Troy (aka Troia in ancient Greek, Wilusa by Hittites, or Ilios of Greeks) is an ancient site located at Tevfikiye (Hisarlik) near Canakkale in the northwest of Turkey. The mound is home to 9 different layers, and not only for literature as in Homer’s Iliad or archeology with its 4000 years of history but also for human history, it has a high ranking of global value considered as the time capsule of ancient civilizations.
Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, earned Troy its fame and claimed the Trojan War had been fought on the archeological site. In the epic poem, a wooden horse was used to convey the Myceneaens (Achaean league) in the center of the impenetrable city, where they eventually captured during the Trojan War between the Trojans and the Mycenaeans. Whether the story is accurate or not, a Trojan dispute was fought in the 12th century that was thought to lead to the creation of Hittite, Wilusa, to become Illion and later Troia.
During the heights of the Bronze Age, Troy relished its golden ages when it had the power, also thanks to its location controlling the trade routes. After the Trojan War, the city was deserted till 700 BC when Greeks settled the Troas (the steppes of Troy)
Alexander the Great (descendant of Achilles), who was on his way to conquer Asia, also stopped by the glorious city to honor the heroes and governed the area around the 4th century BC. This visit was rather romantic and more of a personal one where he switched his armor with that of Achilles.
Named as New (Sacred) Ilium, Romans ruled the area from 85 BC, and the city had glorious times again thanks to the belief of the Aeneas, one of the heroes of Troy, and considered as the ancestor of Romulus and Remus (the founders of Rome). This legendary was turned into a great marketing and Troy, even back then, became a popular destination for tourism and pilgrimage.
As Constantinople flourished, Troy lost its importance, and many assumed that it was just a mythical place invented by Homer before the self-proclaimed archeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, demonstrated its presence. Archeological excavations are still ongoing, so Troy is still visible, and it has a great deal to teach the world.
The Late Bronze Age was the golden era of some powerful kingdoms with wondrous capitals fortified with pretty strong walls. The strategical location of the city played a significant role in dominating the trade routes from the Black Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean, as the city was the key point to access Indian silks and spices. During that time, the trade was carried in multiple exchange systems between cities, including textiles, precious metals, grain and other goods, and even slaves.
The city of Troy VI was an area of 270,000 square meters, and according to the averages of the Bronze Age, that meant 5000 to 10,000 people. Since we don’t know the exact population, though, we can stick to the older methods of archaeologists and assume the population was around 3000 to 4000 people.
Apart from the fact that it is still a big debate if it was a myth or reality, these numbers would boost to tens of thousands during the Trojan War, considering it is captioned as “10 years of siege.”
Most of the scholars, including some that worked at the site, believed that the Trojans were originally Greek. However, the excavations carried at the site revealed the fact with the artifacts found that the Trojans were actually locals associated with the Indo-European tribes that migrated to the area.
They were also in good relations with Dardanians (according to Homer), and the archeological studies also support the fact that they shared kinship with the people from Dardania. Considering the ancestors were Luwians, can we say the Trojans were Luwians? Not really. There is no real evidence for that, too, but we can definitely say that Trojans were neither Greek nor Turkish!
Very little is known about how Trojans looked like and what language they spoke. Throughout its 4000 years of history, the Luwians theory, being maybe the strongest thanks to the seals, even does not give us good-enough proofs except for the trade exchanges they had with the Trojans. Also, little to no evidence of depictions on clays, and since cremation was preferred over traditional burials, there are also a few bones that don’t give us a great clue about how they looked like. So, there is not a concrete answer about the origins of Trojans.
Their speech and dialects were all different, as they spoke a mixture of languages—the troops hailed from many parts.
There is also no single evidence for the art of writing till 1100 BC in Troy. After 1200 BC, instead, it was a small settlement. So, this will bring the question in mind: was Troy a commercial center? Probably, this will remain a question mark for a long while.
Since organic textile (furs, wool, etc.) were also destroyed in a quicker time than other materials, we don’t have a great knowledge of the dressing style of different classes. However, we can easily assume the jewelry was a big part of their life, including men and children wearing different types of accessories.
Among those, Priam’s Treasure (currently displayed at Pushkin Museum in Russia), found in the upper section of Troy II by Schliemann, was a perfect cache of gold and other artifacts that convinced the german archeologist this was the Troy of Homer.
Troy was best known for its exquisite pottery and textiles. These were the major items exported (as noted above) was done in a complicated exchange system both by land and sea. The pottery here was all made using local sources and style remained the same till the invasion from Balkans and adapted to Balkan style, maybe still by the same artisans or their own potters who developed the existing traditional techniques.
