Good News – Troy’s Real


This settlement, dated ca. 1275-1240 B.C. by Blegen, may
in fact have begun as early as ca. 1325 B.C. (early in
the LH IIIB period, to judge from the latest Mycenaean
imports in the ruins of Troy VIh) and lasted as long as
ca. 1190 B.C. (early in the LH IIIC period, on the basis
of the latest Mycenaean sherds in its ruins), despite
the fact that it has traditionally been argued to have
been a short-lived settlement on the grounds that no
sub-phases have been detected within it. The date of its
destruction has been a hotly debated subject. Blegen
began by arguing for a date of ca. 1240 B.C. but later
raised this to ca. 1270. Nylander has argued for a date
as low as 1200-1190 B.C. on the basis of the latest
Mycenaean imports, which both he and more recently Mee
feel include LH IIIC types. Podzuweit has advocated an
even lower date. If we agree with Blegen, Dörpfeld,
Schliemann, and many others that Hissarlik is the site
of Homeric Troy (but see below for Carpenter’s arguments
against this possibility) and if we consider the Trojan
War of Greek myth to have been an historical event, then
Troy VIIa is the most likely candidate for the city of
Priam. Later Greeks dated the Trojan War as follows:
1184 B.C. (Eratosthenes), 1209/8 B.C. (the Parian
Marble), ca. 1250 B.C. (Herodotus), and 1334/3 B.C.
(Douris). Troy VIIa perished in a general conflagration
which destroyed both the buildings within the citadel
and those outside.


The collapsed fortifications of Troy VI were
reconstructed. In the area of the east gate (VI S)
between Sections 2 and 3, a southern extension added to
Section 2 made the approach to this gate more difficult
for attackers. The masonry of this addition, much less
regular than that characteristic of the fortifications
of Troy VI, utilized many of the fallen blocks from the
walls of Troy VI. Repair of the main south gate (VI T)
involved paving the entrance passage here and installing
a drain under the paving. Extensive repairs to the south
and southeast portion of the wall (Sections 3-4) were
also undertaken.

Domestic Architecture

As in the case of Troy VI, the only preserved
architecture within the walls was found on the two
lowest terraces of the rings of concentric terraces
which characterize the Middle and Late Bronze Age
citadel of Troy. Some of the large mansions of Troy VI
were reconstructed and re-used, but many had been too
badly damaged by the earthquake which demolished Troy
VIh and were simply built over. The houses of Troy VIIa
are far more densely packed within the citadel than were
the mansions of Troy VI. They tend to be one- to
three-room structures which share party walls and are
irregular in plan. The houses on the lowest terrace are
built up against the interior face of the fortification
wall, thus violating a defensive principle maintained
during Troy VI. The houses of Troy VIIa are quite sturdy
and are by no means to be considered „flimsy shacks“,
although not unnaturally they incorporate much collapsed
building material of Troy VIh. The floors of many of
these houses are honeycombed by pits dug for the
emplacement of large storage pithoi below ground level.
These pithoi were sealed at the top by stone slabs, but
the presence of the pits occasionally so weakened the
floor that in one case the floor appears to have
collapsed. The new floor occasioned by this collapse is
located in the only house of Troy VIIa which has
preserved evidence of three distinct floor levels, a
fact which, together with the relative rarity of
buildings with even two separate floor levels, has been
considered an argument in favor of a short lifetime for
the settlement as a whole.

Water supplies within the area enclosed by the walls
consist of a well in a paved, seemingly public court
just east of the overbuilt foundations of House VIF and
of the large cistern or well in Tower VI g, refurbished
after the earthquake which destroyed Troy VIh. Remains
of several houses outside the walls (Houses 740-741
south of the east gate and House 749 at the southeast)
indicate that a lower town of some sort extended beyond
the walls of the citadel in Troy VIIa as in Troy VI.

