"She, Helen, brought to Ilium her dowry,

destruction." [Aeschylus, "Agamemnon, 406.]

"Was this the face that launched a thousand ships,

And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?" [Marlow, "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, scene xiv.]

"The Iliad… emanates from a world that was ‘witty, ironic, mordant, decorative, compassionate, energetic and human.’ It is the "first poem that gives equal dignity" to Trojans and Achaeans ‘and shows the ‘enemy’ in a compassionate and noble light.’ Of the Iliad’s great power and influence, there has never been any argument. Of its historical truth and its origins, there has never been anything but." [John Fleischman, Smithsonian]

"We search for Troy because of Homer. Homer’s Iliad, the story of the siege of Troy by an army of Greeks … under the great king Agamemnon, is the wellspring of Western literature. The characters resonate still, instantly recognizable in our imaginations — Agamemnon, Achilles, Hector, Helen, Paris, Priam, and Hecuba. It is the very first poem that is distinctly European. Outside of religion, it is one of our oldest stories." [John Fleischman, Smithsonian]


"The whole complex associated with Troy the Trojan War, the Trojan Horse belongs to the oldest uninterrupted memories and effective components of European culture. The Trojan War in particular has become the symbol of war per se in art and literature — from Homer, Aeschylus and Euripides, through Chaucer, Shakespeare and Giraudoux, up to Christa Wolf. The imaginative reality this war produced has long bypassed the question of its historical reality. Yet the fascination emanating from the ‘giant walls’ of the citadel’s ruin on the spur of Hisarlik … still grips the visitor today." [Joachim Latacz, Berytus Archaeological Studies, American University of Beirut, 1986.]

"Poetry makes immortal all that is best and most beautiful in the world." [Shelly]

  1. Overview

"Troy was the setting of the great legendary war of the Greeks against the Trojans that the Greeks recalled centuries after it was believed to have taken place. The story of part of the Trojan War was told by a Greek poet named Homer in his epic work the Iliad. People reading the epic have wondered, almost ever since it was written, if there was any historical truth to the tale. One way to find out was to excavate the site of Hisarlik, which is believed to be the location f ancient Troy, and to search for clues that would confirm Homer’s description of it. Archaeologists also looked for evidence of an invasion that might represent the Greeks conquest of the city." [Amanda H. Podany, "The Trojan War" in The Origins of Greek Civilization: from the Bronze Age to the Polis ca. 2500-600 B.C. National Center for History in the Schools, 1991), p. 42.]

The name Troy as traced by Greek tradition went back to the eponymous (legendary person to whom a social or political groups attributes its origin and name) hero Tros, father of Ilus, father of Laomedon, father of Priam. Hence the variant names of the city —Troas, Ilios, Ilion, Ilium, and of course the source of the title of Homer’s epic the Iliad.

    1. Founded in the late Neolithic period near the Hellespont (modern Dardanelles)
    1. Located in Northwestern Anatolia on the southwestern end of the Hellespont
    2. Hellespont opens into the Propontis ("before the sea") the modern Sea of Marmara) which narrows into the Bosporus (at some spots only a half-mile wide) which opens into the Black Sea (Euxine)
    3. Domination of the Hellespont and Bosporus allowed control of the rich Black Sea trade — intersection of East and West and North and South trade routes
    1. Trojans charged high fees for passage
    2. Southward current and winds of the Hellespont persuaded merchants to unload cargoes at Troy and ship them overland into the interior

To sail with the keel-less ships of the Bronze Age through the Hellespont into the Propontis required either waiting weeks for a favorable wind or hauling the cargo overland to central Anatolia. Either way, the last possible port was the Bay of Besik, the main harbor of Troy, where the Trojans exacted their tribute.

