Troy: Homer’s Legendary City and its Place in the Late Bronze Age

Troy has always been a site that has fascinated both experts and amateurs within the field of archaeology, to say nothing of the general public and its enthusiasm for the legendary tales stemming from this city. Why, of all the hundreds of settlements in the Near East and elsewhere in the world, has this particular city stayed with us over the millennia? Its enduring nature can, of course, be traced to Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad, which tells the story of the Greek hero Achilles and the supposed Trojan War.

17th Century Depiction of the Fire of Troy by Kerstiaen de Keuninck

This legend has then been romanticised throughout the ages, from Republican Rome to the modern day. Such fascination has only served to propagate these legends as accepted factual events, which has deeply ingrained a sense of reverence for the unmatched city of Troy. The question is, how much of this reverence does the city truly deserve and was it as unique in wealth, power, and standing as has been suggested over the centuries? If not, then does the significance we attribute to the site reflect its real position in the Late Bronze Age?

Strategically located on both land and sea, Troy was a gateway to the east, likening it to the modern-day city of Istanbul. It is no wonder, then, that throughout history, the city has been mentioned in great works and its supposed battles appear in Greek art. German businessman, Heinrich Schliemann, first excavated the archaeological site, located in northwestern Turkey, in 1870.  It began for him as a treasure hunt, the goal to prove the existence of Homer’s fabled city by making the archaeological evidence fit the literature. Contemporary texts actively referred to Troy as “troublesome and largely independent”, a far cry from the grandiose centre of power described by Homer. Despite being an active settlement, it was on the periphery of the major sphere of interaction in the Late Bronze Age, far from the big players such as Egypt and Mesopotamia. Yet, there is something to be said of the mark Troy’s story has left on our culture – whether factual or not.

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Tiffany Oliveira

Archaeology graduate with an interest in museums, art, and archaeology, from excavation to research and curation. Think Indiana Jones, except female and without a pathological fear of snakes.

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