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KRONOS Vol VIII, No. 2

TROY AND THE GREEK DARK AGE

JAN N. SAMMER

Acknowledgements

The early drafts of these articles were written under the supervision of Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky, and I am greatly indebted to him for allowing me to draw freely on the ideas contained in his as yet unpublished manuscript, The Dark Age of Greece. Edwin Schorr, who for a number of years worked as a research assistant to Dr. Velikovsky, and has pursued studies in classical archaeology at the University of Cincinnati, gave me liberal access to his copious notes. His article in Pensee IVR IX, "Applying the Revised Chronology" has already addressed some of the topics that I discuss here in greater detail. [note by PJC - the Revised Chronology article mentioned above was written by Israel Issacson, not Schorr.]

THE IDENTIFICATION OF TROY

When Alexander crossed the Hellespont, setting foot in Asia for the first time, he paused briefly at what he believed to be the site of Homeric Ilion - the hill we know today as Hissarlik. A Greek and, after it, a Roman town named "Ilion" grew up on the site; and few ancient writers doubted that here once stood the "well-towered" citadel of Priam. The Roman geographer Strabo, however, questioned the identification, and brought many arguments to show that "Ilion" was in all respects unlikely to have been the site of the Homeric city.(1)

Uncertainty about the identification of Troy continued into modern times, and even Schliemann's spectacular discoveries at Hissarlik did not end it. Several years after the publication of Troy and Its Remains, Professor R. C. Jebb, one of the foremost classicists of the age, proclaimed that Schliemann had not uncovered Homer's Troy at all and, further, that it was vain to expect that a city such as Homer sang of lay hidden beneath the soil of the Troad. Hissarlik, in any case, could not accommodate any fortress on the scale envisaged by the poet: "the spacious palaces, and wide streets of the Homeric Troy point to a city totally different, both in scale and in character, from anything of which traces exist at Hissarlik." Although, in Jebb's view, "no one site in the Troad satisfies all the Homeric data for the position of Troy", a nearby hill named Bali Dagh - overlooking the village of Bunarbashi was, according to him, a much better choice: "'Troy ought to have been here' is one's feeling when, coming from Hissarlik, one mounts the hill above Bunarbashi."(2)

[*!* Image] TROR and plan of Scamander.

Jebb's objections would continue to weigh on the minds of those who followed Schliemann in his identification, as well as those who disagreed: the area of Hissarlik, even at its widest extent, was barely a twentieth of the size of the great citadel conjured by the poet. Even Schliemann expressed his dismay:

"I am extremely disappointed at being obliged to give so small a plan of Troy; nay, I had wished to be able to make it a thousand times larger, but I value truth above everything, and I rejoice that my three years' excavations have laid open the Homeric Troy, even though on a diminished scale, and that I have proved the Iliad to be based upon real facts." (3)

By the early 1890's new discoveries at Hissarlik had shown that Troy II, where Schliemann had found the great treasure, and which he confidently identified as the fortress of Priam, was in fact much more ancient: it was as old as the Pyramids, and it met its fiery end at the same time as the Egyptian Old Kingdom collapsed into anarchy.*

[*Cf. A. de Grazia, "Paleo-Calcinology: Destruction by Fire in Pre-historic and Ancient Times," KRONOS I:4, pp 25-36 and KRONOS II:1, pp. 63-71. - LMG]

The finding of Mycenaean pottery in Troy VI made Wilhelm Dorpfeld, Schliemann's pupil and leader of the new campaign of excavations, claim that city as the most likely to have been the Ilion of Homer.(4) Dorpfeld found evidence that Troy VI had been destroyed by a violent earthquake; the damage was partly repaired and the city rebuilt, though on a much smaller scale. Such evidence, in the view of Carl Blegen who conducted the most recent excavations on the site could hardly be reconciled with the Homeric account of a city whose walls were breached by an enemy after a lengthy siege and which, on being plundered and denuded of its inhabitants, was for a long time left deserted. Blegen disagreed with Dorpfeld about the identity of the Homeric city; looking for a fortress that fell not due to an earthquake, but by siege and assault, he identified the Troy sung by Homer in Troy VIIa.(5)

