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Storming the breaches of a fortress was the most perilous of military undertakings. After setting out the operational nature and challenges of British sieges in the Peninsular War, this chapter explores the cultural and emotional history of the British storming of besieged fortress-towns in the Napoleonic era, especially in Spain, revealing a cult and spectacle of storm that took hold in this epoch, borne of a reinvigoration of martial honour codes, ideals of heroic and patriotic self-sacrifice, and romantic and sublime sensibilities. British soldiers’ writings on their motivation for storming reveal a complex and interactive mix of remunerative incentives of promotion and plunder on the one hand, and bravery, esteem, honour and patriotism, on the other, with soldiers driven by both individual and collective values and loyalties. Further, this chapter analyses how soldiers managed fear and emotion in the impending eye of the storm, and the importance of sentimental culture in how they responded to the trauma and devastating loss of comrades in the aftermath.
Throughout the twentieth and first decade of the twenty-first centuries artists have used the Iliad and the Odyssey to contextualize contemporary responses to war. Many were either combatants themselves, or had been directly affected by the ravages of warfare. This essay briefly describes and contextualizes a number of poets and writers who have used Homer to help articulate their own experiences of war, including Leopold Lugones, Rupert Brooke, Simone Weil, Joseph Heller, George Seferis, Wole Soyinka, Alice Oswald and recent veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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