Troy (Wilusa, Ilion, Troia, Ilium, Troya) is a
legendary city and center of the Trojan War, as described in the
Epic Cycle, and especially in the Iliad, one of the two epic poems
attributed to Homer. Trojan refers to the inhabitants and culture of
Today it is the name of an archaeological
site, the traditional location of Homeric Troy, Turkish Truva, in
Hisarlık in Anatolia, close to the seacoast in what is now Çanakkale
province in northwest Turkey, southwest of the Dardanelles under
The layers of ruins on the site
are numbered Troy I – Troy IX, with various subdivisions of Early
Bronze Age (3000–2500 BC),
Middle Bronze Age (2500–2000 BC), and of Late Bronze Age (2000–1200
A new city of Ilium was founded on the site in
the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus. It flourished until the
establishment of Constantinople and declined gradually during the
In the 1870s the German archaeologist Heinrich
Schliemann excavated the area. Later excavations revealed several
cities built in succession to each other. One of the earlier cities
(Troy VII) is often identified with Homeric Troy. While such an
identity is disputed, the site has been successfully identified with
the city called Wilusa in Hittite texts; Ilion (which goes back to
earlier Wilion with a digamma) is thought to be the Greek rendition
of that name.
The archaeological site of Troy was added to
the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.
Troy were transmitted to the
historical Greeks entirely through the written Epic Cycle, of which
Homer's Iliad is the familiar part. Other epic material, such as Cypria was known in Antiquity but is lost to us. Further ancient
material is only known to us in much later literary recensions, such
as the fourth century CE Posthomerica of Quintus of Smyrna. Aside
from this mass of material, modern philologists have laboured to
tease out the few discernible threads of the earlier legendary
material that preceded Homer, from which he worked.
According to Greek mythology the Trojans were the
citizens of the ancient municipality of Troy in the Troad region of
Anatolia. Troy is presented anachronistically in legend as if it
were part of the Greek culture of City states. Since the entire
state comprised more than the city of Troy itself, anyone from its
jurisdiction, which was mainly the Troad, might be termed "Trojan"
in ancient literature. An alternative classical Greek and Latin
term was "Teucrians", a name taken from an ethnicity of the south
Troad. Troy was known for its riches gained from port trade with
east and west, fancy clothes, iron production, and massive defensive
walls. The major language spoken there and the derivative cultures
remain uncertain. Legend for the most part ignores language and
makes the presumption that Trojans had no problem understanding
The Trojan royal kinship, in Greek eyes, traced
its descent from the Pleiad Electra and Zeus, the parents of
Dardanus. Dardanus, according to Greek myths was originally from
Arcadia but according to Roman myths was originally from Italy,
having crossed over to Asia Minor from the island of Samothrace,
where he met King Teucer. Teucer was himself also a coloniser from
Attica, and treated Dardanus with respect. Eventually Dardanus
married Teucer's daughters, and founded Dardania (later ruled by
Aeneas). Upon Dardanus' death, the Kingdom was passed to his
grandson Tros, who called the people Trojans and the land Troad,
after himself. Ilus, son of Tros, founded the city of Ilium (Troy)
that he called after himself. Zeus gave Ilus the Palladium. Poseidon
and Apollo built the walls and fortifications around Troy for
Laomedon, son of Ilus the younger. When Laomedon refused to pay,
Poseidon flooded the land and demanded the sacrifice of Hesione to a
sea monster. Pestilence came and the sea monster snatched away the
people of the plain.
In Sardis a self-identified Heracleid dynasty
ruled for 505 years until the time of Candaules. The dynasty's
founding myth legitimizes their rule by asserting that one
generation before the Trojan War, Heracles captured Troy and killed
Laomedon and his sons, except for young Priam. Priam later became
king. During his reign, the Mycenaean Greeks invaded and captured
Troy in the Trojan War (traditionally dated to 1193–1183 BC). The
Ionians, Cimmerians, Phrygians, Milesians of Sinope and Lydians
moved into Asia Minor. The Persians invaded in 546 BC.
The Maxyans were a west Libyan tribe who said
that they were descended from the men of Troy, according to
Herodotus. The Trojan ships transformed into naiads, who rejoiced to
see the wreckage of Odysseus' ship.
