Troy: Fact and Fiction


Imagine you’re at a party.  You’re in the middle of a crowded room with conversation going on all around you, but suddenly in the midst of the hubbub you hear a word which immediately makes your ears prick up.  What words or phrases would catch your ear like that?  I have a few, but one of them is ‘Troy’.  If I overheard someone talking about Troy, I’d be compelled to shuffle closer and eavesdrop quite shamelessly until they either changed the subject or let me into their conversation.  There’s a magic to the name, a grandeur, not unlike that conjured up by the word ‘Byzantium’.  Unfortunately, if you hear the word ‘Troy’ nowadays it’s most likely that people would be talking about the film.

Troy came to mind today because I received in the post, from Amazon, the latest volume of Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze.  This graphic novel, on an epic scale, sets out to tell the entire history of the Trojan War in seven volumes.  Since Shanower’s been working on the series since at least 2003, when I picked up the first volume in a comic shop in Oxford, and is only on volume three (which was itself published in 2008), I suspect I have quite some time to wait.  However, the thrill of having it in my hands led me to thinking about other representations of Troy that I’ve enjoyed.  Since the stimulus for ordering Age of Bronze came from a rather bad film about Helen of Troy, which I watched a week or so ago, I thought it’d be fun to pull a few things together on the subject.  Please comment if you know of other good books, films or Troy-related things.  Although I’m interested by the topic, I’m not expert by any means and I haven’t read nearly enough serious books about the archaeology of the place, so there’s always scope to learn more.

Find some of my Trojan books and films below. To find out more about each, click on the image to read my further thoughts. But what have I missed?  Tell me your favourites, direct me towards more books on the topic, or feel free to argue that Helen of Troy is a cinematic masterpiece…

5 thoughts on “Troy: Fact and Fiction

  1. Nick Wellings says:

    I like this one:

    Opera has been inspired by the stories too. After seeing it live this year, I favour Tippet's King Priam over say, Berlioz's Les Troyens.

    I didn't know Shanower's books and I have yet to see Brad and Eric in their screen outing…so thank you for those reminders! They also steel my resolve somewhat to go on a trip to Turkey to see…well, not much at all of Troy (as part of a trip to see Ancient Theatre structures, which I am quite interested in. [Seen one, seen 'em all?])

  2. The Idle Woman says:

    Ah, dear old Michael Wood! I have the TV series on my wishlist – I'd like to see him scrambling all over the ruins and enthusing wildly. And I would think that each of the theatres is wonderful in its own way, though I haven't seen nearly enough to know for sure. Currently trying to twist the parentals' arms for a trip to Turkey next year, taking in Troy, Pergamon, Ephesus etc. so I'll have a more authoritative opinion after that. It would be great to see a play in situ in one of those theatres. The ultimate, for me, would be the Bacchae somewhere like Epidaurus. What a dream that would be.

    I should add that “Troy” really isn't that good – when I say 'one of the best classical-era films', one must understand that most of them have been absolutely rubbish. In fact, I think Gladiator has probably been the only really great classical-period film (much as I love Ben Hur and Spartacus, they're both *very* dated now). “Troy” should probably be seen if you're keen on the myths, but be aware that it may lead to much gnashing of teeth and throwing cushions at the screen as they cheerfully cut fast and loose with their source material. Shanower's graphic novels, on the other hand, are excellent, although I don't think any more have been published since I wrote this post almost three years ago (must look into that). It's looking like the Trojan War is going to take three times as long in graphic-novel form than it did according to Homer.

    Clearly I should now add Cavalli's “Elena” to this entry. 😉

  3. Nick Wellings says:

    You could add it, yes! 😀

    If you do go around Turkey to do all that, I should be very envious. Bodrum also at the top of my list, mainly due to the Mausoleum and the majestic bits and bobs in the British Museum from/about Halicarnassus.

    Every year a festival is held at Epidaurus, but performances in Greek I think. It is a place I really want to go to, too. And Corinth. Well and just all over that area! I even went so far as to draw up an itinerary of what to see, considered at length. One day it'll get used!

    As a further thought, whilst we are on Greece and now knowing you are an Art historian, I am reminded to mention this book to you:

    Ignore the silly review, concentrate instead on the subject. You probably know him already. I suspect his ideas on Byzantine art are nowadays (probably even thenadays) regarded as nonsensical and I recall him trying to link El Greco to stuff he was seeing at Athos, that El Greco was the acme of the Byzantine or apotheosis or what have you. This strikes me a a bit contrived but, I am an art history ignoramus. Anyway, that's Bryon. I liked Gladiator when it came out but haven't seen it in yonks. And does Julius Caesar with Brando and Gielgud count as classical?

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