CITIES OF ALEXANDER’S WORLD: TROY (ILIUM)

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TROY (ILIUM)

Alexander was an avid reader of The Iliad by the blind poet, Homer. In fact, it is said he kept a copy of the well-worn manuscript under his pillow. Whether this is true or not, he certainly followed in the footsteps of the Troy heroes and claimed kinship to Achilles through Achilles’ son, Neoptolemos. This bloodline came down to him from his mother, Olympias, who was an Epirote princess. His sister, Kleopatra, named her son “Neoptolemos” .

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OLYMPIAS

We know that when Alexander’s army passed by Troy on his way to the Persian campaigns, he stopped to pay homage at the tumulus where Achilles and Patrocles were said to have been buried. And he took away with him a sword said to have belonged to Achilles.

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In SHADOW OF THE LION, Troy was also visited by the soldiers who escorted the joint kings, Arridaios and Alexander’s young son, Iskander, when they were travelling from Babylon to Macedon.  There are several scenes in SHADOW OF THE LION (Volume One,”Blood on the Moon”) that take place in Troy.  The significance of the Troy tales was an important part of young Iskander’s education just as it was for his father, Alexander.

Of course, by the time Alexander visited the ancient city, it had already been ruined and rebuilt a couple of times. Today there are up to 9 layers dating back to the first city that was founded in the 3rd millennium BC during the Bronze Age. At that time, Troy was a seaport controlling the trade of the Dardanelles to the Black Sea. Today the ruins are located about 5 kilometers away from the coast.

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Around 1900 BC there was a mass migration by the Hittites to the east who took over the city. Because of its accessibility to the coastal trade routes there’s a possibility this could have been the underlying reason for the fabled Troy Wars rather than the story of an angry, betrayed husband (Menelaus) setting off to recapture his errant wife (Helen). Troy controlled the grain route from the Black Sea to Egypt so it was advantageous to control it just as today the quest for and control of oil has created many wars.

The adventurer/archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann first came across what he believed to be Homer’s city in 1871. His team unearthed a large gate and various artifacts that fit the Homeric description of the city. Unfortunately he took away many of these treasures. Some ended up in E. Berlin. There are a few of his various archaeological finds in museums in Greece and Turkey.

The first Troy had been destroyed by an earthquake around 1250 BC. It was later rebuilt and this is the Troy usually cited as the Troy of Homer. There is evidence that it was destroyed by war, fire and slaughter around 1184 BC.

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By 480 the Persians had invaded the coast of Asia Minor and the Persian King Xerxes made a sacrifice of 1,000 cattle at the sanctuary of Athena Ilias as he marched through towards Greece. After the Persians were defeated in 480/79, this territory, now known as Ilion, became under the control of Mytilene  (the island state of the lyric poet Sappho.) From then on it went through various dynasties.

Alexander crossed the Hellespont in May 334 BC and arrived at the city where he visited the temple of Athena Ilias, sacrificed at the tombs of the Homeric heroes and declared the city free and exempt from taxes. He planned to rebuild the temple on a scale that would have surpassed every other known temple in the world.

Alexander the Great

After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, the city became part of the kingdom of Lysimachus, one of his  generals.  Later it was passed on to Seleukos, another of Alexander’s Successors.

Today the ruins of ancient Troy is a UNESCO heritage site in northwestern Anatolia, Turkey. These ruins are a key to a city whose many layers illustrate various civilizations in northwestern Asia Minor.

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/849

http://www.goturkey.com/en/pages/content/639/archaeological-site-of-troy

 

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