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Barbarians Bureaucrats Mycenae No other texts in the Western imagination occupy as central a position in the self-definition of Western culture as the two epic poems of Homer the Iliad and the Odyssey They both concern the great defining moment of Greek culture the Trojan War Whether or not this war really occurred or occurred as the Greeks narrate it is a relatively unanswerable question We know that such a war did take place around a city that quite likely was Troy that Troy was destroyed utterly but beyond that its all speculation This war however fired the imaginations of the Greeks and became the defining cultural moment in their history Technically the war wasnt fought by Greeks in the classical sense it was fought by the Myceneaens the Greek culture that we call classical is actually derived from a different group of Greeks the Dorians and Ionians However the Greeks saw the Trojan War as the first moment in history when the Greeks came together as one people with a common purpose This unification whether it was myth or not gave the later Greeks a sense of national or cultural identity despite the fact that their governments were small disunified city-states Since the Greeks regarded the Trojan War as the defining moment in the establishment of Greek character they were obsessed about the events of that great war and told them repeatedly with great variety as the Greek idea of cultural identity changed so did their stories about the Trojan War If the Greeks regarded the Trojan War as the defining moment of their culture they did so because of the poetry of Homer It would not be unfair to regard the Homeric poems as the single most important texts in Greek culture While the Greeks all gained their collective identity from the Trojan War that collective identity was concentrated in the values ethics and narrative of Homers epic
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