Skeletal Remains

Fragments of a human skull found within House 700 just
inside the south gate (VI T) may belong to the same
individual as more human bones discovered outside the
same house. A lower jawbone, probably from an adult
male, was found in destruction debris overlying the
floor of House 741 outside the citadel to the east. A
complete skeleton, although clearly not a burial, was
discovered on top of a stratum containing pottery of
Troy VIh and VIIa types outside the fortifications to
the west. These human bones, although not representative
of a large number of individuals, presumably belong to
casualties of the destruction of Troy VIIa. They are
noteworthy in that human skeletal remains are absent
from the destruction debris of earlier destruction
levels at Troy (especially those of Troy IIg and Troy
VIh) and are indicative of the failure of the survivors
of the final catastrophe which befell Troy VIIa to
recover and bury all its victims.

Pottery and Miscellaneous Finds

The pottery of Troy VIIa is hardly distinguishable from
that of Troy VIh. The few new features include the
presence of a dark-slipped Tan Ware, a new vase shape (A
52) in Minyan and Tan Wares, and a significantly smaller
amount of imported Mycenaean pottery, such imports also
being somewhat later in date than those found in Troy
VIh. The miscellaneous finds from Troy VIIa are
altogether indistinguishable from those of Troy VIh.


The material culture of Troy VIIa is essentially
identical to that of the preceding settlement, and the
residents of Troy VIIa were therefore presumably the
survivors of the earthquake which levelled Troy VIh and
their immediate descendants.

The chief difference between the citadels of Troy VIh
and Troy VIIa lies in the use of space within the
fortifications. The excavators have argued that a
greatly increased population sought protection inside
the walls during Troy VIIa, presumably as a result of
some external threat. The preoccupation of this
population with storage space as attested by the
subterranean pithoi has been further interpreted to
reflect a state of siege at the end of Troy VIIa. The
violent destruction of Troy VIIa has been interpreted as
evidence of the failure of Troy’s inhabitants to
withstand the siege against which they had apparently
prepared themselves. The destruction itself has
therefore invariably been interpreted as the product of
human agency. The architectural differences between the
Trojan citadels of phases VIh and VIIa can, however, be
interpreted in other ways. Thus, for example, Troy VIh
can be viewed as a citadel within which only the ruler
and his/her principal retainers resided, the latter
being the occupants of the large mansions on the lower
terraces. The mass of the citizenry would have lived
outside of the walls in the recently discovered lower
town of this period and/or in small agricultural
villages dotted around the Trojan plain. In Troy VIIa, a
good deal of this citizenry had apparently moved within
the walls, but this change need not reflect a period of
siege and could simply represent a major change in the
order of Trojan society. Perhaps Troy VIIa was no longer
ruled by a monarch, while the aristocratic class which
had occupied the mansions of Troy VIh had likewise been
eliminated. After all, evidence for similar social
changes may be cited from the Greek Mainland where
palaces disappear as functioning entities at the end of
the LH IIIB period. If siege had been a major concern of
the occupants of the citadel of Troy VIIa, one wonders
why any buildings of this period were constructed
outside of the walls in a small but nevertheless
noticeable „lower town“.

The decline in the quantity of imported Mycenaean
pottery in Troy VIIa has been viewed as confirming a
preconceived notion of the attackers‘ identity. That is,
if the attackers had been Mycenaean, it would hardly be
surprising that the quantity of Mycenaean pottery
imported into Troy should have declined (or so the
argument would run). However, it is a fact that the
quantity of Mycenaean pottery imported from the Greek
Mainland during the later LH IIIB period declines in
other areas (e.g. Cyprus, the Levant) as well as at
Troy. It can therefore be argued that Mycenaean overseas
trade was in a general slump during this period and that
this slump is as likely as a hypothetical siege of Troy
by Mycenaeans as an explanation for the dearth of
Mycenaean ceramic imports into Troy VIIa. It is also
true that pottery identifiable on stylistic grounds as
„Mycenaean“ was produced over a large area of the Aegean
during the period in question, not just throughout the
southern Greek Mainland but also on numerous central and
eastern Aegean islands and at sites on the western
Anatolian coast such as Miletus. It remains to be
established how much of the „imported Mycenaean“ pottery
from Troy VIIa comes from the Peloponnese, how much from
Aegean islands, and how much from Mycenaean sites on the
coast of Asia Minor itself.

