Probably your first word associations with Troy would be “Iliad” by Homer or the Trojan horse. Troy however is more than that. It’s an ancient city, or actually 9 cities, which had existed since the Early Bronze Age until the Byzantine Empire.
For centuries Troy was rather a legend. Many scholars doubted if the homeric city had actually existed. In 19th century the ancient city became a point of interest for some archaeologists.
The ruins of what it’s believed used to be Troy are located on the mount Hisarlik in Turkey. In the ancient times this region was known as Asia Minor.
Troy was built at the Aegean coast, close to the Dardanelles. This natural and narrow strait in the ancient world was called Hellespont. It was a strategic location providing control over sea trade. For this reason the city became an attractive target for many rulers looking to gain more power in the area.
It’s presumed that the events described in “Iliad” could have happened in 13th or 12th century BC. Ancient historians, like Herodotus, wrote about the siege and devastation of Troy by Spartan and Achaean armies.
It’s worth to mention that for ancient Greeks and Romans the Trojan war was a historic event. Later however, for many centuries there was a dispute if Troy had really existed or had it only been a legend.
The groundbreaking discovery was made by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. He did his excavations in 1871 - 73 and then 1878 - 79. He dug out ruins of several cities from various ages, from Early Bronze Age to Roman Period. His discovery and further work show that Troy is actually not one city but nine. Each city was built on the top of the ruins of the previous one. The oldest city most likely comes from 3000 - 2600 BC.
Talking about the discovery of Troy, I need to mention two other scholars, whom Schliemann should owe his success. In 1822 Scottish journalist Charles Maclaren pointed Mount Hisarlik as a location of ancient Troy. Sadly, his work didn’t cause much interest at that time.
Almost 50 years later British archeologist Frank Calvert was digging in Hisarlik area. He started his excavation 7 years before Schliemann arrived to the site. However, Calvert didn’t have enough funds to continue his work and get into the oldest ruins. Probably for this reason he agreed Schliemann would carry on his research. Nevertheless, Schliemann took all the credit for the discovery of Troy and Calvert’s role reminded unrecognised for a long time.
The ruins of Troy on the Mount Hisarlik were put on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998. The remains are one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Troy is also important as a place of first contact of two civilisations: Asia Minor and Mediterranean. Finally, thanks to Homer’s poems, it’s a huge inspiration for all kinds of artists until today.
In the ancient world lots of civilisations claimed to have Trojan ancestors. Ancients Romans believed that the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were descendants of Trojan prince Aeneas. His story was described by Virgil in an epic poem “Aeneid”.
Some references to Troy can also be found in French, British and even Scandinavian or Icelandic legends.