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The Death and Afterlife of Achilles

, 208 pages

23 halftones, 3 line drawings

January 2009



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The Death and Afterlife of Achilles

Achilles’ death—by an arrow shot through the vulnerable heel of the otherwise invincible mythic hero—was as well known in antiquity as the rest of the history of the Trojan War. However, this important event was not described directly in either of the great Homeric epics, the Iliad or the Odyssey. Noted classics scholar Jonathan S. Burgess traces the story of Achilles as represented in other ancient sources in order to offer a deeper understanding of the death and afterlife of the celebrated Greek warrior.

Through close readings of additional literary sources and analysis of ancient artwork, such as vase paintings, Burgess uncovers rich accounts of Achilles’ death as well as alternative versions of his afterlife. Taking a neoanalytical approach, Burgess is able to trace the influence of these parallel cultural sources on Homer’s composition of the Iliad.

With his keen, original analysis of hitherto untapped literary, iconographical, and archaeological sources, Burgess adds greatly to our understanding of this archetypal mythic hero.

Jonathan S. Burgess is a professor of classics at the University of Toronto and author of The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle, also published by Johns Hopkins.

"Brilliant... shows a thorough understanding of Homeric poetry in the larger context of ancient epic traditions... Burgess has a commanding international reputation as a leading expert in these traditions. This book is a vital new contribution to our understanding of the relationship between Cyclic and Homeric poetry."

"Burgess is an established authority on the Homeric and Cyclic epics and the tradition of the Trojan war. His latest study, The Death and Afterlife of Achilles, by no means lessens this reputation... This is a fascinating book, and one worth reading cover to cover... He exhibits an extraordinary depth of understanding of the nature of ancient epic traditions, and many of his ideas are original and innovative."

"This is an excellent book, and every chapter is worth reading. The train of thought is always clear, the arguments persuasive, the speculations judicious, and the style lucid. Numerous interesting and original ideas are combine with masterful synthesis of previous work and an extremely orderly presentation of fragmentary and unwieldy material."

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