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Troy (Greek: , Troia, also , Ilion; Latin: Trōia, Īlium; Hittite: Wilusa or Truwisa) was a city, both factual and legendary, best known for being the center of the Trojan War, as described in the Epic Cycle and especially in the Iliad, one of the two epic poems attributed to Homer. Trojan refers to the inhabitants and culture of Troy.

Metrical evidence from the Iliad and the Odyssey seem to show that the name Ἴλιον formerly began with a digamma (Ϝίλιον): this was later proved by the Hittite form Wilusa.

Today it is the name of an archaeological site, the traditional location of Homeric Troy, Turkish Truva, in Hisarlık, Anatoliamarker, close to the seacoast in what is now Çanakkale provincemarker in northwest Turkeymarker, southwest of the Dardanellesmarker under Mount Idamarker.

A new city of Ilium was founded on the site in the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus. It flourished until the establishment of Constantinoplemarker and declined gradually during the Byzantine era.

In 1865 an English archaeologist, Frank Calvert, excavated for many years the site at Hisarlık, near Truvamarker, where in 1870 a wealthy Germanmarker businessman, Heinrich Schliemann, also began excavating in this area which he claimed to be the ancient city of Troy. Later excavations revealed several cities built in succession to each other. One of the earlier cities (Troy VIImarker) is generally identified with Homeric Troy. While such an identity is disputed, the site has been successfully identified with the city called Wilusa in Hittite texts; Ilion (which goes back to earlier Wilion with a digamma) is thought to be the Greek rendition of that name.

The archaeological site of Troy was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.

Homeric Troy

Ancient Greek historians placed the Trojan War variously in our 12th, 13th, or 14th century BCE: Eratosthenes to 1184 BCE, Herodotus to 1250 BCE, Duris of Samos to 1334 BCE. Modern archaeologists associate Homeric Troy with archaeological Troy VIImarker.

In the Iliad, the Achaeans set up their camp near the mouth of the river Scamander (presumably modern Karamenderes), where they had beached their ships. The city of Troy itself stood on a hill, across the plain of Scamander, where the battles of the Trojan War took place. The site of the ancient city is some 5 km from the coast today, but the ancient mouths of alleged Scamander, some 3,000 years ago, were about that distance inland, pouring into a large bay which formed a natural harbour, but has since been filled with alluvial material. Recent geological findings have permitted the reconstruction of how the original Trojan coastline would have looked, and the results largely confirm the accuracy of the Homeric geography of Troy.

Besides the Iliad, there are references to Troy in the other major work attributed to Homer, the Odyssey, as well as in other ancient Greek literature. The Homeric legend of Troy was elaborated by the Roman poet Virgil in his Aeneid. The Greeks and Romans took for a fact the historicity of the Trojan War and the identity of Homeric Troy with the site in Anatolia. Alexander the Great, for example, visited the site in 334 BCE and made sacrifices at tombs there associated with the Homeric heroes Achilles and Patroclus.

In November 2001, geologists John C. Kraft from the University of Delawaremarker and John V. Luce from Trinity College, Dublinmarker presented the results of investigations, begun in 1977, into the geology of the region. They compared the present geology with the landscapes and coastal features described in the Iliad and other classical sources, notably Strabo's Geographia, and concluded that there is a regular consistency between the location of Schliemann's Troy and other locations such as the Greek camp, the geological evidence, descriptions of the topography and accounts of the battle in the Iliad. Further work by John Kraft and others was published in 2003.

After the 1995 find of a Luwian biconvex seal at Troy VII, there has been a heated discussion over the language that was spoken in Homeric Troy. Frank Starke of the University of Tübingenmarker recently demonstrated that the name of Priam is connected to the Luwian compound Priimuua, which means 'exceptionally courageous'. "The certainty is growing that Wilusa/Troy belonged to the greater Luwian-speaking community", although it is not entirely clear whether Luwian was primarily the official language or in daily colloquial use.

A small minority of contemporary writers argue that Homeric Troy was not in Anatolia, but located elsewhere: England, Croatia, and Scandinavia have been proposed. These theories have not been accepted by mainstream scholars.

