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View of the ruins of the Trojan citadel

Troy (Ancient Greek: Τροία), archaeological site in northwestern Turkey, chief city of the Trojans during the siege by the Greeks in the Trojan War, an event described in poetic terms in Homer's Iliad to have taken place around the 12th century B.C.[1] Archaeological research is centered on Hisarlık Tepe, a small hillock in the province Çanakkale in which archaeologists Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann identified as the most probable site of Troy in the 1860's, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site[2].

In addition to Homer, the Roman poet Virgil set down the Aeneid, an epic of the founding of ancient Rome by a Trojan prince who fled the city after the Greeks had sacked it.


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According to Greek mythology, the Trojan royal family finds its progenitors in Zeus and one of the Pleiades whose name was Electra, becoming the divine parents of Dardanus and Iasion. The myth has both sons living on the island of Samothrace, but Iasion had an affair with Demeter, resulting in his death at the hands of Zeus, and Dardanus leaving the island for Asia Minor. It was here he met Teucer, who treated him with respect enough to give him in marriage his daughter Batea.

Dardanus eventually became a king of the region he had named for himself, called Dardania. After his death the kingdom passed to his nephew Tros, who soon renamed the region "Troad". Ilus, one of Tros' sons, had won a wrestling tournament in Phrygia and as a prize the king offered fifty youths and fifty maidens, and a cow. Ilus was told the gift of the cow was based on an oracle that he should build a city in his own land where he saw the cow lay down, which it did at the hill Ate, and Ilus laid the groundwork for the foundation of what was to be known as Troy/Ilios. The inhabitants of Troy were collectively called "the Trojan people", while Teucer, together with the descendants of Dardanus, Tros and Ilus, were considered the eponymous founders of the site.

Trojan War

The most famous part of the story of Troy is the Trojan War itself, a conflict between Mycenaean Greeks (Achaeans) and the Kingdom of Troy that has generally been told and retold for about four centuries before being put down in writing by Homer, a Greek poet and bard who may or may not have existed. The conflict began when the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, Helen, eloped with the Trojan prince Paris, and to get her back, Menelaus received the backing of King Agamemnon of Mycenae. The army that was created sailed to Troy on a thousand ships and laid siege to the city for ten years; lacking the physical power to enter, the Greeks feigned giving up, leaving a large, wooden horse on the beach as a "gift" to Troy. The horse was pulled into the city, and the Achaean soldiers who had hidden inside it crept out, opened the city gates, and allowed the Achaeans to enter, resulting in the destruction of the city. Homer's tale involved age-old conflicts of right and wrong; the influence of the gods; the heroes Ajax and Nestor; the intercession of the Amazons in the aid of Priam; the doomed Patroclus who believed he could be a stand-in for his cousin, the nearly-indestructible Achilles, who would take vengeance against Hector on the plain before Troy, dragging his body around the city with his chariot. And when Troy was turned to ashes, Odysseus would face a ten-year journey to get back home to Ithaca, to find his wife the target of unwanted suitors.

The Illiad was first written down about 750 B.C., followed by the Odyssey around 725 B.C. Both works are ascribed to Homer. About 29 B.C. Virgil wrote his epic Aeneid, in which the tale recounted Trojans who fled the destruction to Carthage; led by Prince Aeneas, they would leave for the Italian peninsula, founding the city of Rome on the banks of the Tiber River. Written during the period of the first emperor Augustus, Virgil's epic had the intention of giving the Romans a history as impressive as any the Greeks had.

Archaeological history

Heinrich Schliemann

Since the early nineteenth century the discovery of a variety of inscriptions had convinced Edward Daniel Clarke and John Martin Cripps that the site of Troy was on the hill of Hissarlik[3][4], about 4.5 km from the entrance to the Dardanelles. In his dissertation on the topography of the surrounding plain published in Edinburgh in 1822, the Scottish geologist Charles MacLaren had advanced the hypothesis that the position of the Greco-Roman site known as "New Ilium" coincided with the city sung by Homer[5].

In 1871 the German businessman and amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann had followed the descriptions given in the Homeric texts and organized an archaeological expedition. His excavations concentrated on the hill of Hissarlik, where a previous archaeological excavation of the French school led by Calvert had taken place; Calvert had owned a portion of the hill at the time, and lived and excavated there for 15 years[6]. Here Schliemann found himself faced with several layers, which corresponded to different periods in the history of Troy[7].

Excavating at the second layer from the bottom, he brought to light an immense treasure and thought he had discovered the legendary treasure of Priam narrated in the Iliad. Its findings, however, date to the 13th century B.C. and not to the period of the Trojan War. Subsequent excavation campaigns were conducted by Wilhelm Dörpfeld (1893-1894) and Carl Blegen (1932-1938), whose research led to the discovery of nine superimposed levels, with various subdivisions, and dated with the help of the analysis of the objects found and the examination of the construction techniques used.

