Book Review: Digging for Troy

Jill Rubalcaba and Eric H. Cline, Digging for Troy:  From Homer to Hisarlik. 2011

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by mythology. Whether reading about Orpheus journeying to the Underworld to rescue his beloved Eurydice, or Perseus facing down the gorgon Medusa, I got caught up in the adventure. But one story surpassed them all in my mind; the Trojan War. It has it all; adventure, betrayal, love and tragedy, and, best of all, in Rubalcaba and Cline’s Digging for Troy: From Homer to Hisarlik, we learn that it may have actually occurred.

I thought this book was fantastic. The first third goes in depth of the legend of the Trojan War, starting with the judgment of Paris and Helen’s betrayal to the Greeks storming Troy’s beaches. The war ensues, lasting nine years before the death of Achilles and the Trojans leading the fated wooden horse into their gates.

Rubalcaba and Cline then go into the archaeological background of Troy, starting with Heinrich Schliemann’s quest to prove that Troy existed. In 1868, Schliemann surveyed Hisarlik in Turkey and grew convinced that it was the site of Homer’s epic poem. He spent the rest of his life trying to convince the rest of the world, often fabricating evidence and destroying the site in his determination. To add more validity to his discovery, Schliemann eventually brought in Wilhelm Dorpfeld. Dorpfeld was much more methodical in his methods, uncovering nine settlements laying on top of each other.  Finally Rubalcaba and Cline discuss the advancements of archaeological technology in the 1900s and how those advances agree with Dorpfeld’s conclusions.

Written in an engaging and clear narrative, readers will learn not only the story of the Trojan War, but the science behind it. And just as Helen’s beautiful face launched a thousand ships, this book will launch thousands of new passions for Greek mythology in children and adults.

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