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Regular version of the site

Article

On the question of the historicity of the Trojan War

Cultural World. 2017. No. 13. P. 298-321.

This article conducts the first of its kind analytical review of the predominant modern theories of the ethnic origins of the population of ancient Troy and the historical veracity of the images of the Trojan War described in Homer's poems. The authors introduce concepts of Soviet and Russian authors for various reasons still unknown to the Western scientific community, but that offer significant scientific value as well answers to some questions still considered open among Antiquity and Asia Minor scholars.  Schliemann, Blegen and Dörpfeld’s excavations were once thought to have confirmed the historicity of the legend of the Trojan War. However, as early as the late XIX century, serious studies appeared demonstrating that the material culture and housekeeping practices of the Homeric heroes did not correspond to the cultural environment of the Mycenaean civilization and should be associated with a later period.

Works by M. Parry and A. Lord (1920-1930), M. Finley (1954), M. Ventris and J. Chadwick (1953) and the results of a more detailed analysis of the archaeological data obtained by C. Blegen imbued the question of the reliability of the evidence of the Trojan War with new urgency. One hypothesis suggested that stories about Ilion and Troy from different ethnic and cultural traditions of the Greek world and even from different epochs had been conflated( L Klejn ). This hypothesis is supported by Hittite sources, in which the names "Wilusa" and "Taruisa" appear. Scientists have identified these names with the Homeric Ilion and Troy, respectively, and these titles clearly refer to geographically distinct locations. A number of researchers have argued that Homer accurately described the war waged by the Greeks with Ilion and that Troy, which was located near the kingdom of Ilion, has not yet been found.

Curiously, the Hittite documents contain no mention of major hostilities in the region of Troas. However, this omission has not prevented several researchers from demonstrating the historicity of the Trojan War. According to Rismag Gordeziani, a recognized Soviet expert on Homeric history, the Trojan cycle may reflect the events of a great war that occurred throughout western Anatolia between 1260 and 1220 B.C. and led to the destruction of Assuva, an anti-Hittite coalition of states in Asia Minor that coincides with the list of Troy’s allies in Homer’s Iliad. Alternatively, A. Volkov and N. Nepomnyashchy, two Russian experts on the Hittites, proposed that the Trojan War described by Homer could have been the Greek-Hittite war that began after the loss of the Greek colony in Miletus. Having lost their advanced post in Asia Minor, Ahhijava attempted to secure a foothold in another part of the peninsula, namely, in Troy.

The question of the ethnicity of the Trojans is problematic. The predominant theory for many years was that Homer's Troy was inhabited by ethnic Greeks (as proposed by, e.g., C. Blegen, A. Goetze, and J. Mellaart). However, the findings of M. Korfmann in the early 1990s suggested that in the Bronze Age, Troy was a part of Central Anatolian, not Mycenaean, civilization.

Thus, although the results of archaeological excavations do not provide convincing proof of the historicity of the Trojan War, ancient Oriental documents convincingly demonstrate this possibility. The Achaeans indeed undertook military campaigns in Asia Minor, colonized its coast, and went to war against the Hittites and even the Egyptians. Moreover, along Central Anatolia’s short-distance lines of defense, two strongholds—Wilusa and Taruisa—were able to fully deter the intense attacks of the Achaean forces.