The Trojan War is a Greek mythological story about a war between the Greeks and the inhabitants of the city of Troy. The main source for the understanding of the Trojan War is Homer’s Iliad. The Iliad is an epic poem, and it’s setting begins nine years after the Trojan War was initiated. Although the Iliad mainly deals with the conflicts between King Agamemnon and the protagonist warrior Achilles, the epic provides many geographical references and it displays the relationships between Mycenae and Troy. This is important because with this information, we can compare it to archaeological evidence to prove that the Trojan War really did happen. However, the Iliad is not the only source to compare the archaeological evidence to. Other primary sources include Homer’s Odyssey, Pausanias’s Description of Greece, Strabo’s Geography, Herodotus’s Histories, The Epitome of Apollodorus, and Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War.
The Trojan War was believed to have taken place during the late Bronze Age, which was approximately 1200 B.C. The Greek side of the Trojan War was led by King Agamemnon of Mycenae. Special warriors, who were great fighters and presented the greatest courage in the war, followed his command. These warriors include Achilles, Odysseus, Ajax, and Diomedes. The Greeks were also supported by several Greek Olympian gods. These gods include Athena, Hermes, and Hera. On the opposing side, Priam led the Trojans. The Trojan War was basically a lengthened siege of the city of Troy. However, the Trojans were able to survive for ten years. This was true because of the Trojans fortifications of the city. In Greek mythology, it is said that Poseidon and Apollo built the walls of Troy. Another reason that the war was elongated could be explained by Achilles’s absence. In the Iliad, he abandoned the Mycenaeans for an extended period of time. However, Achilles returned and the Greeks won the war after the famous Trojan Horse. The idea was to get a group of soldier into Troy by leaving them in a colossal horse and offering the horse to the Trojans. They were then able to destroy Troy from the inside (Cartwright, Trojan War, para 2-20).
Mycenae is an archaeological site located in Greece that is referenced in several ancient sources. Strabo’s Geography provides several geographical references for the Mycenaean civilization. Strabo provides the geographical relationship between Argos, Temenium, and Mycenae. Temenium is the area in which Temenus was buried, and Argos is the location that the Argives inhabited. Strabo explains that the city Prasiae and Temenium belong to the Argives. He then writes that Temenium is situated twenty-six stadia from Argos and ten stadia from Mycenae (Strabo, Geography Book VIII Chapter 6). Stade is an ancient Greek unit of length. It is believed that one stade is equal to 600 feet. However, different countries had different determinations of the length of a foot, so it is difficult to modernize the actual distances of Mycenae from the other two locations, but it still indicates that the two may still be within a couple of miles near each other.
Strabo also describes the relationship between the Argives and Mycenae. He says how the Argives destroyed Mycenae so thoroughly that there is not even a trace of a city of Mycenae today. Since Argos was in control of Mycenae, Strabo argues that it would be logical to assume that the same occurred to the other countries or regions occupied or owned by the Argives (Strabo, Geography Book VIII Chapter 6). One architectural reference given by Strabo also furthers the explanation of the relationship between Mycenae and the Argives. He says that the Heraeum, a temple located in a close proximity to the city of Mycenae, was a temple common to both Argos and Mycenae. In this temple were images made by Polycleitus (Strabo, Geography Book VIII Chapter 6).
Strabo points out some of the environmental aspects of some areas. He describes Lake Lernê, which is the location where the story of the Hydra takes place. Strabo says that Lake Lernê lies in Argeia and Mycenaean territory. Cleansings take place in Lake Lernê. Strabo explained that it the country has plenty of water and that the city is located on a waterless district, but it contains an abundance of wells (Strabo, Geography Book VIII Chapter 6).
Pausanias had several agreements with Strabo in his Description of Greece. Pausanias gives some locational evidence saying that the ruins of Mycenae after its destruction is located on the left of the road to Argos. This shows that Argos and Mycenae are relatively close to each other, which agrees with Strabo and his distances between the two cities (Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 2 Section 15.4). Pausanias then gives some historical background on Mycenae. The founder of Mycenae was Perseus. However, there is a legend that says Phoroneus was the first inhabitant of Mycenae and Argus, the grandson of Phoroneus, gave name to the land (Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 2 Section 15.5-15.6).
