Troy (Ancient Greek: Τροία, Troia and Ἴλιον, Ilion, or Ἴλιος, Ilios; Latin: Trōia and Īlium; Hittite: Wilusha or Truwisha; Turkish: Truva or Troya) was a city situated in the far northwest of the region known in late Classical antiquity as Asia Minor, now known as Anatolia in modern Turkey, near (just south of) the southwest mouth of the Dardanelles strait and northwest of Mount Ida. The present-day location is known as Hisarlik. It was the setting of the Trojan War described in the Greek Epic Cycle, in particular in the Iliad, one of the two epic poems attributed to Homer. Metrical evidence from the Iliad and the Odyssey suggests that the name Ἴλιον (Ilion) formerly began with a digamma: Ϝίλιον (Wilion); this is also supported by the Hittite name for what is thought to be the same city, Wilusa.
In 1865, English archaeologist Frank Calvert excavated trial trenches in a field he had bought from a local farmer at Hisarlık, and in 1868, Heinrich Schliemann, a wealthy German businessman and archaeologist, also began excavating in the area after a chance meeting with Calvert in Çanakkale. These excavations revealed several cities built in succession. Schliemann was at first skeptical about the identification of Hisarlik with Troy, but was persuaded by Calvert and took over Calvert’s excavations on the eastern half of the Hisarlik site, which was on Calvert’s property. Troy VII has been identified with the city that the Hittites called Wilusa, the probable origin of the Greek Ἴλιον, and is generally (but not conclusively) identified with Homeric Troy.
Today, the hill at Hisarlık has given its name to a small village near the ruins, which supports the tourist trade visiting the Troia archaeological site. It lies within the province of Çanakkale, some 30 km south-west of the provincial capital, also called Çanakkale. The nearest village is Tevfikiye. The map here shows the adapted Scamander estuary with Ilium a little way inland across the Homeric plain.
Troy was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.
Ancient Greek historians variously placed the Trojan War in the 12th, 13th, or 14th centuries BC: Eratosthenes to 1184 BC, Herodotus to 1250 BC, Duris of Samos to 1334 BC. Modern archaeologists associate Homeric Troy with archaeological Troy VII.
In the Iliad, the Achaeans set up their camp near the mouth of the River Scamander (presumably modern Karamenderes), where they had beached their ships. The city of Troy itself stood on a hill, across the plain of Scamander, where the battles of the Trojan War took place. The site of the ancient city is some 5 km from the coast today, but 3,000 years ago the mouths of Scamander were much closer to the city, discharging into a large bay that formed a natural harbor and which has since been filled with alluvial material. Recent geological findings have permitted the identification of the ancient Trojan coastline, and the results largely confirm the accuracy of the Homeric geography of Troy.
In November 2001, the geologist John C. Kraft from the University of Delaware and the classicist John V. Luce from Trinity College, Dublin, presented the results of investigations, begun in 1977, into the geology of the region. They compared the present geology with the landscapes and coastal features described in the Iliad and other classical sources, notably Strabo‘s Geographia, and concluded that there is a regular consistency between the location of Schliemann’s Troy and other locations such as the Greek camp, the geological evidence, descriptions of the topography and accounts of the battle in the Iliad.
Besides the Iliad, there are references to Troy in the other major work attributed to Homer, the Odyssey, as well as in other ancient Greek literature (such as Aeschylus‘s Oresteia). The Homeric legend of Troy was elaborated by the Roman poet Virgil in his Aeneid. The Greeks and Romans took for a fact the historicity of the Trojan War and the identity of Homeric Troy with the site in Anatolia. Alexander the Great, for example, visited the site in 334 BC and there made sacrifices at tombs associated with the Homeric heroes Achilles and Patroclus.
After the 1995 find of a Luwian biconvex seal at Troy VII, there has been a heated discussion over the language that was spoken in Homeric Troy. Frank Starke of the University of Tübingen recently demonstrated that the name of Priam, king of Troy at the time of the Trojan War, is connected to the Luwian compound Priimuua, which means “exceptionally courageous”. “The certainty is growing that Wilusa/Troy belonged to the greater Luwian-speaking community,” although it is not entirely clear whether Luwian was primarily the official language or in daily colloquial use.