The many excavations made it possible to reconstruct a history of Troy, establishing ten phases of occupation over time. The first four settlements (Troy I-IV) developed during the 3rd millennium B.C., and have a clear cultural continuity even with the fifth settlement. Troy VI attests to a second flowering of the city, leading to the main candidate - Troy VII - of the city identified as the site of Homer's epic tale.

Troy VIII and IX respectively cover archaic Greece to the period of classical Greece represented by the so-called "age of Pericles", the epoch of Hellenism and finally that of Roman civilization. Troy X is the urban center at the time of the Byzantine Empire. From the first settlement up to Troy VII there are no written records left to help evaluate the historical and social development of the city.

Troy I

The original citadel of Troy has at least twelve different phases of construction which developed, according to Blegen and others, over the course of five centuries between 2920 and 2500/2450 B.C. Its stratigraphy measures more than thirteen feet deep on only half of the northwestern hill.

Unearthed by Schliemann, it consists of a fortified stone wall enclosure of quadrangular bastions nearly eight feet; the traces found on the east side (irregular stones and reduced from the upper side) measure a height of 11.4 feet and control the entrance. Other foundational structures found include a rectangular plan for homes with remains of an internal megaron, i.e. a house or room with an open forecourt and internal hearth[8]. Also appearing for the first time are ceramics decorated with schematic human faces. It housed a population whose culture, called Kum Tepe after a nearby hill[9], is considered to belong to the early Bronze Age. It was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt, giving rise to Troy II.

Troy II

Sofia Schliemann wearing one of the two golden diadems found at the site of Troy
Part of "Priam's treasure" as displayed by Heinrich Schliemann, ca. 1873
Ceremonial ramp leading to the southwest gate of the citadel, identified with Troy II.

Although abruptly destroyed, there is no chronological or cultural interruption between Troy I and Troy II, which was developed between 2500/2450 and 2350/2300 B.C. and comprised at least eight construction phases occupying an area of ​​nearly 97,000 square feet. This phase of occupation was initially discovered by Schliemann and reviewed by Dörpfeld, a real small town with brick houses that show signs of destruction by fire. It was Troy II which Schliemann erroneously assumed to be the Troy of Homer.

According to Dörpfeld it was a very prosperous city, as the remains of the great city walls were found, as well as the imperial palace and its 600 wells and more, where supplies were usually kept: these generally contained fragments of large jars for storage of assets.

The polygonal wall was built with bricks erected on a stone base. It had two large access doors, which could be reached through stone ramps and square towers at the corners. The main door is located on the south-west side, which through a small portico led directly to the royal palace, the most important building. Originally about 130 feet wide, Dörpfeld found the remains of a platform that could have supported a large house. The other structures that ran alongside it, also discovered by Dörpfeld, should assumed to be the private residences of the royal family and the central warehouse where the surplus stocks were brought and stored.

The great simplicity of the buildings of the whole Troy II complex is in stark contrast to the architecture of contemporaries, such as Akkad of Mesopotamia or the Old Kingdom of Egypt; both of whom enjoyed richly-laid, colorful architecture and lush gardens. This simplicity of the Trojan buildings of Troy is even more surprising when compared with the discovery there of the famous treasure of Priam, the most massive and significant artistic heritage of the third millennium B.C., and one of the most important findings in the history of archeology. Composed of valuables in precious metals and precious stones, Schliemann donated it to his hometown of Berlin, Germany, which kept it in a museum until the Second World War. Among the precious objects there was a large disc provided with an omphalos (ὀμφᾰλός "navel"[10]) - a kind of swelling in the center of the object - and a wide flat handle ending with a series of smaller discs, and possibly used to sift for gold in a fashion similar to tools found in Ur and in Babylon. The gems consisted of golden cups, flasks, and personal jewelry: earrings, two diadems of solid gold which adorned the forehead with a thin fringe, thick gold chains each ending with a pendant of gold leaf or leaf shaped leaves; all have been recovered together with a series of necklaces and pendants placed in a large silver pitcher. And it was during the Second World War that this treasure would disappear, not to be seen again until 1993 when Russian president Boris Yeltsin revealed that they were war booty, and stored in the Pushkin Museum[11][12].

Troy III

Towards the end of the third millennium BC a first wave of an invasion of Indo-European peoples to the Mediterranean basin marks notable changes, which are also recorded in Troy in phases III to V of the city's existence. The cultural life does not seem to be interrupted, but the material remains are scarce; what little that was found indicate a much lower quality of life than that of the preceding period. Troy III (2350/2300 - 2200 B.C.), is the name given to this phase, a smaller site than the one that had preceded it, but built almost entirely in stone and no longer in clay bricks. Characteristic of this short period are the vases of anthropomorphic form, such as the one found by Schliemann in 1872.

