Troy (Greek: Ilion; Latin: Ilium), an ancient city of Asia Minor. It stood on the site of the hill now named Hissarlik in northwestern Turkey, about four miles (6 km) from the place where the Dardanelles and the Aegean Sea meet. Troy was made famous by Homer's epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey, as the place were the Greeks fought for 10 years to avenge the abduction of Helen by the Trojan prince Paris. The discovery of Troy's location by Heinrich Schliemann of Germany was one of the most spectacular archeological finds of the 19th century.
Hissarlik is an artificial hill formed by the remains of nine settlements, buried one under the other. Each settlement flourished for a time and then fell, usually because of a fire, earthquake, or enemy attack. Its buildings were rebuilt or leveled by the people who established the next settlement on the hill. Troy I, the bottom settlement, was settled before 3000 B.C. Troy IX, the top level, was a Greek and, later, Roman city that flourished from about 700 B.C. until the end of the Roman era. Homeric Troy is generally agreed to be Troy VIIa, the first phase of the seventh settlement; it was built in the 13th century B.C.
Homer describes Troy as a large city, surrounded by a mighty wall with towers and gates. Within Troy were wide streets, palaces, temples, public buildings, and homes. At the end of the war, the city was supposedly burned by the victorious Greeks.
Until the latter half of the 19th century, most scholars regarded Homeric Troy as purely legendary. One person with an unshakable faith in its existence was Heinrich Schliemann, a wealthy German businessman and amateur archeologist. Following clues from Homer's account, he decided that Hissarlik was the place to dig for Troy's ruins.
Between 1870 and his death in 1890, Schliemann conducted seven major excavations at Hissarlik and discovered the remains of nine cities—most of which were walled. Troy I, the bottom layer, showed no evidence of destruction by fire, ruling it out as Homer's Troy. In this layer were found crude pottery, stone tools, and only a few metal objects. In Troy II were burned buildings, fine bronze weapons, silver and copper vases, and a golden treasure that Schliemann incorrectly identified as belonging to Priam, king of Homer's Troy. He decided that Troy II was the city described in The Iliad and The Odyssey.
The identification of Homer's Troy was changed from Troy II to Troy VI by Wilhelm Dörpfeld, a German architect-archeologist who had worked with Schliemann, 1882–90. Dörpfeld's excavations in 1893 and 1894 showed that the buildings and pottery in Troy VI and part of Troy VII were similar to those in Greek ruins from the time of the Trojan War.
A third change in the identification of Homer's Troy, from Troy VI to Troy VIIa, was made by Carl Blegen, leader of an expedition from the University of Cincinnati, 1932–38. He found that Troy VI was destroyed by an earthquake. Troy VIIa, the first phase of the seventh settlement, dated from nearly the same time and was destroyed by fire. Nothing remained of the central part of the city, which was leveled by the builders of Troy IX. However, Blegen found the ruins of many small crowded houses with large storage jars beneath their floors, indicating that Troy VIIa could have been occupied by many people during a siege.