The Search of Troy
With the rise of critical history, Troy and the Trojan War were, for a long time, consigned to the realms of legend. However, the true location of ancient Troy had from classical times remained the subject of interest and speculation.
The Troad peninsula was anticipated to be the location. Early modern travellers in the 16th and 17th centuries, including Pierre Belon and Pietro Della Valle, had identified Troy with Alexandria Troas, a ruined town approximately 20 km south of the currently accepted location. In the late 18th century, Jean Baptiste LeChevalier had identified a location near the village of Pınarbaşı, Ezine as the site of Troy, a mound approximately 5 km south of the currently accepted location. LeChavalier’s location, published in his Voyage de la Troade, was the most commonly accepted theory for almost a century.
In 1822, the Scottish journalist Charles Maclaren was the first to identify with confidence the position of the city as it is now known. In 1866, Frank Calvert, the brother of the United States’ consular agent in the region, made extensive surveys and published in scholarly journals his identification of the hill of New Ilium (which was on farmland owned by his family) on the same site. The hill, near the city of Çanakkale, was known as Hisarlık.
In 1868, Heinrich Schliemann visited Calvert and secured permission to excavate Hisarlık. In 1871–73 and 1878–79, he excavated the hill and discovered the ruins of a series of ancient cities dating from the Bronze Age to the Roman period. Schliemann declared one of these cities — at first Troy I, later Troy II — to be the city of Troy, and this identification was widely accepted at that time. Schliemann’s finds at Hisarlık have become known as Priam’s Treasure. They were acquired from him by the Berlin museums, but significant doubts about their authenticity persist.
Schliemann became interested in digging at the mound of Hisarlık at the persuasion of Frank Calvert. The British diplomat, considered a pioneer for the contributions he made to the archaeology of Troy, spent more than 60 years in the Troad (modern day Biga peninsula, Turkey) conducting field work. As Calvert was a principal authority on field archaeology in the region, his findings supplied evidence that Homeric Troy might exist in the hill, and played a major role in directing Heinrich Schliemann to dig at the Hisarlık. However, Schliemann downplayed this collaboration when taking credit for the findings, such that Susan Heck Allen recently described Schliemann as a “relentlessly self-promoting amateur archaeologist”.
Schliemann’s excavations were condemned by later archaeologists as having destroyed the main layers of the real Troy. Kenneth W. Harl in the Teaching Company’s Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor lecture series sarcastically claims that Schliemann’s excavations were carried out with such rough methods that he did to Troy what the Greeks couldn’t do in their times, destroying and levelling down the entire city walls to the ground. Other scholars agree that the damage caused to the site is irreparable.
Dorpfeld and Blegen
After Schliemann, the site was further excavated under the direction of Wilhelm Dörpfeld (1893–94) and later Carl Blegen (1932–38). These excavations have shown that there were at least nine cities built, one on top of the other, at this site. In his research, Blegen came to a conclusion that Troy’s nine levels could be further divided into forty-six sublevels .
In 1988, excavations were resumed by a team from the University of Tübingen and the University of Cincinnati under the direction of Professor Manfred Korfmann, with Professor Brian Rose overseeing Post-Bronze Age (Greek, Roman, Byzantine) excavation along the coast of the Aegean Sea at the Bay of Troy. Possible evidence of a battle was found in the form of bronze arrowheads and fire-damaged human remains buried in layers dated to the early 12th century BC. The question of Troy’s status in the Bronze-Age world has been the subject of a sometimes acerbic debate between Korfmann and the Tübingen historian Frank Kolb in 2001–2002.
In August 1993, following a magnetic imaging survey of the fields below the fort, a deep ditch was located and excavated among the ruins of a later Greek and Roman city. Remains found in the ditch were dated to the late Bronze Age, the alleged time of Homeric Troy. It is claimed by Korfmann that the ditch may have once marked the outer defences of a much larger city than had previously been suspected. The latter city has been dated by his team to about 1250 BC, and it has been also suggested — based on recent archeological evidence uncovered by Professor Manfred Korfmann’s team — that this was indeed the Homeric city of Troy.
