Troy

archaeological site of Troy, Turkey

archaeological site of Troy, Turkey

The archaeological site of Troy is located in western Turkey near the convergence of the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles (ancient Hellespont), the strait that connects the Aegean to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, a strategic location valuable to whomever controls it.

Excavations have revealed 9 main layers of settlement going back 5 thousand years. The Troy immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, which tells the story of the final months of a 10 year siege of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, has been placed in layer VIIa, dated to around 1250 BCE. Scholars generally agree that the Iliad is a fictionalized, mythologized account of an actual conflict, but that the war was most likely over control of the Hellespont and trade access to the Black Sea, rather than the abduction of Helen, the queen of Sparta, as Homer tells it.

Factual or not, the Iliad is full of very human characters and dramatic force that are embedded in the foundation of Western culture and still compelling 3000 years later. Troy is one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world, not because of a 3000 year old dispute over territory, but because of the mythical proportions of the characters and events placed there by Homer.

So, that’s what we’re looking at in this post and the previous post, the story of Troy, the people (both mortal and immortal) and relationships that continue to give it life even now, when it physically bears little resemblance to its actual or imaginary self.

When we left off in the last post, the assembled Greek warriors had just set sail for Troy, having purchased good winds with the life of Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia. They’re headed to get Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, back from Paris, prince of Troy, who took her.

Paris was exceptionally good-looking but not particularly courageous. What made him think he could get away with stealing the wife of a king? Aphrodite, goddess of love, that’s what, or who. I don’t mean in a metaphorical “love will find a way” sense but in a literal sense, at least as literal as it gets in the realm of myth and legend. Here’s the story: Eris, the goddess of discord, was bitter because she was not invited to the wedding party of the hero Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis. Eris was a troublemaker by nature. She took her revenge by tossing a golden apple into the party inscribed with the words “for the fairest.” The apple was instantly claimed by three goddesses – Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, all very beautiful and vain. None was willing to defer to another, so they took the case to Zeus. Zeus was far too smart to get involved, especially considering one of the goddesses was his wife Hera, so he appointed the unsuspecting mortal Paris as judge. The three goddesses appeared before Paris in a field, where he was tending sheep, and lobbied hard for his vote. Hera promised to make him the king of Europe and Asia. Athena offered to make him a great warrior. Aphrodite vowed to give him the love of the world’s most beautiful woman, Helen of Sparta. You know how that contest ended. Aphrodite was declared the fairest and the fate of Troy was sealed then and there. Not only was Paris about to bring the enmity of Greece down on his city, but the wrath of two goddesses as well. Troy was doomed. But it wouldn’t be a quick and merciful end.

The siege of Troy lasted 10 years. Paris fought for his city but his brother Hector was by far the nobler warrior and man. Considering all the trouble Paris had caused, you can’t blame Hector for being hard on him, which he was, in a brotherly way. Mostly, Hector was busy trying to save the city and his family. Most of Troy called for the return of Helen to Menalaus. Unfortunately, the big softy King Priam supported his son’s desire to keep Helen and treated her as a daughter.

Meanwhile, in the Greek camp Agamemnon and the great warrior Achilles squabbled over Briseis, the queen of a Trojan ally captured in battle, and endanged their cause in the process. Briseis belonged to Achilles and Agamemnon took her, so Achilles refused to fight. He was the Greek’s best warrior and in his absence they lost a lot of ground. After his friend Patroclus was killed by Hector, Achilles returned to the battlefield in a fit of grief, mowing down Trojan soldiers until the river ran red with blood. Eventually he met Hector and killed him.

Greek vase painting of the battle of Hector and Achilles

Greek vase painting of the battle of Hector and Achilles

Greek vase painting of Achilles dragging the body of Hector. photo from www.theoi.com

Greek vase painting of Achilles dragging the body of Hector. photo from http://www.theoi.com

That’s pretty much the end of the Iliad but from other sources we learn about the wooden horse and the sack of Troy. Odysseus, the wily King of Ithaca, devised the plan to hide their best fighters inside a giant wooden horse, leave it at the gates of Troy and sail away. The Trojans fell for this and brought the horse inside. After dark, the hidden Greeks came out of the horse and opened the gates to the entire Greek army, which hadn’t sailed away very far. That was the end of Troy.

replica of the wooden horse, Troy, Turkey

replica or the wooden horse, Troy, Turkey

Greek vase painting of the sack of Troy

Greek vase painting of the sack of Troy

Paris and Hector had been killed on the battle field, along with many other Trojans and allies of Troy, and most of those who survived the siege died in the sack of the city, including King Priam. Agamemnon survived the war and returned to Mycenae only to be killed by his wife Clytemnestra, who hated him for sacrificing their daughter Iphigenia. More about that in my previous post. (That family’s tragedy goes on and on.) Menelaus and Helen returned to Sparta.

ruins at Troy, Turkey

ruins at Troy, Turkey

ruins at Troy, Turkey

ruins at Troy, Turkey

 

ruins at Troy, Turkey

ruins at Troy, Turkey

To visit Troy, spend the night in Canakkale, about a 30 minute drive away. Many people find the site disappointing. It does take some imagination, and a good guide, to connect with the history of the place but I wouldn’t miss it, especially if you’re a nerd for the Classics.

