The ancient city of Troy, a legendary city in classical literature and Hollywood films alike, has been an attraction to visit for at least twenty-five centuries. Visitors such as Alexander the Great, who stopped at Troy in 334 BC while on route east to conquer Asia, came to Troy looking for the city immortalized in Homer's Iliad. Presently, archaeologists visit Hisarlik, a site in northwest Turkey, as it is believed to be the location of the ancient city. Alexander must have been puzzled when he had arrived in Ilion, the name of the city at the time of his visit. Ilion was a small colony founded centuries after the Trojan War supposedly took place; Alexander and his men must have had a similar reaction to what they saw as many a tourist does today. Visiting the site today, you will find no grand buildings, just broken marble blocks everywhere, and stubs of stone protruding from the ground at every possible angle. To the ancient Greeks, the Iliad was the fountain of Western civilization. Troy, to the Romans, was the birthplace of Aeneas, who escaped the burning city to found Rome. So what is the real story of this city? Is the Iliad a true account of history, or just a tale that has been passed down through the generations, for the sole entertainment of its audiences? These are questions that classics experts, archaeologists, and even palaeontologists have studied for many years. The Iliad can never be seen as pure history as the work predates, by three centuries, the concept of history as a sourced analysis of past events. But by studying the stories, as well as the physical evidence left behind today, we can find clues to the reality in this myth.
A German archaeologist from the University of Tubingen, Manfred Korfmann, believes:
The epic may be a composite, loosely based on real events that took place over a long period. Instead of a single Trojan war, he believes, there were dozens of conflicts fuelled by Troy's geopolitical strategic position astride the sea-lanes of the Dardanelles. The prevailing winds and currents would trap ships for months in Troy's harbor on the Aegean, where they were ripe for plunder or simply the collection of a port tax. (Fleischman)
It was these practices, according to Korfmann, that had made Troy very rich, yet hated throughout the sea. Troy was feared by sailors, and had also become a great target for military ventures. Korfmann called Troy "a pirate fortress." (Fleischmann)
In the late Bronze Age, villages had started to come together into larger regions. The first of these to come to significant power was Mycenae. Mycenae was across the Aegean from Troy, and was the mythical seat of King Agamemnon. According to Homer, it was here in Mycenae that the trouble with the Trojans had begun. Paris of Troy (with a little push from the Gods) kidnapped Helen; then married to Agamemnon's brother, Menelous. Agamemnon came to the aid of his brother by getting Odysseus, Achilles, and...