Archaeological Troy

Archeological plan of the Hisarlik citadel
Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece and the Aegean
The layers of ruins in the citadel at Hisarlik are numbered Troy I Troy IX, with various subdivisions:

  • Troy I 3000–2600 BCE (Western Anatolian EB 1)
  • Troy II 2600–2250 BCE (Western Anatolian EB 2)
  • Troy III 2250–2100 BCE (Western Anatolian EB 3 [early])
  • Troy IV 2100–1950 BCE (Western Anatolian EB 3 [middle])
  • Troy V: 20th–18th centuries BCE (Western Anatolian EB 3 [late])
  • Troy VI: 17th–15th centuries BCE
  • Troy VIh: late Bronze Age, 14th century BCE
  • Troy VIIamarker: ca. 1300–1190 BC, most likely setting for Homer's story
  • Troy VIIb1: 12th century BCE
  • Troy VIIb2: 11th century BCE
  • Troy VIIb3: until ca. 950 BCE
  • Troy VIII: around 700 BCE
  • Troy IX: Hellenistic Ilium, 1st century BCE

The archaeological site of Troy was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.

Troy I–V

The first city on the site was founded in the 3rd millennium BCE. During the Bronze Age, the site seems to have been a flourishing mercantile city, since its location allowed for complete control of the Dardanellesmarker, through which every merchant ship from the Aegean Seamarker heading for the Black Seamarker had to pass. Around 1900 BCE a mass migration was set off by the Hittites to the east. Cities to east of Troy were destroyed and although Troy was not burned, the next period shows a change of culture indicating a new people had taken over Troy.

Troy VI

Troy VI was destroyed around 1300 BCE, probably by an earthquake. Only a single arrowhead was found in this layer, and no remains of bodies.

Troy VII

Troy VIIa, which has been dated to the mid- to late-13th century BCE, is the most often-cited candidate for the Troy of Homer. It appears to have been destroyed by war.

Troy IX

The last city on this site, Hellenistic Ilium, was founded by Romans during the reign of the emperor Augustus and was an important trading city until the establishment of Constantinoplemarker in the fourth century as the eastern capital of the Roman Empire. In Byzantine times the city declined gradually, and eventually disappeared.

Beneath part of the Roman city, the ruins of which cover a much larger area than the citadel excavated by Schliemann, recent excavations have found traces of an additional Bronze-Age settlement area (of lower status than the adjoining citadel) defended by a ditch.

Excavation campaigns

With the rise of modern critical history, Troy and the Trojan War were consigned to the realms of legend. However, the true location of ancient Troy had from classical times remained the subject of interest and speculation, so when in 1822 the Scottish journalist Charles Maclaren reviewed the available material and published A dissertation on the topography of the plain of Troy he was able to identify with confidence the position of the acropolis of Augustus's New Ilium in north-western Anatolia. In 1866 Frank Calvert, the brother of the United States' consular agent in the region, made extensive surveys and published in scholarly journals his identification of the hill of New Ilium (which was on farmland owned by his family) as the site of ancient Troy. The hill, near the town of Chanakmarker, was known to the Turks as Hisarlik.


In 1868 the German self-taught archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann visited Calvert and secured permission to excavate Hisarlık. In the 1870s (in two campaigns, 1871–73 and 1878–9) he excavated the hill and discovered the ruins of a series of ancient cities dating from the Bronze Age to the Roman period. Schliemann declared one of these cities—at first Troy I, later Troy II—to be the city of Troy, and this identification was widely accepted at that time. Schliemann's finds at Hisarlik have become known as Priam's Treasure. They were acquired from him by the Berlin museums, but significant doubts about their authenticity persist.
The view from Hisarlık across the plain of Ilium to the Aegean Sea

Dörpfeld, Blegen

After Schliemann, the site was further excavated under the direction of Wilhelm Dörpfeld (1893-4) and later Carl Blegen (1932-8). These excavations have shown that there were at least nine cities built one on top of each other at this site.


