EuroTrash 010 travel blog

This horse worked as an unpaid extra on Brad Pitt's film

Headshot of the aforementioned Hollywood Horse--I think it's his good side

Perhaps he's trying a bot too hard in this one

Nothing attracts Japanese people more than kitschy fake animals, epecially if they're...

...and we are talking major league kitschy

So of course I climbed up inside

Nostril view

Outer wall from fateful Troy VII

Note six-cornered stones, effective against earthquake

Square stones: Greek. With mortar added: Roman

A ceiling piece, 50 metres from where the building was.

Schliemann's trench--the wanker

layered history

a bit more atmosphere in this view

a theatre for small music performances

portrait of goof on ancient stone

relaxing on history

Hadrian made it to the museum, nose intact!

Well, that single word says it all, doesn't it. Few historical place names are as redolent with associations as Troy; perhaps it's because so many cultures lay claim to parts of the legend and its fusion with factual history. The French claim descent from the Trojans (rank nonsense, except for the persuasive truth that both are experts at military failure); the Italians claim as their forefather Aeneas, the famed Trojan leader who, erm, ran away from Troy and founded Rome after many wanderings (possible if you include Aeneas' triumph over the Latinae, from whom modern Italians are descended, not the Romans). Some claim the British are linked to Brutus, one of Aeneas's sons. And the Irish cannot be ruled out because they too would have boozed themselves into the self-delusion of victory upon seeing an immense wooden horse (or rabbit) outside their front gate. And the Greeks...oddly, many modern Greeks might be closer to the Trojans in lineage than to actual ancient Greeks, as so many have their origins in Asia Minor.

With all that, no one quite knows who the Trojans were. In Hittite texts (remember, we're talking Bronze Age here, about 1250 BCE) Troy was referred to as Wilusa, close to Homer's use of Ilion, which is now understood to have had a digamma fronting it (i.e. Wilion). It's thought the Trojans spoke a language called Luvian (again, this cognates with Wilusa). They traded with the Mycenae, which is why so much Greekish pottery was found on the site, but were not Greek. It's possible, scholars are now thinking, that they were native to Anatolia, or at least as native as anyone migrating over the Caucasian steppes had a right to consider themselves.

It's also possible, given some of the evidence of wealth unearthed at Troy, that the Trojans were part of an alliance which was as vast and effective, stretching to the borders of what is now Syria, Egypt and Palestine, as that of the Greek states to the west. And that's a better reason for a ten year war than some lady named Helen.

I mention this background not because I'm a geek (well, that too) but because every tourism source you run into tells you that a visit to the site of Troy is deeply disappointing, a "ruin of a ruin". And it's true, Heinrich Schliemann used a tractor where he should have used a spade, and took away a vast amount of ill-gotten gain, leaving what interested him less--houses, plumbing infrastructure, fortifications--a scattering of mixed eras.

But if you do the research before hand--it doesn't matter if your preference is legend or history--there is a lot to see. No one tells you, for instance, that Troy is situated on a steep hill which overlooks lowlands which stretch to the very mouth of the Dardanelles, the gateway to Asia. All of a sudden it's easy to see why a succession of cities would be built there and how it would acquire strategic importance, and wealth, over time. Not to mention that the elevation creates a spectacular view.

The different walls, too, tell a story. With a knowledgeable guide you can soon tell the differences between the earthquake-proof six-cornered stone of the Trojans of Troy 6 and 7, the square stones of the Greeks who came after, and the mortared stones of the Romans. What is significant is what you can't see, of course; as Eberhard Zangger notes in an excellent on-line article (google "who were the sea people?") a people who built many of their dwellings from perishable sun-dried brick and wood are at an historical disadvantage when compared to the Enlightenment-blessed civilisations of Rome and Athens. Ditto a people who maintained a mainly oral tradition (think North America's aboriginal peoples), or those who were experts in trade and political gain rather than in producing the kind of artifacts one finds in western museums.

Such peoples can disappear from historical view in what seems like the blink of an eye. The Trojans weren't the only ones to vanish around this time; we know little of the Hittites, the Ugarit people, very little of the Phoenicians (who gave us out alphabet), the Lydians of the Lyceans. Winners write history; and people who want to associate themselves with the greatness of beauty, as the west has traditionally done with the glory of ancient Greece, are less inclined to view Greece's enemies as being of equal cultural value.

Nonetheless, it has to be said that the tour took about an hour. The group of Aussies, Kiwis, Americans, Brits and Canucks were soon dispersed. Three of us asked to be dropped off at the Archaeological Museum and I found myself, after half an hour, the only person there. The lone security guy dozed peacefully at the front desk; I could have tiptoed by with Hadrian's head.

I feel exhilarated by having been to the site of Troy, even with its prior archaeological depradations. There is something essential about it for me, something that feels completed in my longing to know how my world, the world of the west, came together, and how it has historically interacted with its eastern neighbours. Turkey, as has traditionally been the case, is the premier site to do this kind of linking.

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