Troy I, II, III

The first settlers arrived in Troy toward the beginning of the third millennium B.C. The city grew and prospered, developing into one of the earliest centers of bronze craftsmanship. Until recently, archaeologists assumed that Troy II was the successor of Troy I. In 1995, however, the new excavations confirmed Manfred Korfmann’s earlier thesis: Troy II was not a new “city” but a splendid citadel (enclosed by the dotted line in the plan below) with government and religious buildings erected in the later phase of Troy I and existing contemporaneously with the older settlement. The gold jewelry that Schliemann incorrectly identified as the Treasure of Priam originates from this or the following period. Between 2480 and 2420, the citadel was destroyed by fire. In the subsequent period (Troy III), the same inhabitants continued to live there. But by 2300, most of the population had deserted the city, probably after an earthquake. For the next 100 years Troy remained almost unoccupied.

Troy IV, V

New settlers, originating in Anatolia, occupied Troy toward the end of the third millennium B.C. At first things did not go particularly well for these recent arrivals. Troy IV was destroyed no fewer than seven times by fire; moreover, statistical evaluations of animal bones found in the corresponding layers show that during this period Trojans had difficulty obtaining enough meat. By 1900 conditions had stabilized, but around 1750 these people also left the city.

Troy VI, VIIa

After 50 years, new occupants moved into Troy once again, building the mightiest Bronze Age city, the most likely city of Homer’s Troy. The current excavations indicate that these new Trojans belonged to a different culture from that of their predecessors, probably an Anatolian people perhaps related to the Hittites. During the construction of their citadel and city, they showed no reverence for the old structures and even plundered burial sites. The city grew into an important center for trade and also for horse breeding and pottery and wool production. Between 1250 and 1230 the palaces in the citadel area were extensively destroyed—perhaps by an earthquake, attack, social upheaval, fires, or several of these factors—and in their place appeared considerably smaller buildings (Troy VIIa). Around 1180 the city was attacked from outside and thoroughly burned.

Troy VIIb

After the war, another people settled in the city alongside the old population. Less than half a century later, more new immigrants arrived, this time from the Balkans. Until shortly after 1000, Troy VIIb’s mixed population carried on trade with regions west of the Aegean—though not with the vigor of Troy VI. Over approximately the next 250 years, the city became sparsely populated.


Beginning around 740/30 the city’s population began to grow again. Troy became more prosperous in the fourth century B.C. after Alexander the Great visited the city—which had by then been colonized by the Greeks and named Ilion. The Greek colonists built a sanctuary southwest of the citadel (which was rebuilt several times over the centuries), consisting of two temples side by side, each with its own altar and well in front. They also crowned the hill of the citadel with a temple of Athena. Nevertheless, the city on the mound of Hisarlik was not of great importance; many new Greek settlements in the Troad competed with one another for the natural resources of the region—and for the fame of being the site of Homer’s Troy.

Troy IX

The Romans took over Troy in 85 B.C. Since 188 B.C., Romans had honored Troy—or Ilium, as they called it—as the mother city of Rome, because they considered the Trojan warrior Aeneas, the hero of Virgil’s Aeneid, as their ancestor. Under Augustus (27 B.C.–14 A.D.), considerable money was spent in developing the city. In the first and second centuries A.D., it became fashionable for upper-class Romans to visit Troy. This early mass tourism turned the city into a “mythological park,” a kind of historical Disneyland. Monuments of Homer’s heroes were erected everywhere; the Trojans even faked their burial sites. But the city no longer served as a trade or political center. So when the stream of tourists ceased after Caracalla’s visit in 214, Troy lost most of its wealth. By around 300 Troy had become the seat of a bishopric. In 325, Constantine the Great planned to make Troy his capital city, before he decided in favor of Byzantium. About 500, most of the buildings were destroyed by an earthquake. And in the 14th century the bishopric was dissolved, and the city fell into a centuries-long obscurity.