Pausanias also says that the Argives laid waste to Mycenae. (Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 2 Section 15.4). He says that jealous caused the Argives to destroy Mycenae. For the time during the Persian invasion, the Argives did not attack, but the Mycenaeans sent eighty men to attack Thermopylae. Pausanias gives some architectural references that lie in the ruins of Mycenae. Parts of the city wall were still intact, including the Lion Gate. It is said that Cyclopes created this structure. Cyclopes constructed the wall for Proetus at Tiryns (Pausanias Description of Greece, Book 2 Section 16.5). In these ruins lays a fountain called Persea. Also, there are the underground chambers of Atreus and his children. Treasures were contained inside of these chambers. There is also the grave of Atreus, and the graves of such Agamemnon from Troy, Cassandra, and Eurymedon the charioteer (Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 2 Section 16.6-16.7).
The next primary source that includes references about Mycenae is Homer’s Iliad. The king of Mycenae is Agamemnon. Agamemnon is also the leader of the Achaean army. After they sacked of Thebe, a strong city of Eetion, Chryseis was taken and given to Agamemnon as a reward. This shows that the king has tremendous power, especially if their kingdoms are more powerful than others. Agamemnon also flaunts his power throughout his argument with Achilles. He sends trusty messengers, Talthybius and Eurybates to take Achilles’s prize, Briseis, after Achilles disagreed with Agamemnon’s war tactics (Homer, The Iliad, Book I). Another example of his power is shown when he sent Bellerophon to Lycia with letters after Proetus was encouraged to kill Bellerophon (Homer, The Iliad, Book VI). However, Agamemnon is not omnipotent. He is still controlled by the gods. For example, Jove, the king of the gods, sent him a dream to manipulate his next move against Troy (Homer, The Iliad, Book II).
King Agamemnon also seems to have a great influence on people. For example, he persuaded Menelaus to not spare the life of Adrestus after he offered Menelaus a ransom (Homer, The Iliad, Book VI). However, Agamemnon often relies on other people in order to win the war. For example, he desperately needed Achilles, since they were extremely struggling to win the war. He even suggested to have gifts sent to Achilles so he could gain his loyalty back (Homer, The Iliad, Book IX).
There are also several references to architectural structures and description of weapons throughout the Iliad. Achilles offered a prize of iron for archery to the Acheans. These included ten double-edged axes and ten with single axes (Homer, The Iliad, Book XXIII). Bronze is also mentioned as material for weaponry. Hector’s helmet was made of bronze and Alexandrus, husband of Helen, held a sword made of bronze. Alexandrus was also armed with two spears with bronze on them (Homer, The Iliad, Book III). Bronze is also used for defensive purposes. Achilles was going to reward Eumelus with the prize of a bronze breastplate with a rim of tin that he took from Asteropaeus (Homer, The Iliad, Book XXIII). Another reference to weapons occurs when the epic discussed Pandarus’s weapons. It stated that his bow was made from the horns of a wild ibex, which he had just killed (Homer, The Iliad, Book IV).
The Iliad features a catalogue of ships that were to be sent to various places. The ships controlled by those in Mycenae that are from certain settlements. These settlements include Mycenae, rich Corinth and Cleonae, Orneae, Araethyrea, and Licyon, where Adrastus reigned of old, Hyperesia, high Gonoessa, and Pellene, Aegium and all the coast-land round about Helice. King Agamemnon sent one hundred ships to these various settlements (Homer, The Iliad, Book II).
Troy was a city located in northwest Anatolia, which is now known as Turkey. It is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, and it is well known for the war named after it. Much modern day knowledge about Troy was extrapolated from Homer’s The Iliad. Other sources such as Homer’s Odyssey, Herodotus’ Histories, and The Epitome of Apollodorus also include references of Troy.
Several geographical references, architectural references, and references to the power of kings, and description of weapons are included in The Iliad. The city of Troy is constantly under attack throughout the book, since the book starts nine years into the war. One of the first mentions of Troy in the Iliad comes when the gods sent a dream to king Agamemnon that encouraged him to take Troy (Homer, The Iliad, Book II). At this point, Troy is mainly a battleground. For example, the whole catalogue of ships that was provided in the beginning of the epic all sailed to Troy (Homer, The Iliad, Book II). Herodotus provides another example of this. In his book Histories, Herodotus talks about how the Persians kept the region of Europe and the Greeks avoided and distinct. Also, he mentions the attack on Troy and that Troy was the ancient enmity towards the Greeks. (Herodotus, Histories, Book I).
