Can Troy be somewhere else?

Sketch map of the Troad as described by Strabo, from Samothrace in the north-west as far south as Smyrna. This shows the relative positions of Troy at Hisarlik and Bergama / Pergamon.

Does the claim that today’s Troy is in the wrong place sound so incredible that it will be a waste of time reading any further? First let us define the key terms, and then ask a Jury.

By ‘Troy’ and ‘the Trojan plain’, I mean the Troy and the Trojan plain as described in the Iliad. The Iliad exists, so my claim that the Trojan plain was not at Hisarlik can be examined and tested, whether or not a real Homer or a real Troy ever existed, and whether or not the Trojan War was an historical event. If a real Troy did not exist, then the claim that a real Troy was at Hisarlik becomes meaningless.

Now to address an imaginary Jury. I can see Counsel for the Defence of Hisarlik as Troy jumping to his feet.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. The very idea of Troy being anywhere else but at Hisarlik is preposterous. The Iliad makes it quite clear that Troy must be visible from Samothrace. Tenedos and Imbros must be close by. Hisarlik, like Troy, lies beside the Hellespont, which has always been another name for what is now called the Straits of the Dardanelles. Hisarlik is the only ancient walled site in this narrowly defined region which has been proved by archaeology to have been settled long before, and throughout, Trojan times. The Classical city of Ilion was on this site, and this was generally accepted by antiquity, from at least the time of Herodotus and Alexander the Great, to have been the site of ancient Troy. Any feature of the city or landscape described in the Iliad, but not found at or around Hisarlik, must therefore have been imagined by Homer, the Poet of the Iliad. No site anywhere else can possibly fit these geographical requirements as demanded by Homer’s epic poems. On these grounds alone, the case for Troy being anywhere other than at Hisarlik falls at the first fence. This case must be dismissed.’

‘How do you reply’? asks the Judge.

My advocate rises slowly to his feet. He quietly points out that Counsel for the Defence has overlooked one rather important fact. This is that the only basis for assuming Troy was at Hisarlik/Ilion is the acceptance of a very few place names in the Iliad and Odyssey as the work of the original poet. This acceptance is the main reason why no alternative site for Troy, far from Imbros and Tenedos and not visible from Samothrace, was thought possible. Yet it has been known for over 2,500 years that all we read in these epic poems was not written by Homer. All great artists suffer from imitators, who try to pass their work off as being by someone already famous, and Homer was no exception. The subject matter, the language used, and the variable quality of the poetry, have all convinced many scholars that parts of the Iliad were composed at different times by different authors.

Equally, places named by Homer gained the honour of immortality, so some names and places may have been inserted later in a fraudulent bid for fame.

The Defence Counsel will therefore have to prove that Homer, and no one else, was the most likely author of the references to Samothrace, Imbros, and Tenedos. And that is just the beginning of their difficulties.

The hearing continues…

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