The Karamenderes (Scamandros) River, fed by rain and melting snow from Mt. Ida, is a delta on the Asian side of Bosphorus and flows into the Aegean Sea. According to Homer’s Iliad, there are traces of the parts of the Trojan War here in Besik Bay, considered to be the natural Harbor of Troy.
While some of the researches report that Troy was by the ocean approximately 5000 years ago, other researches acclaim that due to strong wind, it would be impossible to sail back to the sea from these inlets. Thus, the ships had to stay at Besik Bay for days to a week until the strong winds were over, and it was safe to sail again. Once the inlets were turned into swamps over time, the legendary city lost its natural harbor.
Also, unlike some similar settlements that had a harbor, like the ones in the Mediterranean, there were no stone anchors found around Besik Bay. So, it is still a debate if Troy was a superpower as a harbored city or just played the towering role in controlling the straits.
The Bronze Age pretty much had everything that we all would not complain to eat frequently.
Below is a perfect summary of the most preferred diet of Trojans throughout 4000 years of its history:
Meat: beef, lamb, pork, goat, horse, tuna and deer
Grains: wheat, beans, and lentils
Fruits: grapes, figs, and olives
Trojans enjoyed the beef and shellfish probably more than anything else.
The legend tells us that the sea goddess Tethys and the Titan of the Atlantic Sea, Oceanus had a beautiful daughter named Electra. She would become the wife of Zeus later and would bring Dardanus to the world. The son of Dardanus founded the city of Truad, and his son named Ilus, would establish the city of Troy.
The Mount Ida (Kaz Dagi) rising above the city was home to the first beauty contest of which candidates were Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Paris, the judge of this beauty contest, chose Aphrodite, and he was promised the love of Helen, the beautiful queen of Menelaus, the king of Sparta. Eventually, Paris abducted the beautiful queen from Mycenae and brought her to Troy, to the castle of his father, King Priam.
As a result, the brother of Agamemnon, who is the king of Mycenae, loaded his army along with a vast list of Achaean troops and landed on the shores of Troy to start the legendary war that would turn into ten years of besieging. While thousands lost their lives in the war, the idea of Odysseus, pretending to abort the siege, Epeius building the massive Trojan Horse, and leave it at the shores of the city. The warnings of Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, did not result in good, and the horse was taken into the city with celebrations considering it as a present of Athena.
Later in the night, the Greek fleet came back, and the army hiding inside the horse opened the gates to the Greek troops, and at the end of the night, the whole city was burned and destroyed. The sons of King Priam’s were killed with all the other men, while women were taken to Greece as slaves to be traded in different cities.
It is not precisely known when Homer wrote this great epic. Some believe it was right after the war, around the 12th century BC, and some believe even earlier around 9th century BC.
So, while there is no firm evidence of all these happenings or the other speculations about the history of the city, there is still a piece of evidence supported by the bronze arrowheads and fire-damaged bodies found around the ancient site.
In summary, Trojan Horse might be the myth, but the city of Troy and more than one war is real!
The capital of Hittites, Hattusa, located in today’s Bogazkale, Corum in central Turkey, was pretty far from Troy. The tablets found at this capital and the ones in Egypt have mentions of a mighty city near Dardanelles named Wilusa (Troy) reigned by a king named “Alaksandu” or Alexandros, birthname of Paris, the Trojan prince.
These lands were under the Hittite rule or at least had good trade relations according to the vessels found on site. However, while the Hittites had a perfect achieving system, this was not the case for western Luwians, such as Troy.
Troy is not mentioned in the bible, but there is a mention of the city of Troas in Acts 16:8 and 20:5-6. While the missionary journeys of Paul were much more later than the myth of the Trojan Horse, it is still a debate if it is the same exact location or not.
While the location of Troy was known approximately by the works of Homer, Herodotus, and Strabo, the exact location of the site was not known until the modern days.
In 1822, Charles Maclaren proclaimed that the mound of Hisarlik was the exact location of Troy. Still, the idea was not taken into consideration by the scholars believing the legend of Troy was based on myths.
Troy was first excavated by Frank Calvert in 1863 CE and visited and taken over by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann who continued the excavations from 1870 CE till his death in 1890 CE.
Upon his death, his assistant, and architect of the protect, Wilhelm Dörpfeld continued the project from 1893 till 1894. Dörpfeld successfully numbered the levels from I to IX (from the lowest upward) and exposed the impenetrable fortifications of Troy VI, which he defined as the “Homeric Troy”.
