The War Nerd Iliad by John Dolan (Feral House, 2017)
The “War Nerd” (AKA John Dolan) is one of the most prolific writers on modern warfare on the Internet. He’s been around for almost 20 years, although lately I’ve had a bit of trouble finding his columns outside a paywall. Amusing, controversial, he’s a talented essayist who makes the reader think. One of the tropes he pounds is that low-tech warfare trounces high-tech versions. The best example being the mountain tribes of Afghanistan who can’t unite on much, but frustrate any would-be invader.
Now he’s unleashed a new translation of the classic epic about the Trojan War. It’s written in his usual sarcastic style. This is a prose translation, not the poem we were forced to learn in school. It bites deep and makes you reconsider the whole nature of ancient warfare and the reason men fought each other.
“Nine years they’ve been camped on this miserable beach, and the walls of Troy are intact. The Trojans still jeer from the walls, throwing anything they have at the Greeks, anything from pig shit to spears. The Greeks are always running short—water, firewood, wheat. The tents are full of sand and fleas; half the best men are dead; and there’s nothing to show for it, not one Trojan earring, not one Trojan woman to sell.”
Of course, the Gods are involved in the fighting as well. This is a family affair with Zeus trying to keep his own children under control as they conspire against one another and him too. He’s outwitted repeatedly by the other Gods who sweep down and save Bronze Age heroes from instant death on the field of battle.
“Apollo has been watching, and he is not pleased. His pushy sister Athena is animating her Greeks, as usual. Apollo is not as human-friendly as his little sister; he doesn’t like dealing with these creatures, but he can’t let the Greeks win so easily. Grudgingly, he radiates. A brave warmth suffuses the shaky Trojan host. Suddenly, each one of them can see spaces between the Greeks’ helmets and shields, gaps where a spear would go nicely. How sweet it would be to stick a spear point through that gap! It’s suddenly obvious to every Trojan fighter that they can win, that these Greeks are not so big. Athena feels her brother’s energy infusing the Trojans, and doubles her efforts among the Greeks….”
If you’ve seen the movie version, you know how it ends. My only question:
What happened to the Trojan horse?