    1. Too far inland to be conveniently assaulted from the sea
    2. Plain in front of Troy — moderately fertile
    3. Precious metals to the east
    4. Two rivers in vicinity
    1. Scamander — rose from Mt. Ida
    2. Simois
    1. General area known as the Troad
    2. Mt. Ida — highest peak in Troad
    3. Across the Hellespont on the European side is the Gallipoli peninsula
    1. Trojans
    1. Egyptian papyrus mentions certain "Dardenui" as allies of the Hittites at Kadesh. Homer used "Dardenoi" and Trojans interchangeably
    2. May have been of Balkan origin
    3. Herodotus identified Trojans with Teucrians who Strabo identified as Cretans
    4. May have been indigenous to Anatolia —Trojans of Troy VI may have been Luvians displaced from other areas of Anatolia by Hittites
    5. Spoke Luvian — Indo-European language
    1. "When they came from steep Wilusa…" may be reference to Homer’s "steep Ilios"
    2. Pariya-muwas may have been transformed into Priamos by the Greeks
    3. Suggests that the songs on which the iliad is based were composed by Anatolians, perhaps even by the Trojans, as well as by Greeks
    4. Troy was the subject of songs of other cultures and they shared at least one epithet with the Greeks
    1. May have been kin to Mycenaeans who for several centuries had been invading Greece
    2. Close relations with Mycenaeans and Hittites
    1. Ahhiyans (Ahhiyawans) were probably Homer’s Achaeans
    2. Myenaean settlement at Miletus referred to by Hittites as Milawata
    3. Paris had nome de guerre of Alexandros which is referred to by Hittites as Alaksandus
  1. Heinrich Schliemann

Born in 1822, son of a German pastor, young Heinrich Schliemann became fascinated with a picture book that depicted Troy in flames. His father told him the picture was fanciful and that Troy was only a fictional city. But the young Schliemann silently vowed to find it. He began his career as a grocery clerk in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1850 he migrated to California where he earned a fortune in "banking activities" (short-weighing gold dust?). During the Crimean War he traded in indigo and saltpeter (shady dealing?) and became one of the richest men in Europe. With the leisure time and money to pursue his lifelong obsession, he engaged in a frenzy of self-education and mastered a dozen modern languages and the classical ones as well. In 1866 he visited Turkey and met the British consul, Frank Calvert, who convinced him that the Hill of Hisarlik was the site of ancient Troy. Schliemann concluded that the site completely agreed "with the description Homer gives…. That hill seems," he wrote, "destined by nature to carry a great city… there is no other place in the whole region to compare with it." Before beginning excavations the now middle-aged Schliemann sought a Greek wife and found her in the teenage Sophia. Together they undertook excavations. They labored for three years in withering heat, dust storms, rainy seasons and battering north winds while enduring the threat of scorpions and malaria. Their persistence resulted not only in discovering the long-lost Troy but in (May- June 1873) unearthing a fabulous treasure consisting of some 8, 830 objects, many of them gold, which Schliemann called "Priam’s Treasure."

"As soon as I had learnt to speak, my father related to me the great deeds of the Homeric heroes. I loved these stories; they enchanted me and transported me with the highest enthusiasm. The first impressions which a child receives abide with him during his whole life; and, though it was my lot, at the age of fourteen, to be apprentices in the warehouse of E. Ludwig Holtz in the small town of Furstenberg in Mecklenburg, instead of following the scientific career for which I felt an extraordinary predisposition, I always retained the same love for the famous men of antiquity which I had conceived for them in my first childhood." [Heinrich Schliemann, Troy and Its Remains, ed. by Philip Smith, New York, Arno Press, 1875]

    1. Excavated Hisarlik hill in 1871-1890 — not a scientific excavation — left Tory "a ruin of a ruin" — but probably the real site of ancient Troy

"At last I was able to realize the dream of my whole life, and to visit at my leisure the scene of those events which had such an intense interest for me, and the country of my heroes whose adventures had delighted and comforted my childhood." [Heinrich Schliemann, Troy and Its Remains, ed. By Philip Smith, New York, Arno Press, 1875.]

Today "Hisarlik is a small place, a sandy stone-strewn ridge cut up into gullies and hummocks." [John Fleischman, Smithsonian]

"The high promontory called Hisarlik is only about 650 feet by 490 feet in total area and rises just 95 or so feet above the plain. Windy year-round, it commands a view of fertile farmlands to the west, though which the Scamander River flows north toward the Dardanelles." [James G. Ottaway, Jr., "New Assault on Troy," Archaeology (September-October, 1991), p. 56.]

