Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


6 December 2016

Phantom Trojans at the Dardanelles?

Frank Kolb Talanta XLVI-XLVII (2014-2015): 27-50


The assumption that a Trojan War took place in the so-called Troas at the Dardanelles depends on the belief that there once existed a population called Troes in this region, as the Ilias maintains. However, the Troes in the Ilias do not carry Anatolian, but only Greek and Thracian or Illyrian names; there is no Trojan identity. Furthermore, in ancient literature the existence of a people called Troes is not mentioned outside the legend of the Trojan War. Ancient geographers, too, knew about a region called Troïe/Troas only from the Ilias and were uncertain about how to define it. Besides the Troes, the Ilias locates several other populations in the Troïe, among them Dardanoi, Pelasgoi and Leleges. According to other Greek authors, however, Pelasgoi and Leleges lived in Greece. Of all peoples mentioned in the Ilias, only the partly Illyrian, partly Thracian Dardanoi can be proved to have inhabited the Troas. They left their traces not only in the name of the Dardanelles and the polis Dardanos, but also in other geographical, topographical and personal names of the region – and in the Trojan myth. In the Ilias, Troes and Dardanoi is a standard formula to denote the nation of Priamos’ kingdom. The Dardanoi even mark the beginnings of this nation; Dardanos is the forefather, the ancestor of the Troes and of their royal house whose members are called Dardanidai. Aineias is the leader of the Dardanoi-troops. A Balkanic population must have immigrated to Northwest Asia Minor around 1200 at the latest, as is demonstrated by Balkanic pottery from hill Hisarlik. But Dardanoi/Dardanija are attested already in Egyptian documents towards the end of the 14th century and, along with troops from other Anatolian regions, as a contingent in the Hittite army in the battle of Qadesh in 1274. Already in those times they must have lived at the Dardanelles. This means that in the Late Bronze Age the region of the Troas was probably called Dardanija and certainly not Wilusa, which was clearly situated in Southwest Asia Minor.

It is notable that, in contrast to the fictitious Trojans, the Dardanoi who according to the Trojan legend were equally involved in the Trojan disaster, did not disappear from the region, but continued to live there into the Iron Age and met with the Aeolian Greeks who immigrated into the region, probably from the 11th century on. These immigrants carried the tale of a war between Achill’s Achaeans against other tribes of Central and Northern Greece, like the Pelasgians, Leleges, Dryopes, and the Troes with their leader Hektor, to the Dardanelles and fixed it at the Bronze Age walls on hill Hisarlik. They integrated the Dardanoi into this story. The poet of the Ilias continued this melting of traditions into the Trojan legend, e.g. by transferring to the Dardanelles conflicts between Cretan heroes/towns, those between the Lycians and the Rhodians and the bravery of Lycian condottieri with their troops in battles fought in Western Asia Minor. Troes never existed at the Dardanelles. They were annihilated by Achill’s Achaeans in a war in Central Greece and disappeared from history like other Greek tribes of the Early Iron Age. That war was transferred to the Dardanelles in a similar way as the Nibelungen Saga transferred the battle between the Burgundians and the Huns from the Rhine to the Middle Danube.


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