Friday, December 18, 2020

A slice of the history of the search for Troy

I am not an historian, nor an archeologist. I hold a PhD in philosophy. 

Nonetheless, I shall recall here a bit of the history of the search for Troy, and the story of how it was found. I have recently boned up on several sources, including Charles Maclaren, Forschammer and the Luwian Studies web site.  

Briefly, there were maps and descriptions of the plain of Troy produced by travelers that elicited discussion, and were refined over time by observations and maps from other travelers, after which some more professional studies eventually appeared with better maps. The maps in question appeared between the1790's and 1850's.  There were a few before that though.  

Maclaren wrote a dissertation on the location of Troy in 1821.  He located it on the hill called Hissarlik (from Hissar, which means Castle).  It was partly on the basis of Maclaren's work that Frederick Calvert, the brother of Frank Calvert purchased a part of Hissarlik.  Frank could not afford to professionally excavate it, but he did work on it on his own. Then Heinrich Schliemann appeared in his life with the money to hire the required labor in 1869.  

Some people credit Schliemann with finding Troy, but that is not the way it went.  Maclaren pointed out where it was, a Calvert purchased it, another Calvert started excavating it during the 1860s, and then Schliemann excavated it after 1870.  

Schliemann had been excavating in the wrong location before he met Calvert.  He was led to the wrong location by earlier scholars.  

In the 1790's some maps appeared that placed Troy at the far southern end of the plain. There is a low bluff there, with steep precipices on its south side.  There is a village in front of the bluff called Pinarbasi (or Burnabashi). In front of the village are some springs.  On the 1792 map by Jean Baptiste LeChevalier, one of the springs was called a hot spring, and the others were called cold springs. This was one of the reasons that the area was thought to be Troy. Homer mentions both hot and cold springs at the city, just outside one of the gates. Hector is killed between that gate and the springs.  

On this map, North is to the left.   At the southern end of the plain, LeCehvalier labeled one spring Fons Calidus (source hot) and the others Fons Frigidus (source cold) for the stream he labels the Scamander. He labels the bluff behind Bounar Bashi Troja Vetus, meaning Troy Original.  

The thinking of Chevalier was repeated in the map below, from the 1797 work, Constantinople Ancient and Modern. 

Again North is to the left. Again the western most stream is called Scamander, the springs where it arises are labeled hot and cold, and the bluff at the back of the plain is called Troy.  This map even finds Hector's tomb there.  Both maps label the largest river in the plain Simoeis. Both maps also bend the plain at the Rhoetian ridge near the northern shore. The plain actually bends in the middle, around Hissarlik.  On both of these maps, Hissarlik is depicted with only the village of Chiblak shown, along with two roads crossing on the hill.  However, the second map marks an ancient bed in the plain, and puts the word Ilium immediately to the south of it.  I cannot explain that.  My suspicion is that the mapmaker is labeling the old village of Kum Kale as Illium.  

In 1804 William Gell published an account of his travels in the Troy area, along with over 40 water color pictures of the area and 2 maps.  

On this map, North is at the bottom.  It labels the bluff at Pinarbasi Troy, and the rivers are called Scamander and Simoeis.  The river that passes north of Hissarlik is called Tymbrek.  One thing Gell gets right is the bend of the plain around the prominences in its middle.  On one of them he has written "Situation of Ilium Recens" and Hillike.    By Ilium Recens he means Ilium Novum, the Roman city built on the site of Troy (now known as Troy IX).  

Gell's second map shows only the topmost part of the plain, again with North to the bottom. At the lower right, he has labeled a warm and cold source of the Scamander, along with a Garden of the Scamander in between.  At the top left, he labels one part of the bluff Pergam, which was Homer's name for Troy's citadel or acropolis, the Pergamus of Priam.  

All around this map one sees 90 degree angles inscribed on the land. These marks show where Gell was and the direction he was looking when he did his water colors.  There is one at each of the sources of the Scamander. Below are the sketches of the springs.  

Gell's drawing of the warm source of the Scamander includes a curious frame on a horse's back and some oriental garb.  One can see the village in the background. What Gell was calling Troy would be even further away, behind the village.  

In this depiction of the cold sources of the Scamander, one can see the village is now further away. The clump of trees between the artist and the village is the clump surrounding the "Warm source of the Scamander".  So, we are looking across what Gell called the "Garden of the Scamander" on our left here.  

About Gell, here are Maclaren's words: 

Sir William Gell, who examined the Troad in 1804 , adopted Lechevalier's theory, and illustrated it by beautiful drawings in a ten guinea volume, but did little or nothing to strengthen his conclusions. The fallacies in the arguments of both were cleverly handled in the 6th volume of the Edinburgh Review, by a writer who had travelled to the top of Ida, (understood to be late Earl of Aberdeen ). Dr Clarke, of Cambridge University, made a hasty journey through the Troad in 1807, and ascertained one point of much importance, the site of New Ilium, the city existing in Strabo's time. Major Rennell published a Dissertation in 1814, under the title of “ Observations on the Topography of the Plain of Troy,” which is distinguished by his usual sagacity and patient research . He was misled by an imperfect map, and by his undue confidence in Strabo’s statements. The position he assigns to the Homeric city is about a mile and a half south-east from Chiblak, where the words “ pottery," "columns and cemetery" appear in the map. ... The works above named opened the modern controversy on the site of Ilium , and it has been continued by a host of writers and travelers in letters, memoirs, books, and reviews. (1863, 8f)

The trouble with this set of remarks is that Maclaren does not acknowledge that Gell identified the location of "Illium Recens" on his map.  Maclaren credits Clarke with correctly identifying the location of the Roman city, New Ilium.  He then reasons that the acropolis of the original Ilium had to be in the same location. His book, The Plain of Troy Described, appeared in 1863, but it was essentially the same as his dissertation of 1821. His extended table of contents for Chapter V makes his thesis quite clear.  

Had Schliemann read Maclaren, he would not have been excavating on the bluff behind Pinarbasi.  He would have gone straight to Hissarlik.  He went to Pinarbasi because in 1869 he was under the spell of the bad thinking Maclaren had decried both in 1821 and 1863.  


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