‘Long read: Gallipoli, the beautiful city‘, The Conversation, 1 August 2014
A detailed analysis of the classical aspects of the Anzac story, relevant partly because the war historian, CEW Bean, and many of his contemporaries had received a classical education and were familiar with the stories of ancient Greece, Sparta and Rome. The author discusses the history of the names around Gallipoli and notes that, even in the midst of the Dardanelles campaign, some of the combatants were able to appreciate the beauty and the history of the area. He also compares this area with the Western Front as a suitable backdrop for epics.
Gallipoli’s place in the psyche of modern Australia is nothing short of astonishing. If you explore this phenomenon of epic formation against a background of comparative epic poetry from many countries, it becomes clear that it is an ancient process manifesting itself within a modern social context.
The other side of this process of epic formation in the case of Gallipoli was that people were inclined to turn away from the western front, for all its unrelenting horror. It is hard to grasp, intellectually or psychologically, the extent of the losses on both sides in France and Belgium.
If the perceived physical setting of Gallipoli was well-suited for a national epic of heroism and suffering, and courage in the face of adversity, the western front was seen as far too real and far too confronting.
Finally, he makes a general point about how myths are generated and the form they take.
We don’t have gods of war today, but heroism and courage and strategy still operate alongside the gruesome realities of the killing and the wounding. The process of epic formation and heroisation almost always privileges the former over the latter.