Progenies of Priam:The Trojan War and the Propaganda of Identity and Belonging

  • Abstract:

    Characterized within ancient literature as a defining moment at the inception of modern history, the Trojan War introduced players and leaders from all over the Mediterranean, uniting east and west, north and south, in a ten-year battle of epic proportions. Since then, stories of the war have resonated with societies all over the western and eastern worlds, and played a significant role in early modern nation-building and genealogical legitimacy, despite the unsubstantiated history. From Caesar Augustus/Octavian to the Norse dynasty to the Ottoman Empire, leaders fabricated ancestral ties to the powerful Trojan War kings and heroes have formed often-contested alliances or identities, uniting countries in a shared past, and connecting the Mediterranean through a complicated web of related visual culture. Frequently, these falsified genealogies must be accommodated alongside documented history or other religious traditions in order to make leaders as powerful and individual as possible, or keep rivals from claiming validity through their own ancestral histories. Told through visual culture and artifacts scattered throughout the world, this paper explores the quest for legitimacy and belonging in nation-building and propaganda as related to the Trojan War and its participants, and how the myth-historical event continues to resonate with a modern artists and leaders.