The ten layers of Troy
FROM BOTTOM TO TOP
Troy I-III, Maritime Trojan Culture (c.2920-2200 B.C.)
The distribution area of this culture spread from the shores of the Marmara Sea up to the islands within these boundaries. Its commercial and cultural relations extended from the interiors of the Mediterranean (Malta), to Southeastern Europe (Bulgaria) and to Anatolia (Eskişehir region) and moreover up to Central Asia (Afghanistan).
Troy I (c.2920-2550 B.C. – Early Bronze Age II)
The oldest settlement has 14 building phases, despite its village-like structure, and has defence walls made from rough stones that were renewed and strengthened many times. The quadrilateral-towered southern main gate is the most significant entrance system for the study of architectural history in Asia Minor. Long houses arranged in a row side-by-side were found at the ‘Schliemann Trench’, the famous ditch dug by Heinrich Schliemann during his initial excavation of Troy in the 19th century.
One of these long houses (house 102) is accepted as the oldest megaron structure in the region. The sources of livelihood for the people were agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing. The dark brown-black, partly white ornamented pottery excavated is, of course, handmade.
Troy VI, Troy High Culture (c. 1740/301180 B.C.) Troy VI (c. 1740/30-1300 B.C. – Middle Bronze Age / Late Bronze Age): Homer’s Troy or (W)İlios / Taru(w)isa – The city thought to be Wilusa
The most highly developed phase of Troy was in the Troy VI period. The Hittites called Troy Wilusa, that is, ( W)Ilion and the city was an administrative and trade centre. The old buildings were not re-used when founding this new beylic kingdom that covered an area of 20,000 m² with its citadel. This city was unrivalled in size and importance among the settlements previously considered on the 100-kilometre area of the Hisarlık hill. The city, due to its geographical location, held an important place within the Eastern Mediterranean political system. It was fortified with defence walls, towers and bastions, covered with rectangular stones, fourfive metres in width and six metres in height. There was a sun-dried brick upper structure constructed on top of these stones and so the height of the walls must have reached 10 metres. What draws attention in particular is the ‘sawtooth’ wall technique. These walls are quite high and designed in the form of waves (most likely built to withstand the force of earthquakes), surrounding an area of 200 x 300 metres.
The citadel could be entered from many different gates and passages. The main gate was a protected tower while the south gate was guarded with stone steles (stone blocks placed perpendicularly). A road laid firmly with stones ran to the centre of the tumulus.
The buildings within the citadel were behind the city walls and rising on circular-shaped terraces. There were large buildings (and megarons), some two-stories high, located in the inner area of the city walls and in the side sections of the city centre.
There is no doubt that this city’s construction was planned and carried out by a strong and efficient centralized power. This building phase was excavated under the direction of Dörpfeld and was interpreted by him to be the Troy/Ilium of Homer (13th century B.C). The final building phase of this layer came to an end through a violent earthquake.
Troy VI-late and Troy VIi (=VIIa)
This phase is the same as the previous for the material culture. The same people who left the city following the earthquake seem to have returned to take up habitation. Troy’s importance increased at this time in the power struggle between the people of the kingdom of Ahhiyawa (usually accepted as the Achaeans Homer wrote about) and the Hittites with their capital at Hattusa. Friendly relations between the Kingdom of Ahhiyawa and the Hittites are attested earlier, but degenerated by about the
time of this phase which corresponds to Herodotus’ dates for the Trojan War (c. 1,250 B.C). There is evidence of construction projects related to warfare throughout this phase: defence walls were raised and storehouses built and stocked with supplies. The 13th century B.C. was a period of high cultural tensions in this region and this building phase attests to the same kinds of conflicts which took place elsewhere. It has been suggested that the conflict between the Hittites of Wilusa and the Achaeans of Ahhiyawa was the historical basis for Homer’s epics concerning the Trojan War.
Troy VIi (=Troy VIIa) (circa 1300-1180 B.C. = Late Bronze Age, Homer’s Troy or (W)Ilios / Taru(w)isa / the city accepted to be Wilusa)
The city was demolished to a great extent as the result of an earthquake and the settlement was again re-established by the former people. Underground storerooms were added within the citadel. The former buildings remained and were reused and the defence system also continued to be used as new towers were constructed along it and new roads were made. This phase does not indicate any interruption in the material culture of the site. On the contrary, evidence suggests an increase in affluence.
Even so, there is also evidence of communal fear of outside threats and an overall tense situation experienced by the people. For example, entrances that were previously open in earlier phases were closed at this time. Further, the walled settlement gradually became more crowded, both within the citadel and outside of it. The fact that the Beşik Graveyard and the settlements outside of Troy were abandoned suggests that people sought the safety of the walled city.
The city must have been quite crowded indeed as it is estimated, based on calculations concerning agricultural yield in the area and other considerations, that the immediate region was
capable of feeding close to 10,000 persons and that Troy could have had such a population at this time. Approximately 100 years later, the city of Troy/ Wilusa was demolished c. 1,180 B.C. but this time war, not fire, was the cause of the destruction.
