T to Theban Plays Thebe to Thrasymedes Thriambos to Tyrtaeus


An ancient Greek city in Asia Minor in the province of Mysia between the rivers Skamandros (Scamander) and Simoeis (Simois); located near the coast of the Aegean Sea; an hours walk southwest of the Hellespont (Dardanelles Straits); according to The Iliad, Troy was founded by the grandson of Zeus, Tros, and thrived for three generations until the city was sacked under the reign of king Priam; the Troy of The Iliad was utterly destroyed circa 1250 BCE by the mainland Greeks and never re-established to it’s former glory or wealth.

After over a hundred years of excavation, the different layers of the ruins of ancient Troy have been divided into nine classifications designated with the Roman numerals I-IX with subdivisions of each classification indicated by lower cases letters, i.e. the original foundations of Troy are named Ia-Ik; the city we normally think of as the Troy of The Iliad is called Troy VI, i.e. Troy six, and is assumed to have been destroyed circa 1250 BCE.

The geographic location of Troy was vitally important to it’s continued habitation and prosperity; the fortunes of the Trojans fluctuated over the centuries but the city was continuously occupied and constantly revitalized after either natural disasters or armed conquests reduced the city to rubble and dust; the walls and buildings of the various cities were made of mud-brick and each successive city was built on the ruins of the previous foundations; the mud-brick construction made it impossible to reuse the raw materials and so the old city was simply leveled and the newest incarnation of the city was built on the ruins and therefore each new city was elevated slightly higher than the preceding city.

The original foundations of the city date to the Early Bronze Age circa 2900-2450 BCE; it was a modest city and covered an area approximately 100 yards in diameter; this phase of Troy is commonly known as Troy Ia-k.

The second incarnation of Troy, designated Troy IIa-h, also existed in the Early Bronze Age and lasted from circa 2450-2200 BCE; the size of the city increased and covered an area of approximately 900 square yards; this Troy, with towers and a megaron, also included a settlement outside the city’s circuit walls; at least two phases of Troy II were destroyed by what appears to be severe natural disasters; level IIg is called the Burnt City because the condition of the rubble strongly suggests that the wooden parts of the city were not merely torn down, but rather burned to the ground.

Troy III existed from circa 2200-1700 BCE and is divided into the subdivisions a-d; this was during the Middle Bronze Age and the city doubled in size.

The cities of Troy IVa-e and Va-d seem to be less prosperous for the rulers and citizens of the city; these subdivisions are generally included in the time period that covers Troy III.

Homer’s Troy, Troy VI, dates from the Middle and Late Bronze Age and consists of levels a-h; this was probably the city that the Greeks destroyed after their ten year siege; the city was only slightly larger than Troy III but there are indications that this phase of the city was the most prosperous incarnation yet; the circuit wall was longer and thicker than any previous city wall and the outer settlement was larger than ever before; the city supported a population of five to ten thousand permanent residents; also of significance during this phase of Troy’s development is the fact that excavators found horse skeletons in the ruins of these levels and corresponds to Homer’s characterization of ‘the horse taming Trojans.’

Troy VII, like the previous reconstructions of the city, was built on the ruins of preceding city; Troy VII existed in the Late Bronze Age, i.e. 1250-1050 BCE; although there are those who believe that this is the Troy of The Iliad, it has been pointed out that Troy VII appears to have been hastily built and the workmanship seems inferior to the prosperous city and outer settlement of Troy VI; the final phase of Troy VII was destroyed by fire and it is assumed that this is a sign of conquest rather than natural disaster.

Troy VIII is considered to be the last Greek attempt to keep Troy as a permanent settlement and, although a smaller and more humble city, might have lasted until as late as 85 BCE; Troy VIII is assumed to have been populated by settlers from Thessaly or another northern Greek state; the historian, Herodotus (484?-425? BCE) (book 7, chapter 43), mentions that the Persian king, Xerxes, stopped at Troy on his way to conquer Greece and sacrificed one thousand cattle to the goddess, Athene (Athena) of Ilion; the Magi, the priests and magicians who accompanied Xerxes, made libations to the ancient heroes of Troy; Herodotus then makes a strange statement, he says that Xerxes and his company were seized with fear during the night but he does not elaborate as to the cause of their fear; also, Herodotus does not elaborate as to the population of Troy when Xerxes arrived or comment as to the physical condition of the city; Alexander the Great is also said to have visited Troy on his way to conquer the Persian Empire; the city was finally leveled in 85 BCE by the Roman legate, Flavius Fimbria.

Troy remained a pile of rubble until Julius Caesar visited the city circa 48 BCE; he began a rebuilding project which was continued by his successor, Caesar Augustus; the Romans believed that Troy was the mother-city of Rome because after the Trojan hero, Aineias (Aeneas), fled Troy, he found his way to the Italian peninsula and eventually united the tribes of Latium to form the basis of the Roman Empire.

Despite the historical references to Troy by historians such as Herodotus and Arrian, the actual existence of the city seems to have been considered a mere myth by serious scholars until the mid-eighteenth century; the most notable, and perhaps notorious, true believer in the actual existence of Troy was the wealthy businessman named Heinrich Schliemann; although Schliemann may not have been the first man to excavate the ruins of Troy, he is certainly the most famous; since his monumental and highly publicized discovery circa 1870 CE, Troy has become a well researched archeological site as well a popular tourist attraction.

One of the finest books on the subject is Troy c. 1700-1250 BC, by Fields, Spedaliere and Spedaliere, (ISBN 0841767034); the text is engaging and the illustrations are excellent.

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T to Theban Plays Thebe to Thrasymedes Thriambos to Tyrtaeus


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