Places of Myth

38 Troy

Portrait photo of Schliemann, a young woman, wearing an elaborate draping gold headdress, large gold earrings, and a loopy large gold necklace.
Sophia Schliemann wearing jewelry from Priam’s Treasure



In mythology, the city of Troy or Ilion was founded by Ilus, son of king Tros of Dardania, and governed by his descendants until at the end of a ten-year long siege the Achaeans sacked it and burned it to the ground. The most impressive features of Troy mentioned in myths are the massive walls and imposing gates, as well as a citadel containing the royal palace and the main temples (one of which dedicated to Athena).


Enthusiasts and scholars alike tried to identify the geographical location of Troy in the real world since the 16th century CE. At the end of the 1860s the remains of a city that had been inhabited from the Bronze Age to the 5th century CE were discovered in modern-day western Turkey and attributed to the mythical city of Troy based on the fact that its location matched some of the features described in the Homeric poems.


The most significant mythological account of Troy is the myth of the Trojan War, known most famously from Homer’s Iliad. 

For further discussion of the Trojan War and the mythology of Troy, see chapter 26, chapter 27, chapter 28, chapter 29, and chapter 30.


Four display shelves of jewelry, vessels, and blades. Top shelf: three large necklaces. 2nd and 3rd shelves: a collection of metal vessels and pots. 4th shelf: a collection of metal blade fragments. Floor: A large metal pot and a circular shield.
Priam’s Treasure

The goal of the first excavation was to dig down to the earliest phases of the city to uncover artifacts that could potentially prove that that was, indeed, the city described in the Trojan Cycle. As a consequence, a rich assemblage of jewels, weapons, and fine pottery discovered during this expedition was immediately labeled as ‘Priam’s Treasure’.


A circular gold brooch with spirals on either side, and a daisy-like pattern in the centre.
Brooch from Priam’s Treasure (Pushkin Museum, Moscow)
A gold brooch decorated with rows of tiny spirals.
Brooch from Priam’s Treasure (Pushkin Museum, Moscow)


Four polished metal axe blades.
Blades from Priam’s Treasure (Pushkin Museum, Moscow)
A tasselled gold headdress and a gathered, layered gold necklace.
Jewelry from the Treasure of Priam (Neues Museum, Berlin)

Subsequent (and more rigorous) excavations helped clarify the various phases of life of the city, which was destroyed and rebuilt at least four times. Based on its size and material remains, Troy seems to have been a flourishing city during the Bronze Age, with massive walls, palaces, tombs, and temples; thanks to its position, it was also well connected to international trading routes. Like many other important centres, Troy lost much of its effective power after the Bronze Age Collapse, but it later became somewhat of a touristic destination during the Classical and Imperial periods, as the remains of the ancient city were interpreted as those of the Troy described in the Homeric poems.


Stone wall remains lining a road or pathway and demarcating a building or chamber..
Archaeological Remains from Troy


Map of Troy showing the archaeological layers of Troy 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Layer 1 (in brown): only small partial walls marked on this layer. Layer 2 (in yellow): a circular inner citadel wall with stair, with an additional structure inside the wall. Layer 6 (in pink): a semi-circular outer wall with some adjacent buildings. Layer 7 (in red): Three small structures attached to the layer 6 wall. Layers 8 and 9 (in blue): a square inner and outer wall, overlapping with half of the layer 2 and layer 6 walls, as well as additional structures (including a theatre) both inside and outside the wall.
Map of the citadel of Troy with archaeological layers, by Bibi Saint-Pol.
Cross-section view of the archaeological layers on top of the bedrock at Troy, showing layers of Troy 2, 6, and 9. Layer 2 (lowest layer, ca. 2600-2250 BCE, in yellow): ramparts and acropolis. Layer 6 (ca. 1700-1500 BCE, in pink): ramparts built down to the bedrock but extending into layers above the layer 2 ramparts. Layer 9 (ca. 4th century BCE, top layer, in blue): Two open columned structures on a higher ground level than the layers below.
Cross-section of archaeological layers of the acropolis of Troy, by Bibi Saint-Pol.


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