From 1932 to 1938, led by Carl W. Blegen, the University of Cincinnati (USA) continued the excavations using new technologies of the time and newer methods.
Excavations at Troy was taken over by a new team of Turks, Germans, and Americans organized by Manfred Korfmann. Most of the findings from the classical era (Greek and Roman) were brought to light by C. Brian Rose from the University of Cincinnati.
After 2012, Canakkale 18 Mart University continues the excavations with the new team under the direction of Rustem Aslan from Canakkale 18 Mart University.
The famous Troy site is comprised of several layers. Starting from 3000 BC onwards, trace the history of various settlements.
This was a small village built on the coast and consisted of stone and brick houses. The village was surrounded by stone walls and strengthened as the village got wealthier thanks to its natural harbor.
The settlement of Troy I was expanded southwest by the middle of the third millennium. The fortification wall, which was restored three times, covered an area of 8,000 square meters. A large stone block entrance stood in the southwest, and the ruler’s palace was in the center of the circuit of the walls.
Schliemann found what he called the Treasure of Priam (the gold cache and silver vessels) in the upper section of Troy II (known as the “Burnt Town”). This cache was dated roughly 2400 BC. Long before his death, Schliemann was convinced that this was the Troy of Homer.
Troy II consisted of seven levels and was destroyed by fire at least two times.
The fire that killed Troy II left ashes and scrap layers of 2 meters thick. Later, settlers lived in small huts, and nothing is known of them except for some depicted human faces and small goblets with opposite handles. Obviously, this layer has signs of decline while we can recognize some significant influences of the Anatolian culture.
When you visit Troy, this layer holds the majority of the survived ruins that you will be enjoying and, most probably, the best possible option for Homer’s Troy. The impenetrable fortification walls have 5 meters thickness and rise around 8 meters. The material used for building the blocks is limestone, and it has several towers in a rectangular plan (similar to the style of Hittites). The walls were reinforced with mud bricks and wood supporting the inwards with the stonework. The strong walls had five getaways that had entrances to the inner city.
The city enjoyed its greatest prosperity during the years between the 15th and 13th centuries BC. The settlement area consists of eight deep stages, and the town was once 10 meters high, surrounded by Homer’s definition “well-defenced”.
The foundations of several palaces were preserved within the walls. No sign of a lower city in the plain below has been found yet. Approximately 500 meters to the south is the cemetery, which contains funerary urns with ashes of the dead.
Shortly after an earthquake, the town seems to have been restored, but the life of the people seems unchanged. The city was lost again a century later. There are traces of rapid destructions that are hard to tell at the moment, as some scholars also disagree with the idea of earthquake damage.
The quality of the craft and architecture decreases both at Troy VIIa and VIIb compared to Troy VI.
The city was settled by refugees from the Balkans after the fall of Troy VIIa. It is assumed that during this time, the Dardanians who gave their name to the Dardanelles were the last people who settled here.
From Troy VIIb to Troy VII, there are no significant clues of a settlement, meaning it was either abandoned or was a pretty small village. From 700 BC to 85 AD, the city was obviously rebuilt, where temples and altars were built in a beautiful Archaic style as well as a theater and a magnificent temple of Athena, among other marvelous public buildings.
Built shortly after Troy VIII on the ruins of the city, it was called the Roman Ilium. Since Romans already believed in the Trojan legendary and accepted them as their ancestors, it did not take the city for long to flourish again as a Hellenistic-Roman one.
Unlike the excavators discussing that a mighty earthquake had destroyed Troy, there are no recognizable signs of a big fire all around the site. So, the myth of the Trojan Horse that was sacred the Poseidon, in charge of earthquakes, according to Greek, might remain as a myth.
Troy is approx. 30 km away from the nearest city, Canakkale, where there is an airport, but there are no direct flights from Istanbul. The best way to get there instead is by land & ferry combination, which is 500 km and takes around 6 hours.
From Canakkale to Troy, there are public buses every hour, and the bus trip takes around 45 minutes. However, getting from Istanbul by bus, and then other buses until you get to the ancient site means you will be wasting most of your time on the buses.
When visiting Troy, the options for accommodation and restaurants are somewhat limited compared to those in the city center of Canakkale. Since Troy is only 30 km away from the city, we do prefer those better options in the city center. They also have a great variety of dining out and walking along the harbor, where you will also get to see the wooden Trojan horse model used in the 2004 Wolfgang Petersen movie Troy.