The date of Troy VIIa’s destruction probably lies within
the half-century ca. 1230-1180 B.C., although Blegen
ultimately placed it a generation or so earlier and
Podzuweit has recently suggested that it should be set a
good deal later.

On the basis of the Iliad and Odyssey specifically and
of Greek tradition in general, the destroyers of Troy
VIIa have traditionally been identified as Mycenaean
Greeks from the central and southern Greek Mainland.
However, there is nothing in the archaeological evidence
to identify precisely who the attackers were. Indeed,
there is at least some archaeological evidence which
suggests that the attackers were not Mycenaeans. For
example, are the Mainland Greeks likely to have
destroyed Troy at more or less the same time as their
own centers in the Peloponnese were being destroyed? It
is possible to answer this question in the affirmative
if the Peloponnesian destructions were due to natural
disasters (e.g. earthquakes, as most recently argued in
the cases of Tiryns and Mycenae) or if they were a
direct result of the absence of large numbers of
potential defenders who were away besieging Troy,
although both scenarios do seem to stretch coincidence
to its limits. Perhaps more significant is the fact that
the „Coarse Ware“ of Troy VIIb1, a class of pottery
which makes its first appearance at Troy immediately
after the destruction of Troy VIIa, is very closely
related to the handmade and burnished pottery which
appears in more or less contemporary contexts of the
early LH IIIC period at a number of sites on the Greek
Mainland as well as in southern Italy and Sicily. In
none of these areas does this pottery have local
antecedents, and it has been argued by Deger-Jalkotzy
that such pottery is to be derived ultimately from
ceramic traditions at home in the Middle Danube area of
central Europe. The „Coarse Ware“ of Troy VIIb1 may be
interpreted as identifying the sackers of Troy VIIa, a
population group who crossed the Hellespont at the end
of their journey from the Middle Danube through Rumania
to Turkish Thrace. Similar groups may have been involved
with the sacking of numerous major Mycenaean sites in
the Peloponnese at the end of the LH IIIB period. One of
several weaknesses of such a reconstruction of events,
it must be confessed, is the fact that the quantities of
„Coarse Ware“ in Troy VIIb1, like those of the related
handmade and burnished pottery at Mainland Greek
Mycenaean sites in the early LH IIIC period, are
relatively small. Did the makers of such pottery indeed
play as important a role in the political and military
history of the end of the Aegean Bronze Age as some
authorities impute to them?

Troy VIIb1 (ca. 1230/1180-1150 B.C.)

The rebuilt houses of Troy VIIb1 tend to be founded on
walls of Troy VIIa and thus to have plans similar to
those of the immediately preceding phase. The
fortifications are said to have been
„evidently….repaired“ since the houses of Troy VIIb1
abut against them. The east gate (VI S) of the fortress
may have been closed at this time, but the main gate at
the south (VI T) was renovated, the road leading up
through it being repaved at a higher level than during
Troy VIIa. Although the differences in material culture
between Troy VIIa and VIIb1 are claimed by the
excavators of the Cincinnati expedition to have been
non-existent, the fact is that the „Coarse Ware“ of Troy
VIIb1 is a novelty at this time. It is nevertheless true
that the remainder of Trojan culture appears to have
continued without any perceptible changes, the imported
Mycenaean pottery now being of somewhat later LH IIIC
types. The cause of the „end“ of Troy VIIb1 is called
„an unsolved mystery“: there is no sign of any general
destruction preceding levels of the ensuing phase known
as Troy VIIb2. The duration of Troy VIIb1 is usually
estimated at about half-a-century, once again largely on
the basis of the Mycenaean imports.

