The Troy Deception explained by Q & A

Q.1. Who deceived who?

Answer: The Athenian tyrants deceived the Greek-speaking world into believing that Troy
once stood on the site of Classical Ilion.

Further explanation: a) Athens was ruled by the Pisistratid tyrants, Pisistratus and then his
son Hippias, from about 560 to 510BC.
b) Classical Ilion was discovered by Schliemann on a site known today as Hisarlik. This is at
the southern end of the Straits of the Dardanelles, in the lower valley of the river Mendere. He
then claimed he had found Troy on the same site.

Q.2. How did they make the world believe that Troy was at Hisarlik?

Answer: Homer, who lived some 150 years before Pisistratus, was in those days the greatest
authority on the history of the Trojan War. So they cleverly made some small changes to
his poems. They added lines to make Troy visible from Samothrace, and near the islands
of Imbros and Tenedos. And any lines which showed that Troy was near Pergamon or
Teuthrania were mostly changed or left out. Once these edited lines were accepted and
believed as being by Homer, Troy could only be in the lower Mendere valley.

Q.3. Why did the tyrants do this?

Answer: The population of Athens was growing and Attica, with little good farm land
and prone to droughts, could not be sure of producing enough grain to feed its growing
population. So Athens needed more land, which a new colony would provide.

Q.4. How did Troy being at Hisarlik help Athens gain an important colony?

Answer: Ilion at Hisarlik was within a large region then called Sigeum. It had a small harbour
at a place then called Sigia, which later was named Alexandria Troas after Alexander the
Great. The tyrants reasoned that, if Troy was once at Ilion, the lands of Troy must have
included the region of Sigeum. And they wanted Sigeum as a colony for Athens. And Homer
by their day was already the most famous expert on the Trojan War. So they devised a plan.
First they ‘edited’ Homer to show they had helped Agamemnon and the Greek army win the
Trojan War. Then they compiled all Homer’s poems into the two great epics we know today
as the Iliad and Odyssey. Then they added in geographical signposts to show that Troy was
visible from Samothrace and near Imbros and Tenedos. This fixed Troy within the region of
Sigeum. Then they claimed that, as victors, the Achaeans had awarded the lands of Troy to the
Athenians as their share of the spoils of war. When they captured Sigeum by force, they were
only recovering what was rightfully theirs.

Q.5. Once Athens had claimed a right to the lands of Troy, was she given them?

Answer: Not immediately. Sigeum was occupied by people from Lesbos. Pisistratus took
them by surprise when he invaded and captured this region. Then, according to Herodotus,
there followed a long drawn out war, known as the Sigean War. By this time Lesbos had
lost the support of Lydia, their earlier ally, when it was conquered by the Persians c546.
So a peace agreement was eventually reached. Athens kept the colony they had won with
the sword, while custody of the ground around the cenotaph of Achilles, a great mound
overlooking the Hellespont sacred to the Aeolians of Lesbos and Thessaly, was given to the
Mytilenians. It later became an Athenian tradition that Athens’ right to Sigeum was based
upon the authority of Homer, and that it had been awarded to them in the days of Solon, after
arbitration by Periander, the tyrant of Corinth. The ‘authority of Homer’, of course, that had
been ‘edited’ for this purpose by the tyrants.

Q.6. Why was the Troy deception never exposed as a scam?

Answer: I will explain this in two parts.

A. In the time of the Pisistratids: Strabo tells us that after the fall of Troy the region was
later absorbed by Phrygia. Then the Aeolians came from northern Greece and settled in the
places that had been captured earlier by Achilles. But there were strong residual memories
in Aeolia of the Achaeans fighting around Teuthrania in Mysia. So for the Troy deception to
work, the Pisistratids had to explain these residual folk memories. The tyrants had employed
the best poets of their day to combine the existing poems of Homer into two long epic poems,
which they called the Iliad and Odyssey. For them, inventing a story to explain the Achaeans
fighting in Mysia was easy work. First they claimed that the Greeks had fought in Mysia by
mistake before being driven off by Telephos and fighting the Trojan war some years later.
Then they inserted this new story into the works of some earlier poets, to make these myths
seem ancient and authentic. Finally the tyrants opened in Athens what was, in effect, Greece’s
first library. Here newly copied out works of ancient writers, edited where necessary to
sustain the deception, were made available for study. The Iliad and Odyssey were hailed as,
in effect, sacred literature, and no challenge against their integrity was sustained. Many copies
of the epic poems must have been written out on rolls of papyrus, distributed as widely as
possible, and often recited at festivals. Any alternative versions found little favour and did not
survive. Thus the fame of Homer and the prestige of Athens were promoted at festivals across
the Greek-speaking world. Over time, all the propaganda supporting the Troy deception came
to be spread abroad and generally accepted.

B. In the time of the New Democracy: This brilliant hoax was unintentionally masked by
later Athenians. Hippias, the last tyrant, became a traitor after he was expelled, and helped
the Persians invade Greece and burn the temples of Athens. So, in due course, as democracy
flowered in Athens, propaganda was used to minimise the achievements of the tyrants. Stories
were spread about which took the credit for gaining the colony at Sigeum away from the
tyrants. It was given instead to an Athenian commander some 80 years earlier. Also, later
Athenians used the same method as the tyrants to validate their backdating of the Sigeum war,
inserting references to it into the work of some earlier poets. This back-dating of the Sigeum
war successfully obscured the date and motive for Troy’s relocation.

Thus the Troy deception remained undetected for some 2,500 years. No-one suspected that
the clues pointing to Troy at Hisarlik had been planted deliberately. The view of Troy from
Samothrace was such a powerful influence that no-one thought to look for Troy beside
Pergamon in far away Mysia. Despite the many disparities between the Iliad’s descriptions
of Ilios and the Trojan battlefield, no-one thought seriously of looking for Troy in a different

In short, the truth about Troy was hidden largely because early Athenian history was revised
more than once, first by the Pisistratids, and again by the Athenians of the New Democracy.

Q.7. Was this a victimless crime?

Answer: No. The major casualty was the integrity of Homer, arguably the founder of Western
literature. For some 2,500 years his descriptions of Ilios, Troy’s magnificent citadel, and of
prominent features of the Trojan landscape not found at Hisarlik, were regarded as inventions.
They were put down to his poetic imagination. Even his very existence has been doubted.
But now the Trojan plain, the battlefield of the Trojan War, has been found around Pergamon
in ancient Mysia. Now the world can see for themselves that all the features of the Trojan
landscape is there, exactly as and where Homer described them, in the lower Bakir Çayi
valley. A long overdue reappraisal of the integrity of Homer and the Homeric descriptions can
now begin.

The Troy deception was a complete success. It has lasted for over 2,500 years. In promoting
Homer’s epics, Athens greatly boosted both her own reputation as a cultural centre, and the
fame of Athene, her protector goddess. By creating the Iliad and Odyssey from the many
separate poems of Homer, and promoting these at festivals, Athens ensured that they were
preserved for posterity. This, by itself, was a massive contribution to western civilisation. She
also gained the colony at Sigeum she badly needed, and with it custody throughout most of
the Classical era of arguably the most famous site in ancient Greek history, the site of Troy.