Troy II was a stronghold; Troy VI was also a well-built fortress, girded by thick walls embracing an even larger area. Yet, even in Troy VI, "you could still saunter from side to side in less than two minutes; and a moderate sprinter could cover the ground in less than twenty five seconds".(6) But Troy VIIa was smaller still. Before Blegen identified it as Priam's citadel, it had been known as a settlement of squatters. It is still described as "degraded and altogether pitiable". Poor huts with earthen floors, "sheepish cubicles", huddle against the walls of the little town.(7)

"The very poverty and insignificance of Troy VIIa", wrote C. Nylander in criticism of the conclusions of Blegen's expedition, "make it a less likely object of a large scale military enterprise from far away across the sea by a coalition of Mycenaean states, such as depicted by Homer." In his view the pottery found in this settlement is not of as early a date as was assigned to it by excavators the evidence indicates that Troy VIIa was destroyed in the same series of catastrophes which overtook the palaces of Mycenae, Tiryns, and Pylos together with so many other cities in all parts of Greece and the ancient East as a whole. The citadel of Priam, in Nylander's opinion, must have succumbed earlier than this, when the Mycenaean cities were yet strong. Thus, he concluded, if a Homeric city did exist it had to be Troy VI.(8) This view, however, has not found general acceptance.(9)

Whichever level scholars may agree to identify as Homer's Troy, the wider problem of relating the Homeric geography to the site of Hissarlik remains. Some years ago Rhys Carpenter put the matter very succinctly: "There are obvious indications", he wrote, "that Hissarlik does not agree with the situation demanded by the Iliad, which speaks of a great walled city with streets, houses and palaces, rising to a temple-crowned acropolis, at an approachable distance from the Hellespont [Straits of Dardanelles] and apparently invisible from it, situated across the Scamander, with abundant springs of deep soil water gushing close at hand. Actually, Hissarlik is in plain sight of the Hellespont, on the same side of the river, without any running springs, and enclosed within its walls an area of less than five acres."(10)

From the Iliad it transpires that the Achaeans could not effectively besiege Troy because of its great size - the Trojans were able to receive aid from all the nations of Asia Minor until the very end of the war.

Whether or not Troy has really been found, the mound of Hissarlik remains one of the most carefully excavated sites of Mycenaean times: and it is to the stratigraphic sequence that we shall now turn.

THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF HISSARLIK

Any modern discussion of the stratigraphical situation at Troy must lean very heavily on the work of the University of Cincinnati expedition which dug at the site between 1932 and 1938 under the direction of Carl W. Blegen. The need for a new and definitive survey of Hissarlik arose in the 1920's because of continuing uncertainties about the dating of the various strata identified earlier by Schliemann and Dorpfeld.

Schliemann's great trenches, dug in haste in his relentless drive to reach the lower layers of the mound, where he firmly believed he would find the remains of Priam's fortress, ironically resulted in the irretrievable loss of large portions of the higher levels which scholars were later to identify as the Ilion of Homer. Dorpfeld's campaigns, though executed and organized on a much more scientific basis, nevertheless dismantled additional portions of the hill without really resolving some of the most urgent problems facing Homeric scholarship. While a few definite conclusions could be drawn on the basis of Dorpfeld's work such as the realization that Troy II belonged to the Early Bronze Age, and could not therefore be the Homeric city many new problems arose, especially concerning the relation of the Late Bronze Age city to its seventh-century Greek successor.

It was left to Carl Blegen, whose careful work at Korakou, Zygouries, and Prosymna had earned him a well-deserved reputation for accuracy and thoroughness, to undertake a new examination of what remained of Hissarlik in the hope that the troubling chronological questions could once and for all be resolved.

Before turning to the results of the American excavations, let us briefly glance at the stratigraphic situation as it was understood before Blegen.

