Synchronicity can happen at any time (as someone cleverer than me once said–probably Sting or Harlan Ellison).
Yesterday I ran across two Troy-related items on the web.
First, Cecil Adams at The Straight Dope gave a fairly accurate rundown of the archaeological and historical evidence for the Trojan War. I was interested especially to see him mention the destruction of Troy VI, a generation or so before the destruction of Troy VIIa.
Unfortunately, he didn’t mention the fact that I consider the most interesting: this double destruction of Troy is represented in the mythological record (if that’s the right word): Heracles is supposed to have sacked Troy a generation or so before Agamemnon and co. got there. (As you might expect in Greek myth, a woman plays a role in the casus belli but she doesn’t get the kind of blame that often attaches to Helen.)
Something that was up on the web a few days earlier, but that I didn’t see until yesterday: Comic Book Resources interviewed Eric Shanower whose well-regarded series of graphic novels, Age of Bronze, is intended to tell the entire story of the Trojan War. The third volume is out this month; Shanower began the long-running series in 1998 and apparently he thinks it will be 15 more years before it’s done.
As addicted as I am to mythology in general and Greek mythology in particular, I’ve never quite gotten up the oomph to buy a copy of Shanower’s work. I was never sure why, but after reading the interview I have a clearer idea.
For one thing, Shanower is big on historical authenticity, and there’s a limit past which you can’t push this in a myth. What’s a “historically authentic” version of James Bond? Of Superman or Spider-Man? Or King Arthur? These stories have been told and retold so often, over such a long period of time by so many different people, that they’ve broken loose from their moorings in history (as a good myth always will). Sure, for a particular retelling, you can pick a particular setting. You could even make a movie about Spider-Man where he is in his 20s in 2007, or a movie about James Bond where he gets his first assignment in 2006. But that’s not their authentic historical setting, because they don’t have one. Shanower apparently feels the Trojan War does have an authentic historical setting and his intensive research is designed to recreate it as accurately as possible. This is like trying to figure out “the metre of the dictionary” or “the short spark’s gender”: a recipe for futility, rather than excitement.
Also, Shanower’s version has been de-godded. This significantly changes the story from any mythological source, transforming it from myth into Euhemerized history. Euhemerism doesn’t usually appeal to me: it always sounds like someone telling a joke whose point they don’t understand. In the interview at CBR, Shanower makes clear that his god-expunged version was an ideological choice, which makes it even more irritating to me: an ideologically sanitized universe is a dull one, as a rule.
None of this means that Shanower’s books aren’t good ones; he may just not be the best publicist for his own work. I looked at part of volume 2 in a bookstore a few years ago and put it back without buying it: I wasn’t excited, but I wasn’t repelled.
Maybe I’ll try them again in fifteen years or so. It’s not as if my middle name were “Early Adopter,” anyway. (My parents wavered between that and “Curmudgeonly Nutbar” and I think they went with the right choice.)