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The Trojan War took place in the 12th or 13th century BC and lasted around 10 years. It took place in the city of Hisarlik in modern day north western Turkey in the Bronze Age. In and before the 17th century A.D. Many believed that the Trojan war didn’t actually happen and was thought to be just a Greek mythological story until the late 1870’s when a German Archeologist named Heinrich Schliemann excavated the site by using the story of the Trojan war from an ancient Greek writer and poet named Homer.
Homer was a blind Greek poet who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. In the Iliad Homer writes about half way through the Trojan war, describing the origins of the war, how Helen ran away from her husband, the king of Sparta, with the prince of Troy. In it Homer also writes about the Greek heroes, such as Achilles and Ajax, he also writes about some of the Trojan heroes such as Hector. The Trojan horse is then mentioned by Homer and thought to be a cunning Greek military strategy that ultimately destroyed the Trojans. Agamemnon burned the city to the ground. Homer also wrote the Odyssey which was about King Odysseus’s return journey to Greece after the Trojan war.
Through the use of these two texts Heinrich Schliemann was able to find the actual area of Troy. Through thorough excavations Schliemann was able to excavate many levels of Troy and believes that the 9th level was the Troy described in Homer’s texts due to the fact that there was evidence of burnt walls.
The story of the Trojan war starts out around 1193 BC. One of the main reasons of the war was that the youngest Prince of Troy, Paris, dishonoured all means of hospitality by running off with Helen the wife of the king of Sparta, King Menelaus. This angered the King who decided to go to his brother King Agamemnon of Mycenae, for assistance. Agamemnon had always wanted to take over Troy but was frequently stopped by his brother and so saw this as an opportunity to finally take over this beautiful city. Helen of Sparta is referred to in Homer’s writings to have had the face that launched a thousand believed to be the most beautiful woman during the time.
In Homer’s stories the gods were involved during the war. They would come down and take part in the war and help the Greeks and Trojans in different aspects of the war. Homer took for granted that his audience knew a war had been fought for what was alternately called Ilios or Troy. The bard was mainly concerned with describing the wrath of Achilles and its consequences. He used Troy and the war as a poetic setting for a conflict between men and gods. From the archaeologist’s point of view, however, the Iliad can be interpreted as a “setting” in an entirely different sense. One may see Homer or his informants as eyewitnesses to Troy and the landscape of Troy at the close of the eighth century B.C., the period when scholars generally agree Homer composed his epic.
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Troy was largely a ruined site in Homer’s day, but the remains of Troy VI/VIIa, both the citadel and the lower city, were still impressive. Contemporary audiences and later ones from the area around the city were supposed to be able to recognize the general outlines of places where the action happened from descriptive references in the Iliad. They could visualize it, for instance, whenever they climbed up a slope to a sanctuary in “holy Ilios.”
“Holy Ilios” is the most frequently repeated description in the Iliad, and one would expect to see a sacred building in such a place. We can make a convincing case for a sanctuary or sanctuaries, maybe in the form of a wooden building, from the early seventh century B.C. at the latest–roughly contemporary with Homer–on this site, which subsequently served as a cult center into the late Roman Empire. There is nothing in the archaeological record to contradict the assertion that Troy and the surrounding countryside formed the setting for Homer’s Iliad in 700 B.C.
Although Troy is in Anatolia, Carl Blegen, who directed excavations at the site in the 1930s, regarded Troy VI/VIIa as a Greek settlement. The idea of a Greek Troy, one that had also been entertained by Schliemann, became firmly established. These excavators had come from Greece to Troy, both literally and figuratively, and later returned to Greece, and were biased, most likely unconsciously, in their outlook. However, until the 1930s there was very little archaeologically within Anatolia that might have been compared with Troy, and certainly not in western Anatolia.
We know today, from our own excavations and even from earlier ones, that in all main respects, Bronze Age Troy had stronger ties with Anatolia than with the Aegean. We’ve learned this from the tons of local pottery and small finds, such as a seal with a local hieroglyphic inscription, as well as the overall settlement picture, mud-brick architecture, and cremation burials. Research by Anatolian specialists has shown that what we today call Troy was in the Late Bronze Age the kingdom of Wilusa, powerful enough to conclude treaties with the Hittite Empire; even the Egyptians seem to have been familiar with the city. Furthermore, according to Hittite records, there were political and military tensions around Troy precisely during the thirteenth and early twelfth centuries B.C.–the supposed time of Homer’s Trojan War.
In conclusion the fact that the land area in which Homer described the war to have taken place in his writings was archeologically discovered, proves that on one of the levels of the excavations at one point in history, an actual war had taken place among men over a woman , land, power and wealth.
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