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The Trojan War - Fact or Fiction?

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The Trojan War Ð'- Fact or Fiction?

The Trojan War. Confined totally to the pages of Homer's The Illiad, the indulgent fantasy of a Greek poet who lived over two and a half thousand years ago- or a historic fact at the centre of the most famous quarrel ever? The Illiad is the ancient tale of a mighty city called Troy that lay at the edge of Asia Minor whose prince abducted Helen, the most beautiful woman of all time, from the king of Greek Sparta, causing the Greeks to send an army in a thousand ships to attack and lay siege to Troy for 10 years. Historians have long doubted the credibility of Homer as a reliable historical source. However evidence has been uncovered by archaeologists to suggest that The Iliad has some basis in truth within the epic saga and that although the Trojan War occurred, it may not have occurred as according to Homer. Evidence such as the excavation of Hissarlik, Troy VI and the Hittite tablets has proven the existence of Troy as well as the occurrence of the Trojan War. The Illiad version of the battle is altered by poetic license in the reason and duration of the war and also the real defenders of Troy, however at the centre of Homer's tale is an actual event all the more epic for being true.

Troy was dismissed by all credible historians as an old Greek myth before Heinrich Schliemann excavated the ancient city. Schliemann, a millionaire merchant, had read Homer's account of the Trojan War and had later searched the pages of The Illiad for geographical clues. He believed they placed ancient Troy in the northwest corner of modern day Turkey. In 1870, Schliemann began preliminary excavations at the mound of Hissarlik where local custom also reinforced his belief that this was the site of Troy. Schliemann- an amateur excavator with no real archaeological experience -dug a trench through the centre of the mound. This process was destructive and destroyed large walls, however, it did reveal a walled palace with a paved ramp leading to its gate, wide roads- matching Homer's description of Troy. Gold and jewels were also found testimony of a rich and advanced culture. Schliemann believed these jewels had once belonged to Helen of Troy, however, being archaeologically inept he had dated the jewels incorrectly. Each generation builds on the remains of its predecessors, forming a sequence of layers (strata). The deeper you dig, the older the layer. At Schliemann's site there were nine layers and "Helen's Jewels" had been found in Level II, which was later dated (by examining the artifacts and remains found in that layer) at around 2300 BC Ð'- making them 1000 years too old to have been worn by Helen. The Bronze Age Ð'- in which Legendary Troy was set Ð'- was four layers up in Level VI, dated at 1250. In this layer, the style of pottery and housing changed to a style similar to that in Mycenae of the same period, leading experts to conclude that Troy was taken over by foreigners in the late Bronze Age.

Schliemann had unearthed an ancient city that, though wealthy and well located, seemed to be too small to be the Troy that had withstood a ten-year siege. Legendary Troy was once again dismissed, until a scientific archaeologist named Manfred Korfmann discovered the lower city and so reignited the legend. All the physical features of the site Schliemann had excavated Ð'- wide streets, lofty gates, well walled with imposing watchtowers Ð'- matched Homer's descriptions, but the citadel was too small to have been able to cope with the demands of the siege. There was a fatal flaw in the physical defence of the massive walls Ð'- the gates built into them were not able to be closed. Korfmann suspected there was more to discover, and so he and a team of archaeologists began to excavate outside of the walls of the citadel and into the fields below. They unearthed remains and artifacts from the Bronze Age, which led him to believe that there was a lower city of Troy that had not yet been unearthed. Because it was too large an area to dig out by hand, Korfmann used magnetic imaging to discover the layout of the city below the surface. The city that was revealed had characteristics of classical Greek and Roman times- a much later period. Korfmann noticed one faint feature that was out of place- a deep ditch cut into rock that marked the boundary of the lower city. Korfmann surmised that its purpose was to keep enemy chariots from entering the city, located it in the fields below and found remains from the late Bronze Age buried in it. This evidence proves that the ditch marked the boundary of the city in the late Bronze Age, making the city a lot larger than was originally thought with a population of between four and eight thousand and completely supporting Homer's description of Troy.

Korfmann's team found that Bronze Age Troy had been destroyed by war and burnt to the ground.

They found evidence of violence, arrowheads and sling pellets heaped together suggesting close quarter fighting and many skeletons are found e.g. the skeleton of a sixteen year old girl with burnt feet. That a young girl would be buried rapidly in a public place is highly unlikely unless the city was under attack resulting in civilians dying in the streets.

Homer states that it was Mycenae that attacked Troy, and two and a half thousand years later modern archaeology supports him. The excavation of Mycenae as it was in the Bronze Age revealed that all roads in the country led to Mycenae, indicating that it was the centre of Greek civilization and therefore also the political centre Ð'- any expedition led against Troy would have been led by powerful Mycenae. From archaeological evidence gained over many years it is known

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