Troy and Gordion

When Schliemann dug through the strata of Hissarlik’s hill, he discovered, on the second level from the virgin ground beneath, great walls of a fortress, and in the same level some treasures, all of which he attributed to Priam’s Troy. His view was invalidated, and properly so, because a correlation with Egypt made it appear too early for Troy. The second level, Troy II, was shown to have been in existence during the Old Kingdom of Egypt, and thus long before the traditional date for Troy’s fall. The end of Troy VI, identified by Wilhelm Doerpfeld as the Ilion of the siege, was found to have been contemporaneous with the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty of the Egyptian New Kingdom, and was therefore also too early for the Trojan War.

Carl Blegen identified forty-six layers of occupation of the mound of Hissarlik, the Troy of the excavators, but divided them between the nine strata of occupation classified by Doerpfeld. Troy VI was a well-built fortress; Blegen specified eight separate levels of occupation in this stratum alone. It ended in a violent earthquake. Blegen, however, looked for a fortress that fell not due to an earthquake, but in a siege and assault; thus he identified the Troy sung by Homer as Troy VIIa.

The sixth city of Troy is conventionally placed in the fourteenth-thirteenth centuries before the present era, a dating which ultimately depends on Egyptian chronology. Here an observation by Rodney Young, the excavator of the Phrygian capital Gordion,1 needs to be cited:

“In their batter as well as their masonry construction the walls of the Phrygian Gate at Gordion find their closest parallel in the wall of the sixth city at Troy.” But a gulf of time separates these two constructions in the conventional timetable.

Though separated in time by five hundred years or thereabouts, the two fortifications may well represent a common tradition of construction in north-western Anatolia; if so, intermediate examples have yet to be found.2

Still today no intermediate examples have been found. As to the date of the Phrygian Gate and wall of Gordion, Young wrote:

The Phrygian Kingdom was . . . at the apex of its power toward the end of the eighth century, when it apparently extended as far to the southeast as the Taurus and was in contact with Assyria. This period of power was apparently the time of the adornment and fortification of its capital city.
This points to the eighth century for the erection of the city wall and gate.3 Eighth-century Gordion is similar to thirteenth-century Troy, yet intermediate examples of the peculiar way of building the gate and the wall beg to be found.4


  1. Gordion, the capital of Phrygia, was excavated by the Koerte brothers at the beginning of this century. In 1950 Rodney Young led there a team and then returned for many seasons sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Museum. The date of the Phrygian remains found at Gordion was ascribed to the late eighth and early seventh centuries before the present era.

  2. R. Young, “Gordion 1953,” American Journal of Archaeology, (1954). [The post-Hittite and pre-Phrygian levels at Gordion have not provided the much looked-for intermediate examples.]

  3. [The Phrygian Gate of Gordion was uncovered in 1953 by a team from the University of Pennsylvania led by Rodney Young. It was in the form of a large double gateway with a central courtyard. Since it belonged to the Phrygian period, its date, like that of most of the Phrygian constructions at Gordion, was put sometime in the eighth century.]

  4. [Whereas the Trojans had a long tradition of building in stone, the Phrygian gateway appears suddenly, without any other close antecedents; nevertheless, it displays technical skills that speak of a long period of development. This apparent contradiction is also noted by Young (“The Nomadic Impact: Gordion,” p. 52): “. . . The planning of the [Phrygian] gateway and the execution of its masonry imply a familiarity with contemporary military architecture and long practice in handling stone for masonry. The masonry, in fact, with its sloping batter and its more or less regular coursing recalls neither the cyclopean Hittite masonry of the Anatolian plateau in earlier times, nor the commonly prevalent contemporary construction of crude brick. The closest parallel is the masonry of the walls of Troy VI, admittedly very much earlier. If any links exist to fill this time-gap, they must lie in west Anatolia rather than on the plateau.” According to the revised chronology, the Trojan fortifications were standing and in use as late as the ninth century; the Phrygian fortifications at Gordion, dating from the late eighth, could well have been part of the same tradition of building in stone.]