Troy IV

With an area of ​​17,000 square meters, Troy IV (2200 - 1900 B.C.) shows the same technique of raising the walls peculiar to sites II and III. Instead, the domed ovens and a type of four-room house are of a completely new style.

Troy V

Troy V (1900 - 1700 B.C.) is a complete and complete reconstruction of Troy IV, based on a more regular urban plan and with more spacious houses, but represents a cultural break with previous settlements. With it ends the Mycenaean phase of the history of Troy, and the beginning of Anatolian influence.

Troy VI

Troy VI (1700 - 1300 B.C. or 1250 B.C.) is a large elliptically-shaped city set on ascending terraces, fortified by tall, thick walls made of huge, squared, polished stone blocks, with towers and doors. It corresponds to a crucial period in the history of Anatolia between the end of the Assyrian commercial colonies of Kültepe-Kanish (second half of the 18th century B.C.) and the formation and expansion of the Hittite empire until the first half of the 13th century B.C.

It was a prosperous place, home to a royal court, a prince or governor and administrative center, which gradually expanded to reach its distinctive form during the 14th century B.C. It was inhabited by a population of Indo-European immigrants who engaged in new activities such as horse breeding and training, marking and embossing a remarkable development in the technology of bronze and practicing the funeral rite of cremation. Most of the pottery fragments found are gray ceramics from Anatolia. Other types of ceramics belonging to the Mycenaean civilization have also been found and constitute evidence of the existence of trade relations between Troy and the Mycenaean Greeks.

Among the fundamental structures of Troy VI are the fortifications, with the monumental bastion or bulwark of some 30 feet in height, with high and very sharp angles that dominated the course of the Scamander River. The arrangement of the walls was about 660 x 984 feet - double the oldest enclosure - winding in a second concentric circle to the previous one with an average height of 19 feet and a thickness of 16 feet.

The layout of the buildings and streets were adapted to the circular shape of the walls, whose center was made up of the vast royal palace with its temple. In another hill closer to the sea, was found a necropolis of the same period of the Bronze Age burials with men, women and children, as well as funerary objects made from the same type of pottery found at Troy VI. Some cremation remains have also been found here.

A vast lower city, located at the base of the acropolis, was discovered by Manfred Korfmann's expedition in 1988[13], helped by a new technique called magnetic prospecting[14]. Following this discovery, the city as a whole is believed to have had a size of over 86.4 acres, about thirteen times larger than the citadel itself, and making Troy one of the largest cities of the Bronze Age.

Its population would have been between 5,000 and 10,000; during a siege it is estimated that it could accommodate up to 50,000 inhabitants of the entire region. Facing it, in 1993 and 1995, two parallel ditches of 3 to 6 feet in depth were discovered, which could have served as a defense against an attack perpetrated by war chariots; a fortified gate has also been found that starts from the walls of the lower city and a paved road that leads from the Scamander plain to the west gate of the citadel.

Troy VI was probably destroyed by an earthquake around 1300 BC, although some researchers are inclined to indicate its end around 1250.

Panoramic view of Hisarlik, with the various ruins of Troy from different periods of its history. Center-left are Greco-Roman ruins from Troy VIII to IX; the large wall to the right is from Troy VI to VII, the time of Homer's Illiad.

Troy VII

The city was immediately rebuilt, but had a short life (1300 - 1170 B.C.) which is referred to in archaeology as "Troy VIIa". The signs of destruction by fire led Blegen to identify this layer as the one corresponding to Homeric Troy. Dörpfeld was in favor of the thesis that the settlement of Troy VIIa, in which there is a thick layer of ash and charred remains, suddenly and violently exploded which can be dated around 1200 B.C. Among the remains found in this layer were skeletons, weapons, gravel deposits that could be the ammunition for the shooting with the harness - and, interpreted by some as very significant, the tomb of a young girl covered with a series of sheets from refueling, indicating an urgent burial due to a siege.

Moreover, the date of its end does not differ much from the dating that, according to the duration of the generations, a group of Greek scholars such as Herodotus, Eratosthenes mention, while the historian Duris of Samos and the philosopher Timaeus suggest 1334 B.C. Therefore, some scholars say that the city of Priam corresponds to Troy VII-A, despite the undoubted artistic and architectural inferiority that distinguishes it from its previous layer.

At the next level, dated to the 12th century B.C. and called "Troy VIIb1", remains of a barbarian type of ceramic were found, which was not made with the lathe but rather by hand with a coarser clay. Similar results have also been found in other areas and it is therefore assumed that at this time a foreign people from the Balkans had taken control of the territory.