Priam, youngest son of Laomedon and husband of Hecuba, was the king of Troy during the Trojan War. Priam was also the father of many of his warriors. Priam does however seem like he genuinely loves and takes care of his people. Hector, one of Priam’s sons, was armed with a spear of eleven cubits long on each hand, each with a bronze point, and they were fastened to the shaft of the spear by a ring of gold (Homer, The Iliad, Book VI). King Priam lived like a king. Priam enjoyed an elegant palace, built with gargantuan colonnades of hewn stones. In the palace were fifty bedchambers, in which each of his sons slept (Homer, The Iliad, Book VI). This is one of the architectural references about Troy made in the Iliad.
There were also many other references to weapons from Troy in the Iliad. Patroclus, king of Opus, was well armed with a silver-studded sword of bronze and a mighty shield (Homer, The Iliad, Book XVI). In battle, the son of Atreus hurled his spear and hit Deicoon, son of Pergasus. The spear of king Agamemnon struck his shield and went through it. The spear drove through his belt into the lower part of his belly, and he fell heavily to the ground. This could potentially show that the defensive weapons could sometimes be weak. Or it could imply that the spear of king Agamemnon is especially strong (Homer, The Iliad, Book V).
Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War often speaks of times after and before the Trojan War, which highlights its effects. “Before the Trojan war there is no indication of any common action in Hellas, nor indeed of the universal prevalence of the name…” (Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War). However, Thucydides also speaks about the war directly. He explains that the Trojans were able to survive for ten years because of the dispersion of the Mycenaeans and that they did not supply themselves enough (Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War).
Barbu’s video, “The Truth of Troy” provided knowledge of the archaeological excavations at Troy and Mycenae. Heinrich Schliemann was one of the first people who searched for geographical evidence to prove that Troy actually existed. Schliemann came to the conclusion that Troy was located in the northwest corner of modern day Turkey. Schliemann spent hours and hours of work to come up with his conclusions. He hired several workers to dig tremendous holes in mounds. The search team eventually came across a walled palace that as they were digging approximately fifteen meters deep. A paved ramp was also found underground. The ramp led to the gate that was wide enough for two chariots that could be rode side by side (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy”).
This discovery led Schliemann to believe that he had found the Troy that Homer has described throughout the Iliad. However, the rest of the world did not agree. Schliemann then made the groundbreaking discovery of gold jewelry, which was evidence for a rich and powerful culture. He assumed that he had found the jewelry of Helen. Helen was supposedly the most beautiful woman on earth who, as legend says, was the cause of the Trojan War. This discovery intrigued those who had doubted him (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy”).
However, Schliemann later found that the jewelry was aged thousands of years older than Helen’s time. This was done by digging deeper and revealing nine layers, each of which presented a different time period. Conversely, some of the site’s physical appearances and features were correlated with Homer’s descriptions, such as the towers, the wide streets, and the lofty gates. It seems as if Schliemann had uncovered an area in which there once stood a strong citadel with watchtowers. However, this architecture disagreed with Homer’s description of Troy. The city appeared to be too small, considering that it had survived ten years of attack. Also, its size is not as close as to what Homer described in the Iliad (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
Manfred Korffman also led some excavations for Troy. In 1988, he and a large international team looked for the science behind Troy rather than the myth. Korffman re-examined the citadel and looked at the thickness of the rocks and the height of the fortifications. He discovered that there was no possible way to close the gate. With this information, Korffman came up with the conclusion that invaders could have easily walked into the city of Troy. This confused Korffman, as he questioned why a civilization would create a city that could not be defended. He then suggested the idea that the walls he examined were not the outside boundaries of Troy. He believed that there could be more to Troy than what was already understand (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
Korffman and his excavation team began to search in the outside vicinity of the Trojan walls where they unearthed remains dated from the late Bronze Age, the supposed era of Troy. Their findings included a number of storage jars, a hearth in the middle to keep warmth inside, two storied walls, and an item that appears to have been used as a toilet in the back area. (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy). Korffman had wondered if these discoveries meant that Troy was actually extended further past the initial walls discovered and into the fields. He wanted to find out if his hypothesis was correct, and he stated to excavate into what he believed was the lower city. However, the region was too big and he turned to magnetic imaging as a means of searching beneath the surface (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
Korffman looked, but only found a city that belonged to a later time period, the Greek and Roman Era. However, Korffman later found a deep ditch and he hypothesized that it had been created for defensive purposes, and it marked the end of the lower city area. With the full city revealed, Korffman concluded that Troy was of great size and had a population of about four to eight thousand people. However, this did not prove that the great city of Troy was the same city that Homer had written about (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
