However, I recently had the privilege and honor of speaking to Dr. Alexander Parris, one of the foremost authorities on ancient history that you're likely to find. I was able to arrange a "20 questions" kind of interview with Dr. Parris at a conference, slipped in between the presentation by a colleague of his and his own keynote speech on History education in universities today.
SS: Dr. Parris, you are known as one of the world's authorities on the Trojan War. How did you become interested in that period of ancient history?
AP: It seems as though I was always interested in that tragic period of Western civilization. It was a major turning point in human history, after all. It was when our focus shifted from the Middle East to Europe. For better or worse, it was a change in the balance of power, a change of direction, a rebooting of humanity. It was a seminal event for Westerners.
SS: I understand from reading your book that you visited the site of ancient Troy some years back. What were your impressions of the site and what conclusions can you draw from seeing it for yourself?
AP: Anyone who knows the history of the excavation must feel disgust at the great destruction Schliemann and others wrought on that sacred hilltop. What I saw when I visited in 1993 was a tourist trap. It was gaudy and commercial. Some people expected golden towers of glory while others were disappointed to find only old stones and dirt. You have to understand the history and the context of every event in order to appreciate being at the site.
SS: I also understand that your visit to ancient Troy, what you prefer to call "Ilium," had a profound effect on you. Could you elaborate on that?
AP: Well, I'm not sure what book you're referring to, because I never wrote about that trip. It doesn't hold pleasant memories for me. In fact, I...well, you could say I got into a bit of trouble there. I was lucky to make it back home alive.
SS: Really! What happened?
AP: I'd rather not discuss it.
SS: It certainly must have made a profound impact on you. Is that what caused you to give up video game design and become a professor of ancient history?
AP: Yes, something like that. I couldn't.... My injuries prevented me from continuing a career in video game design. So I turned to further study in History. I wrote my dissertation on the influence of the Trojan War--truth or myth--on our modern civilization. Now I've been invited to speak at conferences around the world.
SS: It seems that you have had a successful career, after all. It's a shame you were not able to be a gamer.
AP: Well, Life is a game, as you know. A cruel game. Rolls of the dice, and such. Sometimes we cannot understand how the decisions we make, the choices proffered, how they will play out down the road....
SS: Are you referring to your trip to Turkey and your visit to the ruins of Ilium?
AP: I suppose. But I'd rather not talk about all that.
SS: Why not? What happened there? What happened after you visited Ilium?
AP: Life changed for me after Ilium. That's all. Are we done here?
SS: I'm sorry to hear that. I thought you would want to name names, as it were, and tell what really happened in Turkey--
AP: This interview is done.
SS: Does the name Eléna mean anything to you?
AP: No, it doesn't. I said I don't wish to discuss it.
SS: I apologize for bringing it up.
All right, folks, my interview with Dr. Parris did not go quite as planned, but I believe we can get some idea of Dr. Parris and his research in a follow-up questionnaire later this summer. I'm sure the particular details of his trip to Turkey to see the site of ancient Ilium will make a fascinating story. As it is, he seems to be busy enough in tending to his duties as chair of the History Department at Ithaca College in upstate New York, writing scholarly articles for journals, attending conferences, the usual life of the bachelor academic. I hope to talk with him again at my soonest opportunity.
I'll also be reporting on his book, AFTER ILIUM, which provides much more information. You can check it now by clicking on this link!
Available for Kindle and in print.
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