War is a topic of perennial importance to people from all sectors of all societies, and battle narratives play a major role – in many different forms – in shaping and mediating responses to war. Think of Homer’s Iliad, the histories of Livy, the Bayeux Tapestry, Shakespeare’s history plays, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Picasso’s Guernica, Shostakovich’s Stalingrad Symphony and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now – to name just a few. At first glance these representations of battle are all strikingly different. Whether we are conscious of it or not, however, they have long been interacting with each other – in different ways, and to different extents – in artists’, authors’, viewers’ and listeners’ minds, adjusting the ways in which war is visualised through their interactions with each other.
The aim of our project is to foreground and explore these interactions. In a nutshell, we ask: how do battles narratives from different media, communities and historical periods both shape and differentiate themselves from each other? And how do their interactions reflect and shape broader attitudes to war? In pursuing a comparative approach that puts narrative interplay at the heart of discussions, we hope to gain new insight not only into battle depictions in individual works but also into the development and architecture of ‘the battle narrative’ as a complex, boundary-crossing network of ideas. In the process, we aim to shine fresh light on culturally specific as well as more widespread habits of visualising war.
This project has received funding from the School of Classics at the University of St Andrews, the St Andrews University KE and Impact Fund, the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, the Classical Association, and the Institute of Classical Studies.