First, though, a bit of historical background to give you some context. For over 1500 years, the city of Troy was thought to have been a myth. Scholars believed that the Trojan War, the epic ten-year battle which inspired Homer’s famous poem, the Iliad, was a poetic fiction; a story told to enchant the imagination, and nothing more. But one man thought differently. His name was Heinrich Schliemann, and he was a German businessman with a firm belief in the truth of the Homeric texts. When Schliemann travelled to the north-western coast of Turkey in 1868 in search of Troy, he met a British diplomat and archaeologist by the name of Frank Calvert. Calvert told him that he had unearthed several finds on the hill of Hisarlik, and that it might be worth starting there.
Schliemann took Calvert’s advice and began digging on Hisarlik. So desperate was he to discover the Troy of Homer, and so certain that it would be buried in the very deepest layers of the mound of Hisarlik, that he took dynamite to the hill and blew it up to get in faster! As the smoke cleared, Schliemann went in to take a closer look – and what he found was beyond his wildest dreams. Schliemann was ecstatic. He had discovered walls, a beautiful stone ramp, and, to top it all off, a treasure-trove of gold including stunning jewellery that he immediately dubbed “The Jewels of Helen”. He wrote at once to the major newspapers, declaring that he had discovered Homer’s Troy.
Unfortunately for Schliemann, however, it soon became clear that not only was he wrong – he was digging a thousand years too deep! It was a mortifying mistake, not least because he had unwittingly blown up most of the remains of Homer’s Troy in his hurry to get to the bottom of the mound.
What we have today, then, is not just the Troy of Homer, but all the cities that existed before it as well as some that were built on top of it later. Imagine a Victoria Sponge cake with lots and lots of layers. The earliest layers, built around 3000 BCE, were the first layer of the cake. Each successive layer was built on top of the previous city (it was much easier just to build on top than to remove all the buildings), until Homer’s Troy, which was the sixth layer (archaeologists call it Troy VI). After Homer’s Troy, there were four more layers, before the site fell out of use and it disappeared under grass and wildflowers. Schliemann’s trench, blown into the site with dynamite, essentially cut a slice out of the cake leaving only the very bottom layer behind. What we have now are bits and pieces of each layer which we have to puzzle together ourselves as we go around the site – a few remains from Troy VI, Homer’s Troy, as well as some very early remains from Troy I and II (the first two layers), and some later Roman remains (Troy VIII and IX).
So what are you waiting for? Let’s have a look around the site!