Archaeology: Did you know the ancient city of Troy was considered a myth until its discovery in the 19th century?

The legend of Troy has captivated imaginations for millennia. With its tales of epic battles, cunning heroes, and the face that launched a thousand ships, the Trojan War became enshrined in the cultural consciousness of the ancient world. Yet, as the centuries passed, and no tangible evidence of Troy emerged, the city transformed into a symbol of myth rather than historical reality. That is until the 19th century when one man’s quest turned the legend of Troy on its head.

The Mythology of Troy

The stories of Troy are inextricably linked to Homer’s epic poems, the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.” These works narrate a ten-year war fought between the kingdoms of Greece and Troy. The conflict, sparked by the abduction of the beautiful Helen, Queen of Sparta, by the Trojan prince Paris, features heroes such as Hector, Achilles, and Odysseus. Replete with the intervention of the gods and mythical events, the Trojan War became one of the founding epics of Western literature.

Troy: Lost to Time

Despite its fame, the question of whether Troy was a real place or merely existed in poetry plagued scholars for centuries. Ancient historians and geographers offered conflicting accounts of its location, and no concrete archaeological evidence seemed to support its existence. Over time, Troy faded into the realm of myth – a powerful story but not a historical city.

The Search for Troy: Heinrich Schliemann

The 19th century saw a resurgence of interest in the ancient world. Heinrich Schliemann, a wealthy German businessman with an obsession for Homer’s epics, became convinced of Troy’s reality. Armed with the “Iliad” as his guide, he began excavating a site called Hisarlik in modern-day Turkey. What he unearthed would shake the world of archaeology.

Uncovering the Layers of History

Schliemann’s excavations, though controversial by today’s standards, revealed an ancient mound containing multiple layers of ruins. These layers represented different settlements built one on top of the other over thousands of years. One of these layers seemed to show signs of destruction by fire – possible evidence of a war. Schliemann boldly declared he had found the legendary Troy.

The Debate Continues

While Schliemann’s discovery fueled excitement, continued investigations have raised complex questions. Archaeologists today debate which of the many layers at Hisarlik might correspond to the Troy of Homer. It is also uncertain whether the historical Trojan War, if it occurred, resembles the sweeping epic described in the “Iliad”.

Legacy and Importance

Whether Hisarlik is the Troy of legend or not, its discovery was pivotal. It demonstrated that the places immortalized in myths might hold seeds of historical truth. The excavation of Troy inspired countless archaeologists, further legitimizing the study of the ancient world. It serves as a poignant reminder that history lies buried beneath our feet, waiting to be rediscovered – and sometimes, the most legendary stories have origins in the real world.


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<a href="" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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