Some famous Trojans are: Dardanus (founder of
Troy), Laomedon, Ganymede, Priam and his children (including Paris,
Hector, Cassandra and Troilus), Oenone, Tithonus, Memnon, Corythus,
Aeneas and Brutus. Kapys, Boukolion and Aisakos were Trojan princes
who had naiad wives. Some of the Trojan allies were the Lycians and
the Amazons. The Aisepid nymphs were the naiads of the Trojan River
Aisepos. Pegsis was the naiad of the River Granicus near Troy.
"Helen of Troy" was born not at Troy but at Sparta.
Mount Ida in Asia Minor is where Ganymede was
abducted by Zeus, where Anchises was seduced by Aphrodite, where
Aphrodite gave birth to Aeneas, where Paris lived as a shepherd,
where the nymphs lived, where the "Judgement of Paris" took place,
where the Greek gods watched the Trojan War, where Hera distracted
Zeus with her seductions long enough to permit the Achaeans, aided
by Poseidon, to hold the Trojans off their ships, and where Aeneas
and his followers rested and waited until the Greeks set out for
Greece.Buthrotos (or Buthrotum) was a city in Epirus where Helenus,
the Trojan seer, built a replica of Troy. Aeneas landed there and
Helenus foretold his future. i
Ancient Greek historians placed the Trojan War
variously in the 12th, 13th or 14th century BC: Eratosthenes to 1184
BC, Herodotus to 1250 BC, Douris to 1334 BC.
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 today is some 15
kilometers from the coast, but the ancient mouths of alleged
Scamander, some 3,000 years ago, were some 5 kilometers further
inland, pouring into a bay that has since been filled with
alluvial material. Recent geological findings have enabled the
reconstruction of how the Trojan coastline would have looked, hence
they indicate that Homeric geography of Troy is accurate.
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. The Homeric legend of Troy was
elaborated by the Roman poet Virgil in his work the Aeneid. The
Greeks and Romans took for a fact the historicity of the Trojan War,
and in the identity of Homeric Troy with the site in Anatolia.
Alexander the Great, for example, visited the site in 334 BC and
made sacrifices at the alleged tombs of the Homeric heroes Achilles
In November 2001, geologists John C. Kraft from
the University of Delaware and John V. Luce from Trinity College,
Dublin presented the results of investigations into the
geology of the region that had started in 1977. The geologists
compared the present geology with the landscapes and coastal
features described in the Iliad and other classical sources, notably
Strabo's Geographia. Their conclusion was that there is regularly a
consistency between the location of Troy as identified by Schliemann
(and other locations such as the Greek camp), the geological
evidence, and descriptions of the topography and accounts of the
battle in the Iliad.
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
Tubingen recently demonstrated that the name of Priam 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's not
entirely clear whether Luwian was primarily the official language or
it was also in daily use. i
The layers of ruins on the site are numbered Troy
I – Troy IX, with various subdivisions of Early Bronze Age
Middle Bronze Age (2500–2000 BC), and of Late Bronze
Age (2000–1200 BC):
Troy I 3000–2600 (Western Anatolian EB
Troy II 2600–2250 (Western Anatolian EB
Troy III 2250–2100 (Western Anatolian
EB 3 [early])
Troy IV 2100–1950 (Western Anatolian EB
Troy V: 20th–18th centuries BC (Western
Anatolian EB 3 [late]).
Troy VI: 17th–15th centuries BC.
Troy VIh: late Bronze Age, 14th century
Troy VIIa: ca. 1300–1190 BC, most
likely candidate for Homeric Troy.
Troy VIIb1: 12th century BC
Troy VIIb2: 11th century BC
Troy VIIb3: until ca. 950 BC
Troy VIII: around 700 BC
Troy IX: Hellenistic Ilium, 1st century
The archaeological site of Troy was added to the
UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998. i
The first city 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. i
Troy VI was destroyed around 1300 BC, probably by
an earthquake. Only a single arrowhead was found in this layer, and
no bodily remains. i
The archaeological layer known as Troy VIIa,
which has been dated on the basis of pottery styles to the mid- to
late-13th century BC, is the most often-cited candidate for the Troy
of Homer. It was a walled city with towers reaching a height of nine
meters; the foundations of one of its bastions measure 18 meters by
18 meters. It appears to have been destroyed by a war, and there are
traces of a fire.
