Siege of Troy

Historical Background

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The story of the Siege of Troy is known chiefly from translations of the epic poem, The Iliad, which is attributed to the poet Homer. Tradition has it that Homer was a blind bard who lived and wandered on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. He is referred to in at least two historical references before AD: Xenophanes of Colophon, a Greek poet and philosopher, who lived from 570 B.C. to 480 B.C. refers to Homer and the historian, Herodotus, wrote, "Homer lived four hundred years before my time." This would place Homer at about 850 B.C. However, very little is actually known of Homer and there is even some doubt as to his existence. There are those who argue that Homerís culture exhibited no tradition of written literature at that time and that textual analysis suggests that the author of the Iliad was therefore not one man but a group of bards, or a succession of wandering poets, each of whom added of his inspiration to the epics.

It is also sometimes argued that there was no historical siege of Troy and that the story of the war is but the poetís creation. However, many Greek and Latin authors referred to the event, although their source was invariably Homer, and they date the Trojan War as follows: 1184 B.C. (Eratosthenes), 1209/8 B.C. (the Parian Marble), ca. 1250 B.C. (Herodotus), and 1334/3 B.C. (Douris). Among the early authors Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides wrote cycles of tragedies dealing with the personalities of the Homeric epics and with their families, and Virgilís Aeneid, telling the story of Aeneas, one of the defenders of Troy, is famed as an emulation of Homerís Odyssey.

The Iliad tells that the Trojan War erupted after the wildly beautiful Helen (the face that launched a thousand ships) left her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta, and eloped with Paris, a prince of Troy. The Greeks laid siege to Troy for ten years without success. Then the siege was lifted and the Greeks apparently sailed away, but a large "horse" fashioned from wood was left outside the gates of Troy. The "horse" was, in fact, hollow and contained a band of armed Greeks. The Trojans opened their gates and drew the wooden horse inside. That night the concealed Greeks emerged from the Trojan Horse and to open the city gates to facilitate the sack of Troy by the returning Greek army.

It is often said that it is unlikely that the siege of Troy could really have lasted for ten years when the Iliad reports that the Greek army outnumbered the Trojans by a factor of ten to one. However, the text of the Iliad also suggests that the Greeks did not blockade the city, which was supplied from the sea by its allies and was therefore immune to the depravations of famine and disease that normally result in the inhabitants of a besieged town surrendering. Furthermore, military strategists speculate that the greatest part of the Greek army would have been forced to expend its efforts in sacking the vassal cities of the Trojan Empire in order to obtain the plunder needed to barter for the supplies and provisions necessary to feed and clothe the Greek warriors.

The site of the city of Troy is generally accepted as being at Hissarlik, a low hill near the Dardanelles on the Aegean shore of Turkey. The German archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, discovered the site in 1871 after analysing topographical detail in ancient writings and located the remains of nine settlements, one beneath the other. Schliemann discovered a great treasure among the ruins of the second city from the bottom and this led him to believe this was the Troy of Homer. However, modern archaeologists believe that the remains suggest that the seventh city from the bottom was destroyed by fire around 1200 B.C., which agrees with the traditional date for the destruction of Homer's Troy around 1184 B.C. It is therefore this settlement that most believe to be the Troy sung of by Homer. The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998.


Cast List - Game Development - Game Setting - Historical Background - Pictures & Reviews