About a kilometer from the town of Tevfikiye and 31 kilometers from Çanakkale, the famous city of Troy is usually high on any tourist’s tourist list and makes a great (but long) day trip from Istanbul. Throughout the centuries, Troy has been the legendary site of the long Trojan War, a city that was only finally conquered when Greek soldiers hid in the Trojan horse’s “peace offering” to gain access to the city. Whether there is any truth to Homer’s epic Iliad, which told of the battle, goes beyond that, as the archaeological site itself is an ancient attraction that has revealed a myriad of cities on top of each other and has a history stretching back 5,000 years .
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Tours to Troy from Istanbul
If you’re short on time and the ruins of Troy are high on your agenda, you can visit Troy on a guided full-day tour from Istanbul. Please note that it is a long day, departing around 07:00 AM and arriving back to the city around 10:00 PM. You will see a beautiful slice of the Turkish countryside as you travel through the green, fertile landscape of Thrace, with its sunflower fields, crossing the Dardanelles on your way to the site.
The Troy Day Trip includes pick-up from your hotel door in Istanbul, round-trip transportation by comfortable, air-conditioned minivan from Troy, a 2-course seafood lunch in the charming coastal town of Eceabat, and a one-hour tour of Troy with an official narration guide will give on the incredible depth of history on display here.
If you’re also interested in the World War I battlefields of Gallipoli, you can easily combine a visit to Gallipoli and Troy on a 2-day small-group tour of Troy and Gallipoli from Istanbul. This more relaxed option includes round-trip transportation by air-conditioned coach from Istanbul, a tour of the main battlefield of the Gallipoli Peninsula, lunch, dinner, and overnight accommodation in a 5-star hotel in Çannakale with breakfast. It also includes a tour of Troy on day two, with free time afterwards to explore other sights in Çannakale. Groups are limited to 14 people.
The first Westerner to visit this site appears to be a French government official named Pierre Belon in 1547. But it wasn’t until the German businessman and amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann (1822-90) became convinced that the legendary city of Troy in the area known as Hisarlık that a great multitude of ruins came to light. A series of excavations led by him between 1870 and 1890 proved his assumption correct, although his lack and disrespect for proper archaeological methods led to much evidence for his own theory being destroyed forever (particularly by the wide trench he drove over the site from the north to the south). Later excavations, led by the German archaeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld (1853-1940), were carried out in a much more scientific way.
What Schliemann did not realize at first was that he is excavating not only the ruins of a Troy, but of several cities that had sprung up, flourished, and then remained standing on this site. It was only Schliemann’s last 1890 excavation and Dörpfeld’s excavations in 1893-94 that finally suggested that the excavation layer known as Troy VI should be assigned to the Mycenaean period when this was the city of King Priam and the Trojan War was fought.
Understand the site
The famous site of Troy consists of several layers that trace a history of different settlements from 3000 BC.
Troy I (3000-2500 BC)
The 10 levels that make up the excavation of Troy I have shown that some 5,000 years ago there was a fortified settlement of large, long houses on the rocky hill of Hisarlık.
Troy II (2500-2400 B.C.)
Around the middle of the third millennium, the Troy I settlement expanded to the southwest. An area of 8000 square meters was surrounded by a fortified wall, which was rebuilt three times. To the southwest stood a huge entrance of stone blocks, and in the center of the circuit of walls stood the ruler’s palace. In the upper part of Troy II (known as the “burnt city”), Schliemann found what he called Priam’s treasure (a cache of gold and silver ships). This hoard is dated to around 2400 BC. Schliemann was convinced until shortly before his death that this was Homer’s Troy. Troy II consists of seven levels and was completely destroyed by a gigantic fire.
Troy III-V (2400-1800 B.C.)
The fire that destroyed Troy II left an eight-foot thick layer of rubble and ash. Later, settlers lived in primitive huts, subsisted on hunting, and little is known about them. Some vessels depicting human faces and thin cups with opposite handles have come to light. The last layer of the 13 layers here indicates that this settlement was also destroyed by fire.
Troy VI “Homer’s Troy” (1800-1250 B.C.)
It is the huge walls of the new city with large smooth-walled irregular blocks that form the most impressive remains of Troy. In the years between the 15th and 13th centuries BC, the city experienced its greatest period of prosperity. The area of this settlement period is eight levels deep. The city was surrounded by a wall that was once 10 meters high. Within the walls, the foundations of a number of palaces have been preserved. No trace has yet been found of a lower city in the plain below. The cemetery, which contains the funerary urns with the ashes of the dead, is about 500 meters to the south.
Troy VIIa (ca. 1250-1180 BC)
The city seems to have been rebuilt shortly after an earthquake, but the way of life of the inhabitants seems to have remained unchanged. A century later, the city was destroyed again.
