The World of Homer's Troy

 

Almost everyone knows of the Trojan War and the stories of all the legendary gods and heroes that battled around Troy’s fabled walls: Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, Achilles, Paris, Menelaus, Agamemnon – a veritable who’s who list of the ancient world. The city was a character too, that famous high-walled city, more fabled than reality to everyone. Everyone, that is, except Heinrich Schliemann, who from a very young age was determined to discover the hallowed city and the treasure that was reputed to lie within. While most suspected that if Troy were to exist, it would slumber beneath the stony ground at Bunarbashi, in modern day Turkey, Schliemann took it upon himself to look into the site of Hisarlik, also in Turkey, and distinguish himself within the realm of archaeology.

Geography

  
  J. Billeaud & B. Baird, Univ. of Texas 1997                                                        Ulrich Elberl 1995

The Mound of Hisarlik-Wilfred E. Major

 

Hisarlik,1794-Wilfred E. Major

 

Hisarlik lies in modern day Turkey, a 5,000 year old archaeological site located near the town of Canakkale, which is about 230 miles southwest of Istanbul- about a six hour trip. Although a very significant site that covers numberous eras of the ancient world- from the Early Bronze Age to the Roman occupation- it doesn't attract much tourism and remains chiefly unnoticed and unappreciated by the general populus and so is left almost exclusively to the interest of archaeologists. There is a replica of the famous Trojan horse there, but other than that site consists merely of walls and the remnants and ruins of a few buildings. However, it is more the atmosphere and the historical significance that can be felt in the surroundings; the site is a hill looking over a plain (the plain of Troy oft described in the Iliad) and then against the backdrop of the Dardanelles (Hellespont), the strait that links the Aegean and Black seas through the Marmara Sea. The hill occupied a strategic placement at the southern entrance to the strait, and additionally was a favored position due to its commandment of a land way that stretched northwards along the coast and connected to the European shore via the narrowest point of the Hellespont. Thus, it was right in the center of two main communication lines and could use that to its advantage by demanding tolls from ships and travelers. These tolls could have comprised the bulk of the reputed treasure of Troy, and also could have potentially caused the Trojan War because the tolls obstructed the trade of the Greeks through the Hellespont. Two rivers, the Scamander and the Simois, are also in the near vicinity, and the winds and currents through the Dardanelles made it most favourable for ships to land in this port, as opposed to any other. Speaking more broadly geographically, the Land of Troy, known as the Troad, is less than a mere four miles to the Aegean across the plain of the Scamander River. To the north lie the straits. The site itself is wedged in the far northwest corner of the Troad, on the western end of a ridge sloping in a decrescendo towards the sea. It was a strategically optimal site, but one that was ultimately doomed.


More on the geography of the area and how Troy was so favourably situated



Anything you could ever want to know about the history of Troy


Homepage of Canakkale, the town near Troy



Geoligists investigate the geography of Troy for verification of its authenticity


 

The "Archaeologist"

Heinrich Schliemann-Wilfred E. Major

 

It wasn't pure luck that caused Heinrich Schliemann to stumble upon Homer's Troy. The general locale of the fortress was well known due to its descriptions and articulations in accounts from ancient Greek and Roman authors, but its exact location still eluded even the most zealous Homeric scholars and archaeologists until his day. However, Schliemann wasn't even the first to suppose it was Hisarlik, rather than the popular choice of Bunarbashi. The mound called Hisarlik ( Hissarlik by the local Turks) had been known to contain a city called Ilion that had thrived in Hellenestic and Roman times, and in 1822 Charles McLaren proposed it as also the site of Homeric Troy, but his claims were largely ignored for fifty years, scoffed at by the classical scholars who believed the Trojan War was mere myth and had no foothold in historical reality. In 1866 he was convinced by Frank Calvert, the Bristish consul who owned part of the site, that Hisarlik really was the site of ancient Troy. He held on to this information for a while, and then began excavations in 1871 after garnering permission from the Turkish government. Controversial because of his amateurish methods-he wasn't formally trained as an archaeologist- and the damage he caused along with the discovery, Schliemann undertook seven large and two smaller excavations from 1870 to 1890, bringing to light most of the Early Bronze Age ruins, including the fabled "Treasure of Priam". After his death in 1890 his mission was continued by one of his coworkers and on-site advisors, a true archaeologist by the name of Wilhelm Dörpfeld. Dörpfeld oversaw excavations from 1893-94, and his efforts were consequently furthered by a team from the University of Cincinnati headed by Carl Blegen from 1932-38. The site is still being explored today, as it is a complex site comprising many layers which cover a great span of time and hold much information to be sifted through.