    1. Best suits Homer’s description in antiquity Troy was probably 65 feet high from bedrock — "steep-walled" Troy
    2. Ancients thought this was the site — Xerxes on his way to attack Athens in 480 B.C. stopped here to sacrifice 1,000 oxen [Herodotus]
    3. Alexander the Great stopped here in 334 B.C. to make sacrifice on beginning his campaign to conquer the Persian empire and visited the tomb of Achilles on the plain below, calling the Greek hero "a lucky man, that he had Homer to proclaim his deeds and preserve his memory." [Arrian]
    4. Julius Caesar visited the site in 48 B.C. but found "even the ruins had been destroyed." [Lucan]
    1. Followed descriptions of Homer in the Iliad — probably written in 8th century B.C. — clues from the Iliad
    1. "Well-built city with wide streets, beautiful walls and great gates"
    2. "Strong towers"
    3. "Steep:
    4. "One section of wall weaker than the rest where the city is easiest to attack"
    5. "Batter or angle of walls when Patroclus tried to scale the face of the wall"
    6. "Beautiful decorations on the castle walls."
    7. "Settlement extended on to a plateau"


  1. Nine cities unearthed at site — date from c. 2500 B.C. to just after the birth of Christ — the Archaeological Evidence

"Freighted with history and legend, the stony ridge of Troy endured as a series of great citadels for 3,500 years. Archaeologists … divide the complex site into nine principal strata. The oldest (or deepest) settlement, Troy I, survived as an early Bronze Age fortress for several hundred years. A sophisticated, innovative people built Troy II and its palaces, one of the splendid achievements of the age. [Schliemann unearthed the treasures he called ‘Priam’s from this level.] The two successive strongholds Troy III and IV, dating as well from the Early Bronze Age, grew into substantial walled towns. But neither these fortresses, nor Troy V, attained the grandeur that was Troy II. As the Late Bronze Age dawned, a new ruling dynasty created the great and powerful Troy VI — Homer’s Troy…. Impoverished Troy VII rose from the rubble in the Late Bronze Age. Greek colonists tradition says, founded the town that grew into thriving Ilion, or Troy VIII. Over its ruins the Romans raised the city of Ilium, Troy IX, with its elaborate public architecture. … archaeologists have discovered proof of habitation into the 13th century AD." [John Fleischman, Smithsonian]

A. Schliemann — Troy Level II

    1. Wall of finely worked limestone blocks (later judged to be part of Troy VI)
    2. Size of settlement 100 yards across
    3. Copper salver, and cauldrons
    4. Gold, silver and bronze cups
    5. Copper lanceheads
    6. Gold rings, earrings, bracelets
    7. Two gold diadems — "Jewels of Helen"
    8. Pottery of a primitive design (pre-Mycenaean)
    1. Sophia Schliemann — Greek "child" bride
    2. Gold of Troy — Priam’s Treasure
    1. Berlin Museum until WW II
    2. Seized by Russians
    1. Puskin Museum in Moscow
    2. Hermitage in St. Petersburg
    1. Priam’s treasure found by Schliemann — accumulated several hundred years prior to time of Priam — maybe as early as 2200 B.C.

After finding the treasure in 1873, Schliemann smuggled it out of Turkey and tried to sell it to several European museums. He then donated it to the Berlin Museum of Ethnology where they were on display until 1922 when they went to the Museum of Pre- and Early History. The city named him an honorary citizen.

During the early years of World War II, German authorities packed the treasures in three sealed boxes and stored them in a bank safe-deposit box. However, in 1941, fearing Allied air strikes, they were moved to a concrete bunker at the Berlin Zoo. There Soviet experts discovered them in 1945.

The Soviets moved them to Moscow in June of 1945, claiming them as compensation for the damage inflicted on the Soviet Union by the German war machine. And, they reasoned, this was fair turnabout for the art looted from Russian collections by Nazi soldiers.

For the duration of the Cold War the Soviets denied possession of the collection. Not until 1993 did the Russian Culture Minister Yevgeny Sidorov acknowledge that the treasure was indeed in Russia, part in the Puskin Museum in Moscow and pat in the Hermitage in ST. Petersburg, and that it belonged to the world.