Schliemann's interpretations have already been reviewed - his identification of Troy II with the Homeric Ilion led him to describe the sixth city with its characteristic Gray Minyan ware as a "Lydian" settlement, "contemporary with the colonization of Etruria by the Lydians".(1) Yet in his last campaign at Troy, conducted in 1890 with the assistance of Wilhelm Dorpfeld, he found this same Gray Minyan pottery belonging to Troy VI mixed with Mycenaean ware of a sort familiar to him from his diggings at Mycenae and Tiryns. Further discoveries by Dorpfeld in the years following Schliemann's death confirmed the fact that Troy VI in its later phases belonged to the Mycenaean Age.

When in 1902 Dorpfeld published his results,(2) he argued for the sixth city to be identified as Priam's and had Troy VII follow immediately after. After about the year -700 the appearance of "advanced Geometric pottery" marks the transition to Troy VIII. "We can thus take approximately the year 700 as the boundary between the VIIth and VIIIth strata."(3) H. Schmidt, in his ceramical study in the same publication, viewed the two phases of the seventh stratum as "a long period of transition" from the Homeric sixth city to the Greek eigth. The seventh stratum could be linked to the sixth by the presence in both of imported Mycenaean pottery and of Gray Minyan ware; the manufacture of Gray Minyan pottery continued into the eighth phase. "In about the year 700 B.C. belongs the approximate boundary between the latest phases of the seventh stratum and the oldest of the eighth."(4) No break in the occupation of the site was noted by either Schliemann or Dorpfeld. Even Blegen at first found no reason to postulate any hiatus in an article published soon after the completion of his excavations he put forward some of the new insights presented by his discoveries, outlining the areas where he found it necessary to differ with Dorpfeld's scheme.(5) Troy VIIa was made to span the thirteenth century, and thus became the obvious choice as the city of Priam. Troy VIIb where imported Mycenaean pottery of a late phase was still in evidence was assigned to the years from ca. -1200 to ca. -900, the latter date marking, in Blegen's view, the beginning of the eighth city with its Gray Minyan and Geometric pottery.

The final publication of the findings of the Cincinnati expedition was only completed in 1958, twenty years after the end of the excavations. By then it had become evident that the solution advocated by Blegen in his earlier article was no longer tenable: Troy VIIb could not have lasted for three centuries its span was halved to ca. 160 years - and Troy VIII showed no sign of being any earlier than ca. -700.(6) Blegen's final conclusions can be summarized as follows: after the destruction of the sixth settlement in an earthquake ca. -1300, the survivors rebuilt the town, though poorly, and on a much reduced scale. Troy VIIa was destined to be short-lived, succumbing to an enemy attack ca. -1260, and was replaced by Troy VIIb, whose two phases lasted until about -1100. The eighth settlement, built atop the remains of this last Bronze Age city, was unmistakably a Greek town, and was assigned to the beginning of the seventh century. What transpired in the meantime? Archaeology could provide no clue, no trace of any human habitation between the extinction of Troy VIIb - supposedly ca. -1100 - and the beginning of the Greek city slightly before -700. Thus a Dark Age was called upon to envelop Troy.

The lack of any deposits between the levels of the Late Bronze and Greek cities would normally be interpreted as indicating that there was no break in the occupation of the site, and it was so understood by Dorpfeld, as we have seen; but here, a diametrically opposite conclusion was reached solely because of the need to conform to the strictures of an extraneous chronological system. The postulated break in the stratigraphic sequence was then claimed to signify a total desertion of the hill during the Dark Age.

An even more puzzling problem arose when it was realized that the inhabitants of the eighth or Greek settlement were linked to their predecessors in the seventh or Helladic settlement by numerous and strong cultural ties, despite the supposed gulf of some four centuries separating the one from the other: there was "a continuity of transmission" of an "abundant heritage, cultural and historical".(7) Most perplexing was the fact that the new settlers used the same type of pottery as their Helladic predecessors. "In the seventh century B.C. the Trojan citadel, which had been virtually deserted for some four centuries, suddenly blossomed into life once more with occupants who were still able to make Gray Minyan pottery."(8) Gray Minyan ware made up "the great bulk of the pottery of Troy VIII",(9) and was characteristic also of the earlier Late Bronze Age settlements, Troy VI and Troy VII.