The archaeological site of Troy was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.
In summer 2006, the excavations continued under the direction of Korfmann’s colleague Ernst Pernicka, with a new digging permit.
In 2013, an international team made up of cross-disciplinary experts led by William Aylward, an archaeologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was to carry out new excavations. This activity was to be conducted under the auspices of Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University and was to use the new technique of “molecular archaeology”. A few days before the Wisconsin team was to leave, Turkey cancelled about 100 excavation permits, including Wisconsin’s.
In March 2014, it was announced that a new excavation would take place to be sponsored by a private company and carried out by Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University. This will be the first Turkish team to excavate and is planned as a 12-month excavation led by associate professor Rüstem Aslan. The University’s rector stated that “Pieces unearthed in Troy will contribute to Çanakkale’s culture and tourism. Maybe it will become one of Turkey’s most important frequented historical places.”
Historical Troy Uncovered
The layers of ruins in the citadel at Hisarlık are numbered Troy I – Troy IX, with various subdivisions:
- Troy I 3000–2600 BC (Western Anatolian EB 1)
- Troy II 2600–2250 BC (Western Anatolian EB 2)
- Troy III 2250–2100 BC (Western Anatolian EB 3 [early])
- Troy IV 2100–1950 BC (Western Anatolian EB 3 [middle])
- Troy V: 20th–18th centuries BC (Western Anatolian EB 3 [late])
- Troy VI: 17th–15th centuries BC
- Troy VIh: late Bronze Age, 14th century BC
- Troy VIIa: c. 1300–1190 BC, most likely setting for Homer’s story
- Troy VIIb1: 12th century BC
- Troy VIIb2: 11th century BC
- Troy VIIb3: until c. 950 BC
- Troy VIII: c. 700–85 BC
- Troy IX: 85 BC–c. AD 500
The first city on the site was founded in the 3rd millennium BC. During the Bronze Age, the site seems to have been a flourishing mercantile city, since its location allowed for complete control of the Dardanelles, through which every merchant ship from the Aegean Sea heading for the Black Sea had to pass. Around 1900 BC a mass migration was set off by the Hittites to the east. Cities to the east of Troy were destroyed, and although Troy was not burned, the next period shows a change of culture indicating a new people had taken over Troy.
When Schliemann came across Troy II, in 1871, he believed he had found Homer’s city. Schliemann and his team unearthed a large feature he dubbed the Scaean Gate, a western gate unlike the three previously found leading to the Pergamos. This gate, as he describes, was the gate that Homer had featured. As Schliemann states in his publication Troja: “I have proved that in a remote antiquity there was in the plain of Troy a large city, destroyed of old by a fearful catastrophe, which had on the hill of Hisarlık only its Acropolis with its temples and a few other large edifices, southerly, and westerly direction on the site of the later Ilium; and that, consequently, this city answers perfectly to the Homeric description of the sacred site of Ilios.”
Troy VI and VII
Troy VI was destroyed around 1250 BC, probably by an earthquake. Only a single arrowhead was found in this layer, and no remains of bodies. However, the town quickly recovered and was rebuilt in a layout that was more orderly.
Troy VIIa, which has been dated to the mid-to-late-13th century BC, is the most often cited candidate for the Troy of Homer. Troy VIIa appears to have been destroyed by war. The evidence of fire and slaughter around 1184 BC, which brought Troy VIIa to a close, led to this phase being identified with the city besieged by the Greeks during the Trojan War. This was immortalized in the Iliad written by Homer.
Calvert’s Thousand-year gap
Initially, the layers of Troy VI and VII were overlooked entirely, because Schliemann favoured the burnt city of Troy II. It was not until the need to close “Calvert’s Thousand Year Gap” arose — from Dörpfeld’s discovery of Troy VI — that archaeology turned away from Schliemann’s Troy and began working towards finding Homeric Troy once more.