Troy VIIb (ca. 1180-1000 BC)
After the destruction of Troy VIIa, the site was occupied by settlers from the Balkans. It is believed that the last people to settle here during this period were the Dardanians who gave their name to the Dardanelles.
Troy VIII (eighth c.-85 BC)
After a hiatus, the site became a Greek colony around 730 BC. In 652 BC, after defeating King Gyges of Lydia, the Cimmerians moved into the area without displacing the Greeks. In 547 BC, King Cyrus of Persia incorporated Troy into the Persian satrap of Phrygia.
In 334 BC, Alexander the Great crossed the Dardanelles and took Troy with him, where he made a sacrifice to Athena Ilios. About 300 BC, Lysimachos built a harbor for the city at the mouth of the Scamander and replaced the old temple of Athena with a beautiful new one in marble. At least by the time of this structure, the main buildings from the periods of Troy VII and Troy VI had leveled the surface of the mound. Between 278 and 270 AD, the city was held by the Galatians, a Celtic people.
Troy IX (85 B.C. tot A.D. 500)
While Troy’s importance previously depended on the Temple of Athena, which was equal in status to the Temple of Artemis, it now enjoyed Roman favor as the city of Aeneas – Rome saw itself as the political heir to Troy. There was now a period of great building activity.
Until the invasion of the Goths around 262 AD. Troy flourished, and this prosperity continued into early Byzantine times. Constantine the Great even considered making Troy his capital. However, with the recognition of Christianity as the state religion, the ancient temples fell into disrepair and Troy’s glory quickly faded. In the Middle Ages, Troy still had a fortress and until the 13th century it was the bishop’s, but after its conquest by the Ottomans in 1306, the city quickly fell into disrepair. The ruins were used by the Turks as a source of building stone for their houses and funerary steles. Grass grew over the grounds and Troy faded into oblivion.
The highlights of the site
Romanesque tempel (Bouleuterion)
This point, at the entrance to the archaeological area, offers a view of the entire site. The East Wall , part of the hill’s defenses in Troy VI , consisted of a cushioned substructure about twenty feet high and fifteen feet thick and exposed on the outside. On top of this, a meter above ground level of the settlement, was a vertical superstructure of flat rectangular stones, dressed almost regularly. The surface has been rebuilt with bricks.
The South-East Tower was originally two stories high. One of the characteristic features of the wall, the vertical shifts, is visible in this area. They are placed at regular intervals of nine to ten meters apart.
Mycenaean houses Troy VI
Beyond the wall and tower, large houses of the Mycenaean settlement are visible: first House VI G , then to the northeast away from the wall House VI F , and further north Houses VI E and VI C . The houses of Troy VI were built around the hill on a series of concentric terraces with almost certainly the king’s palace at the highest point.
House VI F had pillars suggesting a second floor. Going through the gate, it is clear that House VI E was very well built. It must be remembered that at the time when these grand buildings were built, iron and steel had not been discovered. The quality of the stonemasonry is therefore all the more impressive.
The wall projecting from the East Gate is covered with a Roman wall of dressed stone, which supports the columns on the eastern side of the Temple . The defensive wall from the south helped form a curved corridor about 10 meters long and 1.8 meters wide. From one of the more than 20 limestone altars that comprise the Temple of Athena , it is possible to see the massive tower of the Northeast Gate in the Mycenaean walls.
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North East Bastion
The eight-metre high substructure of finely dressed stone with a receding embankment once supported a superstructure of mud bricks, giving the gate an impressive height. Within the gate is a square well carved out of the rock and descends to a considerable depth. It remained in use for a long period of time.
In the Troy VIII period, a staircase was built on the north side of the tower leading to a well outside the tower. The large retaining wall to the southeast dates from Roman times. In the background is the auditorium of the Greek and Roman theater with the plain of Dümrek Çayi beyond.
Altars and the Temple of Athena
Altars and the Temple of Athena
Only the altars and mounds give any indication of the existence of the Temple of Athena . It must be imagined that it is west and north of the altars. The magnificent new temple promised by Alexander the Great was built by Lysimachos, but little remains. Columns, parts of the coffered ceiling and other marble fragments from the temple built by Augustus ‘wandered’ down to the levels of Troy II during the excavations. These fragments were collected by the researchers so that they could find out more information about the construction of the temple.
From these heights you have a beautiful view of the Dardanelles, European Turkey and the Menderes (Scamander) river plain. In the foreground are remains of the “Burnt City” ( Troy II ), which Schliemann thought was the city of Priam.
This section of the fortifications of Troy I has a tower-like projection and the South Gate lay behind. Troy I was built directly on the bedrock and layers four meters deep suggest that this period lasted for many years (c. 3000 to 2500 BC). Troy I covered the smallest area and over time this settlement spread to the south. Directly above the tower is a small propylon of Troy III . The huge three meter long and 1.1 meter wide stone threshold is still in place.
