|For those of you who don't know, I majored in English Literature at university, and studied the Illiad and the Odyssey as an undergraduate, hence the name of my website! Therefore, I was also very excited to visit the site of Ancient Troy, where the 20 year war was fought over Helen, the woman whose face launched 10,000 ships! Just briefly, the story goes, Paris, the son of Priam, the ruler of Troy, met Helen while visiting another ruler and her husband, Menelaus, King of Sparta. They fell in love and Helen ran away with Paris to Troy. Menelaus was naturally very angry at losing his wife and becoming a cuckold to the young and handsome Paris, and convinced his brother, Agamemnon to join him in a war against Troy. Achilles was supposedly part of the attacking force as well. As is well known, the Trojans were reputedly finally defeated when the Acheans pretended to withdraw and left a huge wooden horse behind, supposedly as an offering to the gods. The Trojans brought the horse into the city and in the middle of the night the Acheans burst forth from the horse and sacked the city. See "Troy" with Brad Pitt in it, I loved that movie!
Anyway, onto the actual ruins of Troy. Now situated 5km from the sea, 5,000 years ago, Troy was situated by a harbour that has now been filled in over the millenium by alluvial material (silt). The site of Troy was very strategically placed, and controlled the passage up to the sea of Marmas and the Dead Sea. It was important for much the same reasons as why the Allies wanted to conquer the area during the war. There are in fact 9 layers of the city, dating back to 3000BC.
Troy was first discovered by Heinrich Schlieman, who, incredibly, found the ruins by using the descriptions of the city and surrounding terrain found in the Illiad and the Odyssey, incredible! Unfortunately, achaeological techniques weren't very well developed back in 1870, and being something of a treasure hunter, Schlieman destroyed a lot of the archaeological evidence in his haste to find treasure. In the first 3 years, he dug a trench 17m deep and 40m wide that can still be seen today. In total, Schlieman found over 10,000 pieces of historical significance and items of golden treasure. Unfortunately, 50% are now missing since WWII and many have been transported to Moscow and St Peters.
Although the ruins that remain at the site are in pretty poor condition, I had a really great guide and I was happy to be there regardless. Some of the features that are still easily discernable are amazing, including the walls that employ a 'keystone' technique, where every 5 stones or so, an L shaped stone is inserted to add strength and stability to the walls so they didn't fall down during earthquakes. And this developed by people 4000 years ago! There is also an obvious ramp and some beautiful carved pieces of very hard marble that used to be part of a temple to Athena. It's a real shame that so much of the site was ruined or degraded by the early excavation works and that the artifacts have largely gone missing or are no longer in Turkey.
There is very little money devoted to archaeological explorations in Turkey and archeaologist only work on the site during summer, owing to a lack of funds. It's a real shame that in many of the countries I have recently visited in the Middle East that important archeaological sites remain undiscovered because of a lack of funds, and the fact that its actually safer to leave them underground at the moment, if the proper care can't be provided for them.