Until the 1988 excavations, the problem was that
Troy VII seemed to be a hill-top fort, and not a city of the size
described by Homer, but later identification of parts of the city
ramparts suggests a city "at least ten times larger than earlier
excavators - and thus the broader public - had supposed".
Manfred Korfmann estimated the area of Troy VII at 200,000 square
metres or more and put its population at five to ten thousand
inhabitants, which makes it "by the standards of its day a large and
Troy VIIb1 (ca. 1120 BC) and Troy VIIb2 (ca. 1020
BC) appear to have been destroyed by fires. Partial human remains
were found in houses and in the streets, and near the north-western
ramparts a human skeleton with skull injuries and a broken jawbone.
Three bronze arrowheads were found, two being in the fort and one in
the city. However, only small portions of the city have been
excavated, and the finds are too scarce to clearly favour
destruction by war over a natural disaster. i
The last city on this site, Hellenistic Ilium,
was founded by Romans during the reign of the emperor Augustus and
was an important trading city until the establishment of
Constantinople in the fourth century as the eastern capital of the
Roman Empire. In Byzantine times the city declined gradually, and
eventually disappeared. i
With the rise of modern critical history, Troy
and the Trojan War were consigned to the realms of legend. In the
1870s (in two campaigns, 1871–73 and 1878/9), however, the German,
self-taught archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann excavated a hill,
called Hisarlik by the Turks, near the town of Chanak (Çanakkale) in
north-western Anatolia. Here he 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 Hisarlik have become
known as Priam's Treasure. They were acquired from him by the Berlin
museums, but significant doubts about their authenticity persist.
After Schliemann, the site was further excavated
under the direction of Wilhelm Dörpfeld (1893/4) and later Carl
Blegen (1932-8). These excavations have shown that there were at
least nine cities built one on top of each other at this site.
In 1988 excavations were resumed by a team of the
University of Tübingen and the University of Cincinnati under the
direction of Professor Manfred Korfmann. Possible evidence of a
battle was found in the form of arrowheads found 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 2003 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. i
In summer 2006 the excavations continued under
the direction of Korfmann's colleague Ernst Pernicka, with a new
digging permit. i
In the 1920s the Swiss scholar Emil Forrer
claimed that placenames found in Hittite texts — Wilusa and Taruisa
— should be identified with Ilium and Troia respectively. He further
noted that the name of Alaksandus, king of Wilusa, mentioned in one
of the Hittite texts is quite similar to the name of Prince
Alexandros or Paris, of Troy.
An unnamed Hittite king wrote a letter to the
king of the Ahhiyawa, treating him as an equal and implying that
Miletus (Millawanda) was controlled by the Ahhiyawa, and also
referring to an earlier "Wilusa episode" involving hostility on the
part of the Ahhiyawa. This people has been identified with the
Homeric Greeks (Achaeans). The Hittite king was long held to be
Mursili II (ca 1321-1296), but since the 1980s his son Hattusili III
(1265-1240) is commonly preferred, although Mursili's other son
Muwatalli (ca 1296-1272) is still considered a possibility.
An Egyptian inscription at Deir al-Madinah
records a victory of Ramesses III over Sea Peoples, including some
named Tursha (spelled [twrš3] in Egyptian script). These are
probably the same as the earlier Teresh (found written as [trš.w])
of the Merneptah Stele, commemorating Merneptah’s victory in a
Libyan campaign at about 1220 BC. Although this may be too early for
the Trojan War, some scholars have connected the name to the city
mentioned in Hittite records as Taruisas, or Troy.
These identifications were rejected by many
scholars as being improbable or at least unprovable. Trevor Bryce in
1998 championed them in his book The Kingdom of the Hittites, citing
a recovered piece of the so-called Manapa-Tarhunda letter, which
refers to the kingdom of Wilusa as beyond the land of the Seha
(known in classical times as the Caicus) river, and near the land of
Lazpa (Lesbos Island).
Recent evidence 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 archaeological Troy and of the
Achaeans with the Ahhiyawa remain controversial, but gained enough
popularity during the 1990s to be considered a majority opinion.
The events described in Homer's Iliad, even if
based on historical events that preceded its composition by some 450
years, will never be completely identifiable with historical or
archaeological facts, even if there was a Bronze Age city on the
site now called Troy, and even if that city was destroyed by fire or
war at about the same time as the time postulated for the Trojan
No text or artifact has been found on site itself
which clearly identifies the Bronze Age site. This is probably due
to the levelling of the former hillfort during the construction of
Hellenistic Ilium (Troy IX), destroying the parts that most likely
contained the city archives. In 1995, a single biconvex seal of a
Luwian scribe was found in one of the houses, proving the presence
of written correspondence in the city, but not a single text. Our
emerging understanding of the geography of the Hittite Empire makes
it very likely that the site corresponds to the city of Wilusa. But
even if that is accepted, it is of course no positive proof of the
site's identity with Homeric (W)ilion.
A name Wilion or Troia does not appear in any of
the Greek written records from the Mycenean sites. The Mycenaean
Greeks of the 13th century BC had colonized the Greek mainland and
Crete, and were only beginning to make forays into Anatolia,
establishing a bridgehead in Miletus (Millawanda). Historical Wilusa
was one of the Arzawa lands, in loose alliance with the Hittite
Empire, and written reference to the city is therefore to be
expected in Hittite correspondence rather than in Mycenaean palace
The dispute over the historicity of the Iliad was
very heated at times. The more we know about Bronze Age history, the
clearer it becomes that it is not a yes-or-no question but one of
educated assessment of how much historical knowledge is present in
Homer. The story of the Iliad is not an account of the war, but a
tale of the wrath, vengeance and death of individual heroes that
assumes common knowledge of the Trojan War which forms its
background. No scholar assumes that the individual events in the
tale (many of which involve divine intervention) are historical
fact. On the other hand, no scholar claims that the text is entirely
devoid of memories of Mycenaean times. i
Some archaeologists and historians maintain that
none of the events in Homer are historical. Others accept that there
may be a foundation of historical events in the Homeric stories, but
say that in the absence of independent evidence it is not possible
to separate fact from myth in the stories.
In recent years scholars have suggested that the
Homeric stories represented a synthesis of many old Greek stories of
various Bronze Age sieges and expeditions, fused together in the
Greek memory during the "dark ages" which followed the fall of the
Mycenean civilization. In this view, no historical city of Troy
existed anywhere: the name derives from a people called the Troies,
who probably lived in central Greece. The identification of the hill
at Hisarlik as Troy is, in this view, a late development, following
the Greek colonisation of Asia Minor in the 8th century BC.
Another view is that Homer was heir to an
unbroken tradition of epic poetry reaching back some 500 years into
Mycenaean times. In this view, the poem's core could reflect a
historical campaign that took place at the eve of the decline of the
Mycenaean civilization. Much legendary material would have been
added during this time, but in this view it is meaningful to ask for
archaeological and textual evidence corresponding to events referred
to in the Iliad. Such a historical background gives a credible
explanation for the geographical knowledge of Troy (which could,
however, also have been obtained in Homer's time by visiting the
traditional site of the city) and otherwise unmotivated elements in
the poem (in particular the detailed Catalogue of Ships).
Linguistically, a few verses of the Iliad suggest great antiquity,
because they only fit the meter if projected back into Mycenaean
Greek, suggesting a poetic tradition spanning the Greek Dark Ages.
Even though Homer was Ionian, the Iliad reflects the geography known
to the Mycenaean Greeks, showing detailed knowledge of the mainland
but not extending to the Ionian islands or Anatolia, which suggests
that the Iliad reproduces an account of events handed down by
tradition, to which the author did not add his own geographical
A small minority of contemporary writers argue
that Homeric Troy was not in Anatolia, but located elsewhere:
England, Croatia, and Scandinavia have been proposed. These
theories have not been accepted by mainstream scholars.
The language of Trojans is unknown, although
several Trojan names may be identified as Luvian. The status of the
so-called Trojan script is still disputable (up to whether it was
script at all or something different).
The nation T-R-S is mentioned as one of the
"Peoples of the Sea" in ancient Egyption inscriptions.