Korffman and his city excavated furthered. He discovered arrow heads in the lower city which suggested that fighting took place very close to the soldiers’ bodies. He also found heaps of stone pellets. Korffman also found many skeletons. He imagined a great fire sweeping through the city of Troy. Korffman came to the conclusion that Troy was a city that was attacked, defended itself, and was eventually defeated. Korffman however, then had to answer who were the ones that took down the powerful city of Troy (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
Now excavations of Mycenae had to be made. Since the road network along the Mycenaen citadel spreads to many other directions, it suggests that Mycenae was the political center of the Greek world. A massive circle of graves site bounded by stone walls demonstrated how great the Mycenaens really were because the skeletons of the men found there were uncovered wearing large gold death masks and fancy ceremonial armor. This allowed the archaeologists to look directly into the faces of the Mycenaean rulers, who were buried with forty to fifty swords that represented the emphasis on a strong military the Mycenaens felt. (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
This was still not enough to act as a link to Mycenae and Troy. It seems that the Mycenaeans required wealth and the latest technology of the time-bronze in order to build new walls and double the citadel in size. A discovery fifty meters deep down the coast of Troy showed a wrecked ship filled with great amounts of bronze items. The treasure on the ship was proof of an immense trading systems and it was suggested that the ship was capable of sailing to Troy. Korffman believed that Troy was an important trading center, especially when taking a closer look at its location. Troy was on the coast of the Dardanelles, a narrow channel of water separating the continents of Europe and Asia. (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
The Hittite tablets gave insight about certain conflicts and tensions concerning this empire over 3,000 years ago. Scholars began to search the tablets for any clues regarding the city of Troy. They found references about a city named Wilusa, and the tablets revealed that the Mycenaeans had fought at the gates of Wilusa. Scholars then had to prove that the cities of Troy and Wilusa were the same city. (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
The Hittite tablets stated that the empire had been going to Wilusa, therefore moving to the west during the late Bronze Age. It was hard to tell, however, if that meant they were going to the northern part or the southern part of the west coast. If the Hittites had gone to the northwest, that could provide support for the idea that Troy and Wilusa were the same city. The inscription on a mountain pass was later deciphered and indicated that the Hittite army had moved to the north part of the coast. However, scientists still needed archaeological proof. (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
Korffman studied the water tunnel under Troy, believing that it was created during the late Bronze Era, but other scholars disagreed. Since there was mention of a water tunnel in Wilusa, Korffman hoped to connect the two to prove that they were the same city. Korffman found layers of limestone left behind by water dripping, and dated the small quantities of uranium’s radioactive decay. The results revealed that the tunnel had been started around 2600 BC and was therefore in use when the Hittite tablets were written. This could be proof that Troy and Wilusa were the same city (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
The Hittite tablets also suggest that Troy was an ally of the Hittite empire. This means that if Troy was raided, the Hittites would have been likely to come and fight alongside the Trojans (Barbu, “The Truth of Troy).
The first parallel that I found throughout my research was the reference that Homer made with chariots arriving at the city of Troy. Towards the end of the epic poem, there were several chariot racings that took place. This connects to the fact that Schliemann made discoveries that two chariots could be rode side by side in between a gate into a palace located in Troy, which he actually found in modern day Turkey. Parallels also occur with Korffman. He suggested that Troy was destroyed and collapsed all during the late Bronze Age, which is what Homer suggested.
Also, Homer also mentioned that Mycenae was the political center of the Greek world, which was Korffman’s suggestion. The excavations in Mycenae and the findings of a “warrior culture” are exactly as Homer described. They were very forceful, and an example of this would be when King Agamemnon and Achilles took people as their prizes of victory. The mention of King Agamemnon not wanting to spare people in battle also shows their viciousness. The several firearms described in the Iliad is also proof of their “warrior culture”. The Hittite tablets suggest that Troy and the Hittites were allies. This agrees with Homer, as he suggested that the Myceneans had to fight against Troy along with the Hittites.
I believe that the parallels are strong enough, and that they do strongly suggest that the Trojan War really did occur. I believe that the war did not occur in the exact way as Homer described, since he involved gods and super powered warriors. There was no links to the proof of the Trojan Horse, also supporting my suggestion that the war did not happen exactly how legend tells it. I do believe that there was a conflict however with the Mycenaeans and the Trojans and that it led to a war.
The validity of the Trojan War is still widely debated. Many primary sources suggest that the war really did happen and they also provide great insight on Mycenae, Troy, and their location. Korffman and Schliemann did provide some great archaeological findings, but more evidence is still needed to completely prove to scientists that the war really did happen.
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