D. Sixth city was probably Homer’s Troy — may have been VIIa — or there may have been no Trojan War


E. Dorpfeld’s Troy, Level VI

"Wilhelm Dorpfeld was an architect who helped Schliemann excavatge the Trojan site. In the spring of 1893, two years after Schlemann’s death, Dorpfeld, financially aided by Sophie Schliemann and Kaiser Wilhelm III of Germany, returned to Troy to continue the excavation. Dorpfeld opened up the southern slope of Hisarlik in a great curve around the hill and concluded that the Troy of the great war was Troy VI, a level that represented a time period some 1000 years later than Schliemann’s Troy II."

    1. Evidence
    1. Huge walls
    2. Settlement 250 yards across
    3. Immense watchtower at northeast corner
    4. Walls made in sections with pronounced batter (slope)
    5. Gate on east protected by a long overlapping wall
    6. Gate on east protected by a long overlapping wall
    7. Base of a large square tower built with beautifully fitted limestone blocks
    8. Important gate on the southern side with another massive tower fronted by stone bases
    9. One area of wall inferior
    10. Mycenaean pottery found throughout the city
    11. Debris piled up in many places
    12. Broken walls, large houses ruined
    13. Fortification walls dislodged
    14. No signs of fire

"If Homer’s ‘Troy of the towering gates’ had a basis in fact, it was Troy VI that the Iliad immortalized. The imposing citadel, facing out toward the Aegean, stood as testament to the ingenuity and prowess of its creators. Enclosed in massive cut-stone walls [16 feet thick] topped by mud-brick ramparts and watchtowers, the fortress housed a magnificent town. Laid out in concentric terraces and transected by broad streets, Troy VI consisted of two tiers. The lower precincts contained stone manor houses, most likely private dwellings. Within an inner-wall stood temples and palaces, the heart of Hisarlik’s richest, most enduring citadel." [John Fleischman, Smithsonian.]



F. Carl Blegen’s Troy, Level VIIA

"Carl Blegen was a trained archaeologist and University of Cincinnati Professor of Archaeology. After spending many years in excavating Mycenaean sites, he received permission from the Turkish government to continue the excavation at Troy. His dig lasted for seven seasons from 1932-1938"

    1. Carl Blegen (Un. Of Cinn.) in 1958 asserted the "fundamental historicity of the Greek tradition" and claimed that its "basic solidity and reliability … can no longer be denied."
    2. Evidence
    1. City buried in masses of burned mud bricks, charred wood and debris
    2. Scorched building remains
    3. Many small homes partitioned off into one room "multiple tenancies."
    4. Signs of overcrowding
    5. Little Mycenaean pottery
    6. Skeletons in mass graves
    7. Parts of a human skeleton found in the doorway of a building
    8. A building which Blegen thought was a bakery adjoined a building that might have been a public saloon. These buildings were located right inside the main gate and might have been a kind of snack bar for soldiers returning from battle
    9. Bronze arrowhead
    10. Large storage jars sunk into the floors of the houses
    1. M.I. Finley (Cambridge Un.) in 1974 argued the "the plain fact is that Blegen found nothing, literally nothing … to warrant his historical conclusion. Not a scrap was uncovered at Troy to point to Agamemnon or any other conquering king or overlord, or to a Mycenaean coalition, or even to a war."
    1. John Caskey , Blegen’s associate at Troy, wrote: "The physical remains of Troy VIIA do not prove beyond question that the place was captured at all. An accidental fire, in unlucky circumstances, on a day a strong wind was blowing, might account for the general destruction that is known to have occurred. Troy VIIa destroyed by fire c. 1220 B.C.
    1. closer chronologically to traditional date of Trojan War
    2. but VIIa’s small size is inconsistent with Homer’s of a mighty and defiant fortress
    3. But if VIIa represents merely a fortress — not the whole city, then size is not so inconsistent
    4. At least two lines of the Iliad have been shown to be a century or more older than the 13th-century B.C. Troy itself — could have been earlier sacking
    5. The "Willusiad" mentioned in Luvian was written in 13th-century B.C. but is likely centuries older

H. Archaeological Evidence — Summary

    1. Controversy

"Heinrich Schliemann’s conclusion was that level II represented the Troy of the Iliad. He believed that the richness of the objects found in connection with level II represented a city as wealthy as that described by Homer. AT the time of his excavation Mycenaean sites had not yet been explored, so Schliemann did not recognize that the pottery found in association with level II was earlier than that of the Mycenaeans. Since it was Mycenaean Greeks who fought the Trojans… [it is likely] that the occupation of level I was too early to represent the time of the Trojan War."

