The War That Killed Achilles

  • by Caroline Alexander
  • Narrated by Michael Page
  • 8 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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 challenging 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 best-selling 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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Customer Reviews

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Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed

“Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”
― Homer, The Iliad

I KNOW that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;
― W.B. Yeats, An Irish Airman foresees his Death

This was a nice look into the details of war using Homer's epic as a glass to explore. It is one of those books that is difficult to shelve. It isn't a history of the Trojan War. It isn't exactly an examination of the Iliad. It was like examining the corpse of a classic to better understand what killed the poem. I've read the Iliad a couple times now, but Alexander's skill is showing the reader just how modern this ancient epic was. Homer wasn't satisfied in providing another heroic epic tale. He subverted this form a bit. His hero wasn't interested in fighting, killing, or war (although there was probably none better at all of these things). Achilles wanted life, home, and family. This book moves through this tragic epic and allows Homer's words room to bang and bite. It wasn't a perfect book, but it was interesting and rather novel in its approach.

Having family that fought and returned different from war, it is valuable for me to read anything that will give me a glimpse or hint at the motives and nuances of those who fight, those who die, and those who return from battle. When I see politicians pimp war, I think of King Agamemnon. When I think of men broken, numbed by the loss of comrades, changed by the face of battle, I think of Achilles. And that is probably the biggest fault of this book. Alexander is clumsy in her modern war parallels. She tries to link Homer's take on the Trojan War and tragedy of Achilles to the Great War, Vietnam, and Iraq. These links and passages are clumsy and unnecessary. Any reader who is mildly aware of Iraq and Afghanistan will find their own links to Homer's great work.

There are certain classics that well deserve their place in the pantheon of great books and written art. Homer's poetry certainly belongs among the noble books written by both gods and men. Alexander's book is a worthy exploration of that great epic poem.
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- Darwin8u "I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^"

Full of Surprises

Alexander has done a great service to those of us who struggled with The Iliad years ago in high school or college. Here she provides an interpretation which will leave everyone who reads it (or listens for that matter) wondering why our teachers did not make this work so interesting. Perhaps it is maturity that has caused me to return to this volume and this fine book orienting us to it.

The writing is good, the reading good, and the content well worth the effort.
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- Roy

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-15-2009
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio