Monday 18 February 2019

The Search for Troy

The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy

In my first three books I refer to ‘Greek Troy’, using the Greek name ‘Troia’. My Troia was a mythical city, but didn’t Troy disappear well before the Greek classical Age?
No, Troy was established in 3,000 BC by an Anatolian people (probably Luwians) who according to Homer could speak the same Greek as their Mycenaean foes so might have been related. 
From the very first Troy was a massive and wealthy fortress city controlling lucrative sea and land trade routes. It maintained its independence, possibly for thousands of years despite having many hungry neighbours and fighting several wars.

By classical Greek times (under the name Ilion) it was said to have dwindled, but it was still visited by Xerxes and Alexander the Great, to name a few. It was involved in that part of the wars between Athens and Sparta that were fought in Greek Turkey. It became large again in Roman and Byzantine times and was important in tourism, wars and local politics. It even had its own Bishop. Most of its functions were progressively taken over by ‘Constantinople’. It was finally abandoned maybe eight hundred years ago, as Christian Constantinople began its terminal decline, leading to its fall and the start of the so called ‘Dark Ages’. 

There may have been doubts about the historical accuracy of Homer’s classic, but there could never have been much doubt about the existence of Troy and its approximate location, despite some claims.

Heinrich Schliemann, who did the deepest excavation at Troy, perpetuated a lot of colourful myths around the ancient city and his own life, some of which linger today. Some of his more outrageous claims are still repeated uncritically (e.g. he had devised a method to learn any language in six weeks).

 Simply put, he was a conman, adventurer and self publicist, one who had become wealthy.
Claiming sole credit, he took over the careful archaeological excavations of his ‘partner’ Frank Calvert with money, dynamite and brash ignorance. He assumed Priam’s Troy would be at the lowest level, and his workers hastily blasted down to a level which would have been a thousand years before Homer’s tale. In doing so, they discarded any upper levels that would have included ‘Priam’s Troy’ and maybe his palace. He left a massive trench which forever destroyed much of the archaeological evidence. Even the shy Calvert was appalled and publicly denounced his conclusions, referring to the pottery record.

Still Schliemann for all his faults, inflamed popular enthusiasm for Aegean archaeology and (partly by setting a bad example) drew attention to the need for more careful archaeological excavation and the importance of ‘strata’ in a dig. Later he did improve his techniques and listen to advisors. 

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