Helen at Troy in Turkey
Mention the destination 'Troy' and romantic scenes from various Hollywood movies often comes to mind. Where Paris steals the beautiful Helen away from her husband, the King of Sparta, leading to a war, with the Trojans valiantly defending their city for around ten years. The Greeks then built a large wooden horse as a peace offering on the beach and made it look like they had abandoned the battle. The Trojans brought the git horse into their walled city. At night, the Greeks that were hiding inside the large wooden horse emerged, opened the gates to their hiding warriors, who then won the war.
Today visitors can have their photos taken at Troy in front of a replica wooden horse.
This tale is what most people know of the city of Troy in Turkey, but a visit to the ruins of this archaeology site educates visitors that this place has centuries of history.
All this mythology was supposed to have happened in ancient times, around the twelfth century BC and was thought to be a fable. Excavations in Turkey that started around the 1870s discovered evidence that led historians to believe the stories were actually based on fact.
Troy is located around a 30-minute drive from the seaport of Canakkale (where the wooden horse from the 2004 movie Troy is exhibited on the waterfront). This town hosts a university and a population of just under 200,000, exporting wine, hides, pottery, ceramics and grain.
Nine buried cities have been discovered at Troy, built one on top of the other and dating back to before 3500 B.C.
In the 1870s amateur archaeologists Heinrich Schliemann and Frank Calvert started excavating the hilltop. Schliemann found a cache of gold, silver and copper in 1873. It was called Priam’s Treasure. This is now located at the Pushkin Museum in Russia, after being smuggled, stolen and exchanged over the years.
There is not much to see still standing at the site as a lot of it was destroyed during excavations. So, what happened to the various populations over time? Why did they die out? Earthquakes, wars, declining imports and exports and massive fires all contributed to the abandonment and subsequent rebuilding.
Today, visitors follow wooden designated pathways, past the ruins of everyday houses and remnants of ancient buildings and walls. You are almost treading the paths that people had walked upon for over six thousand years.
Nine major layers have been identified, the earliest from the Early Bronze age (2300-1600 BC) and the latest from the Byzantine era (330-1453). Within each of the nine layers are sub strata. The layers are numbered in Roman Numbers I to IX. Cities were continually built one upon the other. The site is well labelled with the numbers being displayed at various positions. Information boards also show drawings of what the site would have looked like at various historic times.
There are remnants of ancient buildings scattered throughout the area, where we can admire the workmanship of long ago artisans.
In one building there is a display of Carl Blegen who excavated the site from 1932 – 1938 when more care was taken in recording these precious artifacts than by those who dug in the 1800s. Of course, a gift shop and café are also at the site for those wishing to take home a souvenier of Troy. The objects that can be purchased in the gift shop are a very reasonable price.
In 1998 the site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list. (UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation for places of importance to cultural or national heritage.)
There are historic sites in Turkey with larger and more intact buildings than Troy. However, this site is a piece of history that deserves a visit for a few hours.