Achilles, Brad Pitt, British Museum, Byron, Cassandra, Chaucer, Clytemnestra, Euripedes, Euripides, Homer, Keats, Lady Hamilton, Margaret Atwood, Pat Barker, Penguin Puffin, Pompeii, Priam, Roger Lancelyn Green, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Stephen Fry, Troy, Virgil
The Trojan War has for centuries (millennia, even) inspired writers and artists. We can think of so many writers – Keats, Byron, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Sophocles and Euripedes, as well of course as Homer and Virgil. In our own time we can think of Margaret Atwood’s amazing Penelopiad (I wish I knew who it was I lent my copy to) and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls.You can see how artists have mined this great seam at the splendid Troy – Myth and Reality exhibition at the British Museum. But hurry – it ends on 8 March.
From a jar of 530 BC showing Achilles killing the Amazon queen to a poster of Brad Pitt as the same great warrior in Troy (2004), you can see in how many different ways art has portrayed the tale of Troy. This picture of Helen boarding Paris’ ship for Troy was once on someone’s wall in Pompeii: what does that expression on her face mean?
This wonderful bowl shows Priam begging Achilles for the return of his son Hector’s body – it may well have been made in the time of Christ. We know that soldiers’ lives aren’t all danger and excitement, but there are long periods of boredom while the troops wait for something to happen. Here are Ajax and Achilles whiling away some time playing a board game.
Lady Hamilton’s life was lively enough without needing to call on the classics, but here she is as Cassandra (painted by George Romney).
And you shouldn’t mess with Clytemnestra – as her husband has just found out. Look at her face and the step by her feet. John Collier painted that.
The exhibition website is at https://www.britishmuseum.org/exhibitions/troy-myth-and-reality.
Like many others I first was taken with it as a child reading the Puffin books The Tale of Troy and Tales of the Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green. I’m now much enjoying Stephen Fry’s so readable and entertaining retelling of the Greek myths – Mythos and, my current reading, Heroes. This doesn’t get to the Trojan War – I hope there’ll be a third volume for that.