 

 

Frank Calvert-Wilfred E. Major



More on Heinrich Schliemann

Heinrich Schliemann and the Treasure of Troy

Heinrich Schliemann: Heros and Mythos

How Schliemann was Sure it Was Troy


A Site on Proper Archaeological Methods:

 


The Archaeological Site

 

   

Schematic Plan of Troy- Istanbul Portal

 

 

The site of Troy is what as known archaeologically as a tell- an artificial hill caused by centuries and eras of building and rebuilding upon a hillock of bedrock. The site contains at least seven layers, and perhaps as many as ten, which range from the Early Bronze Age into Roman times. Schliemann's Troy are the Early Bronze Age layers, while the Late Bronze Age layers owe their uncovering to Dörpfeld and Blegen. Schliemann, when uncovering the massive treasure trove he found in Troy II, exclaimed that he had found the 'treasure of Priam', but it was later proved that that particular layer of the site could never have been Homer's Troy, as the dates were off by more than a considerable margin. Today, most believe the real Troy to be either Troy VI or VIIa.

 

Reconstructive Diagram of Homeric Troy- Vanderbilt Dept. of Classical Studies

 

On the layers of Troy

Culture Strata of Troy

Another site detailing the layers of Troy

Diagram/ Timeline of Troy I-IX

Diagram of the Archaeological Site

A Lesson from the Dartmouth Project on Troy VI and VIIa and h

Diagram of the Phases of Excavation at Troy:


 

How Accurate a Reflection of The Bronze Age is Homer's Iliad?

 

The Boar's Tooth Helmet-Wilfred E. Major

 

 

The Iliad technically was written about the city of Troy in the height of its power and glory, a time that corrresponds to what we have named the Broze Age. The Iliad incorporates both Bronze and Dark Age elements, as the poem was passed down through the ages before being written down, and so certain characteristics were added from each time, making it a collection of historical bits and pieces borrowed and added from one time to another. The descriptions of the armor are lent directly from the Bronze Age, notably the descriptons of a boar's tooth helmet and a sword covered in silver. The Bronze Age use of chariots for battle was also employed, and Bronze Age place names such as Pylos, Mycenae, and Ithaca were used.Dark Age characteristics make it not a pure history of Troy during the peak of its glory, but this was due to the influence of the poem being orally handed down and not accidental historical inaccuracies. In any case, it lends a grand depiction of ancient life both in the Bronze and Dark Ages, and, all told, one does not need to separate and dissect the history to enjoy the tale it so masterfully tells.

 

Mycenean Bronze Armor-Wilfred E. Major

Describes Bronze and Dark Age Characteristics in Homer

The Bronze Age Background in Greek Epics

Homer and History

The Nestor Cup

 

Troy Today

 

Aerial View of Troy- Vanderbilt Dept. of Classical Studies

 

Excavations still continue at the site today, and even more insight into the particulars of each of the layers-especially those believed to be Homer's Troy- is being gained. The significance of this site and its relevance, both mythologically, historically, and archaeologically, continues to this day and will hopefully garner more appreciation in the years and generations to follow.

 

Satellite Image of Troy- NASA Earth Observatory

The Project Troia Site

Modern Day Excavations

A Personal Account of Visiting the Site

A Picture Archive of Troy:

Great Overall Sites:

This one explains the geography of Troy, segues into talking about Calvert and Schliemann and their search for Troy, and then details the excavation with some great pictures of the site, both models and modern-day pictures.

About who the Trojans were, why they chose Hisarlik, discussion of the excavations and the site and surroundings:

Geography, Archaeology, and more...