Legend and history are well mixed in the ancient city of Troy, where the legendary Trojan war is supposed to have taken place. Although only ruins are left, stories of homeric heroes still revive and guide the visitor through a magic adventure. Nowadays, the national park of Troy is included in the Unesco World Heritage List and is to be found in the North Aegean part of Turkey, 37 km southern of Çanakkale.
The history of the place dates back to 3000 years BC and goes up till the first century BC. Archaeological excavations have revealed 9 ancient cities (Troy I to Troy IX) built one on top of the other. It is estimated that Troy VI or Troy VII was the city of King Priam, who was involved in the famous Trojan War. Troy VIII was a Greek city, while Troy IX a Roman one. Greeks called the city Ilion (the name Iliad of Homer’s epic poem comes from it), whereas Hittites called it Wilusa.
Due to its strategic location, the city often accommodated ships. The ships were actually intended to cross the Dardanelles, but had to stop to Troy because of strong winds. This is why it is believed that winds brought wealth to Troy. The city enjoyed important trade connections, which included the Aegean Sea and Mesopotamia. Its trade relations extended till the region of today’s Afghanistan. Strong connections were also preserved with the Hittite Empire, as it is depicted in a common trade and defence agreement signed by the Kings of the two parts. The city was attracting tourists even in ancient times. Alexander the Great also visited the site during his campaign and honoured the homeric heroes.
The legendary hero Aeneas was one of the last princes of Troy. According to Roman mythology, he fled from Troy with the help of gods after Greeks had conquered it and travelled to Italy, where he founded ancient Rome. He is, thus, considered as a progenitor of Romans and the Roman Empire. For this reason, Troy enjoyed particular importance during Roman times. The city was often exempted from taxes and profited from bonuses in order to restore theatres and archaeological sites.
The ruins of Troy were discovered by Heinrich Schliemann, a German businessman and pioneer in the field of archaeology. Although he is usually recalled as an archaeologist, it is not sure whether he had purely archaeological motivations or if he actually was a treasure hunter. When he started digging in the place of Hisarlik, where Troy is located, archaeology was not quite developed as a field yet. During excavations, he managed to reveal the ruins of ancient Troy but he destroyed important archaeological evidence. Finally, he managed to find gold and other precious items, which he called »Priam’s treasure». Then he smuggled the treasure out of Turkey and later on, his wife was seen wearing the famous jewels of Helen.
The trojan War
According to the legend, the war originated from a quarrel among Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. The goddesses were competing with each other, so Paris, son of Priam, was asked to choose the fairest of them. Hera promised him power and glory, Athena promised to make him a legendary and great warrior, whereas Aphrodite promised to give him Helen of Sparta, the most beautiful woman on earth by the time. Helen was wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. Paris, with the help of Aphrodite, stole Helen and took her to Troy, where she became his wife. After that, Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon gathered Achaeans and led a military expedition to Troy in order to take revenge for Paris’ insult. The war lasted ten years. The homeric poem Iliad concentrates on the last days of war describing battles in a magnificent narrative way. The city falls finally to Greeks only thanks to the intelligence of Odysseus, king of Ithaca. Odysseus suggested to build a big horse (the legendary trojan horse) and Achaeans hid into it. The horse was left outside the walls of Troy and Greek ships pretended to sail away. Trojans believed that Achaeans had left, perceived the horse as a gift and took it in the city. At night Achaeans came out of the horse, slaughtered the trojan population and conquered the city. Names of trojan and homeric heroes became known worldwide and revive to the memories still today.
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