Troy 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 progenitor of
all of them is undoubtedly that promulgated by Virgil in the Aeneid,
tracing the ancestry of the founders of Rome, more specifically the
Julio-Claudian dynasty, to the Trojan prince Aeneas. The heroes of
Troy, both those noted in the epic texts or those purpose-invented,
continued to perform the role of founder for the nations of Early
Medieval Europe. Denys Hay noted the widespread adoption of
Trojan forebears as an authentication of national status, in Europe:
the Emergence of an Idea (Edinburgh 1957). The Roman de Troie was
common cultural ground for European governing classes, for whom
a Trojan pedigree was gloriously ancient, and it established the
successor-kingdoms of which they were direct heirs as equals of the
Romans. A Trojan pedigree justified the occupation of parts of
Rome's erstwhile territories (Huppert 1965).
The Franks filled the lacunae of their legendary
origins with Trojan and pseudo-Trojan names; in Fredegar's
seventh-century chronicle of Frankish history, Priam appears as the
first king of the Franks. The Trojan origin of Franks and 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.
Similarly Geoffrey of Monmouth traces the
legendary Kings of the Britons to a supposed descendant of Aeneas
called Brutus. Snorri Sturluson, in the Prologue to his Prose Edda,
converts several half-remembered characters from Troy into
characters from Norse mythology, and refers to them having made a
journey across Europe towards Scandinavia, setting up kingdoms as
they went. i
Today there is a Turkish town called Truva in the
vicinity of the archaeological site, but this town has grown up
recently to service the tourist trade. The archaeological site is
officially called Troia by the Turkish government and appears as
such on many maps.
A large number of tourists visit the site each
year, mostly coming from Istanbul by bus or by ferry via Çanakkale,
the nearest major town about 50 km to the north-east. The visitor
sees a highly commercialised site, with a large wooden horse built
as a playground for children, then shops and a museum. The
archaeological site itself is, as a recent writer said, "a ruin of a
ruin," because the site has been frequently
excavated, and because Schliemann's archaeological methods were very
destructive: in his conviction that the city of
Priam would be found in the earliest layers, he demolished many
interesting structures from later eras, including all of the house
walls from Troy II. For many years also the site
was unguarded and was thoroughly looted. However
what remains, particularly if put into context by one of the
knowledgeable professional guides to the site, is an illuminating
insight into civilizations of the Bronze Age, if not to the legends.
1. Troia is the preferred Latin name for
the city. Ilium is a more poetic term.
2. This is the view of Strabo, XIII.1.7.
3. Geography XIII, I, 36, Strabo, tr. H.
L. Jones, Loeb Classical Library.
4. Natural History, V,33, Pliny the
Elder, tr. H. Rackham, W. S. Jones and D. E. Eichholz, Loeb
5. Trojan battlefield reconstructed
8. Iliad, Discovery.
9. Starke, Frank. "Troia im Kontext des
historisch-politischen und sprachlichen Umfeldes Kleinasiens im 2.
Jahrtausend". // Studia Troica, 1997, 7, 447-87.
10. Latacz, Joachim (2004). Troy and Homer:
Towards a Solution of an Old Mystery, page 116. Oxford.
11. a b Latacz, Joachim (2004). Troy and
Homer: Towards a Solution of an Old Mystery, page 38. Oxford.
12. Universität Tübingen setzt Ausgrabungen
in Troia fort.
13. Carter-Morris, p. 34-35.
14. Iman Wilkens, Where Troy Once Stood,
(Groningen 2005), p. 68.
15. George Huppert, "The Trojan Franks and
their Critics" Studies in the Renaissance 12 (1965), pp. 227-241.
16. A. Joly first traced the career of the
Roman de Troie in Benoit de Sainte-More et le Roman de Troie (Paris
17. Exinde origo Francorum fuit. Priamo
primo rege habuerant,
18. Larousse du XIXe siècle sub "Fréret",
noted by Huppert 1965.
References and further reading
Carter, Jane Burr; Morris, Sarah P. The
Ages of Homer. University of Texas Press, 1995. ISBN 0292712081.
Easton, D.F.; Hawkins, J.D.; Sherratt,
A.G.; Sherratt, E.S. "Troy in Recent Perspective", Anatolian
Studies, Issue 52. (2002), pp. 75–109.
Latacz, Joachim (2004), written at
Oxford, Troy and Homer: towards a solution of an old mystery, Oxford
University Press, ISBN 0199263086
Fantasies of Troy: Classical Tales and
the Social Imaginary in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, edited by
Alan Shepard and Stephen D. Powell. Toronto: Centre for Reformation
and Renaissance Studies, 2004. i
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