The propylon was the entrance to a group of buildings in the center of Troy II citadel , which were probably occupied by the ruler of the city. The residences of the ruler and his family led off a gravelled courtyard. The main building right in front of the propylon known as the Megaronconsisted of a porch and a large hall with a hearth in the middle. The structure of the walls can be clearly seen here, but the height cannot be determined. It would have a flat roof with an opening above the hearth. To the right was a smaller building with a porch, main room and back room. Buildings of a similar type from the courtyard could be seen on either side, but all were destroyed by fire, leaving a two-metre thick layer of stone and ash (Schliemann’s ‘burnt city’). Many interesting finds have been excavated at this level.
The Troy II era (ca. 2500 BC) was characterized by great cultural and technological changes: a stratified society as witnessed by these buildings with the predecessor of the Greek temple (“megaron,” portico and main room), the mixture of copper and tin to make bronze, as well as the invention of the potter’s wheel. So impressed was Schliemann by the amazing finds, he believed he had found the “Treasure of Priam”, but he was wrong by at least 1000 years.
The large north-south trench that Schliemann drove across the site passes between the first and second groups of Troy II houses, and it is possible to see house walls and parts of ancient settlements made of stones bound together with earth mortar. The restored supporting wall on the east side, made of air-dried bricks, marks the boundary of the long, spacious buildings. A wooden bridge over the three ring walls of Troy II leads past the base of the ramp.
From the corner of House M6A , a stone ramp to the Gate FM can be seen at a lower level. It leads from a lower settlement area (discovered in 1992) to the inner citadel mound . This prehistoric citadel of Troy II had a circumference of about 300 meters and is now almost completely visible. The layers of rubble vary from one meter to two meters thick.
The ring of walls of the citadel extends on both sides of the ramp. It consists of a one meter high substructure made of rough-hewn limestone and earth mortar and was restored in 1992. It now resembles the state it was in before the first excavations about 100 years earlier.
About twenty feet northwest of the ramp, Schliemann found the so-called “Treasure of Priam” in a cavity in the brick superstructure of the boundary wall. It later found its way to the Prehistoric Museum in Berlin, but disappeared at the end of World War II. It was later discovered in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Similar finds of jewelry, vessels, weapons, and tools made of gold, silver, electron (an alloy of gold and silver), and bronze have been found elsewhere in the Troy II level (“Burnt City”) and also in the fire-created debris in Troy III.
The remains of Troy III, IV , and V are of little interest to the ordinary visitor. The main monuments of the citadel from Troy VI survive, and some wall remnants of Troy VII survive, mainly those between the citadel wall of Troy VI and the first terrace walls. The two walls belong to very different periods. At first, the walls and houses of Troy VI were repaired by simple country people, who still used the “Mycenaean” pottery. They built their own smaller houses (similar in plan to Troy VI) against the inside of the citadel walls.
Opposite the northern corner of Huis VI A , the remains of similar but larger houses (VI B) have been found. It is at this point that the ‘Mycenaean’ wall, which once encircled the entire citadel (about 540 meters long) ends, although about two-thirds of its full length still remain. At a much lower level, the huge foundations of the west corner of the citadel are visible, but the north face and part of the west wall have disappeared.
Kitchen building Palace VI M
The preserved remains of The Wall of Troy VII are visible on the way to the fortifications for Troy VI . Within the perimeter wall stands the impressive 90-foot (27 m) load-bearing wall for House VI M , which was certainly part of The Citadel of Troy VI . This large Mycenaean period building on a four meter high terrace is known as the kitchen building based on the large pithos (storage vessels) and other objects found in one of the rooms. A staircase inside led to a second floor.
The altars in the southwest show that after the Greek settlement and well into Roman times, cults took place outside the wall of ‘Holy Ilios’. The latest excavations show that the marble altar higher up dates from the time of Augustus, when the whole site of Ilios was renovated. A grandstand and more sanctuaries lie beyond. The great supporting wall and the older altars lying below all originated in Hellenistic times (Troy VII).
Odeon en Bouleuterion
On the edge of the former agora stood the Odeon, a small theater for musical performances, and a little further east, the bouleuterion, the Roman town hall. The Odeon consists of a semicircular orchestra separated from the skene or stage building. The rows of seats are divided into wedge-shaped blocks. Some of the fragments belonging to the Odeon have been collected together nearby. The bouleuterion, about 70 meters away, was built over the fortified wall of Troy VI. The interior was surrounded by a wall on all sides, which allowed the city fathers to conduct their affairs uninterruptedly.
The South Gate was probably the main entrance to the town, but only the paved road to the right of the tower (4 feet wide) remains. A covered water channel is located in the center. To the left behind the South Tower, a pillar marks the location of the “Pillar House”, which, measuring 27 by 12.5 meters, was one of the largest houses of Troy VI. In front of the tower are two vertical stones, which undoubtedly serve a cult purpose.