Troy VIj (Troy VIIb1) Transition Period (c. 1180-1130 B. C. – Transition to Early Iron Age)
In this brief transitional period, it seems some innovations were abandoned in favour of older traditions. For example, handmade pottery emerged on a large scale at this time after the potter’s wheel had been in use for hundreds of years. Fortifications were reconstructed but lack the artistic quality of earlier eras and the architecture of this phase overall is poorer than in previous ones. The people who returned to the city seem to have lacked the resources to properly restore it and this corresponds to the traditional Greek view of the fall of Troy: that the city was abandoned for a time after the war and could not rise again to its former glory. This building phase was concluded by another fire.
Troy VIIb2 and Troy VIIb3, (partial) Troy Culture under the Influence of the Balkans (c. 1150-950 B.C. – Early Iron Age)
New elements were consciously developed at this time in contrast to the former tradition in the second and third phases of Troy VIIb. The potter’s wheel remerged in the creation of pottery alongside handmade ceramics which have attributes associated with the North-eastern Balkans and the Western Black Sea Region. The pottery of these regions is ornamented with grooves and projections and so is the pottery found at the site of Troy during this period.
The construction of small-plan buildings became concentrated in the area within the interior of the citadel and immediately outside of the citadel. The lower parts of the walls during the Troy VIIb2 phase were covered with stones (orthostats) perpendicularly and irregularly and traces of another phase (VIIb3) were encountered during excavation of these walls.
Hiatus (c. 950-720 / 700 B.C.)
This was a very brief 250-year period of settlement during which it is probable that squatters and wayward travellers lived at the site. It is possible that rituals were still observed at the citadel but there is no evidence of an organised central government nor any high degree of culture or civilisation at all at the site. The walls and buildings from the late Bronze Age were still intact, and most likely afforded some protection from the elements, but the city at this time would have been regarded a ruin.
Troy VIII, Greek Ilium (c. 700-85 B.C. - From the Archaic Period to the Hellenistic Period)
The oldest building extant from this phase was constructed by the Greeks who came after 700 B.C. from the Aeolian regions during the era when Homer lived and wrote. As votive offerings show, Troy was not only considered a sacred city during the period when Homer lived but had also been regarded so previously. After centuries of destitution, Troy re-emerged as the Greek city of Ilion, site of the Trojan War, and was honoured with a Temple of Athena built at the citadel and another at the sacred area to the west. In building these temples, the Greeks demolished sections of the earlier Troy VI and VII. Not much remains of these temples in the present day except the foundations of the marble and rectangular altars and a magnificent temenos (a piece of land marked off from common uses and dedicated to a god) that enclosed the 9,500 m² rectangular sacred area.
Ilion became a political and religious centre of the region and an orderly new lower city was founded on top of the remains of Troy VI/VII. The settlement became a planned city towards the end of the 3rd century B.C. and had right angle avenues and a defence wall which ran 3.2 kilometres long. The sacred city of Ilion was completely destroyed by the commander Gaius Flavius Fimbria of Rome in 85 B.C. and re-established as the Roman city of Ilium (also known as Ilius).
Troy IX Roman Ilius / Ilium (85 B.C. – c. A.D. 500)
The Temple of Athena was rebuilt during the reign of Emperor Augustus who claimed he was descended from Aeneas of Troy. Building and restoration activities were realized throughout the city. A new odeon (small theatre) was built and the later emperors Hadrian and Caracalla would restore this building. Immediately next to the odeon was built a sports and bath complex that had mosaic floors (only a part of which have lasted to the present-day) and a large theatre to the northwest of the temple area was also built (the form can still be seen on the land). The lower city was expanded and the previous insula with the square settlement system was renovated many times and surrounded by a 3.6-kilometre defence wall. In time, the city was transformed into a functional settlement lacking the kinds of artistic flourishes which characterized classical Troy.
Constantine the Great planned to make Ilium his new capital around the beginning of the 4th century A.D. and initiatives were launched in the city with this objective in mind. Water was brought to Ilium through aqueducts and clay pipes from the slopes of Mt. Ida. The plan was abandoned, however, when the emperor chose Byzantium as his capital and re-named it Constantinople. Ilium continued to prosper until earthquakes destroyed it at least twice in c. 500 A.D. The graveyard of the Romans of Ilium is located to the southeast of the city’s site in the present day.
Troy X, Byzantine Ilium (especially the 12th and 13th centuries A.D.)
Ilium was a patriarchate centre around the middle of the 4th century A.D. After the earthquakes destroyed the city in c. 500 A.D., it was rebuilt on a more modest scale. Traces of this new settlement were encountered for the first time around the end of the 12th century AD. The many graves discovered at the border of the former city settlement and the location and size of the Greco-Roman sacred area suggests the density of the settlement. Ilium began to decline as its harbour silted up and it was no longer viable as a trade centre. People began to vacate the city and Ilium was finally abandoned completely after the conquests of the Ottomans toward the middle of the 15th century A.D.
The Odeon, built at the time of Emperor Augustus
Hellenistic period vase with figures
The city of Troy maintained its importance from Troy VIII until the Ottaman Period
A defence ditch carved into bedrock in the Lower City, Late Bronze Age On the timeline below: Achilles tending Patroclus wounded by an arrow. Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix, c.500 B.C. from Vulci. Statue of Emperor Hadrian found in Troy