According to the Greek legend, the Trojan War was fought between the Greeks and the citizens of Troy. The direct cause of this war was the beauty of Helen of Troy. She was the daughter of the Greek god Zeus and Leda, the Queen of Sparta. All the men in the area loved her so after she chose a husband, the King of Sparta made all men swear that they would accept her decision and that they would also defend her if anyone tried to take her away from him.
According to the myth, the Trojan War began when Eris threw a golden apple marked “For the Fairest” at a wedding. All the goddesses wanted the apple but the choices were narrowed down to three: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. To decide who would get the apple, the three decided to hold a beauty contest. They asked Paris, the Trojan prince, to choose the most beautiful goddess between the three. Each goddess tried to influence the prince by offering him different prizes, and in the end he chose Aphrodite because she promised him his choice of the most beautiful woman.
Paris chose Helen as his prize. He travelled to Sparta, and stayed with Helen and her husband, King Menelaus of Sparta. Helen was influenced by Aphrodite’s spell and agreed to marry Paris and go with him to Troy. The King became very angry and asked all of Greeks to help him get his wife back to Sparta. The Greek warriors assembled 1,000 ships and sailed off to Troy. For nine years, the battle was indecisive. But in the tenth year Paris and Menelaus agreed to have their warriors face each other in a single combat, with Helen as the judge. The Greeks built a great wooden horse outside Troy’s walls and filled it with soldiers. The Trojans thought the battle was over and brought the wooden horse into the city as a trophy of the battle. When night fell, the soldiers inside the horse burst out and threw open the gates to the city. The Greek forces then destroyed Troy. Although the Greeks claimed victory in the Trojan War, Aphrodite helped Paris escape the enraged Menelaus by sweeping Paris away in a cloud. Menelaus was reunited with Helen and the two returned to Greece, to the displeasure of the native Greeks.
The cities of Troy, (since several were found), were located in what is now modern day Turkey. Their existence was proved by the archaeological work of Heinrich Schliemann. Eventually evidence of at least nine cities was uncovered on the spot — cities that existed from about 3000 BC until the Roman period 30 centuries later. Ancient Troy was destroyed by fire in about the 13th, or possibly early 12th, century BC.
Even though the city of Troy is over four thousand years old, the first excavations at the site were not started until 1870, by archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann.
Henrich Schliemann excavated the area at Hisarlik in Turkey during the 1870s and found nine cities in layers one on top of the other. After examining each layer carefully he noticed that the second city from the bottom showed signs of having been “sacked and burned.” He was thrilled, thinking it was the city of Troy in which the battle to rescue Helen was fought. However, it turned out he was wrong because the city he thought was the Troy from the stories is about 1300 years too old and it was later found out that the true site of the Trojan War is five levels higher, making it the 7th city from the bottom. While digging in the second city, he discovered over 100 objects, including gold, necklaces, earrings, swords, copper and silver bowls. There is now a large dispute between Russia, Turkey, and Germany over the ownership of these items.
Continuing modern archaeological excavations have shown that Troy was destroyed by fire in the early 12th century BC, the traditional date of the war.
The stories about the Trojan War were based on an actual struggle over control of the rich trade routes through the Hellespont. Situated at the Dardanelles, a narrow strait (which was known as the Hellespont in ancient times), Troy had grown a lot in wealth when it took control of the narrow shipping lane, placing heavy tolls, and mainly interfering with Greek trade. The sixty kilometer long strait links the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean Sea and seperates the continent of Europe from Asia Minor. Along with the Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus, it forms the only outlet of the Black Sea. Even today, whoever controls this water route commands a highly strategic area because it allows them to also control access of ships from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea-Suez Canal-Indian Ocean sea lane. The world’s ships must pass through here to reach the grain ports of Ukraine and the oil ports of Romania and the Caucasus region.
The Trojan War is believed to have been fought between the Greeks of the late Mycenaean period and the inhabitants of Troy (called Trojans), a part of present-day Turkey in Asia Minor, and its citizens were called Trojans. During the Trojan War, Troy was a well-walled city with broad streets and beautiful palaces. Many Asian allies, such as the Ascanians, the Amazons, the Lycians and the Eastern Ethiopians, came with their armies to help the city.
Although most of the information we have about the Trojan War is based on the Greek mythology, archeologists have proven that the city of Troy did exist. The reason for the war is still being disputed but generally agreed that it was a war over land and not Helen of Troy
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