The Identification of Troy
Jebbs objections would continue to weigh on the minds of those who followed Schliemann in his identification, as well as those who disagreed: the area of Hissarlik, even at its widest extent, was barely a twentieth of the size of the great citadel conjured by the poet. Even Schliemann expressed his dismay:
I am extremely disappointed at being obliged to give so small a plan of Troy; nay, I had wished to be able to make it a thousand times larger, but I value truth above everything, and I rejoice that my three years excavations have laid open the Homeric Troy, even though on a diminished scale, and that I have proved the Iliad to be based upon real facts.(3)
By the early 1890s new discoveries at Hissarlik had shown that Troy II, where Schliemann had found the great treasure, and which he confidently identified as the fortress of Priam, was in fact much more ancient: it was as old as the Pyramids, and it met its fiery end at the same time as the Egyptian Old Kingdom collapsed into anarchy. The finding of Mycenaean pottery in Troy VI made Wilhelm Dörpfeld, Schliemanns pupil and leader of the new campaign of excavations, claim that city as the most likely to have been the Ilion of Homer.(4) Doerpfeld found evidence that Troy VI had been destroyed by a violent earthquake; the damage was partly repaired and the city rebuilt, though on a much smaller scale. Such evidence, in the view of Carl Blegen, who conducted the most recent excavations on the site, could hardly be reconciled with the Homeric account of a city whose walls were breached by an enemy after a lengthy siege and which, on being plundered and denuded of its inhabitants, was for a long time left deserted. Blegen disagreed with Dörpfeld about the identity of the Homeric city; looking for a fortress that fell not due to an earthquake, but by siege and assault, he identified the Troy sung by Homer in Troy VIIa.(5)
Troy II was a stronghold; Troy VI was also a well-built fortress, girded by thick walls embracing an even larger area. Yet even in Troy VI you could still saunter from side to side in less than two minutes; and a moderate sprinter could cover the ground in less than twenty-five seconds.(6) But Troy VIIa was smaller still. Before Blegen identified it as Priams citadel, it had been known as a settlement of squatters. It is still described as degraded and altogether pitiable. Poor huts with earthen floors, sheepish cubicles, huddle against the walls of the little town.(7)
The very poverty and insignificance of Troy VIIa, wrote C. Nylander in criticism of the conclusions of Blegens expedition, make it a less likely object of a large scale military enterprise from far away across the sea by a coalition of Mycenaen states, such as depicted by Homer. In his view the pottery found in this settlement is not of as early a date as was assigned to it by excavatorsthe evidence indicates that Troy VIIa was destroyed in the same series of catastrophes which overtook the palaces of Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos together with so many other cities in all parts of Greece and the ancient East as a whole. The citadel of Priam, in Nylanders opinion, must have succumbed earlier than this, when the Mycenaean cities were yet strong. Thus, he concluded, if a Homeric city did exist it had to be Troy VI.(8)
This view, however, has not found general acceptance.(9)
Whichever level scholars may agree to identify as Homers Troy, the wider problem of relating the Homeric geography to the site of Hissarlik remains. Some years ago Rhys Carpenter put the matter very succinctly: There are obvious indications, he wrote, that Hissarlik does not agree with the situation demanded by the Iliad, which speaks of a great walled city with streets, houses and palaces, rising to a temple-crowned acropolis, at an approachable distance from the Hellespont [Straits of Dardanelles] and apparently invisible from it, situated across the Scamander, with abundant springs of deep-soil water gushing close at hand. Actually, Hissarlik is in plain sight of the Hellespont, on the same side of the river, without any running springs, and enclosed within its walls an area of less than five acres.(10)
From the Iliad it transpires that the Achaeans could not effectively besiege Troy because of its great sizethe Trojans were able to receive aid from all the nations of Asia Minor until the very end of the war.
Whether or not Troy has really been found, the mound of Hissarlik remains one of the most carefully excavated sites of Mycenaean times: and it is to the stratigraphic sequence that we shall now turn.