Homer's Troy

July 27, 2007


“Who on earth could blame the Trojan and Achaean men-at-arms
for suffering so long for such a woman’s sake?
Indeed, she is the very image of an immortal goddess.
All the same, and as lovely as she is,
let her sail home and not stay here to vex us and our children after us.”             

Iliad III 154-160

As a lover of Homer’s stories from the “Iliad” and “Odyssey”, and a six year old with the current obsession of being an archeologist, Mozart was not about to miss seeing Troy and the famous Trojan Horse. Granted, it is only a tourist horse for pictures and climbing, but the symbol is so well known, that it is a perfectly fun way for a kid to connect to the history and sense of place. Surprisingly, she was the only child at the site.

She has had a passion for the “Odyssey” stories ever since I gave her the series of five books by Mary Pope Osborne. You might remember me mentioning it in my blog entry “Wine Roads and Bacchus” last October when we were in Burgundy. She had gobbled down the first book before we left, so I ordered the next four in the series to take with us as she was obsessed with the themes.

I thought it was interesting, as one might think of them more for a boy and not a girly girl, but I also wondered if it was because of her own odyssey. She is quite particular about which books she decides to truly love and read over and over, so I just follow her lead and am sometimes surprised.

She is begging me to find the original poems as she wants to read more about the “Iliad”, but I will have to probably wait for those when we get to Spain and I have more time to research the best translation. She has three books on Greek myths that she has read over and over as well as that great archeology book that we got at the Athens Archeology Museum and for some reason they really resonate with her too. These facts certainly played a part in our coming to and staying even longer than expected in this part of the world.

Since we have been in Greece and Turkey we have watched the movies “Troy” and “Odyssey” over and over again as she loves them both as well as other educational films on Greeks and ancient civilizations for kids (Schlessenger) and for adults (PBS and BBC productions). They add excitement and interest in this topic as well as giving different variations and interpretations.

Then we buy books along the way, including a signed copy of a great one on Troy by our tour guide which is used in high schools in Australia. Thus, we have all learned a lot as we roam and have lots of discussions on these topics. We have even incorporated some of the lines from the movies into regular family jokes and patter. So far, Mozart only knows Brad Pitt as Achilles which is kind of funny.

Some people say not to bother with Troy as there are so many superior archeological sites in Turkey that are easier to get to, so I debated for a while whether to come or not. I had not even fully made up my mind when we were in Istanbul. How could we miss it with a child who loves it so much, when we would be going in that direction and it breaks up the long drive to Selcuk? We are REALLY glad that we came and we lucked out with the very best guide in the whole place, which made all the difference. 

Mstafa Askin grew up in the village of Hisarlik next to the ruins of Troy. Lucky for us, he went to London to learn English after graduating from Istanbul with a degree in Economics. He developed a passion for Troy trying to understand why people would travel so far to see the ruins he played in as a boy. He became a guide in 1978, leading groups in three languages ever since.

He wrote his first book about Troy in 1981, and still has a great passion for the subject and stays in contact with  past and current archeologists involved in the site. We just stumbled upon him, but our small tour with ten people was so great, that I would highly recommend hunting him down as he makes it fascinating with his wealth of knowledge, humor, clarity and enthusiasm. He does tours with school kids too, so was great with Mozart.

Because of Homer, Troy is the center of the most recognizable mythological events in the world, which makes it a strong pull to see and walk the ground of the ancients. The story goes that Paris (prince of Troy) abducted the beautiful Helena from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta (brother of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae). When he carried her off to Troy, it initiated the infamous Trojan War.

After ten years of heavy fighting, clever Odysseus thinks up the idea of a wooden horse filled with soldiers and leaving it outside the gate for the Trojans to wheel inside the walls. No matter that the sooth slayer said “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” and even a child wonders how they could be fooled, it is a story that has endured and excited many generations.

Until Heinrich Schleimann (who read the Iliad as a very young child) came along in 1871 and started digging by following Homer literally, everyone thought Troy was a total myth like they believe Atlantis to be. He is controversial as many of  the early successful archeologist seem to be (and with good reason as stealing, sneaking and senseless destruction was common).

He was a character who spoke thirteen languages and made and lost several fortunes around the world (including one in America’s gold rush), but he did have some great success here and in Mycenae by following Homer in his original language. Despite his looting and the significant damage he caused with his amateur techniques, there is no disputing that he began this important excavation that continues today. In spite of the controversy and blunders, many call him the “Father of Archeology” for his significant contributions.

One of the great things about visiting is we got to watch archeologists at work there which is something we saw again and again at various important ruins and that was exciting for Mozart. There are actually nine civilizations built one on top of each other and the first Troy dates back to 3000 BC long before King Priam’s Troy of Homer’s tales. It was interesting to see the various levels marked and listen to our guide make it all come alive.

One of the most fascinating myths is that a descendent of Troy reached Italy and his descendants Romulus and Remus founded Rome. Mozart lit up when she heard that and piped up as she knows the Romulus and Remus tale well, but did not know about the Troy connection.

Mozart was obsessed with doing a little “archeological digging” herself as she found some shells in the dirt along the paths and carefully dug them up with a little stick pretending that she was the archeologist discovering Troy. Not an experience too many kids get and what a wonderful memory and souvenir!













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