Ten reasons why Troy was not at Hisarlik

The famous wooden Trojan horse outside Hisarlik, the site of Troy near Canakkale in western Turkey

There are many reasons for denying that Troy was once at Hisarlik. Certainly the Troy described in the Iliad cannot be one of the ancient settlements where ruins are now found on this site near Canakkale in western Turkey. Ten of these reasons are listed below:

1. Hisarlik has no natural acropolis

Unlike almost all important cities in the Late Bronze Age, the site has no natural acropolis. Yet Troy
had a magnificent and spacious acropolis. Homer described it as very steep, or ‘beetling’.

2. Hisarlik is perched on the edge of a plateau
Hisarlik is perched on the edge of a plateau overlooking the plain of the Mendere river. From the
plain, it appears to be perched on the edge of a cliff. If an army came by ship to capture Hisarlik, it
would not march up to the bottom of the cliff face and try to climb up in front of the walls. Instead, it would first establish itself on the plateau at the same level as Hisarlik, and then attack, aiming to push the Trojans over the ridge and down the steep hillside to the plain below. Yet there is no hint in the Iliad of such a strategy being even considered.

3. The so-called citadel at Hisarlik is too small

Homer’s acropolis was large enough to have within its walls many fine buildings. These included the royal palace, temple precincts, other houses for members of the royal family and their servants, stables for horses, and buildings and store rooms for food, animal fodder and military equipment. The so-called walled ‘citadel’ at Hisarlik is much too small to be the walled acropolis of Ilios. Also, the nature and extent of the so-called ‘lower town’ at the time of the Trojan War has been much disputed.

4. The archaeology does not fit the legends The archaeology at Hisarlik does not agree with what we know of the legends about Troy. The site
at Hisarlik was first settled perhaps a thousand years before the time of the Trojan War, and the
settlement layer most widely accepted as Priam’s city was Troy level 6. This settlement apparently
fell when its walls collapsed as the result of an earthquake, with no sign of a burnt layer. The latest
view from the site suggests that Priam’s city was settlement level 7a, which ended by fire. According to the archaeologist Carl Blegen it lasted ‘half a century at most.’ Neither levels 6h or the one above it, called level 7a, agree with the legends. These suggest that Troy was established only about 5 generations before the Trojan War. At the end of the war it was destroyed by fire.

5. Finding Hisarlik-on-sea
For over 2,000 years it was assumed that the Greek army had their camp beside their ships at Troy
Bay, near the mouth of the river Mendere. The Trojan War was fought on the plain between there and Hisarlik. However, between 1980 and 1982, ground surveys showed that a large bay existed at the river mouth in Trojan times. Troy at Hisarlik was therefore effectively a coastal fortress. Troy in the Iliad, on the other hand, was described as ‘far from the ships’.

6. Losing the Trojan plain
With Troy close to the beach, there is no room for the plain of Troy between Troy and the Greek
camp beside their ships at Troy Bay. This means that the story of the Iliad, of battles surging too and
fro across the great plain, could not have taken place at Hisarlik. The absence of this plain therefore
makes a mockery of this great epic poem.

7. Besik Bay was not Troy Bay
With a large bay at the mouth of the Mendere in Trojan times, supporters of Troy at Hisarlik had
therefore to find a new site for the Greek camp at Troy Bay. An earlier suggestion that this might
have been at Besik Bay was therefore explored and adopted. While this immediately reinstated the
existence of a plain between Troy and the ships, this plain, like its predecessor, failed to match the
descriptions of the plain in the Iliad.

8. Teuthrania was not near Hisarlik
The Trojans, according to Herodotus, were also known as ‘Teucrians’. This was probably the
eponymous name for the citizens of Teuthrania. The site of Teuthrania was known to Strabo as
being in the lower Kaikos valley, some 15-20km west of Pergamon. The ancients knew this region,
due east of Lesbos, as Mysia. According to one Trojan War story, Teuthrania was destroyed by the
Achaeans before they went to Troy. Apparently they got lost on their way to Troy, landed in Mysia,
and destroyed Teuthrania thinking it was Troy.

The legends tell us that a Trojan king Tros built a new capital city, Troy, further from the sea so
as to give better protection to the people living on the plain. His son and successor, King Ilus, then
built Ilios on the high acropolis nearby. This valley was known as Mysia to the ancient Greeks.
Archaeologists have yet to confirm the exact location of ancient Teuthrania.

In short, according to the legends, Teuthrania should be in the same valley as Troy and Ilios. But
Teuthrania is in the same valley as Pergamon and Bergama, some 150km away from Hisarlik.

9. No hot spring at Hisarlik
Hisarlik is built at a point on the edge of the plateau directly above a good cold water spring. But no
evidence has been found a geothermal spring near this site. Yet Troy had both a hot or warm spring
and a cold one close together. These were just outside the walls of Troy, close to where Hector was
killed by Achilles.

10. The main river in the wrong place.
The main river in the Trojan plain is called the Skamander. In the Iliad this flowed through the valley
past Troy, and out into the sea near Troy Bay. But with Troy at Hisarlik, the river flows past Troy
heading north, and flows into the Straits roughly 7km further north. So Troy Bay, to the SW of Troy,
is nowhere near the mouth of the Mendere.

Verdict
Earthquake activity can cause the eruption or cessation of geothermal springs. So, apart from reason
number 9 above, each of these reasons by itself is sufficient to make Troy at Hisarlik extremely
unlikely. Considered together, we can say beyond reasonable doubt, that the Troy of the Iliad was
never at Hisarlik.

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