Through TV and books the Trojan War becomes a hot topic
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``So you actually get a real context for the Trojan War. Real historical events, first-person letters: `Why are you being so difficult, my brother? We haven't had any problems since you sacked the city . . . .'Skip to next paragraph
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``The final program tries to bring all these things together and shows how it can be fitted into a precise moment in the collapse of the Bronze Age Aegean world. Nobody before has ever tried to put all of this in a real context -- that's what makes our program so fascinating.''
In England Wood is regarded as something of an ``egghead pinup.'' He was nominated as ``hunk of the month'' by a women's magazine. Sometimes he is criticized by those who would separate entertainment from education. A critic in The Times (London) described his approach as ``the Star Wars school of archaeology.''
But Wood is convinced of the entertainment as well as educational value of his series. His eyes sparkle with a kind of intellectual excitement as he describes the venture. He says he has been influenced more by series hosts like David Attenborough (``Life On Earth'') than Kenneth Clark (``Civilisation'').
``I think Clark was fine for his time, but, as we now look at him, his programs appear very elitist and out of touch historically. Also Clark's mode of presentation is terribly British, upper class, urbane . . . . I thought [Jacob] Bronowski [``Ascent of Man''] produced one of the most powerful series I've ever seen on television.''
How did Wood become interested in Greek history?
``As a child I read children's versions of ``The Iliad'' and ``The Odyssey'' and was really captivated by them. And I saw those old Compton Mackenzie films about Greece at school.
``Then, when I was 18 and for several years afterwards, I hitchhiked [around] Greece, sleeping on beaches, and visiting Mycenae and Knossos and all those places. So I knew the sites very well for the series.''
Schliemann was obsessed by a desire to find Troy -- and he did find what he considered to be Troy. Is Wood an obsessive character, too?
``No. I might be obsessive in search of history and things like that, but I just like to follow through on things I find interesting. Experts tend to feel that Schliemann has got to be either the father of archaeology or he's got to be a liar. Actually, I believe he was a bit of both -- a bluffer and a trickster and a braggart and a passionate romantic as well as a dedicated archaeologist.''
Is there another era on which Wood would like to concentrate in the future?
His eyes light up once again.
``Oh, yes. I have several plans. One is to follow the route of Alexander the Great from Asia Minor through Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the USSR. I also want to do a series about the great civilizations of the past -- how they arose in China, the Nile, Mesopotamia, Central America. And of course, there's my old love, the Anglo-Saxons -- you know, England and Europe in the Dark Ages.''
After spending several years making the series and traveling in Greece in search of the truth about the Trojan War, Wood now says that ``it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference whether Homer's stories are true or not. Obviously more information gives you added understanding of the various strata that lie behind Homer's text, and you start to understand how it might have been composed and transmitted. But it shouldn't affect your enjoyment of Homer as poetry or as a story. You can still enjoy Homer.
``I don't claim that Achilles and Hector and all those people actually existed -- that it is literal history. All I am saying is that the basic situation -- that a Greek expedition left Greece and sacked that city by the Dardanelles -- that is actually true. Beyond that, it's the word of a poet, isn't it?''