“Calvert’s Thousand Year Gap” (1800-800 BC) was a period not accounted for by Schliemann’s archaeology and thus constituting a hole in the Trojan timeline. In Homer’s description of the city, a section of one side of the wall is said to be weaker than the rest. During his excavation of more than three hundred yards of the wall, Dörpfeld came across a section very closely resembling the Homeric description of the weaker section. Dörpfeld was convinced he had found the walls of Homer’s city, and now he would excavate the city itself. Within the walls of this stratum (Troy VI), much Mycenaean pottery dating from Late Helladic (LH) periods III A and III B (c.1400–c.1200 BC) was uncovered, suggesting a relation between the Trojans and Mycenaeans. The great tower along the walls seemed likely to be the “Great Tower of Ilios”.
The evidence seemed to indicate that Dörpfeld had stumbled upon Ilios, the city of Homer’s epics. Schliemann himself had conceded that Troy VI was more likely to be the Homeric city, but he never published anything stating so. The only counter-argument, confirmed initially by Dörpfeld (who was as passionate as Schliemann about finding Troy), was that the city appeared to have been destroyed by an earthquake, not by men. There was little doubt that this was the Troy of which the Mycenaeans would have known.
In 480 BC, the Persian king Xerxes sacrificed 1,000 cattle at the sanctuary of Athena Ilias while marching through the Hellespontine region towards Greece. Following the Persian defeat in 480/79, Ilion and its territory became part of the continental possessions of Mytilene and remained under Mytilenaean control until the unsuccessful Mytilenean revolt in 428/7. Athens liberated the so-called Actaean cities including Ilion and enrolled these communities in the Delian League. Athenian influence in the Hellespont waned following the oligarchic coup of 411, and in that year the Spartan general Mindaros emulated Xerxes by likewise sacrificing to Athena Ilias. From c. 410-399, Ilion was within the sphere of influence of the local dynasts at Lampsacus (Zenis, his wife Mania, and the usurper Meidias) who administered the region on behalf of the Persian satrap Pharnabazus.
In 399, the Spartan general Dercylidas expelled the Greek garrison at Ilion who were controlling the city on behalf of the Lampsacene dynasts during a campaign which rolled back Persian influence throughout the Troad. Ilion remained outside the control of the Persian satrapal administration at Dascylium until the Peace of Antalcidas in 387/6. In this period of renewed Persian control c. 387-367, a statue of Ariobarzanes, the satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia, was erected in front of the temple of Athena Ilias. In 360/59 the city was briefly controlled by Charidemus of Oreus, a Euboean mercenary leader who occasionally worked for the Athenians. In 359, he was expelled by the Athenian Menelaos son of Arrabaios, whom the Ilians honoured with a grant of proxeny – this is recorded in the earliest civic decree to survive from Ilion. In May 334 Alexander the Great crossed the Hellespont and came to the city, where he visited the temple of Athena Ilias, made sacrifices at the tombs of the Homeric heroes, and made the city free and exempt from taxes. According to the so-called ‘Last Plans’ of Alexander which became known after his death in June 323, he had planned to rebuild the temple of Athena Ilias on a scale that would have surpassed every other temple in the known world.
Antigonus Monophthalmus took control of the Troad in 311 and created the new city of Antigoneia Troas which was a synoikism of the cities of Skepsis, Kebren, Neandreia, Hamaxitos, Larisa, and Kolonai. In c. 311-306 the koinon of Athena Ilias was founded from the remaining cities in the Troad and along the Asian coast of the Dardanelles and soon after succeeded in securing a guarantee from Antigonus that he would respect their autonomy and freedom (he had not respected the autonomy of the cities which were synoikized to create Antigoneia). The koinon continued to function until at least the 1st century AD and primarily consisted of cities from the Troad, although for a time in the second half of the 3rd century it also included Myrlea and Chalcedon from the eastern Propontis. The governing body of the koinon was the synedrion on which each city was represented by two delegates. The day-to-day running of the synedrion, especially in relation to its finances, was left to a college of five agonothetai, on which no city ever had more than one representative. This system of equal (rather than proportional) representation ensured that no one city could politically dominate the koinon. The primary purpose of the koinon was to organize the annual Panathenaia festival which was held at the sanctuary of Athena Ilias. The festival brought huge numbers of pilgrims to Ilion for the duration of the festival as well as creating an enormous market (the panegyris) which attracted traders from across the region. In addition, the koinon financed new building projects at Ilion, for example a new theatre c. 306 and the expansion of the sanctuary and temple of Athena Ilias in the 3rd century, in order to make the city a suitable venue for such a large festival.