Troy VIIb2 (ca. 1150-1050 B.C. or later)

The houses of Troy VIIb1 were modified by the addition
of extensions or by the piercing of doorways through
party walls, seemingly in order to increase the size of
the individual dwelling units. Domestic architecture
during this phase is distinguished by the frequent use
of an orthostate course at ground level. The east gate
by this time had definitely gone out of use, while the
south gate still constituted the major entryway through
the fortifications, the roadway through it now being
repaved at a still higher level. Houses outside the
walls were common, although the fortifications were
probably still functional and no doubt served to define
that portion of the site better protected from external

Some of the pottery, a handmade and generally
dark-surfaced class distinctively decorated with knobs
and grooves (so-called „Knobbed Ware“), is new in this
phase and has traditionally been taken to represent a
new population element in residence at the site. Most of
the pottery nevertheless consists of the Late Bronze Age
Trojan wares familiar from earlier phases, both Minyan
and Tan Wares, so that much of the population of Troy
VIIb2 is usually considered to have consisted of
descendants of the Trojans of Troy VI, VIIa, and VIIb1.
Some scholars have suggested that a gap in occupation
may exist between Troy VIIb1 and VIIb2. If so, it is
likely to have been a short one, one to two generations
at most, in view of the re-use during Troy VIIb2 of much
of the architecture of VIIb1.

A number of bronze implements found by Schliemann,
although their context of discovery is not certain, have
been attributed to Troy VIIb2 and have their best
parallels in Hungary. The „Knobbed Ware“, too, has
parallels across the Hellespont which suggest that its
makers may have migrated into the Troad from Thrace, to
which in turn they may have moved from further west. A
crude and ugly terracotta female figurine is an unusual
find in Troy VIIb2.

This settlement was probably destroyed by fire after a
century of less of occupation. After this, the site of
Hissarlik was deserted for as much as three centuries
before Aeolic Greeks reoccupied it in the late 8th
century B.C. at about the time when the Homeric epics,
the Iliad and the Odyssey, were being written down for
the first time. If the Trojan War was indeed an
historical event of the late 13th century B.C. and if
the site of Hissarlik was the site at which this war
took place, the Greeks who heard the epic lays sung
about it between ca. 1050 and 750 B.C. would have found
no more than a rather unimpressive heap of rubble and
decomposed mudbrick at the spot, certainly nothing as
imposing as the Cyclopean walls of Tiryns or the Lion
Gate and the Treasury of Atreus at Mycenae, at both of
which sites occupation was continuous from Mycenaean
down into Classical times.


The Iliad and the Odyssey are only two of the epics
which immortalized the Trojan War in Greek saga and
legend. Another epic, the Kypria, dealt with the events
leading up to the arrival of the Greek forces at Troy at
the beginning of the ten-year siege. The full text of
this epic no longer survives, but a capsule summary of
its contents is preserved. The original epic was written
down after the Iliad sometime in the 7th century B.C. A
peculiar feature of the Kypria is that it appears to
preserve the memory of two slightly different
expeditions, as follows:

Expedition #1

(a) The Greek leaders and their forces rendezvous at
Aulis preparatory to leaving Greece enroute to Asia

(b) As they conduct sacrifices, they are confronted with
the omen of the serpent and the sparrow: a snake appears
in the midst of the sacrifice, climbs a tree, and eats
eight baby sparrows from a nest at the top of the tree
before swallowing their mother. Calchas, the chief seer
of the army, interprets this omen to indicate that the
siege of Troy will last nine years before being
successful in the tenth.

(c) The Greeks put to sea and arrive at Teuthrania in
Mysia, well south of Troy. They sack the city of
Teuthrania, mistaking it for Ilion.

(d) The local Mysian hero Telephos, a son of Heracles,
comes to the aid of the Teuthranians and kills
Thersander, son of Polyneices, one of the Greeks.

(e) Telephos himself is wounded by Achilles.

(f) The Greeks put to sea again, but a storm comes up
and scatters the fleet before it can reach Ilion.

