For more than three millennia the myth of Troy has enthralled audiences far beyond the place and time in which the Trojan War is set, with its universal themes of love and loss, violence and destruction, despair and hope. First told through the epic accounts in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid, the myth has been retold and reimagined right up to the present day. Great writers, artists and composers have discovered in the stories timeless tales of adventure and archetypes of human character and experience. But how much do we really know about historical Troy beyond the myth?
Published to accompany a major exhibition at the British Museum, this beautifully illustrated book searches for the reality behind the legend. It introduces the storytellers and Classical artists inspired by the original myths, and studies the stories themselves – the Judgment of Paris, the trials of Odysseus and the wanderings of Aeneas. It charts the nineteenth-century search for the location of Troy, assesses the excavations by Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann and explores the possible Bronze Age background for the myth of the Trojan War.
Focusing on the major characters – Helen, Odysseus, Aeneas, Achilles and Hector – the authors examine how artists from Cranach and Rubens to Romare Bearden and Cy Twombly have been inspired by Troy. Classical objects depicting Trojan subjects are included, as well as a wide range of manuscripts, sculptures, paintings and prints. The richness of responses to the myth of Troy and the variety of interpretations – in which each generation, culture or individual discovers new meaning and significance – demonstrates the vitality of this long tradition and reveals its eternal appeal.
Troy: myth and reality sheds new light on a fascinating story that has spoken to people around the world and through the ages, and continues to do so today.