To dig up the real dirt on Troy, archaeologist Brian Rose of the University of Cincinnati easily serves as the national authority. He headed UC’s Greek and Roman expeditions at Troy for 15 years, making finds of ancient gold jewelry, buried sculptures of famous emperors and many another historic treasure – landing him on the airwaves of outlets like the BBC and on the pages of The New York Times and other publications.
|Rose with a statue of the Roman Emperor Hadrian|
That Troy legend, in brief, holds that in about 1200 B.C., a prince of Troy kidnapped the beautiful queen of a Greek kingdom. The Greeks then laid siege to Troy, but were only able to subdue it, after ten years of warfare, via trickery. They built a large, hollow, wooden horse as a supposed gift to Athena, goddess of war, and then hid inside the horse. The Trojans dragged the horse into their own city so that they themselves might possess this gift to Athena and thus accrue any benefits it might bring. Later, at night, the Greeks snuck out of the horse’s belly and sacked the citadel.
• Homer: Man or Myth?
• War and Society in Greece in the Time of Home
• Assessing the Archaeological Evidence for the Trojan War
Or, you can catch Rose, Davis and Getzel Cohen, professor of classics, in the one-hour documentary, “Beyond the Movie: Troy,” on the National Geographic Channel. The documentary will air at 9 p.m. on May 7 and at 1 a.m. on May 8 and May 15.
Below is a roundup of some of the fact vs. fiction that we know about Troy:
• Magnificent myth or historic happening?
There is no archaeological evidence that specifically buttresses Homer’s 8th-century B.C. version of a ten-year, Bronze Age conflict pitting Mycennaean Greeks against the Trojans (Troy is located in what is today northwestern Turkey) and ending in the fiery destruction of Troy.
|Battle scene from a sarcophagus found about an hour's drive east of Troy and dating from about 400 B.C.|
It’s likely that Homer did what Hollywood is now doing. He took a fairly long and complex historical tradition of conflict, and he condensed it, made it simpler to understand and spiced it up with romance and rivalries.
• Was Homer even a real person?
It’s not certain. Homer is believed to have been a blind Ionian poet, perhaps from Smyrna or the Island of Chios, who composed the story of the Iliad in about 730 B.C. and the Odyssey later, around 700 B.C., about six centuries after the events had supposedly occurred.
• Did Homer really compose the 24 books of the Iliad and the later work, the Odyssey, himself?
|Trojan coin depicting Trojan War hero, Hector, throwing firebrands at the Greek ships. It dates from the second century A.D.|
• Was it really all over a woman?
There is no archaeological evidence for this. Any Trojan War of the period may have been due to a rivalry between the Greeks and the Hittite empire in central Turkey for control of this strategically important location.
• Could the Greeks really have launched more than a thousand ships in an effort to conquer Troy?
No. The settlements of Greece during the late Bronze Age could not have mustered that kind of sea power.
• Would any siege really have lasted 10 years?
|LImestone defensive wall from the period of the Trojan War of epic fame|
• Did the war really end with a horse?
No. There’s no archaeological evidence for this, and its (the hollow horse) existence was doubted even by the ancient Greeks.
• Did the fall of Troy really lead to the founding of Rome?
|An early Bronze Age wooden defensive wall once stood here in what was Troy's lower city at the time.|
Troy today – or rather the Turkish residents living near the site – have been taking advantage of tourist possibilities. It's typically received hundreds of thousands of visitors annually over the last decade and now includes a walking path through the site, a tourist information center and, of course, a 60-foot-high dark wooden horse – the Trojan Horse – at the entrance. You can even climb a ladder into the horse’s belly.
However, if the movie “Troy” tickles your curiosity but you’re without the means to travel to Troy, you’ve another option. Another UC faculty member, Liz Riorden, assistant professor of architecture who worked at Troy throughout most of the 1990s, will soon begin building a Web site for school children that is devoted to visualizing the Troy that was.