(g) Achilles is driven to the island of Skyros, where he
marries Deidameia, the daughter of the local king

(h) Achilles heals Telephos, who has been led by an
oracle to go to Argos so that he can guide the Greek
fleet to Ilion, the proper „Troy“.

[The figure of Telephos here is comparable in a number
of respects to the Greek hero Philoctetes in the
„standard version“ of the Trojan War epic.]

Some further details are added to the story of
Expedition #1 by later authors. These additions are
likely to be contaminated, at least to some extent, by
the story line of the „standard version“ of the Trojan
War as told in the Iliad:

(i) When the Greeks first land at Teuthrania, they are
driven back to their ships by their enemies until
Patroklos comes to the rescue and repels the enemy.

(j) Patroklos is wounded and so Achilles intervenes,
pursuing and wounding the local champion, Telephos.
[Compare the death of Patroklos, and the subsequent
death of the local champion Hector at the hands of
Achilles, in the Iliad.]

(k) Achilles, though „swift-footed“, is unable to catch
Telephos until Dionysos grows a magic vine which trips
Telephos in his flight. [Compare Athena’s apearance as
Deiphobos in the Iliad to fool Hector into stopping in
his flight from Achilles and into turning and facing his
pursuer, with disastrous consequences.]

Expedition #2

(a) The Greek leaders finally reassemble at Aulis.

  • (b) Agamemnon kills a stag sacred to Artemis, and as a
    result Artemis sends unfavorable winds against the
    Greeks which prevent them from sailing for Troy. Calchas
    prophesies that Iphigeneia, Agamemnon’s daughter, must
    be sacrificed to appease Artemis.

  • (c) The Greeks, on the pretext that Iphigeneia is to
    marry Achilles, send to Mycenae for the girl and plan to
    sacrifice her. But Artemis saves Iphigeneia at the last
    moment by snatching her away and substituting for her a

  • (d) The Greeks set sail for Ilion. They stop first at
    the island of Tenedos, where Philoctetes is bitten by a
    snake. Philoctetes is marooned on the nearby island of
    Lemnos because of the stench from his wound and his
    incessant cries of pain.

  • (e) The Greeks try to land at Ilion, but the Trojans at
    first prevent them from landing and Hector kills
    Protesilaus, the first of the Greek champions to fall in
    the war. Achilles, kills Kyknos, a son of Poseidon, then
    drives the Trojans back and the Greeks disembark to
    begin their long siege.

  • Carpenter has argued that these two expeditions are
    doublets of one and the same event. He concludes that
    there seems to have been some doubt in the minds of the
    Greeks as to where exactly Troy was located. In the
    Iliad, the word most commonly used for the city of the
    Trojans is not „Troy“ but „Ilion“. It is possible that
    Troy was not the name of a town at all, but rather the
    name of an area or district inhabited by the Trojans.
    The Greeks clearly had a legend about a war against the
    Trojans but may have disagreed about where these people
    lived. At least one group of Greeks put them at a place
    called Teuthrania in the area known as Mysia, or at
    least so the doublet of the Troy story in the Kypria
    seems to indicate.

    The stories of Teuthrania’s destruction and of the
    sacking of minor cities in its vicinity are likely to be
    connected with the Aeolic Greek occupation of the
    Anatolian Mainland opposite Lesbos, a process which in
    fact included the resettlement of the site of Hissarlik
    as well. This „Aeolic migration“ is a post-Mycenaean
    phenomenon, many details of which appear to have become
    attached to the story of the Trojan War, an event which
    is supposed to have taken place toward the end of the
    Mycenaean period. The story of the siege and sack of
    Troy is the focus of the Homeric Iliad, a product of
    Ionia rather than Aeolis. Carpenter suggests that the
    real „Troy“ is located in neither the Troad nor Aeolis
    but rather that the memory of a pan-Achaean expedition
    elsewhere was located at two different points in Asia
    Minor by later poetic traditions: at Ilion by the Ionic
    poets, because they found in this area a local folk
    tradition about a strong citadel sacked near the end of
    the Bronze Age (Hissarlik); and at Teuthrania by the
    Aeolic poets, to correspond with Aeolic traditions
    connected with their own occupation of this area. Where,
    then, was the original „Troy“?

