Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Walls of Troy

World Heritage Sites

The story of the Trojan Horse is taught to children the world over.  That it was entirely fabricated by Greek poets makes no difference.  It is beloved by all and has crept into world lore.  There is no mention of the wooden horse in Homer's Illiad.  There are passing mentions of it in the Odyssey, but it is really Virgil in his epic poem Aeneid that propelled it to the annals of history.  His loosely translated line, Beware Greeks bearing gifts, is often quoted.
Layers upon layers of this ancient city have now been excavated.  There is no doubt in archaelogists' minds that Troy was indeed besieged by the Greeks.  Not just once, but many times.  For me, the race to find the walls of Troy is the story all travelers should read.  If you can digest all 15,693 lines of the Illiad, written in dactylic hexameter, then by all means, do so.  Frankly, watching Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom in Troy, is much more fun!  But please read Susan Heuck Allen's excellent book, Finding the Walls of Troy, before traveling there.  This story is equally fascinating and it is real.
All the glory of finding Troy has gone to Heinrich Schliemann, a German-American archaelogist, who claimed to have found this famous Homeric site in the 1870's.   But another man, an English expatriate living in Turkey at the time, should get equal billing.  Schliemann would never have started digging at Hisarlik without Frank Calvert taking him there.  When Calvert wasn't performing counselor services for England and the United States, he was off digging on his family's property.  He began exploratory excavations on the mound of Hisarlik a full seven years before Schliemann arrived on the scene. He was convinced he had discovered the walls of Troy, but  he did not have the money to continue with proper excavations.   He offered to help the wealthy, bombastic Schliemann in this worthy endeavor.  Together, the two men uncovered thousands of artifacts, including the infamous "Priam's Treasure", a trove of gold, daggers, axes and jewelry.  Schliemann smuggled the treasure out of Turkey and eventually gave it to Berlin.  It was considered lost after World War II, but lo and behold, showed up at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow in 1996.

  My travel buddy and I enjoyed our day at the ruins of Troy.  We relived the story of Helen and Paris and of Hektor and Achilleus as we walked along the walls.  The battle over Troy, however, is far from over. Turkey wants the artifacts returned.  The Calvert family wants history to recognize their ancestor's contribution to its discovery.  There are still many layers to sift through before this particular war is won.

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