The Trojan horse

I am somebody who loves her history.

I love discovering ‘old’ tidbits which make the world today make a bit more sense, and appreciating remnants which have withstood time. However, I’m also someone who doesn’t have a particularly good sense of imagination. This is one of the principal reasons why I don’t like cartoons or anything that isn’t real. (I always say, with the exception of Babe, Harry Potter and Shrek.)

In terms of history, this means my favourite era is the last hundred or so years. There’s a heap of primary sources, debate and general interest. The further back you go, though, my interest slowly declines. I love the little quirky stories in history, and they’re more plentiful the later in time you get. I’m just not very good at imagining things. I looked at the Roman Forum, and yes I appreciated it, but after a few hours I gave up trying to picture the place as more than just a series of rock piles. Ditto Athens’ Pantheon and the Temples of Angkor. Sure, I liked the sites, but I just couldn’t embrace my inner historian to love them even more.

So, with all of this in mind, we set off to see the ancient city of Troy. My dad had been obsessed with the intriguing ‘lost’ city since as long as I can remember, so, seeing that it wasn’t far from Gallipoli and the bustling little city of Cannakale, we booked ourselves a guided tour of the place.

The first thing you see when you get to the archaeological site is a giant horse. It’s a 1970s construction made out of wood – I call it a construction, not a reconstruction, as historians are divided as to whether or not the famous Trojan Horse actually existed, let alone if it performed the role we today use as a term to describe a slightly dodgy gift.

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The infamous horsey.

Our guide, who told me that he was on his best behaviour when I informed him that I was a fellow tour guide (it’s a foolproof way to get good service, I tell you), has his own theory. He believes the horse existed, but only as a way to celebrate the winning of a war. Horses were seen as strong and powerful, which is what the Trojans believed they were. Seems like an OK theory to me.

Nevertheless, we joined the throngs of Chinese tourists and climbed all over it, as if it was just part of a neighbourhood playground. This was the start and end of the extent I knew about Troy. An old city, and a horse.

Now, if I was by myself and visiting Troy, I’d probably just do a lap and try desperately to picture things as they were one day. But, with a guide this was different. Even though I’m a tour guide myself I hardly ever invest in one as I’m a travel snob through and through. However, they can make all the difference. This time, we were pointed out evidence of the different Troys (the city was rebuilt at least nine times) such as different building materials and foundations. There’s even an amphitheatre in pretty good shape from Roman times, a reminder that history can certainly overlap.

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As it turns out, the site we call Troy may be a totally different city. It’s one of the world’s earliest modern archaeological sites, ripped up by a rich German businessman obsessed with finding the fabled city. These ruins, not far from the Dardanelles and Aegean Sea, seemed to fit the puzzle. His rough and ready approach (he even built a huge trough through the ruins, below, to show the different city layers) to it all means that the ruins aren’t in the best shape compared to other Turkish sights like Ephesus, other travel snobs say.
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Said trough.

But it has the stories, and the general interest, which I, as a choosy historian, will take any day.
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