"Archaeologists and historians are divided as to whether level VI or level VIIA is more likely to be the Troy of the Trojan War. Level VI includes grand buildings and Mycenaean pottery, but it was destroyed without fire and was not looted, which suggests that the city suffered from a natural disaster rather than an invasion. Level VII A, on the other hand, was burned and showed signs of people living under siege, as they would during a war. But the small houses and poor construction techniques of level VIIA show … that the city would not have looked like the splendid place described by Homer. The city attacked by the Mycenaeans may have been either that of level VI or level VIIA." [Amanda H. Podany, "Archaeological Evidence from Troy," in The Origins of Greek Civilization: From the Bronze Age to the Polis ca. 2500-600 B.C. ( National Center for History in the Schools, 1991), p. 51.]

2. No archaeological proof that the Trojan War ever took place or ended with the destruction of Troy

  1. Trojan Civilization, 1600-1200 B.C.
    1. Height of civilization
    2. Contemporaneous with Mycenae and Knossos
    3. Rich in gold — the Golden Fleece sought by the Argonauts may literally have been a sheepskin used to wash and catch gold particles in the Rion River. The legend may serve as a metaphor for the Aegean-Black Sea gold trade as early as the third millennium B.C. [Ottaway, "New Assault on Troy, Archaeology (September-October, 1991), p. 59.]
    4. Pottery resembled that of Mycenae — Between 2500 and 2300 B.C. Troy was already mass-producing pottery for trade and transportation
    5. "The Trojans … traded regularly with the Mycenaeans, especially during the early fourteenth century B.C. This is seen in the large number of pieces of Mycenaean pottery that are found towards the end of the level VI period of occupation at Troy. On the other hand, no recognizably Trojan have been found in Greece. Perhaps the Greeks were obtaining textiles, horses, or even food from the Trojans.

      "By the time of level VIIA at Troy, trade with the Mycenaean Greeks had decreased considerably." Perhaps this was because "the Mycenaeans, the Trojans, or both, had economic problems at the time," or it may have been because they had become enemies. [Podany, "The Trojan War," pp. 42-43.]

    6. Thirty-foot wall with four gates defended the main city
    7. Economy
    1. Controlled commerce and secured tribute from vessels going into Black Sea ports -- Troy’s strategic placement on Besik Bay made it a "pirate fortress." "Whoever sailed through these straits was obliged (whether by choice or necessity) either to remain on good terms with the inhabitants of Hisarlik or to force them into submission." The masters of Hisarlik were in position to collect the toll at Besik. But the citadel was itself a tempting target for raiders after plunder or attackers after revenge -- and the source … the "many Trojan wars… taking place perhaps every 10 or 20 years." [Manfred Korfmann]
    2. Copper, olive oil, wine, pottery — from Aegean region
    3. Pottery, horses, amber, swords, tin — from Danubian region
    4. Bronze — as early as 2500-2300 B.C. Troy was mass-producing bronze daggers, swords and shields to enhance its military power. Troy was the first place in the Aegean where bronze appeared in large quantities, perhaps because tin, a critical ingredient, came from Central Asia through the Black Sea and the Dardanelles. [Ottaway, "New Assault on Troy, Archaeology (September-October, 1991), p. 59.]
    5. Jade — from China
    6. Exported
    1. Timber
    2. Silver
    3. Gold
    4. Wild asses
    5. Bronze — rich metallurgical industry
    6. Wool — spun yarn and textiles
    7. Horses — center of the horse trade
    1. Fish — important — Hellespont was rich fishing area
    2. Relatively rich agricultural region
    1. Legendary King Priam — built up federation of states in northern Anatolia
  1. Causus Belli and Long War c. 1194-1184 B.C.
    1. Trojan demands for tribute
    2. Commercial rivalry with Mycenaean cities
    3. May have been taxing or blocking Anotolian sources of metals badly needed by Myceaean Greeks
    4. Extortion
    5. "The Dardanelles is the outlet for all the great rivers of the interior — the Danube, the Don and the Dnieper — that pour into the Black Sea. The water flows through the Bosporus and down the Sea of Marmara. As the land narrows, the westward current surges through the Dardanelles at an average of about three mile per hour. The current is often driven by a prevailing north wind that can hold for weeks and months at a time."

