This Is How the Ancient City of Troy Was Found

With the rise of critical history, both Troy and the Trojan War were for a long time called into question; and the actual location of the ancient city of Troy remained the subject of speculation and much interest.

1. Did Troy really exist?

Photo: Courtesy of My Fukuoka University

Popularized by Homer’s epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey, Troy was one of the most famous cities in classical literature and history. However, for a long time its actual existence was doubted.

Heinrich Schliemann, a wealthy German businessman and archaeologist was determined to prove it had existed.

2. Who was Heinrich Schliemann?

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In 1865 English archeologist Frank Calvert excavated trial trenches in a field at Hisarlik.

In 1869, Heinrich Schliemann, a wealthy German businessman and archaeologist, also began excavations in this area, where several cities were discovered. These cities were built in succession.

3. The discovery of Troy

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During 1871–73 and 1878–79 the ruins of a series of ancient cities dating from the Bronze Age to the Roman Period were revealed.

At first, Heinrich Schliemann doubted about identifying Hisarlik with Troy, but was then persuaded to do so. Troy VII was identified with Wilusa (named by the Hittites) and though not conclusively, it is generally identified with Homeric Troy.

4. But actually…there were several Troys!

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Studies have revealed that there were nine Troys, each built over the ruins of the previous one.

Schliemann’s excavations were condemned by later archaeologists as having destroyed the main layers of the real Troy.

5. Where exactly was Troy located?

Photo: Courtesy of Maps Greece – Hellas

Troy was located strategically, commanding the entrance to what now is the Dardanelles and whoever was at the head of Troy, could control the traffic in that area. This fact never escaped the interest of their rivals.

6. The real reason behind the Trojan War

Photo: Courtesy of City of Troy and The Trojan War

It is often argued that the real reasons behind the Trojan War were far more pragmatic than those depicted in Homer’s poems.

7. Paris and Helen

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The story begins with the love affair between Trojan prince Paris and Helen, the wife of Spartan king Menelaus, which triggers the war between these nations.

8. The actual fall of Troy

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The Iliad predicts the fall of Troy and in The Odyssey, the end of the war is told as a flashback. The details of its actual destruction are still unknown.

9. Troy walls

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The citizens of Troy were well-prepared against outside threats. They had built a defensive wall to stall imminent assaults. However, archeological remains show signs of an attack and a devastating fire that must have taken place around 1250 B.C.

10. Hector

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After Hector’s dying, the greatest Trojan warrior, the future of the city was doomed. And even though some of the citizens kept hoping for victory, they could not hold the advance of Achilles, the greatest Greek hero.

11. Achilles

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Achilles wins a single combat against King Memnon, the last line of defense between him and Troy. However, little did he know that prince Paris was watching the hole fight, awaiting for the right time to strike. Paris, guided by Apollo, shoots an arrow that strikes Achilles’ heel (his weak spot).

12. The Trojan Horse

Photo: Courtesy of The National Gallery, London

After ten years, King Agamemnon orders retreat. And it is at this point that Oddysseus steps in and has a huge and hollow wooden horse constructed. Inside, a small band of warriors are hiding.

King Priam orders to open the doors and for the first time in ten years, citizens are free to walk outside their city. Sinon, a stooge, enters the city assuring the Trojan city that this horse is a gift from the gods and that it has special powers: whoever possesses it will never be defeated.

13. The Ambush

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The Trojans celebrate their victory and once in bed, the Greek hidden warriors silently exit the wooden horse. The Trojan defenders, King Priam and his army are slaughtered. According to Virgil, only one Trojan warrior escaped successfully: Aeneas.

14. But was it really a horse?

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There are several theories about the Trojan Horse. One states that it was an analogy of the wooden ships in which the Greeks arrived. Another points at the betrayal of a Trojan citizen. Others suggest that since horses were associated to Poseidon, god of the seas, alseo refered to as the “shaker of the earth”, then there is a possibility that an earthquake might have caused the walls of Troy to collapse.

 

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