    If one is willing to accept Carpenter’s line of argument
    this far, one can place „Troy“ virtually anywhere in the
    eastern Mediterranean where bands of Mycenaean Greeks
    may have undertaken joint piratic raids. Carpenter goes
    so far as to place „Troy“ in Egypt and to connect the
    story of the Trojan War with the raids of the Sea
    Peoples mentioned in Egyptian sources at the end of the
    13th and beginning of the 12th centuries B.C.

    More recently, Meyer has gone well beyond Carpenter in
    dissociating a historical Troy from the mound at
    Hissarlik. In Meyer’s view, no historical city of Troy
    existed anywhere. First of all, there never was a city
    called Troy: the Homeric Troie is an adjectival
    formation derived from the name of a people, the Troes.
    The conjunction of Troie and Ilion to refer to one and
    the same place, a city, is a late development. Both the
    Troes and the settlement of Ilion are to be located in
    Greece, not in northwestern Asia Minor. The names were
    transferred to Hissarlik in the process of the Aeolic
    occupation of Asia Minor in the 8th century B.C. The
    original homeland of the Troes, the antagonists of the
    Achaeans who themselves can only be located in
    Achaia-Phthiotis near Mt. Othrys, is in fact the upper
    Spercheios River valley, the southern border between
    central Greece and Thessaly.

    Another fact that should be taken into consideration in
    the debate over the historicity of the Trojan War and
    its location at Hissarlik is the increasing evidence for
    the popularity in Aegean art from ca. 1800 B.C. onward
    of scenes illustrating the siege of a town or city in
    which the attackers normally employ a fleet as part of
    their assault. Examples include the Town Mosaic from MM
    II Knossos, the Silver Siege rhyton from Circle A at
    Mycenae, the painting on the north wall of Room 5 in the
    West House at Akrotiri, fragments of a steatite rhyton
    from Epidauros [illustrated by Warren, JHS 99(1979)
    fig.5], a fragment of another steatite rhyton from
    Knossos [illustrated in Palace of Minos III 100 fig.56],
    and possibly a fragment of yet one more steatite rhyton
    from Knossos [illustrated by Warren, JHS 99(1979)
    fig.4]. These works of art suggest that the siege of a
    town may have been a popular theme in Aegean pictorial
    art and raise the possibility that an equivalent theme
    may have existed in contemporary literary (presumably
    epic) art. In neither case need this siege have been a
    specific, and hence an historical, one. However, if it
    was, it preceded the Trojan War as this is
    conventionally dated by centuries.


    In any consideration of the historicity of the Trojan
    War, the fundamental questions to be addressed are:

    • (1) Where did it take place? Necessarily at Hissarlik or
      possibly elsewhere?

    • (2) When did it take place? Is there a time within the
      range of dates established by later Greek tradition for
      the war (1334-1184 B.C.) when the Mycenaeans could have
      undertaken the sort of joint military venture described
      by Homer, of which the Catalogue of Ships in Book 2 of
      the Iliad may be a genuine Bronze Age roster?

    • (3) If a destruction level caused by human agency at a
      likely site at a date within the timespan assigned by
      Greek tradition to the Trojan War can be identified, was
      the destruction in question the product of Mycenaean

    In terms of all three of these basic considerations, the
    now standard candidates for Priam’s Troy, Hissarlik VI
    or Hissarlik VIIa, are vulnerable. Yet it cannot be
    proven that Mycenaean Greeks did not participate in the
    sack of Hissarlik VI or VIIa sometime between 1325 and
    1200 B.C. Consequently, belief or disbelief in the
    historicity of the Trojan War becomes in the end an act
    of faith, whichever position one adopts.

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