For most of history, the city of Troy was considered a mythical place of ancient Greek legend. It’s existence, mythical or not, was founded on its mention a number of times in the poem ‘The Illiad’ by Homer (ancient Greece, not modern Springfield!). It was referred to by different names in the poem, Troia being one of them, after King Tros.
The Illiad covers the events of a few weeks in the final stages of the 10-year Trojan War of some 3,000 years ago, as the Greek army of 100,000 men tried to conquer the wealthy walled city of Troy, arriving originally in 1,000 ships from across the Dardanelles Straits. The battle ebbed and flowed throughout that 10-year period. At times, according to the poem, the Trojans came within spitting distance of the Greek ships following successes on the battlefields and would have destroyed them had they gotten a little further. There is mention in the poem of the Greeks constructing a protective wall to keep the Trojans at distance from the ships, albeit no evidence of that wall has ever been discovered. But the fact that the Illiad was written some 400 to 600 years after the 10-year-war causes scholars to conclude that the poem was written with much poetic license, mixing fiction with fact as much as Homer wished, so perhaps the protective wall was part of that fiction. The poem also contains a brief reference to the famous wooden horse which was allegedly used to hide some Greek soldiers within, and thereby capture the city in the end.
In the 1860s, a wealthy German financier and businessman called Heinrich Schliemann, with a late-life interest in archeology and money to fund it, decided to search for mythical Troy. He had read the Illiad as a schoolboy and was fascinated by it, believing that the story of Troy was actually true, and he merely needed to input some effort to locate it.
As an aside to Schliemann’s search, Schliemann also decided at that time that he needed a good woman by his side to assist him with his efforts, having just divorced his Russian wife. With his new-found interest in Greek archeology and all things Greek, he decided that taking a Greek wife would be right up his (new Greek) street.
He decided to write a letter to one Fr Vimpos, a Greek priest, and included the ‘specifications’ that he would require of his new wife-to-be. She should be poor, beautiful, a Homer-enthusiast, dark haired, well educated, and possessed of a good and loving heart.
Fr Vimpos did as he was asked and collected photos of beautiful young ladies from the Athens region, sending them to Schliemann for his review. The German selected Sophia, a 17-year-old Athenian. He soon visited Sophia and her family, asking her if she would like to go on long journeys. She answered in the affirmative. Schliemann then asked her to recite passages from Homer by heart. She did so and very soon became the new Mrs Schliemann. She would later play an important role in Schliemann’s discovery, but HX followers can research that aspect of the story themselves. MB can’t do everything for you! And by the way ladies, maybe some of you should start learning some Homer poetry by heart. Haha……..
Back to the search for Troy……….
The Illiad listed a number of geographical references that provided quite an accurate account of Troy’s location, and it didn’t actually take a huge amount of effort on the part of Schliman to find it. Mount Ida (called Goose Mountain in present-day Turkey), the view to the Dardanelles, and the two nearby rivers are each referenced in the poem. The site where Schliemann actually discovered Troy in 1873 (in modern-day western Turkey) was actually an existing ancient ruin, called Hisarlik in Turkish, Schliemann becoming convinced that it was also ancient Troy. Excavations carried out by Schliemann and others have discovered some ten or more levels of habitation at Troy/Hisarlik over the millennia, each one being built on top of a destroyed older habitation that was no longer in use, with Troy being discovered at approximately level 8, where the German discovered the treasure of King Priam, the Trojan King.
It is said that the Trojan wars were caused by the abduction of the Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world & wife of the Spartan King Menelaus, by the Trojan Prince Paris. The movie Troy, with Brad Pitt as Achilles, depicts many of the scenes from the Illiad and the story of the wars. The wooden horse used in the movie was donated to the nearby city of Canakkale, the nearest present-day city to Troy, some 30 minutes drive away. The horse is located in a prominent position on the city’s sea-front promenade, providing the Nr 1 selfie back-drop in the entire region! The reason for the wars, however, assuming they actually occurred, is considered by scholars not to be the ‘Helen/Paris abduction’ reason, but rather the wealth of the Trojan city which the Greeks coveted dearly.
A very big thanks to Canakkale friend AC for introducing MB to ancient Troy and its environs, and to the best Troy guide in the whole of Turkey, Mr Mustafa Askin (MA) (www.thetroyguide.com), author of the guidebook to Troy which is now translated into eight languages.
In the words of MA, the Battle of Troy was the first truly international war in the history of mankind, featuring as it did soldiers, armies, and mercenaries from foreign countries as combatants on both sides. It is ironic, that within visible eye-sight of Troy, some 3,000 years later, the same location would be the venue of another very ugly international war of huge bloodshed and trauma, as the Allies and Ottoman Turks butchered each other along the Dardanelles coastline in the Gallipoli Campaign of WW1.
MB’s visit of mid June 2018 will live very long in the memory.
Credit & Acknowledgement – Most of the above information comes from the guided tour and guidebook of Mr Mustafa Askin. Big thanks to MA from MB.
The Wooden Horse used in the movie Troy, now sitting on the waterfront at Canakkale, Turkey, some 30 minutes drive from Troy.
The view on entering the ancient ruins
The outer and inner defensive walls of Troy
The walls of Troy have lasted some 3,000 years despite existing in an area of seismic and earthquake activity which destroyed some of the previous habitations. The main reason for this is the use of interlocking joints in the stone walls as depicted below to strengthen the walls, rather than using straight vertical or horizontal joints
Nr 1 Troy guide – Mr Mustafa Askin, with a copy of his Troy guidebook in hand. He has worked at Troy for some 40 years.
The ramped entrance to the ancient city
A piece of the marble ceiling of the Temple of Athena at Troy, which was a smaller sized exact copy of the Temple of Athena at the Acropolis in Athens
Two views towards the Trojan battlefields and the Dardanelles Straits
A place of sacrifice for the Greeks and Romans of different eras (higher alter is Roman, lower is Greek), with water wells
Walking towards the exit
And of course, Troy has its own ‘real’ wooden horse!
Cafe Schliemann, in memory of Mr Heinrich