In addition, the city shows a large accumulation of burned land up to one meter deep, with large and sudden changes, but do not interrupt the continuity of life on the site, where the walls and houses have been preserved; it has been deduced that during this period there have been at least two fires and that the last one produced the end of this urban settlement.

The highest evidence of a new component of social and cultural sign is represented by the level of Troy VIIb2, dated to the 11th century B.C. Recovered was pottery called "knobbed ware" (although ceramic remains have also appeared similar to that of the previous phase and also a pair of remains of Mycenaean pottery) with the horns in the form of decorative projections, mainly spread within the Balkan territory and probably the heritage of newcomers who either peacefully infiltrated in the region or followed the product of cultural exchanges between Troy and other foreign regions. The construction technique of the city varies significantly with orthostats[15] used to reinforced the walls in the lower courses with monumental megaliths.

In 1995 a document was found written in this layer consisting of a bronze seal/stamp, where the signs of a writing system appear in the Luwian language called Luwian hieroglyphics[16]. It was deciphered in its general sense, finding that one side contains the term "scribe", while in the back part the word "woman" and, on both sides, a benevolent sign. Therefore it is assumed that the owner of the seal must have been a public official. Troy VIIb2 fell due to a fire, probably due to natural causes.

Troy VIIb3 was dated up to about 950 B.C. The differentiation of this layer with the previous one led Korfmann to argue that after the end of the urban city immediately or shortly after another colony had to be distinguished from the previous one, characterized by the use of geometric ceramics and that disappeared in turn around 950 B.C. Afterwards the place must have remained almost uninhabited up to 750-700 B.C. In contrast to this hypothesis, Dieter Hertel believes that some Greek tribes can be established on the site immediately after the end of Troy VIIb2.


Dating back to the 8th century B.C., it is an unfortified Greek colony, yet with a flourishing architectural activity, especially of a religious nature; the first important cult building discovered at that time, called témenos (τέμενος), is still preserved in the solemn center of the area in which it was located the altar and another from the time of Augustus was added to it on the western side. Below is a lower témenos, with two altars, perhaps dedicated to the sacrifices of two as of yet unknown divinities. The sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Athena, whose origins there could date back to the 9th century B.C., was transformed into a large temple in strict Doric style of the 3rd century B.C. For this, and for the construction of the Stoà, some buildings of the Trojan acropolis from previous eras have been demolished.

Troy IX

Julius Caesar played a role in the founding of the Roman period of Troy, now called "New Illium". Although he did not set foot there, his adopted son and heir Augustus made a trip there in the year 20 A.D., giving the site Roman buildings including an odion; later emperors would erect baths and an aqueduct.

Troy X

It was Korfmann who called the layer characterized by the few remains that belonged and correspond to the period of the Byzantine Empire - previously discovered by Schliemann and Dörpfeld - between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, in which Troy was a small bishop's seat. An earthquake in A.D. 500 marked the end of Troy as an inhabited site.

Wilusa connection

Frequently identified with Homeric Troy and the archaeological site of Hisarlik, Wilusa gained this distinction because of the etymological proximity of the name to the other common name of Troy, Ilios. The identification was later corroborated by reconstructions of the political geography of the Hittite Empire as reflected in diplomatic and administrative documents[17]. In 1920, a Swiss scholar who pioneered the study of the Hittites as a separate sub-field of archaeology, Emil Forrer claimed that the Greek words Ilios ("Troy") and Troia (the "Troad") should be identified with "Wilusa" and "Taruisa", two words referring to specific place names taken from surviving Hittite texts. It was also determined from the Hittite texts that the kingdom of Arzawa was once a source of tension between the Hittites and a kingdom known only as "Ahhiyawa", which lay off the western coast of Anatolia. Since Arzawa was identified as the region of the Troad in northwestern Turkey, it has come to the conclusion that, since there was no more room for a kingdom on western Anatolia at that time, "Ahhiyawa" could only be identified as the Mycenaean Greeks, aka the "Achaeans" of Homer.[18]

Another piece of information, conveyed by the correspondence of a Hittite vassal, provides an additional element. The document relates the military expedition of an enemy of the Hittites, Piyama-Radu, king of Millawa (probably Miletus). Just before attacking Wilusa, Piyama-Radu had attacked the island of Lazba, which probably corresponds to Lesbos, an island close enough to Hisarlik to be visible to the naked eye. He held Wilusa until it passed to his son, Alaksandu. Although the career of Piyama-Radu is very different than that of Priam of Troy, some scholars are convinced that both are one and the same, with Alaksandu being Paris[19].


  1. Encyclopedia of Military History, Dupuy & Dupuy, 1979
  19. Piyama-Radu