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The Rape of Troy: Evolution, Violence, and the World of Homer

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The Rape of Troy

Evolution, Violence, and the World of Homer

By Jonathan Gottschall

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Format: Glassbook
Other Information: 1 b/w illus. 1 table
Published In: United Kingdom, 02 April 2008
Homer's epics reflect an eighth-century BCE world of warrior tribes that were fractured by constant strife; aside from its fantastic scale, nothing is exceptional about Troy's conquest by the Greeks. Using a fascinating and innovative approach, Professor Gottschall analyses Homeric conflict from the perspective of modern evolutionary biology, attributing its intensity to a shortage of available young women. The warrior practice of taking enemy women as slaves and concubines meant that women were concentrated in the households of powerful men. In turn, this shortage drove men to compete fiercely over women: almost all the main conflicts of the Iliad and Odyssey can be traced back to disputes over women. The Rape of Troy integrates biological and humanistic understanding - biological theory is used to explore the ultimate sources of pitched Homeric conflict, and Homeric society is the subject of a bio-anthropological case study of why men fight.

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Rebuilding Homer's Greece; 2. A short ethnography of Homeric society; 3. Why do men fight? The evolutionary biology and anthropology of male violence; 4. What launched the 1,186 ships?; 5. Status warriors; 6. Homeric women: re-imagining the fitness landscape; 7. Homer's missing daughters; 8. The prisoner's dilemma and the mystery of tragedy; Conclusion: between lions and men.

About the Author

Jonathan Gottschall is Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Washington and Jefferson College. He co-edited (with David Sloan Wilson) The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (2005) and has published numerous articles seeking to bridge the humanities-sciences divide.


'Gottschall brings new evidence from anthropology and evolutionary biology to show how Homer's world fits a common pattern where too many young men and not enough women leads to big trouble; think of those who died at Troy, for Helen. This is a fine book in a vigorous style with a delightfully fresh take on an old story. The best book on Homer I've read in years.' Barry B. Powell, Halls-Bascom Professor of Classics Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison

EAN: 9780511380198
ISBN: 0511380194
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
Age Range: 15+ years
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