This edited article about Troy originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 237 published on 30 July 1966.
The story of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, which Homer described in his epic poem, the Iliad, was as far removed from him in time as we are from Elizabethan England. The Greek poet Homer lived about 900 B.C. and the war took place at least 300 years earlier. It ended with the Greeks utterly destroying the city of Troy. Any Trojans who survived the war were enslaved or became fugitives.
But did Troy ever really exist, or was it simply born of Homer’s imagination? This question was argued for centuries, and those who claimed that there had once been a real city called Troy pointed to a particular spot in Turkey, about three miles from the coast. Here a low mound rises about 120 feet above the plain. The Turks called it Hissarlik, which means “castle”, for there were fort-like ruins upon its summit, and from the very earliest days tradition asserted that this was the true site of Troy.
Xerxes, Alexander the Great, Augustus Caesar, Julius Caesar – all visited the spot and paid homage to the mighty dead of the war. Nevertheless, scholars mocked at the idea that Troy was buried within the mound. Homer could not be used as a guide, they said, for he was a poet, not an historian, and he was writing centuries after the events he described.
In any case Troy, according to Homer, had been situated on beetling cliffs – a description which hardly applied to the unimpressive hillock of Hissarlik. The most likely spot was the steep cliffs near a place called Bunarbashi, 36 miles from the coast.
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