Trojan War - The Real Story
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[ 'Where Troy Once Stood' by I.Wilkens, revised edition; Part II, Chapter 1; page 7 of 22 ]

are on the side facing inland, which means that they were built by invaders and not by defenders of the territory. Since Homer is quite familiar with dykes, which he calls 'the splendid works of young men' the original construction might date to the Trojan War. As he gives us to understand that the Achaeans controlled the plain during the first years of the war (which are unfortunately not described in the Iliad) to the extent that the Trojans hardly ventured out of their city, the invaders had the leisure to build the dykes. The poet has two different words for 'dyke' depending on their function:

First, there is the teichos, an earthen wall reïnforced with joint stakes (skolopessi érérei), and completed with towers (purgos) of wooden beams (XII,36)9. This type of dyke served as defense of both Troy and the Achaean camp. The wall of Troy, which is described only once (XX,145), was a dyke (teichos) of earth 'heaped up from two sides' (amphichutos). It had high wooden gates while the wooden stakes that completed the defensive walls - whether Trojan or Achaean - were sharp enough to receive the severed head of a slain enemy (XVIII,176). Contrary to what is generally believed, Homer does not say that Troy had a wall of stone, but that stones were used to reïnforce the earthen wall in front of the Achaean camp (XII,29). Only once is this wall described as 'laïnos' which therefore should not be translated as 'of stone' but 'reïnforced with stones' (XII,178). As walls of stone are not mentioned in the Iliad, it must be obvious that Homer described a cultural environment very different from that of Hissarlik and the Mediterranean in general.

Second, there are the gephura, dykes without palissades10. Homer distinguishes riverdykes (potamou gephura), which are occasionally swept away by floods (V, 89), and, as we have seen above, dykes of battle (ptolemoio gephura), which had a ditch (taphros) on one side. These wardykes figure very seldom in translations of the Iliad probably because there is no explanation for them in the plain of Hissarlik, but they are essential in finding the exact location of Troy in Cambridgeshire. One day, when the Trojans attacked the camp near the sea with their horse-drawn chariots, they were slaughtered by the Achaeans, so that the frightened horses ran with their empty chariots over the wardykes back to Troy. Literally translated, the relevant passage reads as follows :

Even beneath Agamemnon, son of Atreus, fell the heads of the Trojans as they fled, and many horses with high-arched necks rattled empty cars over the dykes of battle lacking their peerless charioteers, who were lying upon the ground dearer far to the vultures than to their wives. (XI,158-162)

Unfortunately, most translations deny the readers the dramatic image of the terrified horses running with their empty chariots 'over the wardykes' (ana ptolemoio gephuras) back to Troy. Prof. Murray rendered the text as: 'along the dykes of battle' as he obviously could not figure out the situation in the region of Hissarlik. This may explain why others translate gephura by 'battlefield', 'the space between the armies', 'the boundaries of the battlefield' or… nothing at all ! But since the Greek 'ana' means 'over','on' or 'above', there can be no doubt that the frightened horses ran over the dykes back to Troy and this gripping scene comes fully alive in the plains near Cambridge. Homer also recounts how one night groups of Trojan warriors were camping around fires both in the plain and also – but again usually not in translations - on the wardykes (VIII,553). Since no traces of palissades have been found near the Devil's dyke and the Fleam dyke, they must originally have served as barriers to the horse-drawn battle chariots.


[ 'Where Troy Once Stood' by I.Wilkens, revised edition; Part II, Chapter 1; page 8 of 22 ]

Troy on the Gog Magog Hills

If the dykes in the plain near Cambridge were originally the wardykes mentioned in the Iliad it is not difficult to find the hills on which the 'steep and windy city of Troy' with its 'wide streets' was situated: on the Gog Magog Hills south of the Fleam Dyke and a few miles southeast of Cambridge. The peculiar name of the hills is a reminder of the most terrible war of prehistory to which the prophet Ezekiel seems to have referred as a warning to the people of Israël11. He mentioned an attack by an alliance of peoples wearing armour and accompanied by horses, under the command of Gog, King of Magog, wich provoked such carnage that the birds came to feed on the flesh and blood of kings and heroes. It is not unlikely that the prophet had the Trojan War in mind as countless human bones and bronze weapons were found in the region of the Gog Magog Hills as silent witnesses of a great war nobody remembers. The Bible mentions Gog and Magog again in the Book of Revelation, also known as the Apocalypse, usually ascribed to St John, which announces the final war of humanity:

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle : the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the Saints about, and the beloved city : and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. (Revelation 20, 7-9)

The earliest mention of the biblical name Gog Magog for the hills near Cambridge is found in a decree of 1574 forbidding students to visit the Gog Magog Hills on pain of a fine. The hills form a plateau culminating at a height of about 80 meter above sea level. With some 8 square kilometers there is enough room for a large city. The town was not situated on a river but water was available from many sources at the foot of the hills, in particular at Springfield near Cherry Hinton.

