The ancient city of Troy is widely accepted to have been located in north-west Turkey, at a place called Hisarlik. This is where the legendary Trojan War between the Achaeans (Greeks) and the Trojans and their allies, as described in Homer’s Iliad, is said to have taken place. The archaeological site – originally excavated by Heinrich Schliemann in the late 19th century – is today inscribed as a World Heritage Site. But is it the right place?
Above: Defensive walls unearthed at Hisarlik (by CherryX via Wikimedia Commons)
There have long been questions about whether Hisarlik and its archaeology and geography accord with the descriptions from Homer’s works. There have also been other locations suggested for Troy – some nearby, some much further afield. Here we feature the theories of several authors who have attempted to place Troy elsewhere…
Troy in Pergamon
Two authors have proposed that Pergamon (or Pergamum in ancient Greek) was the real Troy. Pergamon is an ancient city some 150km south-east of Hisarlik, and slightly further inland.
In Troy, the World Deceived – Homer’s Guide to Pergamum, author John Lascelles noted that Homer’s Ilios (acropolis) and Troy (town) were set in a location of grander scale than the ‘”modest mound” at Hisarlik. He also noted that Homer named the highest, most sacred part of Ilios as ‘Pergamos’, but that when Schliemann was searching for Troy he never got as far south as Pergamum. Lascalles goes on to link various parts of Pergamon to the features described in Homer’s works.
Inspired by Lascalles’ research, John Crowe wrote The Troy Deception Vol 1 – Finding the Plain of Troy. As per the book’s title, Crowe set out to search for the plain of Troy, on which the battles of the Trojan War took place. He suggests that the plain is in the lower valley of the Bakir Çayi, in a region known to the ancients as Mysia; and that the acropolis of Pergamon fits the description of Ilios, and the lower town of Troy must have been in the northern suburbs of (modern city) Bergama. There’s more at the Troy Deception website, including ten reasons why Troy was not at Hisarlik.
Above: Pergamon Acropolis from the Sanctuary of Asclepios (photo by Ingo Mehling)
Troy on the Adriatic coast
Two other authors have shifted the location of Troy further along the Mediterranean, and propose that it was located just inland from the Adriatic Sea.
In Homeric Whispers – Intimations of Orthodoxy in the Iliad and Odyssey, Mexican author Roberto Salinas Price makes a case for a place called Galela in Bosnia-Herzegovina – some 15km inland from the Adriatic coast. Price suggests that this was Troy until the 7th century BC when the Greeks cleverly transferred all the place names in the Iliad to territories that were Greek. More on this in the newspaper article here.
In Our Troy, historian Vedran Sinožić sets out his case that Troy was located further up the Adriatic coast in the Istrian peninsula of Croatia. More specifically, he favours the ancient hilltop village of Motovun – a settlement with medieval origins, but also the site of an ancient city or casterlliere (fortified borough). The Castellieri culture that was associated with these fortified sites lasted for more than a millennium, from the 15th century BC until the Roman conquest in the 3rd century BC. There’s more on Sinožić’s book here.
Above: The ancient hilltop settlement of Motovun – a contender for the real Troy?
Troy in Finland
To jump a fair distance northwards, in The Baltic Origins of Homer’s Epic Tales, Italian author Felice Vinci proposed that Troy was located in southern Finland, and that the events of Homer’s epic poems took place in Northern Europe. His theory hinges on the Achaeans living on the coasts of the Baltic Sea before migrating to the Mediterranean, bringing their oral stories with them. The theory is certainly an interesting one, but lacks supporting evidence.
Above: Finland (in the Nordic Bronze Age, the climate would have been warmer)
Troy in England
Back in the 19th century, Belgian lawyer Théophile Cailleux wrote Atlantic lands described by Homer: the Iberian peninsula, Gaul, Britain, the Atlantic islands, the Americas. A new theory. Cailleaux suggested that the events described in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey took place on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. He situated Troy in East Anglia (eastern England) having discovered two huge war-dykes between Cambridge and the Wash.
In 1990, in his book Where Troy Once Stood, Iman Wilkens took up the Troy-in-England baton. He marshaled a range of geographical, historical and archaeological evidence in favour of Troy belonging to a Celtic culture, specifically that of eastern England. He proposed that Troy was located near to Cambridge and the Gog Magog Hills. More information can be found at the Troy-in-England website.
Above: Little Trees Hill, Gog Magog hills (photo by Antiphus at Wikimedia)
Another author has gone along with Wilkens’ placing of Troy in eastern England. Morten Alexander Joramo – in his book The Lost Civilization of the North – agrees with this location for Troy, yet believes that the voyages of Odysseus and Jason took place all around Scandinavia, rather than out in the Atlantic. There’s more at the dedicated webpage here.
As well as the suggestion that Troy is located in the east of England, there are also stories of a descendant of a Trojan War hero becoming Britain’s first king. This is based on survivors of the Trojan War, led by Aeneas, settling in Italy (where their descendants were instrumental in the foundation of Rome). Brutus, or Brute the Trojan, is said to have sailed from Italy, via Spain, to land in south-west England. There’s more on this legend on John Chaple’s website here.
And back to Turkey
If you explore John Chaple’s website some more, you’ll see an article on his own theory… that Troy was indeed located in north-west Turkey but further inland from Hisarlik. We therefore seem to be right back where we started from!
Some final thoughts…
There are some who doubt that the Trojan War was an historical event, and even that Homer – the supposed author of the Iliad and Odyssey – actually existed. Assuming that Troy existed at some point in history, its presumed location at Hisarlik seems an imperfect fit to say the least. However, whilst many of the alternative locations for Troy have their merits, they generally lack really compelling evidence – including archaeological evidence. As yet, none of the alternative locations has gained traction. In today’s world, Homer’s works continue to retain a strong sense of mystery, myth and legend.
Lascelles, J., Troy, the World Deceived – Homer’s Guide to Pergamum, Trafford, 2005.
Crowe, J., The Troy Deception Vol 1 – Finding the Plain of Troy, Matador, 2011.
Price, R.S., Homeric Whispers – Intimations of Orthodoxy in the Iliad and Odyssey, Scylax Press, 2006.
Vinci, F., The Baltic Origins of Homer’s Epic Tales – The Iliad, the Odyssey and the Migration of Myth, Inner Traditions, 2006.
Wilkens, I.J., Where Troy Once Stood – The Mystery of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey Revealed, Rider, 1990, revised 2009.
Joramo, M.A., The Lost Civilization of the North – Rediscovering the Ancient World, 2015.