Troy: The Myth and Reality Behind the
Epic Legend
Nick McCarty
Carlton Books
128pp, 110 colour and black and white illustrations
Hardback, £16.99

Celebrities were as powerful in ancient times as they are now. In the 2004 movie, Troy, Brad Pitt headed up a starry cast in the role of the Greek hero Achilles and, in the eight-part BBC1 television series, Troy: Fall of a City, shown this year, the actress who played Helen ('the face that launched 1000 ships') bore a striking resemblance to Victoria Beckham. These are just two of the recent films inspired by Homer's Iliad; before them came Helen of Troy (1956), The Trojan Horse (1961) and The Fury of Achilles (1962). Troy is a story that has everything: lust, war, revenge and violence – all the ingredients for a box office blockbuster – and that's just Troy in fiction, add facts and it gets even more glamorous.

Enter Heinrich Schliemann, a businessman with a passion for Homer, who, using clues in the Iliad, located the site of Troy at Hissarlik in Asia Minor. There, in 1873, his workmen found gold objects dubbed 'Priam's Treasure' and gold jewellery, fetchingly modelled by his wife Sophie. Schliemann smuggled the bling back to Athens and, later, exhibited it at the British Museum where it caused a sensation. Eventually he presented it to a Berlin museum where it remained until the end of the Second World War when Russian troops took it back to Moscow. Subsequent digs at Troy are mentioned to bring us right up to date with Manfred Korfmann, the archaeologist who has been responsible for the site since 1988.

All this is aptly reflected in the title of Nick McCarty's Troy: The Myth and Reality Behind the Epic Legend. Written for a popular readership, packed with time-lines, illustrations and explanations, including who was who in the ancient world – it powers through a story that needs no embellishing.

Lindsay Fulcher

 

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