You’ll be able to go to the archeological ruins of Troy almost any time of the year if you’re from a chiller corner of the world.
In general, the best times to visit Troy are in the spring and fall, meaning April, May, October, and November.
The coldest months are January and February, but the temperatures even then dip below around 4°C (40°F). The temperature rises to 43°C (110°F) in the middle of the day around July and August when it hardly rains.
Built closer to the agora, the Odeon was a small theater for musical events that consisted of a semi-circular orchestra planned separately from the skene (stage).
The bouleuterion, offering a great view of the entire site, served as a place of political gatherings. Today, you can still enjoy its podium, and the marble seats date back to the reign of Augustus.
It would not be strange to assume that this was the entrance to the town, but the only thing that survived to the present day is the paved roadway along with a water channel in the center.
The presence of the Athena temple can be seen only in the shrines and monasteries. The west and north of the altars have to be pictured. Lysimachos built the glorious new temple promised by Alexander the Great, but little remains.
The Dardanelles, the European Turkish, and the Menderes (Scamander) river plains have a great view from these heights. The “burnt town” (Troy II), which was assumed by Schliemann to have been the town of Priam, is still in the foreground.
To supersede the existing walls of the older Troy VI, the fortification walls of the Troy VI were built in several steps. The rectangular limestone blocks, while not equal in height, were perfectly set to maximize the durability of the defense. The walls were over 4 meters thick and around 9 meters in height.
Visiting the Eternal Stone of Troia, make a right turn and head to the fortifications of Troy VI. The defensive towers were erected on these fortifications out of limestone that could last longer and were pretty strong rising around 10 meters high.
Surpassing the walls of Troy VI, you can see the settlements of the Mycenaean houses. Considering the iron or steel was not available at the times that houses were built, the exquisite stonework and the quality of artistry are pretty remarkable.
Between the first and second groups of Troy II dwellings, the wide north-south trench, which Schliemann traversed, allows tourists to see the walls of homes and parts of ancient settlers made of stones attached to earth mortar. The restored eastern wall, made of air-coated clay bricks, marks the boundary of the large, long buildings. The base of the ramp is crossed by a wooden bridge through the three-ring walls of Troy II.
A well-preserved paved ramp will let you access the interior of Troy II. Archeological findings revealed that the ramp was below a large tower. Nearby is where Schiemann discovered the Priam’s Treasure, which he was wrong with the date around 1000 years.
The East Gate wall is superposed by a Roman stone wall that had its columns on the east end of the temple. A curving passage some 10 meters long and 1,8 meters wide was created by the defensive wall from the south. The massive North-Eastern Tower can be seen on the Mycenaean walls from one of the more than 20 calcareous altars which surrounds the Temple of Athena.
Opened and announced as “The Year of Troy” by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in 2018 to honor the 20th anniversary of getting listed UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998, The Troia Museum is an award-winning project out of 150 candidates.
The museum sits on a vast space over 11,000 m2 and exhibits more than 2000 findings consisting of sculptures, inscriptions, sarcophagus, altar, milestone, ax and similar cutting tools, terracotta ceramics, bone objects, figurines, glass bracelets, metal pots, gold caches objects and jewelry, guns, coins, ornaments, glass/terracotta scent bottles, and tear bottles.
Absolutely, yes. Technically, you can visit Troy from Istanbul daily; however, we don’t recommend it. The journey (or bus trip) takes about 6 hours/one way, and you will already feel tired once you reach there. The best way to make the most of the visit is to stay one night and visit Gallipoli as well once you are there.
However, if you have limited time and this is a must-do on your bucket list, then get ready to wake up around 06:00 in the morning, enjoying a scenic ride through Thrace and crossing Dardanelles and get back to Istanbul by 21:00 or 22:00 latest.
Since Troy is located in the northwest of the country, you can enjoy a similar chronology down to Assos and further down, enjoy the magnificent ancient cities such as Izmir, Ephesus, Sagalassos, Bodrum to name a few.
Have you ever found yourself wondering how the streets of ancient would be at the height of its glory? Have you ever dreamt of walking in the footsteps of a hero like Alexander the Great and the Greek’s famous philosopher Homer? How about we tell you that there is a way you can enjoy the ancient Troy’s majesty again?
With some of the best-preserved ruins on earth, taking a private tour around the legendary site will display the glory of these ancient civilizations. Check our private tours to Troy and its surroundings, waiting to be discovered.