My dear friend Kori Schake has written a wonderful article at War on the Rocks in praise (mostly) of my new book,The Heroic Heart: Greatness Ancient and Modern. The book takes up the subject of how ideas about heroism changed over the millennia and what this tells us about ourselves. I recently had another go at some of these questions in relation to the Medal of Honor bestowed last month on Capt. Florent Groberg, (U.S. Army, ret.). Groberg exemplifies the life-saving, protective hero characteristic of the modern world — and stands in contrast to the self-aggrandizing, slaying and conquering hero so prevalent in the ancient world. I tell the stories of representatives of both types in my book, exploring as well their relationship to political order and change.
People who have taken the trouble to write something about the book or to talk with me about it have addressed these large themes, as indeed Schake did. But what I loved most about her essay was her willingness to engage my interpretation of the Iliad and especially Achilles, whom I take as the archetype of heroism in the ancient world.
What I loved least about Schake’s essay, however, was her contention that I got Achilles and the Iliad all wrong — or at least wrong enough that she felt obliged to correct the record. But this puts me at a terrible disadvantage with the good readers of War on the Rocks. Her criticism of my view of Homer is there for all to see, but my view of Homer is nowhere to be found. This I must fix. And so I shall, right now.