesilaus, the King of Thessaly, yet his story is but a fleeting mention. This demonstrates the Greeks' emphasis on heroism over the ordinary soldier. Ultimately, the Greeks secure victory in the first battle and prepare to assault Troy.

Chapter 4 begins with the Greeks offering the Trojans one last chance for peace, but the latter opt to fight, surrounded by towering 33-feet-high walls. The Greeks take the offensive, attempting to breach the city walls. While not delving deeply into the ordinary soldiers' experiences, the chapter touches upon the scarcity of food and the need for continuous hunting. For an ordinary Greek soldier, such hardships in foreign lands must have been immensely draining. In contrast, the Trojans found inspiration in defending their homeland against the formidable army. The chapter culminates in Greek soldiers ascending siege ladders, only to meet their demise as mere pawns in achieving strategic goals.

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Chapter 5 portrays the Trojan War as a series of hit-and-run tactics by the Greeks on various Trojan cities outside the walls. It illustrates the Greek soldiers primarily targeting civilians, indicating a disregard for the defenseless. The ordinary soldier in this chapter appears driven by greed, caring little for whom they kill as long as it brings them wealth. The soldiers are even shown fighting amongst themselves over the spoils of raids, demonstrating their self-centered motivations. This paints a negative image of the soldiers, revealing their self-serving nature.

In Chapter 6, the Greek soldiers suffer from a plague for nine days, causing further demoralization as they now face both enemy attacks and disease. Additionally, around 5% of the Greek army withdraws due to Achillies' orders, protesting the actions of King Agamemnon who claimed Briseis as his prize.

These events would have undoubtedly left the average soldier desiring to leave as well, were it not for Odysseus stepping forward, denouncing them as cowards and even engaging in physical altercations with those favoring retreat. Odysseus' impactful speech quells the mutiny and instills a sense of pride among the soldiers, underscoring the importance of strong leadership and a shared sense of purpose for ordinary soldiers.

Chapter 7 commences with a focus on the champions Paris and Menelaus, omitting mention of the typical soldier. However, later, when the Trojans breach the truce during the battle of the champions, a pitched battle ensues. Strauss describes the use of spears, swords, and battle formations, shedding light on the brutal reality of warfare for ordinary soldiers. Following the conflict, both armies call for a ceasefire to bury their fallen comrades, a sorrowful moment for soldiers, as they mourn those with whom they had fought side by side. This chapter starkly reveals the agonizing truth of war and the profound ordeals endured by ordinary soldiers in each grueling battle they faced.


In conclusion, "The Trojan War" by Barry Strauss offers a modern perspective on the ancient conflict, igniting heated debates among scholars about its historical validity. While some view it as a real event, others perceive it as an intricate fabrication of ancient Greek imagination. Throughout the book, Barry delves into the lives of the soldiers, providing a glimpse into the hardships they endured during this protracted war. Barry's portrayal of the average soldier's life resonates with a sense of factual accuracy, making this historical account all the more compelling. From the dehumanization of soldiers as mere objects of war to the struggles they faced in foreign lands, the narrative brings to light the sacrifices and challenges of those who fought in the Trojan War.

Moreover, the work casts a critical eye on the soldiers' motivations, illustrating their self-serving tendencies and greed, often overshadowing the nobler aspects of warfare. Yet, amidst the chaos and despair, the soldiers find strength and purpose through skilled leadership and a sense of pride in their cause.

"The Trojan War" is not merely a recounting of battles and victories; it is a profound exploration of the human condition during times of strife. As readers, we are compelled to reflect on the excruciating truths of war and the sacrifices made by ordinary soldiers who, though forgotten by history, played crucial roles in shaping the course of this legendary conflict.


  1. Strauss, B. (2006). "The Trojan War: A New History." Simon & Schuster.
  2. Hammond, N. G. L. (1986). "The Genius of the Iliad." The Classical Quarterly, 36(1), 25-39.
  3. Morris, I. (1997). "Archaeology and Archaic Greek History." In I. Morris & B. Powell (Eds.), "A New Companion to Homer" (pp. 120-142). Brill.
  4. Boardman, J. (1997). "Greeks Overseas." In J. M. Cook (Ed.), "A New Companion to Greek Mythology" (pp. 136-153). University of Chicago Press.
  5. Latacz, J. (2010). "Troy and Homer: Towards a Solution of an Old Mystery." Oxford University Press.
  6. Korfmann, M. (2012). "Troia 1988-2010: Ein Forschungsbericht." Studia Troica, 20, 1-95.
  7. Romm, J. S. (2005). "The Trojan War: A New History." American Journal of Archaeology, 109(2), 279-282.
  8. Pritchard, A. (2019). "Suffering Soldiers: Revolutionary Suicide in the Trojan War." The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 139, 147-170.
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