In search of the trojan war
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In Search of the Trojan War. ART/CNE 430 10/28/04. Gallery at Tiryns. Excerpt from the Mycenae-Epidaurus tourist guidebook. Heinrich Schliemann & the Rediscovery of Troy. The Evidence for Troy. Homeric epic Trojan War Cycle Wood recounts the story and introduces the major players.

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In Search of the Trojan War

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In search of the trojan war

In Search of the Trojan War



Gallery at tiryns

Gallery at Tiryns

Excerpt from the mycenae epidaurus tourist guidebook

Excerpt from the Mycenae-Epidaurus tourist guidebook

Heinrich schliemann the rediscovery of troy

Heinrich Schliemann & the Rediscovery of Troy

The evidence for troy

The Evidence for Troy

  • Homeric epic

  • Trojan War Cycle

  • Wood recounts the story and introduces the major players.

  • The Greeks believed in the reality of Troy.

Homer s description

Homer’s Description

  • Epithets of Troy/Ilios:



    Lofty gates

    Fine towers

    Wide streets

    Sacred, steep, very windy

Homer s account of the layout

Homer’s Account of the Layout

  • Great city with strong walls, big enough to hold a large population. 4 gates, one with a tower.

  • Palace of Priam at the top, with halls of state, a throne room, 50 marble rooms for his sons, royal halls for Hektor and Paris.

  • Agora

  • Temple of Athena in the higher city, temple of Apollo in the citadel.

  • Sizeable acropolis with a lower walled town with a population in the thousands.



  • Greek tradition has it that the Greeks plundered and burned Troy, razing its walls before they left.

  • The Rape of Cassandra: Wood recounts the power of this legend over the Greek imagination. The Lokrians, descendants of the line of the Lesser Ajax, from c. 700 BCE sent girls to serve in Athena’s temple at Troy; their lives were akin to slaves. This custom continued through the 1st c. CE.

History or myth

History or Myth?

  • Ancient Greeks pretty uniformly held the War to be historical. We saw the two early historians, Herodotus and Thucydides, “rationalizing” the story.

Ancient chronology

Ancient Chronology

  • In classical Greece, historical chronology went back to the first Olympiad, in 776 BCE, about the same time as the Greek alphabetic writing appears.

  • The general prehistoric chronology was maintained in mythic tradition.

Ancient dates for the trojan war

Ancient Dates for the Trojan War

  • Herodotus: 1250 BC

  • Ephorus: 1135 BC

  • Doulis of Samos: 1334 BC

  • Eratosthenes (librarian of Alexandria): 1184-1183 BC

  • These were computed by estimating the length of generations.

Parian marble king list

Parian Marble King List

  • 14th c. BC: cult of Eleusis founded

  • 1251 BC: Sack of Thebes

  • 1209 BC: June 5, Sack of Troy

  • 1202 BC: Foundation of Salamis in Cyprus

  • 1087 BC: First Greek settlements in Ionia

  • 907 BC: Homer’s floruit

Archaic and classical greeks venerated their heroic past

Archaic and Classical Greeks Venerated Their Heroic Past

  • Hero cults

  • Tourist visits to the ruins of famous cities of the past, like Mycenae

  • See J. Boardman’s The Archaeology of Nostalgia: How the Greeks Re-Created Their Mythical Past (2002).

Classical pottery fragment from over grave circle a i am for the hero

Classical Pottery Fragment From Over Grave Circle A: ‘I am for the hero’

The afterlife of the trojan war myth

The Afterlife of the Trojan War Myth

  • Wood traces devotion to the myth from the archaic period on.

  • C. 700 BCE colonists reinhabited the place, calling it Ilion.

  • Xerxes (480 BC): desired to see Troy before he crossed the Hellespont, according to Herodotus. He sacrificed 1000 oxen to Athena and made libations to the great men of old.



  • Alexander the Great (4th c.): carried a copy of Homer with him and slept with it under his pillow (will Colin Farrell do this in the movie?). When he crossed over to Asia, he was the first to jump onto the ground, throwing his spear into it to claim it as his own. Dedicated his armor to Athena in exchange for that said to be from the TW. He then made an offering at Achilles’ Tomb.

Achilles tomb at troy

Achilles’ Tomb at Troy



  • Alexander’s successors built a city wall.

  • By Roman times, the town had almost died.

  • Julius Caesar, fired up by the myth and his Trojan ancestry, visited the Sigeum promontory and the river Simois, looking for the wall Apollo had built. He was reportedly disappointed not to see more. He promised to rebuild Troy.

  • Constantine the Great (4th c. CE) tried first to build his new capital on the Sigeum ridge at Troy before giving up (silted up harbor) and founding Constantinople.



