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Wednesday, May 15, 2013


About 750 BCE, Homer wrote the epic poem “The Iliad” about the war between the Greeks and the Trojans; a few years later he wrote “The Odyssey” about the journey home of Odysseus, the Greek nobleman. Together, they represent the first great literature of western civilization. Both works are certainly mythological, incorporating Gods and imaginary characters and places. But, was the Iliad completely mythology or the first detailed account of an historical event? Was the great Trojan War only an expression of Homer’s imagination and never took place, or did it happen perhaps . . . elsewhere.

A small, but vocal, group of historians see Homer’s description of life in the late Bronze Age as having little in common with Greek culture. His descriptions of Ilium, they claim, do not fit the geographic, topographic, or climactic characteristics of the eastern Mediterranean. They believe Homer was not accurately describing the Greek culture. Some even contend that Homer wasn’t even Greek; but maybe Celtic.

Dutch author Iman Wilkens, the late Sir Moses Finley, Professor of Ancient History at Cambridge, and others believe that the evidence shows that Troy and the Trojan War did not occur in the Aegean region as we think, but somewhere else - namely on the plains of southwest England near Cambridge. The conflict did not even involve the Greeks.

Dr. P.H. Damste, Professor at Utrecht University, The Netherlands, wrote, “Valuable knowledge is to be discovered about the people of the Northwest European coast around 1200 BCE; how they navigated the oceans and the great war between the Kings of continental Europe and the Celtic Trojan King in England who held the monopoly for tin mining in today’s Cornwall.” Tin is the critical ingredient in making bronze (after it is combined with copper). Without bronze, many of the ancient cultures would have not been able to evolve.

These academics don’t dispute that a “Trojan War” did take place about 3,200 years ago but at the City of Troy which was located a few kilometers southeast of Cambridge. Remnants of the site, they claim, indicate a city large enough to house 100,000 people. Ancient oral legends also suggest that the ancestors of Priam (the King of Troy in the Iliad) were Celts. In his work, Homer always refers to the invading army as “Achaeans,” never as Greeks. The word Acha means “people of the sea” in ancient Celtic. He also refers to the Greeks as “Danaans,” the ancient name for the people now living in Holland.

After the fall of Troy in England, some of the Celtic survivors left the area and built a new town on the nearby Temese River (called Temes during the Middle Ages and now Thames today). The Celts called their new town Caer Troia (Town of Troy). Years later, the Roman conquerors renamed it Londinium Troia Nova (New Troy) - today it is of course London.

Wilkens and others contend that a majority of the surviving Trojans/Celts migrated to the Mediterranean, and specifically to Greece. They adopted Greek customs and learned the language. After about 400 years in Greece, the oral stories the Celts had brought with them were recorded in writing in Greek. Since no one remembered that the stories originated elsewhere, they were accepted as part of the Greek culture. Numerous details in the stories were not changed to fit the contemporary Greek locale and that gave rise to many inconsistencies.

Below are just some of the incongruities between the generally accepted story of Troy (as set down in the Iliad) and the alternative story put forth by some academics.

Although the Trojan War would have been of great importance in Aegean history, neither Troy nor the war were ever mentioned in any of the thousands of clay tablets found belonging to the Hittite Empire that dominated Turkey at and just after the estimated time of the Trojan War. The names of the military leaders of the war, as well as the city of Athens and the Greek province of Mycenae, are also never mentioned.

Of the forty known characteristics of Aegean Troy and its surrounding area (identified in the Iliad), not one matches the Turkish site. All of them correspond to the Gog Magog Hills area near Cambridge.

Most of the place names in the Iliad, assumed to be Greek, have actually been shown to be Celtic, and many still exist in Western Europe in a very similar form today. Homer refers to 12 rivers flowing in the vicinity of Troy in Turkey, all of which emptied into the sea near the city. Only one exists in the Aegean site of Troy; but all 12 (with similar names to those in the Iliad) existed or still exist in southwest England.

The Turkish coast had no nearby bay or port large enough to disembark the size of the Achaean fleet. This was recognized as an inconsistency by Greek historians 2,000 years ago. In 1200 BCE the Turkish site of Troy would have been very near the water’s edge. There would have been no sizeable plain between the sea and the city large enough for an army of 100,000 Greeks.

The ruins at Troy in northwest Turkey are hardly those of a great city with wide streets and huge buildings. The Iliad indicates that the population of Troy included 50,000 soldiers and another 50,000 civilians. The size of these excavated ruins is suitable for about 5,000 people.

No bronze weapons have been found at the Turkish Troy site. A very large number of bronze weapons dated to 1200 BCE have been found near Cambridge. Homer writes of the “horse-taming Trojans” and of a “Troy rich in horses.” Yet very few horse skeletons have been unearthed at the site in Turkey.

Homer also refers to two large “war dykes.” None have been found at the Turkish site; but two still exist near Cambridge. The two in England, about 25 km northeast of Cambridge, are actually defensive canals built to connect dense forests to fortified hills with the intention of keeping an invading army from approaching the Troy site. There is some indication of a camp (Achaean?) on the plain on water side of the canals. 

There are cultural inconsistencies in the Iliad as well. Homer writes that after the death of Achilles, the Achaean battlefield leader, his body was cremated and his ashes collected in an urn. Cremation was a typical Celtic custom, and not shared by other cultures in Europe. Important Greeks were always buried whole, wearing a golden helmet. Homer also mentions the classic mythological character Galatea (a sea nymph) in the Iliad. Her nephew was Achilles, also considered a semi-god. Yet Galatea is also the legendary mother of the Celts and Gauls.

A final note.

Iman Wilkens’ book “Where Troy Once Stood” was published in 1991 but was revised and expanded in 2009 to include new evidence. It is available on Amazon.com (at a very high price) but excerpts can be found elsewhere on the internet. Much of his evidence is circumstantial of course, but this is common when researching cultures that still depended on an oral tradition. At first, I was highly skeptical of his theory. Then I found some of his explanations somewhat plausible. But after reading on, I found them to be quite compelling. (Robert Thomas for The Unfolding Journey)

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