      For the Bronze Age ships under sail and oar to make a successful run of the Dardanelles would have required a perfectly timed approach. And when the wind was not right, they would have had to wait in Besik Bay, the last safe harbor before the strait. They dragged their galleys up onto the sandy beach and camped until the wind changed, and in these latitudes the wait might be days, weeks, or even months.

      "In the small hours of the night, the flocks move quietly over the hills from Troy until they reach Besik. Unobserved, the shepherd counts the campfires on the beach below, looking for new arrivals. Long before dawn, the princes in the citadel at Troy have word: another ship of foreigners bound for the Dardanelles has been driven into Besik Bay."

      "Bronze Age ships carried no more than 50 rowers. Appearing without warning, a war party from the citadel could overpower them easily. Perhaps their leader took the ship’s master aside. Favorable winds might not come for some time, the armed prince might have said. ‘You could be our guest for months. Your ship has many rich things on board. Perhaps you’d like to give us something.’ Extortion or ‘dockage’ fee, the message was clear to the sailors."

      "`Troy was known and disliked for this throughout the eastern Mediterranean for centuries….’" The Trojans probably levied a fee on wind-bound shipping as early as 3,000 B.C. They operated from a" small, windswept hamlet perched on the headland above the beach at Besik. Eventually … the hamlet became too exposed, both to wind and sea raids. But inland, a citadel, perched on a hill to be called Hisarlik, rose against the horizon, and over time grew stronger and richer. Centuries later, the citadel of Late Bronze Age Troy stood there."[John Fleischman, Smithsonian.]

    6. Desire by Greeks to loot Troy’s fabulous wealth
    7. Abduction of Helen, if indeed it ever occurred, pretext for assault on Troy
    1. Following the tradition of the 6th century B.C. poet Stesichorus, Herodotus implied that Helen was not present in Troy at all, but rather in Egypt and that the besieging Greeks could not be dissuaded by the Trojan claims that Helen was not in the city.
    2. Thucydides, writing in the 5th century B.C. when the prestige for Greek women was rather low, did not recognize that marriage to a woman like Helen might have had political and economic implications. He rejected the story that the kidnapping of Helen could have been the proximate cause of the war and asserted that the Greeks fought the Trojans to extend their economic and political influence over the eastern Mediterranean region. [Sarah B. Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiqauity, (New York: Schocken Books, 1995), 18.]
    1. Conflict between East and West
    1. Common enemy for Anatolia
    2. Troy — many allies
    1. May not have been single siege of 10 years — logistical challenge or impossibility for invaders and besieged city
    1. Greeks may have plundered a number of Anatolian cities
    2. May have been attacks or raids -- off and on for 10 years
    3. Mycenaeans may have been pressed in Greece by Dorians or uprising — sought new lands
    1. Trojan Horse
    1. Poseidon — "Earth-Shaker" — Horse was associated with Poseidon — earthquake brought down walls of Troy — evidence that earthquake devastated Troy VI c. 1300 B.C.
    2. Siege engine — horse-like — battering ram to knock down gates or walls — Assyrian model


The Trojan horse was probably an engineer’s device for breaking down the walls. The legends stress that the wall came down when the horse entered the city. This could have been a garbled recollection of a siege machine. They certainly existed in Near Eastern warfare at the time. Powerful ‘wooden horses’ containing many men to operate the ram which opened up city walls had been developed in Assyria. However, there is no proof that Aegean-area warriors of the 12th century used them.

H. Unlikely that the Greek fleet landed at the mouth of the Scamander River, directly north of Troy, inside the southeast entrance to the Dardanelles in what was a bay with a river delta — "… the strong, five-knot southward current of Black Sea water funneling through the mouth of the Dardanelles near Troy, and the steady northwest winds averaging nine-and-a-half miles and hour down the straits of the Dardanelles, would have made it very difficult for Mycenaean Greeks to sail into the Dardanelles to the mouth of the Scamander. They did not know how to sail against the wind, and their ships did not have a deep keel. Also, there were, and still are, good water sources southwest near Besik Bay; there are none in what would have been a marshy delta of the Scamander River to the north." [James H. Ottafway;, "New Assault on Troy," Archaeology (September/October, 1991), p. 58.]