In 1988 excavations were resumed by a team of the University of Tübingenmarker and the University of Cincinnatimarker under the direction of Professor Manfred Korfmann, with Professor Brian Rose overseeing Post-Bronze Age (Greek, Roman, Byzantine) excavation along the coast of the Aegean Sea at the Bay of Troy. Possible evidence of a battle was found in the form of arrowheads found in layers dated to the early 12th century BCE. The question of Troy's status in the Bronze Age world has been the subject of a sometimes acerbic debate between Korfmann and the Tübingen historian Frank Kolb in 2001/2002.

In August 2003 following a magnetic imaging survey of the fields below the fort, a deep ditch was located and excavated among the ruins of a later Greek and Roman city. Remains found in the ditch were dated to the late Bronze Age, the alleged time of Homeric Troy. It is claimed by Korfmann that the ditch may have once marked the outer defences of a much larger city than had previously been suspected. The latter city has been dated by his team to about 1250 BC, and it has been also suggested- based on recent archeologic evidence uncovered by Professor Manfred Krofmann's team- that this was indeed the Homeric city of Troy.


In summer 2006 the excavations continued under the direction of Korfmann's colleague Ernst Pernicka, with a new digging permit.

Hittite and Egyptian evidence

In the 1920s the Swissmarker scholar Emil Forrer claimed that placenames found in Hittite texts—Wilusa and Taruisa—should be identified with Ilium and Troia respectively. He further noted that the name of Alaksandus, king of Wilusa, mentioned in one of the Hittite texts is quite similar to the name of Prince Alexandros or Paris, of Troy.

An unnamed Hittite king wrote a letter to the king of the Ahhiyawa, treating him as an equal and implying that Miletusmarker (Millawanda) was controlled by the Ahhiyawa, and also referring to an earlier "Wilusa episode" involving hostility on the part of the Ahhiyawa. This people has been identified with the Homeric Greeks (Achaeans). The Hittite king was long held to be Mursili II (ca 1321–1296), but since the 1980s his son Hattusili III (1265–1240) is commonly preferred, although Mursili's other son Muwatalli (ca. 1296–1272) is still considered a possibility.

The nation T-R-S is mentioned as one of the "Peoples of the Sea" in ancient Egyptian inscriptions.

An Egyptian inscription at Deir el-Medinamarker records a victory of Ramesses III over Sea Peoples, including some named Tursha (spelled [twrš3] in Egyptian script). These are probably the same as the earlier Teresh (found written as [trš.w]) of the Merneptah Stele, commemorating Merneptah’s victory in a Libyan campaign at about 1220 BCE. Although this may be too early for the Trojan War, some scholars have connected the name to the city mentioned in Hittite records as Taruisas, or Troy.

These identifications were rejected by many scholars as being improbable or at least not provable. Trevor Bryce in 1998 championed them in his book The Kingdom of the Hittites, citing a recovered piece of the so-called Manapa-Tarhunda letter, which refers to the kingdom of Wilusa as beyond the land of the Seha (known in classical times as the Caicus) river, and near the land of Lazpa (Lesbos Islandmarker).

Recent evidence adds weight to the theory that Wilusa is identical to archaeological Troy. Hittite texts mention a water tunnel at Wilusa, and a water tunnel excavated by Korfmann, previously thought to be Roman, has been dated to around 2600 BCE. The identifications of Wilusa with archaeological Troy and of the Achaeans with the Ahhiyawa remain controversial, but gained enough popularity during the 1990s to be considered a majority opinion.

Trojan language and script

The language of the Trojans is unknown, although several Trojan names may be identified as Luwian. The status of the so-called Trojan script is still disputable.

Troy in later legend

Such was the fame of the Epic Cycle in Roman and medieval times that it was built upon to provide a starting point for various founding myths of national origins. The progenitor of all of them is undoubtedly that promulgated by Virgil in the Aeneid, tracing the ancestry of the founders of Romemarker, more specifically the Julio-Claudian dynasty, to the Trojan prince Aeneas. The heroes of Troy, both those noted in the epic texts or those purpose-invented, continued to perform the role of founder for the nations of Early Medieval Europe. Denys Hay noted the widespread adoption of Trojan forebears as an authentication of national status, in Europe: the Emergence of an Idea (Edinburgh 1957). The Roman de Troie was common cultural ground for European governing classes, for whom a Trojan pedigree was gloriously ancient, and it established the successor-kingdoms of which they were direct heirs as equals of the Romans. A Trojan pedigree justified the occupation of parts of Rome's erstwhile territories (Huppert 1965).