The survival of the tradition at Troy itself was ruled out since Blegen's scheme required a 400-year abandonment of the site but, the excavators speculated, was it not possible that the artisans carried on their peculiar style elsewhere during the dark centuries and then returned? Some remnants of the Trojans perhaps survived on the near-by hill of Bali Dagh, where they could have "maintained a foothold for several centuries in virtual isolation until 700 B.C.". There, the survivors would have "clung to their customs and traditions through the troubled period from about 1100 to 800 or later, and thus transmitted their ancestral gray pottery to successors in the eighth and seventh centuries".(10) Such remarkable tenacity of tradition is all the more questionable, being devised specifically to evade the conclusions that would normally follow from a straightforward interpretation of the stratigraphical situation. Even so it is not explained why the Trojans would have found Bali Bagh any more hospitable than their own hill during the Dark Age, and why, once settled elsewhere, they would have seen fit to reoccupy bare and desolate Hissarlik.

The strata exposed by Blegen's team reveal a city of the Late Bronze Age (Troy VIIb) remade ca. -700 into a Greek settlement (Troy VIII), with considerable continuity between the two phases. Even the boundary between the two settlements could not always be clearly delineated - thus, in undisturbed strata belonging to the Late Bronze Age settlement, were found fragments of pottery assigned to "the very beginning of the seventh century". As far as we could judge [the sherds] seem to be of exactly the same kind as the late Geometric pottery from the archaic [seventh-century] strata. "

Such finds were unacceptable in the standard chronological scheme; as a way out, the excavators pleaded mea culpa: "the only explanation we can find is to suppose that, in spite of our efforts to isolate and certify the deposits we examined, contamination had somehow been effected, and brought about the intrusion of the later wares into the strata of Troy VIIb."(11) In another part of the site, in the level of the Late Bronze Age settlement, pieces "indistinguishable from types that are common in Troy VIII and are usually attributed to the seventh century" were found; and the excavators acknowledged that "their occurrence in several areas in the stratum of Troy VIIb, below the deposits of Knobbed Ware [pottery characteristic of the last Bronze Age settlement] presents a perplexing and still unexplained problem".(12)

In the Greek city, the archaeologists came upon the remains of a house (no. 814) which, as became evident with the progress of digging, had been originally a Late Bronze Age building belonging to Troy VIIb - yet its seventh-century Greek owner apparently could re-occupy the place and re-use the still-standing walls and intact foundations of the previous structure. Parts of the walls of the Greek house were "indistinguishable from the earlier construction", and the excavators "could not follow any clearly marked stratum throughout the building"(13) in other words, they could not distinguish supposedly twelfth-century features from seventh century ones.

The continuing doubts and misgivings, raised by finds such as these, finally evoked the following admission from Blegen's team this after seven years' digging and decades of careful analysis:

". . . It has been argued that Troy VIIb came to its end about 1100 B.C. Generally considered, our evidence leads us to believe that a gap of 400 years exists between the end of Troy VIIb and the beginning of Troy VIII, but the possibility of a contrary view is established by the evidence of several successive floors of house 814, and also by the presence of Geometric sherds in a context of Troy VIIb"(14)

What the "contrary view" might be they did not spell out; but the question would not be laid to rest: Did not the Greek city follow the Homeric directly, with no abandonment of four centuries' duration intervening?

REFERENCES

(Part I)