Click to see tours that include Troy on our web site.

Gallipoli

In honor of Memorial Day here in the U.S., an encore posting ~

the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Dardanelles Strait

I’m currently reading a book, The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally (author of Schindler’s List). I can’t give it an enthusiastic recommendation (a solid B, based on the grading system of my book club) but if you’re interested in a unique perspective on the First World War, do check it out. At the center of the story are two young Australian nurses, also sisters, who volunteer early in the war.

They are initially posted to a hospital ship treating casualties of the prolonged Gallipoli campaign. Here is the relevance for this blog. Gallipoli is a peninsula in European Turkey, on the northern side of the Dardanelles, the straight that connects the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara, which connects to the Bosphorus Straight, which connects to the Black Sea. It has been a coveted waterway for millenia. During World War I, the Allies, namely the U.K., France and Russia, sought entry to the Dardanelles as a supply route to Russia, with access to Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire, a strong motive as well. The Central Powers – Germans, Austro-Hungarians and Ottomans – blocked and mined the straight and held off the Allies at Gallipoli.

ANZAC Cove, where the Australia New Zealand Army Corps landed on April 25, 1915

ANZAC Cove, where the Australia New Zealand Army Corps landed on April 25, 1915

After an initial British naval assault failed, fighting raged on land for eight months, from April 25 to mid December of 1915, when the Allies began retreating, having gained nothing. Allied and Turkish casualties together, including dead, wounded, and sick from rampant infectious disease, numbered over 500,000.

Ari Burnu Cemetery, Gallipoli

Ari Burnu Cemetery, Gallipoli

Australia and New Zealand remember their losses at Gallipoli (as well as those lost in other wars and peace keeping missions) on April 25th each year, ANZAC Day (ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps). The campaign was pivotal in the national identities of both countries.

Lone Pine Memorial and Cemetery, Gallipoli

Lone Pine Memorial and Cemetery, Gallipoli

Ataturk Monument and New Zealand Memorial at Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli

Ataturk Monument and New Zealand Memorial at Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli

Chunuk Bair battle site

Chunuk Bair battle site

Cape Helles Memorial, where British and French forces landed on April 25, 1915

Cape Helles Memorial, where British and French forces landed on April 25, 1915

Among Turks, Gallipoli is strongly associated with the birth of their independent Republic and is memorialized each March 18th, the anniversary of the defeat of the Allied naval attack. The father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was a commander at Gallipoli and distinguished himself as a great leader there.

In 1934, Ataturk addressed the following to the ANZACs: “Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives … you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers who sent  sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.” It’s inscribed on memorials at Gallipoli and in Canberra, Australia.

Turkish Memorial and Cemetery, Gallipoli

Turkish Memorial and Cemetery, Gallipoli

Canakkale Martyrs Monument, Gallipoli

Canakkale Martyrs Monument, Gallipoli

Canakkale, a short ferry ride across the Dardanelles, makes a good hub for visiting Gallipoli. The Gallipoli National Park encompasses dozens of memorials, cemeteries and tombs spread out over 125 square miles. A few hours is enough time to see some of the memorials and soak up the solemn atmosphere and beautiful scenery. Those with special interest can spend days walking the peninsula. Even a short visit leaves a lasting impression.

Troy

archaeological site of Troy, Turkey

archaeological site of Troy, Turkey

The archaeological site of Troy is located in western Turkey near the convergence of the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles (ancient Hellespont), the strait that connects the Aegean to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, a strategic location valuable to whomever controls it.

Excavations have revealed 9 main layers of settlement going back 5 thousand years. The Troy immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, which tells the story of the final months of a 10 year siege of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, has been placed in layer VIIa, dated to around 1250 BCE. Scholars generally agree that the Iliad is a fictionalized, mythologized account of an actual conflict, but that the war was most likely over control of the Hellespont and trade access to the Black Sea, rather than the abduction of Helen, the queen of Sparta, as Homer tells it.

Factual or not, the Iliad is full of very human characters and dramatic force that are embedded in the foundation of Western culture and still compelling 3000 years later. Troy is one of the most visited archaeological sites in the world, not because of a 3000 year old dispute over territory, but because of the mythical proportions of the characters and events placed there by Homer.

So, that’s what we’re looking at in this post and the previous post, the story of Troy, the people (both mortal and immortal) and relationships that continue to give it life even now, when it physically bears little resemblance to its actual or imaginary self.

When we left off in the last post, the assembled Greek warriors had just set sail for Troy, having purchased good winds with the life of Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia. They’re headed to get Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, back from Paris, prince of Troy, who took her.