The Franks filled the lacunae of their legendary origins with Trojan and pseudo-Trojan names; in Fredegar's seventh-century chronicle of Frankish history, Priam appears as the first king of the Franks. The Trojan origin of Franks and France was such an established article of faith that in 1714 the learned Nicolas Fréret was Bastilledmarker for showing through historical criticism that the Franks had been Germanic, a sore point counter to Valois and Bourbon propaganda.

Similarly Geoffrey of Monmouth reworking earlier material such as Historia Brittonum traces the legendary Kings of the Britons to a supposed descendant of Aeneas called Brutus. Snorri Sturluson, in the Prologue to his Prose Edda, converts several half-remembered characters from Troy into characters from Norse mythology, and refers to them having made a journey across Europe towards Scandinavia, setting up kingdoms as they went.


Today there is a Turkish town called Truva in the vicinity of the archaeological site, but this town has grown up recently to service the tourist trade. The archaeological site is officially called Troia by the Turkish government and appears as such on many maps.

A large number of tourists visit the site each year, mostly coming from Istanbulmarker by bus or by ferry via Çanakkalemarker, the nearest major town about 50 km to the north-east. The visitor sees a highly commercialised site, with a large wooden horse built as a playground for children, then shops and a museum. The archaeological site itself is, as a recent writer said, "a ruin of a ruin," because the site has been frequently excavated, and because Schliemann's archaeological methods were very destructive: in his conviction that the city of Priam would be found in the earliest layers, he demolished many interesting structures from later eras, including all of the house walls from Troy II. For many years also the site was unguarded and was thoroughly looted.


  1. Trōia is the preferred Latin name for the city. Ilium is a more poetic term:
  2. Strabo, Geography XIII, I, 36, tr. H. L. Jones, Loeb Classical Library; Pliny, Natural History, V.33, tr. H. Rackham, W. S. Jones and D. E. Eichholz, Loeb Classical Library.
  3. Geologists investigate Trojan battlefield, 7 February, 2003, BBC NEWS
  4. Confex.
  5. Nature.
  6. Iliad, Discovery.
  7. Harbor areas at ancient Troy: Sedimentology and geomorphology complement Homer's Iliad, Geoscience World (abstract)
  8. Press Release: Geology corresponds with Homer’s description of ancient Troy University of Delaware
  9. Starke, Frank. "Troia im Kontext des historisch-politischen und sprachlichen Umfeldes Kleinasiens im 2. Jahrtausend". // Studia Troica, 1997, 7, 447-87.
  10. Iman Wilkens, Where Troy Once Stood, (Groningen 2005), p. 68.
  11. Troy VII and the Historicity of the Trojan War, Dartmouth College (2000)- accessed 2007-03-17
  12. Troy VII and the Historicity of the Trojan War
  13. Universität Tübingen setzt Ausgrabungen in Troia fort.
  14. Carter-Morris, p. 34–35.
  15. George Huppert, "The Trojan Franks and their Critics" Studies in the Renaissance 12 (1965), pp. 227-241.
  16. A. Joly first traced the career of the Roman de Troie in Benoit de Sainte-More et le Roman de Troie (Paris 1871).
  17. Exinde origo Francorum fuit. Priamo primo rege habuerant,
  18. Larousse du XIXe siècle sub "Fréret", noted by Huppert 1965.

References and further reading

  • Carter, Jane Burr; Morris, Sarah P. The Ages of Homer. University of Texas Press, 1995. ISBN 0292712081.
  • Easton, D.F.; Hawkins, J.D.; Sherratt, A.G.; Sherratt, E.S. "Troy in Recent Perspective", Anatolian Studies, Issue 52. (2002), pp. 75–109.
  • Fantasies of Troy: Classical Tales and the Social Imaginary in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, edited by Alan Shepard and Stephen D. Powell. Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2004.
  • Ilios. The city and country of the Trojans: the results of researches and discoveries on the site of Troy and through the Troad in the years 1871-72-73-78-79; (searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries, requires dejavu-plugin)

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