1. Strabo, Geography, Book XIII, ch. 1. Strabo draws chiefly on information supplied by Demetrios of Skepsis; cf. Schliemann's refutation of Strabo in Troy and Its Remains (London, 1875), pp.41-42. Cf. also W. Leaf, Strabo on the Troad (London, 1923). For a recent geological survey of the site, see John C. Kraft, Ilhan Kayan, Oguz Erol, "Geomorphic Reconstructions in the Environs of Ancient Troy," Science 209 (15 August 1980), pp. 776-782.
2. R. C. Jebb, "I. The Ruins of Hissarlik. II. Their Relation to the Iliad," Journal of Hellenic Studies 3 (1882), pp. 195-217. But cf. fn. 10 below that Bunarbashi was, in fact, not inhabited that early.
3. H. Schliemann, Troy and Its Remains, p. 344.
4. W. Dorpfeld, Troja und Ilion Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen in den vorhistorischen und historischen Schichten von Ilion 1870-1894 (Athens, 1902).
5. C. W. Blegen, "New Evidence for Dating the Settlements at Troy, "Annual of the British School at Athens 37 (1936-37), pp. 8-12; idem, Troy and the Trojans (N.Y., 1963).
6. D. Page, History and the Homeric Iliad (Berkeley, 1959), p. 54.
7. Idem, "The Historical Sack of Troy," Antiquity 23 (1959), p. 27.
8. C. Nylander, "The Fall of Troy," Antiquity 37 (1963), pp. 6-9. A similar view was earlier expressed by F. Schachermeyr in Poseidon (1950), pp. 189 ff. and in Minoica, p. 368.
9. V. R. d'A. Desborough, The Last Mycenaeans and Their Successors (Oxford University Press, 1964), pp. 164-65; G. Mylonas ("Priam's Troy and the Date of Its Fall," Hesperia 33 [1964], pp. 352-380; Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age [Princeton, 1966], p. 215) also argues in favor of Blegen's identification of Troy VIIa as the Homeric city.
10. Folk Tale, Fiction, and Saga in the Homeric Epics (Los Angeles, 1946), p. 49. Carpenter argues that Homer construed the Iliad without knowledge of the true site of the city of which he sang, and with the assumption that Bali Dagh represented the remains of Ilion. If Homer did make such an assumption, archaeology does not bear him out - J. M. Cook (The Troad: An Archaeological and Topographical Study [Oxford,1973]) failed to find any evidence of Bali Dagh being inhabited so early.

(Part II)

1. Schliemann, Ilios The City and Country of the Trojans (N.Y., 1961). Herodotus(1.94) put the migration of the Lydians to Etruria some time before the Trojan War; but archaeologists find no sign of the Etruscans in Italy prior to about the beginning of the eighth century, a discrepancy of ca.500 years. Cf. T. Dohrn, "Stamnoi und Kratere aus grauem Ton, Nachahmungen von Metalgefassen (Civilta Castellana)" in W. Helbig and H. Speier, Fuehrer durch die oeffentlichten Sammlungen klassischer Altertuemer in Rom (revised edition, Tuebingen, 1969), p. 701, Nr. 2791; H. G. Buchholz, "Gray Minyan Ware in Cyprus and Northern Syria" in Bronze Age Migrations in the Aegean (Park Ridge, 1974), p. 180.
2. Troja und Ilion Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen in der vorhistorischen Schich ten von Ilion 1870-1894 (Athens, 1902).
3. Ibid, p. 201: "Die VIII lassen wir mit den entwickeltgeometrischen Vasen beginnen und koennen daher als Grenze zwischen der VII. und VIII. Schicht rund das Jahr 700 annehmen."
4. Ibid., p. 298.
5. C. W. Blegen, "New Evidence for Dating the Settlements at Troy," Annual of the British School at Athens 37 (1936-37).
6. According to J. N. Coldstream (Greek Geometric Pottery [London, 1968], p. 376) some vases from Troy VIII belong to ca. 720-700, but a few sherds may be slightly earlier. In Geometric Greece (London, 1977), p. 246, he dates the resettlement of Troy "from ca. 750 B.C. onwards".
7. C. W. Blegen, J. S. Caskey, M. Rawson, Troy, Vol. IV, pt. I (Princeton, 1958), p. 10.
8. Blegen, Troy and the Trojans (N.Y., 1963), p. 172.
9. Blegen et al., Troy, Vol. IV, pt. 1, p. 251.
10. Ibid., p. 147. Surveys of Bali Dagh carried out in 1959 and 1968 revealed "nothing earlier than 600 B.C.". - J. M. Cook, "Bronze Age Sites in the Troad", Bronze Age Migrations in the Aegean, p. 38.
11. Blegen et al., Troy, Vol. IV, pt. 1, p. 181.
12. Ibid., p. 158.
13. Ibid., pp. 291-92. 14. Ibid., p. 250 (emphasis added).

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