Troy is a unique example in an Aegean context of the oriental city at the junction between Anatolia, the Aegean and the Balkans. It is also probably the most famous archaeological site in the world. It may be considered to represent the starting point for modern archaeology and its public recognition.
Troy II and Troy VI in particular are characteristic examples of the ancient city, with a majestic fortified citadel enclosing palaces and administrative buildings, surrounded by an extensive lower town, also fortified. Troy is directly associated with the universally significant literary works of Homer (The Iliad) and Virgil (The Aeneid).Hellenistic tumuli were erected over the supposed burial places of these heroes, such as Achilles, Ajax, Hector, and Patroclus.
Human occupation on the site of Troy began in the early Bronze Age. The first defensive wall round the citadel was built around 3000 BC. Then Troy VI expanded, making it one of the largest towns in the Aegean region with an important trading role. An earthquake in 1350 BC caused grave damage to Troy VI, but the town quickly recovered and was rebuilt in a more orderly layout. The evidence of widespread fire and slaughter around 1250 BC, which brought Troy VII to an end, has led to this phase being identified with the city besieged by the Greeks during the Trojan War, immortalized in The Iliad . The real cause of the Trojan war was intense commercial rivalry between Troy and the mercantile Mycenaean kingdom, the prize being control of the Dardanelles and the lucrative trade with theBlack Sea. In 306 BC, Troy became the capital of a league of cities in the Troad and in 188 BC it was identified by the Romans as the Ilion of Homer and recognized as the mother-city of Rome (Ilium Novum). The town prospered under Roman rule and survived a severe earthquake in the early 6th century. Abandoned once again in the 9th century, it was reoccupied in the later Byzantine period and not finally deserted until well into the Ottoman period.
The contemporary history of the site and its subsequent exploration and conservation dates from 1793, when it was discovered. It was identified by scholars, first as Ilion in 1810 and then as Troy in 1820. Heinrich Schliemann first visited the site in 1868. Between then and his death in 1890 he carried out seven major campaigns, completed in 1893-94 by his assistant, Wilhelm Dörpfeld. It was in 1873 that he found the famous gold hoard, known erroneously as ‘King Priam’s Treasure’, as it came from Troy II, not Troy VIIA.
Excavations over more than a century have revealed 23 sections of the defensive walls around the citadel, eleven gates, a paved stone ramp, and the lower portions of five defensive bastions. These date for the most part from Troy II and VI; however, a section of the earliest wall (Troy I) survives near the south gate of the first defences. The great residential complex from Troy II consists of five parallel long buildings with porches (megara ). The largest of these is considered to represent the prototype of the Greek temple. The ensemble is considered to have constituted some form of palace. The remains of a number of long rectangular houses from Troy II are to be seen at the bottom of one of the most striking features off the site, the so-called Schliemann Trench, dug by the famous 19th-century excavator in search of the ‘Citadel of Priam’, the object of his search.
The Greek and Roman cities at Troy are represented above all by the sanctuary complex. Roman urban organization is reflected by two major public buildings on the edge of the agora. The odeon (concert hall) has the traditional horseshoe-shaped plan and tiers of seats made from limestone blocks. The nearby bouleuterion (council house) is smaller but similar in plan. The surrounding landscape contains many important prehistoric and historical sites: cemeteries, Hellenistic burial mounds, Greek and Roman settlements, Roman and Ottoman bridges. Troy has been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1998.
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