In the period 302-281, Ilion and the Troad were part of the kingdom of Lysimachus, who during this time helped Ilion synoikize several nearby communities, thus expanding the city’s population and territory. Lysimachus was defeated at the Battle of Corupedium in February 281 by Seleucus I Nikator, thus handing the Seleucid kingdom control of Asia Minor, and in August or September of 281 when Seleucus passed through the Troad on his way to Lysimachia in the nearby Thracian Chersonese Ilion passed a decree in honour of him, indicating the city’s new loyalties. In September Seleucus was assassinated at Lysimachia by Ptolemy Keraunos, making his successor, Antiochus I Soter, the new king. In 280 or soon after Ilion passed a long decree lavishly honouring Antiochus in order to cement their relationship with him. During this period Ilion still lacked proper city walls except for the crumbling Troy VI fortifications around the citadel, and in 278 during the Gallic invasion the city was easily sacked. Ilion enjoyed a close relationship with Antiochus for the rest of his reign: for example, in 274 Antiochus granted land to his friend Aristodikides of Assos which for tax purposes was to be attached to the territory of Ilion, and c. 275-269 Ilion passed a decree in honour of Metrodoros of Amphipolis who had successfully treated the king for a wound he received in battle.
The city was destroyed by Sulla’s rival, the Roman general Fimbria, in 85 BC following an eleven-day siege. Later that year when Sulla had defeated Fimbria he bestowed benefactions on Ilion for its loyalty which helped with the city’s rebuilding. Ilion reciprocated this act of generosity by instituting a new civic calendar which took 85 BC as its first year. However, the city remained in financial distress for several decades, despite its favoured status with Rome. In the 80s BC, Roman publicani illegally levied taxes on the sacred estates of Athena Ilias and the city was required to call on L. Julius Caesar for restitution; while in 80 BC, the city suffered an attack by pirates. In 77 BC the costs of running the annual festival of the koinon of Athena Ilias became too pressing for both Ilion
and the other members of the koinon and L. Julius Caesar was once again required to arbitrate, this time reforming the festival so that it would be less of a financial burden. In 74 BC the Ilians once again demonstrated their loyalty to Rome by siding with the Roman general Lucullus against Mithridates VI. Following the final defeat of Mithridates in 63/2, Pompey rewarded the city’s loyalty by becoming the benefactor of Ilion and patron of Athena Ilias. In 48 BC, Julius Caesar likewise bestowed benefactions on the city, recalling the city’s loyalty during the Mithridatic Wars, the city’s connection with his cousin L. Julius Caesar, and the family’s claim that they were ultimately descended from Venus through the Trojan prince Aeneas and therefore shared kinship with the Ilians.
In 20 BC, the Emperor Augustus visited Ilion and stayed in the house of a leading citizen, Melanippides son of Euthydikos. As a result of his visit, he also financed the restoration and rebuilding of the sanctuary of Athena Ilias, the bouleuterion, and the theatre. Soon after work on the theatre was completed in 12/11 BC, Melanippides dedicated a statue of Augustus in the theatre to record this benefaction.