  • The emperor Julian in a letter recounts his happiness at finding the shrines and cult sites of heroes at Troy still maintained by the Christian bishop (354-5 CE).

  • The fall of the Roman empire resulted in a loss of culture and a loss of Greek literature such as Homeric epic.

  • But the story of the Trojan war survived orally.

  • Wood traces the transmission of accounts of the TW from Saxon stories up through WWI (Gallipoli).

British poet rupert brooke on fighting near troy

British Poet Rupert Brookeon Fighting Near Troy

“They say Achilles in the darkness stirred . . And Priam and his fifty sons

Wake all amazed, and hear the guns,

And shake for Troy again.”

Patrick shaw stewart

‘Achilles came to Troyland

And I to Chersonese:

He turned from wrath to battle,

And I from three days’ peace.

Was it so hard, Achilles,

So very hard to die?

Thou knowest and I know not -

So much the happier I.

I will go back this morning

From Imbros over the sea;

Stand in the trench, Achilles,

Flame-capped, and fight for me.’

Patrick Shaw-Stewart

Why homer

Why Homer?

  • The popularity of Homer in Victorian and Edwardian English imagination perhaps reflects the role of the Iliad in the public school system. On the fields of war, Homer evoked the most powerful images in those brought up to see themselves as the new Athenians.

20th 21st centuries

20th - 21st Centuries

  • The story still holds us - scholars such as Bernard Knox reread their Homer and Vergil on the fields of World War II, and the popularity of books such as Achilles in Vietnam attests to the power of the story as a lens through which to view the modern experience of war. In the war in the former Yugoslavia, images of the Trojan Women came to the minds of many observers.

The searchers

The Searchers

  • Troy’s general site was never forgotten.

  • Wood recounts travelers accounts from the Middle Ages on.

  • In the 15th - 16th centuries, the spread of printing allowed the dissemination of Homer in translation for the first time, triggering a continous stream of Western visitors to the Troad.

  • 18th c.: First scholarly attempts to discover the exact location of Homeric Troy: detective story.

Robert wood

Robert Wood

  • In the mid 1700s, he ‘laid the foundations for the modern topographical study of the Trojan problem.”

  • His premise that Troy’s location and the historicity of the Trojan War could be determined by patient field research set the tone for the future.

  • His book was wildly popular, issued in 5 editions and translated into 4 languages.

In search of the trojan war


“It is precisely its power as a myth which has excited belief in its historicity - the story moves us so much that it must be true. Many archaeologists, professed scientists, have neverthless been able to encompass this within their scientific ‘truth’!” (p. 36)

Frank calvert

Frank Calvert

  • Has a claim to be called the discoverer of Troy.

  • His family had lived in the Troad since Byron’s day until WWII. He served as the American consul in the Dardonelles.

Calvert hisarlik

Calvert & Hisarlik

  • All three Calvert brothers talked to Schliemann, who was perhaps influenced by Frank’s fascination with Troy.

  • Before 1864, Calvert felt that Hisarlik was the site of Ilion; he went by topography and physical remains such as potsherds. In 1863, he’d tried to interest the British Museum in excavating the site. In 1864, he bought the north part of Hisarlik, and the next year did trial excavations in 4 places. Discovered deep stratifications (50 ft), but needed lots of money to excavate further.

Schliemann hisarlik

Schliemann & Hisarlik

  • Schliemann made his own myth, in his publications of his excavations and other arenas.

  • According to this, it had been his childhood dream, & his destiny, to excavate Troy.

Schliemann s search

Schliemann’s Search

  • Most likely it was Schliemann’s meeting with Calvert in 1868 that triggered his interest in Troy.

New ilium

New Ilium

Excavation of hisarlik

Excavation of Hisarlik

  • Schliemann obtained permission and began a preliminary excavation in 1870; over 1871-3 he conducted 3 major campaigns with 80-160 workmen on site. He drove vast trenches into the ground, removing hundreds of tons of earth & rubble.

Methodological disagreements

Methodological Disagreements

  • Calvert had recommended a network of smaller trenches; by 1872 Calvert withdrew from the excavation and fallen out with Schliemann, who was perplexed by the mound’s stratigraphy.

Schliemann s homeric troy

Schliemann’s Homeric Troy

  • Identifying 4 prehistoric levels in the stratigraphy, Schl. Selected Troy II as his Homeric Troy, with its burnt layer and rich goods.

Troy ii

Troy II

  • This site was only 100 yards across.

  • Calvert wrote an article in 1873 pointing out that no relics of the intervening 1000 years having yet been discovered between prehistoric stone implements & archaic style pottery.

Treasure of priam

Treasure of Priam

  • Stung by Calvert’s criticism, Schliemann soon thereafter discovered the “Treasure of Priam.”

Treasure of priam1

Treasure of Priam

Treasure of priam2

Treasure of Priam

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