Paris was exceptionally good-looking but not particularly courageous. What made him think he could get away with stealing the wife of a king? Aphrodite, goddess of love, that’s what, or who. I don’t mean in a metaphorical “love will find a way” sense but in a literal sense, at least as literal as it gets in the realm of myth and legend. Here’s the story: Eris, the goddess of discord, was bitter because she was not invited to the wedding party of the hero Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis. Eris was a troublemaker by nature. She took her revenge by tossing a golden apple into the party inscribed with the words “for the fairest.” The apple was instantly claimed by three goddesses – Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, all very beautiful and vain. None was willing to defer to another, so they took the case to Zeus. Zeus was far too smart to get involved, especially considering one of the goddesses was his wife Hera, so he appointed the unsuspecting mortal Paris as judge. The three goddesses appeared before Paris in a field, where he was tending sheep, and lobbied hard for his vote. Hera promised to make him the king of Europe and Asia. Athena offered to make him a great warrior. Aphrodite vowed to give him the love of the world’s most beautiful woman, Helen of Sparta. You know how that contest ended. Aphrodite was declared the fairest and the fate of Troy was sealed then and there. Not only was Paris about to bring the enmity of Greece down on his city, but the wrath of two goddesses as well. Troy was doomed. But it wouldn’t be a quick and merciful end.

The siege of Troy lasted 10 years. Paris fought for his city but his brother Hector was by far the nobler warrior and man. Considering all the trouble Paris had caused, you can’t blame Hector for being hard on him, which he was, in a brotherly way. Mostly, Hector was busy trying to save the city and his family. Most of Troy called for the return of Helen to Menalaus. Unfortunately, the big softy King Priam supported his son’s desire to keep Helen and treated her as a daughter.

Meanwhile, in the Greek camp Agamemnon and the great warrior Achilles squabbled over Briseis, the queen of a Trojan ally captured in battle, and endanged their cause in the process. Briseis belonged to Achilles and Agamemnon took her, so Achilles refused to fight. He was the Greek’s best warrior and in his absence they lost a lot of ground. After his friend Patroclus was killed by Hector, Achilles returned to the battlefield in a fit of grief, mowing down Trojan soldiers until the river ran red with blood. Eventually he met Hector and killed him.

That’s pretty much the end of the Iliad but from other sources we learn about the Wooden Horse and the sack of Troy. Odysseus, the wily King of Ithaca, devised the plan to hide their best fighters inside a giant wooden horse, leave it at the gates of Troy and sail away. The Trojans fell for this and brought the horse inside. After dark, the hidden Greeks came out of the horse and opened the gates to the entire Greek army, which hadn’t sailed away very far. That was the end of Troy.

Paris and Hector had been killed on the battle field, along with many other Trojans and allies of Troy, and most of those who survived the siege died in the sack of the city, including King Priam. Agamemnon survived the war and returned to Mycenae only to be killed by his wife Clytemnestra, who hated him for sacrificing their daughter Iphigenia. More about that in my previous post. (That family’s tragedy goes on and on.) Menelaus and Helen returned to Sparta.

ruins at Troy, Turkey

ruins at Troy, Turkey

ruins at Troy, Turkey

ruins at Troy, Turkey

ruins at Troy, Turkey

ruins at Troy, Turkey

To visit Troy, spend the night in Canakkale, about a 30 minute drive away. Many people find the site disappointing. It does take some imagination, and a good guide, to connect with the history of the place but I wouldn’t miss it, especially if you’re a nerd for the Classics.

Click to see tours that include Troy on our web site.

Who’s a Pretty Birdie? The Amorous Parrot of Tusan

view from Tusan Hotel, Canakkale, Turkey

view from Tusan Hotel, Canakkale, Turkey

About 9 miles outside of Canakkale Turkey, nestled in a pine forest overlooking the Dardanelles Strait, is the Tusan Hotel. For accommodations, it’s nothing fancy, but it’s clean and comfortable with a homey charm. The hotel’s best asset is its position.
The buildings are surrounded by pine trees spaced perfectly to let in plenty of dappled light and nicely framed views of the water while still providing a sense of woodsy shelter. We use the hotel in our Bronze category.

I stayed there a few years ago while escorting a group of travel agents around Turkey. It’s close to Troy, which we visited the following day. After dinner, I played a few games of backgammon with our driver in the sitting room off the lobby. I was the only woman among 5 or 6 men, gathered to watch and comment on the game. After about an hour, I said goodnight and headed off to my room.

In the lobby of the Tusan is a beautiful gray parrot. I stopped to admire him and tell him what a pretty bird he was. He came right over to me and I stuck my finger through the bars of the cage to give him a scratch. To my delight he perched on my finger. Then, to my horror, he began to have his way with my finger, vigorously. ( I won’t use the most descriptive word for what he was doing, as this is meant to be a professional blog, but it rhymes with jump…) I couldn’t get away! People were walking through the lobby and there I stood, the captive of an obscene bird. It felt like a public shaming. I guess I stood like that for five minutes, although it seemed like an eternity, when one of the men who had been watching the backgammon game came to my rescue. He worked at the hotel and was familiar with this bird and his tricks. He lured him off me with some treat that was even more delectable than my finger. I suggested they put a sign on the cage warning fools like me to keep fingers outside.

Image

Yes, we’re talking about you.

To see our Turkey tours, visit http://www.yallatours.com/turkey/.