Hittite and Egyptian evidence
In the 1920s, the Swiss scholar Emil Forrer claimed that the placenames Wilusa and Taruisa found in Hittite texts should be identified with Ilion and Troia, respectively. He further noted that the name of Alaksandu, a king of Wilusa mentioned in a Hittite treaty, is quite similar to Homer’s Paris, whose birthname was Alexandros. Subsequent to this, the Tawagalawa letter (CTH 181) was found to document an unnamed Hittite king’s correspondence to the king of the Ahhiyawa, referring to an earlier “Wilusa episode” involving hostility on the part of the Ahhiyawa. The Hittite king was long held to be Mursili II (c. 1321—1296), but, since the 1980s, his son Hattusili III (1265—1240) is commonly preferred, although his other son Muwatalli (c. 1296—1272) remains a possibility.
Inscriptions of the New Kingdom of Egypt also record a nation T-R-S as one of the Sea Peoples who attacked Egypt during the XIX and XX Dynasties. An inscription at Deir el-Medina records a victory of Ramesses III over the Sea Peoples, including one named “Tursha” (Egyptian: [twrš3]). It is probably the same as the earlier “Teresh” (Egyptian: [trš.w]) on the stele commemorating Merneptah‘s victory in a Libyan campaign around 1220 BC.
These identifications were rejected by many scholars as being improbable or at least unprovable. However, Trevor Bryce championed them in his 1998 book The Kingdom of the Hittites, citing a piece of the Manapa-Tarhunda letter referring to the kingdom of Wilusa as beyond the land of the Seha River (the classical Caicus and modern Bakırçay) and near the land of “Lazpa” (Lesbos). Recent evidence also adds weight to the theory that Wilusa is identical to archaeological Troy. Hittite texts mention a water tunnel at Wilusa, and a water tunnel excavated by Korfmann, previously thought to be Roman, has been dated to around 2600 BC. The identifications of Wilusa with Troy and of the Ahhiyawa with Homer’s Achaeans remain somewhat controversial but gained enough popularity during the 1990s to be considered majority opinion. That agrees with metrical evidence in the Iliad that the name ᾽Ιλιον (Ilion) for Troy was formerly Ϝιλιον (Wilion) with a digamma.
In later Legend
Such was the fame of the Epic Cycle in Roman and Medieval times that it was built upon to provide a starting point for various founding myths of national origins. The most influential, Virgil‘s Aeneid, traces the journeys of the Trojan prince Aeneas, supposed ancestor of the founders of Rome and the Julio-Claudian dynasty. In a later era, the heroes of Troy, both those noted in Homer and those invented for the purpose, often continued to appear in the origin stories of the nations of Early Medieval Europe. The Roman de Troie was common cultural ground for European dynasties, as a Trojan pedigree was both gloriously ancient and established an equality with the ruling class of Rome. A Trojan pedigree could justify the occupation of parts of Rome’s former territories.
On that basis, the Franks filled the lacunae of their legendary origins with Trojan and pseudo-Trojan names: in Fredegar‘s 7th-century chronicle of Frankish history, Priam appears as the first king of the Franks. The Trojan origin of France was such an established article of faith that in 1714, the learned Nicolas Fréret was Bastilled for showing through historical criticism that the Franks had been Germanic, a sore point counter to Valois and Bourbon propaganda.
Likewise, Snorri Sturluson, in the prologue to his Icelandic Prose Edda, traced the genealogy of the ancestral figures in Norse mythology to characters appearing at Troy in Homer’s epic, notably making Thor to be the son of Memnon. Sturluson referred to these figures as having made a journey across Europe towards Scandinavia, setting up kingdoms as they went.
Alternative Views on Troy
A small minority of contemporary writers argue that Homeric Troy was not at the Hisarlik site, but elsewhere in Anatolia or outside it — e. g. in England, Pergamum, Scandinavia, or Herzegovina. These proposals have not been accepted by mainstream scholarship.
Prose Edda’s Troy
The Icelandic national bard and possibly most important source of Norse Mythology, Snorri Sturluson, identifies Troy with Åsgard. About it were 12 kingdoms and 12 chiefs. One of them, Múnón, married Priam’s daughter, Tróán, and had by her a son, Trór, to be pronounced Thor in Old Norse. Similarly the Asura, or Æsir Vidarr is identified with Aeneas.
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