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

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

Hardback

By (author) Jonathan Gottschall

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  • Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Format: Hardback | 236 pages
  • Dimensions: 142mm x 216mm x 22mm | 440g
  • Publication date: 1 May 2008
  • Publication City/Country: Cambridge
  • ISBN 10: 0521870380
  • ISBN 13: 9780521870382
  • Illustrations note: 1 b/w illus. 1 table

Product description

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.

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Author information

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.

Review quote

'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 'Gottschall escorts us to the rich but sparsely inhabited borderland between anthropology, biology, and literary analysis, where he has found gold. The Rape of Troy is an original and important contribution to all three of these fields, and a very good read in addition.' Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus and Honorary Curator in Entomology, Harvard University 'A rare combination of literature and science, The Rape of Troy presents an innovative study of the world of Homer from the perspective of evolutionary theory. The results are striking, highly readable and guaranteed to provoke much thought on an always topical and urgent question:what are the causes of violence?' Hans van Wees, University College London 'There is no way to get bored with Gottschall. He has written a small masterpiece of evolutionary-literary analysis. ... This ability to marry disciplines with confidence and authority is rare and should be cherished. ... As the social anthropologists taught us, witchcraft and pollution are that which disturbs established categories. Dirt is matter in the wrong place. But we have to risk getting dirty if we are to show how evolutionary science can illuminate great literature. Progress is being made, and Gottschall's remarkable book should inspire us all to do better. Lord knows there are quibbles enough here to keep us all busy, scholars and scientists alike, and that is how it should be. But for a Homeric moment let us be free to wonder and applaud.' Evolutionary Psychology 'Gottschall is thoroughly well-versed in ethnography, evolutionary psychology and classical scholarship, and he deploys all three with care and sophistication.' Dr John Holmes, The British Society for Literature and Science ' ... an innovative and impelling study. Gottschall has succeeded in marrying literary and scientific disciplinary categories in a way that can only stimulate thought and argument on both sides of the great divide.' The European Legacy

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.