City of the Lost


City of the Lost

Many years ago, feeling in urgent need of a bit of winter sun over my Christmas break, I booked a last-minute flight to Istanbul then packed up my suntan lotion, T-shirts and sandals and set off for the airport. The snowstorm I landed in lasted pretty much the whole week. But I did at least get to see Troy for the first time, a place I’d been hankering to visit ever since being captivated by my children’s editions of the Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid.

Only natural, then, to want to write a book about the Trojan War and its heroes. Which is how City Of The Lost got its start. But – as ever – the process of research fundamentally affected the story I wanted to tell. I always strive to base my stories on a foundation of historical and archaeological truth, and the truth of the Trojan War (including whether it ever even happened) is frustratingly elusive. That’s largely because the ancient world plunged into three or even four centuries of chaos, war, famine and depopulation shortly after the period in which the Iliad was set – a Dark Age so brutal, disruptive and prolonged that historians still puzzle over how Homer managed to get so many of the details in his stories right. Oral tradition, after all, can surely only explain so much. And there are other anomalies that need explaining too. Languages lost then mysteriously revived. Cultures and crafts that vanished for hundreds of years, then reappeared remarkably unchanged. And a multitude of cities that claimed foundation by veterans of the Trojan War or their contemporaries, yet which belong to another era altogether.

A classic example of this is Rome, reputedly founded in 753 BC by descendants of the Trojan veteran Aeneas. Another is Carthage, legendarily founded by Dido some fifty years earlier. The romance between these two iconic figures is one of the most celebrated of antiquity. Yet it makes little sense. For the Trojan War is typically dated to the 12th Century BC, meaning Aeneas would likely have been dead for nearly three hundred years before Dido was even born.

Love conquers all, they say; but surely there’s a limit.

Historians therefore attribute their supposed affair to poetic licence. That certainly makes sense. Carthage and Rome were the great enemies of the ancient world, after all, so what more fitting backdrop to their wars could a poet want than an ill-fated love-match between their founders? But I’m a romantic at heart, so I’d like to think there’s a different explanation.

And City Of The Lost offers one.

More information on City of the Lost

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