Two millenia ago, when Hissarlik was a thriving Roman town, Ovid wrote: 'Now there are fields where Troy once stood !'12. He may therefore well have referred to the Gog Magog Hills which were, and still are, covered with fields. This may explain why the exceptional historical importance of the site was not recognized and archaeological research intermittent and fragmentary. Excavations at the foot of the hills revealed the remains of defenses at Copley Hill and Cherry Hinton. Both are not older than Iron Age, although the sites themselves are now known to have been occupied already in the Bronze Age13 (see Map 3, keys 19 and 23). These hillforts are hardly visible today, but in the middle of the Gog Magog Hills there is the better-preserved hillfort known as the Wandlebury Ring which is situated in a public park. This fort had several concentric ditches and earthen walls which were kept in place by wooden palissades. Many, often mutilated, skeletons were found here - some of exceptionally tall people – as well as bronze and iron objects and pottery, including 'Knobbed Ware' dating from the Bronze Age. Although the earliest defenses date only to the late Iron Age, as the first ditch was constructed as late as the third century BC, Wandlebury was already inhabited in the Bronze Age and even a very important site in Homer's time as we will now see.

Pergamus on Wandlebury Ring

The 'acropolis' or 'high citadel' of Troy was called the 'Pergamus', the word being cognate with 'berg' in the Germanic languages, meaning 'height' or 'mountain'. The Pergamus must therefore have been the highest part of the Gog Magog Hills where is now the Wandlebury


[ 'Where Troy Once Stood' by I.Wilkens, revised edition; Part II, Chapter 1; page 9 of 22 ]

Ring at a height of 74 meter, culminating at 80 meter on the north side where is now the 'Telegraph Clump' which offers a full view on the plain. Here, Apollo was believed to have watched the battles from Pergamus (V,460 and VII,21). From the same spot Cassandra saw her father return from the Achaean camp with the corpse of Hector lying in the waggon (XXIV,700). Not only the sanctuaries of Athene and Apollo were situated on the Pergamus but also Priam's palace with its colonnades and 50 rooms with polished stones (VI,242ff) as well as the homes of Hector and Paris (VI,503-516). Since the Pergamus was originally situated inside the city's walls there was no need for separate defenses (see Map 3, key 20). This explains why the remains of the defenses of the Wandlebury Ring date only from the late Iron Age, a full millenium after the destruction of Troy, when the former Pergamus was turned into a small hillfort. According to the archaeologist Alison Taylor recent excavations in- and outside the fortifications show 'abundant evidence for occupation around the fort, suggesting that there was an early undefended settlement here before the banks and ditches were constructed. Numerous pits dated to the early and late Iron Age and postholes showed that a variety of buildings stood here'14.

The name Wandlebury was mentioned for the first time as 'Wandlebiria' in Gervase of Tilbury's Otia Imperialia of 1211, in which the author recounts an old legend of a mysterious knight on horseback15. In the 18th century a mansion was built on Wandlebury by Lord Godolphin who gave his name to the 'Godolphin Arabian', the ancestor of many modern racing horses. Without realising it, his lordship continued the tradition of the 'horse-taming Trojans' on the selfsame spot where King Priam's palace once stood, whose ancestor, King Erichthonius, owned 3000 horses according to Homer. Unfortunately, the Wandlebury site has much changed because of the extensive landscaping done around the mansion, which was eventually demolished in 1955. Today only the outbuildings and the stables remain.

The City of Troy's Population

How big was the 'well-peopled city of Priam'? The number of inhabitants of the 'great city of holy Ilion' can be estimated by combining various indications given by Homer. To start with the number of enemy warriors: the Achaean army must have counted about 100.000 men, based on the number of ships multiplied by the average number of warriors in each as given in the 'Catalogue of Ships' in Book II of the Iliad. Although some consider this number exaggerated for the time, it is fully consistent with the Iliad's repeated references to the presence of a myriad warriors. What is more, the thousands of pieces of bronze armor and weapons found in the plains near Cambridge as well as the construction of the wardykes here do suggest the presence of a huge army. By contrast, the Trojan army was much smaller, counting about 50.000 men including their allies as Homer reports (VIII, 562). The number of warriors living with their families inside the walls of Troy (Hector's regiment ; see Part IV) was estimated by the poet at much less than ten percent of the Achaean army (II, 123-133), say 7.000 men. During the war most of the allied troops had their quarters in the city, but they did not bring their families according to Homer (with the possible exception of the regiment of Dardanians who originally lived in the nearby Ida woods, now the Ditton Woods). The influx of allied troops nearly doubled the population to some 100.000 by the end of the war. The city's congestion by a 'multitude of men' (V,202) explains the king's remark to Achilles that the population was 'cooped up in the city' (XXIV,663). In peacetime the city would therefore have counted some 50.000 inhabitants when including the women, the childern, the elderly, the disabled, the support troops and the slaves.

The famous story of Achilles chasing Hector three times around the walls of Troy (XXII, 165) cannot be explained in England where the city on the Gog Magog hills was too big for such an exploit. It appears that Homer made up the story to glorify his hero for the home front as Dictys Cretensis told a very different and much less heroic story in his 'Ephemeris belli troiani' (The Diary of the Trojan War). In fact Achilles killed Hector in an ambush, captured another son of Priam, hacked off both his hands and sent him to Troy to tell the news.


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Author: Iman Wilkens, FRANCE
Contact address: Trojan War, Tipyn o Gymru, Northway Lane, Tewkesbury, GL20 8HA, United Kingdom

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