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Archaeologists Claim They’ve Discovered the Trojan Horse in Turkey: Debunked

trojan horse
A reconstruction of the Trojan Horse in Turkey. Credit: Jorge Láscar, CC BY 2.0

Archaeologists claim they have found what they believe are pieces of the Trojan Horse according to a report by the Greek news site Naftika Chronika. The site reports that researchers excavating a site at the historical city of Troy, on the hills of Hisarlik, have unearthed a large wooden structure.

According to the unconfirmed article they claim what they have discovered are remains of the legendary Trojan Horse. In the same area, remains of a man and a woman believed to have died in 1,200 B.C (the time of the legendary war chronicled by Homer) had also been found according to Reuters.

The excavations brought to light dozens of four planks and beams up to 15 meters (49 feet) long. The remnants were assembled in a strange form, that led the experts to suspect they belong to the Trojan Horse. The wooden structure was inside the walls of the ancient city of Troy according to mythology that has never been proven truth by any historical data. .

Trojan horse
The Trojan Horse — with soldiers inside — is depicted on a vase found on Mykonos. Archaeological Museum of Mykonos. Credit: Traveling Runes/CC BY-SA 2.0

Why the discovery is unlikely to be the Trojan Horse

Most archeologists and scholars believe that the findings cannot be related to the mythical Trojan Horse. For a start, wood would not survive over the centuries. But, perhaps, more importantly the story associated with Trojan Horse is more of a myth rather than historical fact.

The Trojan Horse is considered by most to have been a mythical structure. The horse is commonly associated with Homer’s epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The classic epic poems tell the story of the Trojan War and Odysseus‘ long journey back to Ithaca, but curiously enough, they do not feature the iconic wooden horse. In fact, the Iliad closes out right before the war is over.

The Trojan horse is being being mentioned in passing in the Odyssey.

“What a thing was this, too, which that mighty man wrought and endured in the carven horse, wherein all we chiefs of the Argives were sitting, bearing to the Trojans death and fate! But come now, change thy theme, and sing of the building of the horse of wood, which Epeius made with Athena’s help, the horse which once Odysseus led up into the citadel as a thing of guile, when he had filled it with the men who sacked Ilios.” — Homer, the Odyssey

It would be in Virgil, in Book II of the Aeneid who would give a more detailed description, 1000 years after the fact.

“After many years have slipped by, the leaders of the Greeks, opposed by the Fates, and damaged by the war, build a horse of mountainous size, through Pallas’s divine art, and weave planks of fir over its ribs they pretend it’s a votive offering: this rumour spreads. They secretly hide a picked body of men, chosen by lot, there, in the dark body, filling the belly and the huge cavernous insides with armed warriors.” — Virgil, Book II of the Aeneid

As pointed here there were 1200 years between the events he’s documenting and the Aeneid itself, which was written between 19BC and 29BC. The Trojan War was as old to him as the Crusades are to us today.

Aryballos Trojan horse
The Trojan horse is depicted in an aryballos found in Italy, Credit: Kaiserlich Deutsches Archäologisches Institut /Public Domain

What was the Trojan Horse

There has been speculation that the Trojan Horse may have been a battering ram or other sort of siege engine resembling, to some extent, a horse, and that the description of the use of this device was then transformed into a myth by later oral historians who were not present at the battle and were unaware of that meaning of the name.

The main theory is that it was not a literal horse with men in it, it was a battering ram with men under it, with a head perhaps carved into the shape of a horse and draped in horse skins.

Oxford University classicist Dr Armand D’Angour says that the wooden horse is an is an “imaginative fable.”

“Archaeological evidence shows that Troy was indeed burned down; but the wooden horse is an imaginative fable, perhaps inspired by the way ancient siege-engines were clothed with damp horse-hides to stop them being set alight.”

Some authors have suggested that the gift might also have been a ship, with warriors hidden inside.

A more speculative theory, originally proposed by Fritz Schachermeyr, states that the Trojan Horse is a metaphor for a destructive earthquake that damaged the walls of Troy and allowed the Greeks inside. In his theory, the horse represents Poseidon, who as well as being god of the sea was also god of horses and earthquakes. The theory is supported by the fact that archaeological digs have found that Troy VI was heavily damaged in an earthquake.

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