Sunday, September 30, 2012

Finding Troy

Homer's Odyssey and Iliad have long been popular books, but by the 1700's, historians had begun to look at them as purely fictional. Professors thought that there had never been a city called Troy, or a war between it and Mycenaean Greece.

A scholar named Heinrich Schliemann startled the researchers of the world with proof that Troy was, in fact, exactly what and where Homer wrote that it was. Schliemann was a traveller, a brilliant linguist, and an archeologist. Having become wealthy in the business world, he was able to finance his own expeditions. Given the views of universities of that time, none of them would have financed an expedition to find Troy.

Between 1870 and 1890, he conducted a series of excavations at the site he considered to be Troy. He arrived at that location by carefully analyzing Homer's description of the landscape, and his description of the sea voyages made across the Aegean by characters in the Odyssey and Iliad.

Schliemann found Troy. Scholars now generally agree that his discoveries attest to narratives of the Trojan War. The traditional account, as found in Homer and other ancient sources, is largely accepted as historically accurate.

A corollary of Schliemann's work now guides contemporary archeologists: ancient texts often provide accurate guidance for finding and excavating historic sites, and such texts should not be rejected as fictional unless the reader is forced beyond any reasonable doubt to do so.