Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: The Trojan War – From Legend to History

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

COVID-19 update: arrangement of our courses

We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.


This course examines the two poems, The Iliad and Odyssey, the excavations of the site of Hissarlik in Turkey and the historicity of the Trojan War.

The Iliad and the Odyssey are ancient Greek epic poems that are traditionally attributed to Homer. They are set during the Trojan War, a 10-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states and the return of the warriors.

Through interactive teaching and discussion, this course aims to provide you with a clear understanding of the major events and characters of the Trojan War.

Aims

To explore Homer’s poems the Iliad and Odyssey and appraise the evidence from other contemporary literary sources and the archaeological remains to support or refute the historicity of the Trojan Wars.

Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • describe the major characters and events of the Trojan War
  • analyse and compare the literary sources against the archaeological evidence from recent excavations
  • assess the non-Homeric evidence to conclude whether this supports a ‘Trojan War’.

Content

The Poems and the Poet

The Iliad and Odyssey are epic poems said to have been composed by Homer around 800 BC. They tell of an epic battle between the Greeks and the Trojans of North West Asia Minor. Both works were composed as works of entertainment, to be read out loud to an audience. We examine the two poems and what we can say about their composition.

The Excavators

The site of Hissarlik in North West Turkey has long been associated with ancient Troy. Examined by Frank Calvert and then excavated by Heinrich Schliemann, the ancient mound was soon revealing its secrets including the famous ‘Treasure of Priam’. More recently, Manfred Korfmann has undertaken extensive excavations which have transformed our knowledge of the site.

The Early phases as Troy (Troy I-V)

The earliest city at the site is dated to the 3rd Millennium BC. It flourished as a mercantile city controlling the passage of the Dardanelles. Troy II was a major centre with fortified citadel. Destroyed by fire it was later rebuilt with larger enclosure walls.

The Later phases at Troy (Troy VI and VII)

Troy VI was destroyed around 1250 BC and has long been seen as the city of Homer. But archaeological remains suggest that the city was the victim of an earthquake rather than invasion. A squatter city was erected on the ruins – Troy VII. Was this the city of Homer?

The Historicity of the Trojan War

The historical veracity of the Homeric tradition has long been under discussion. What do the external sources say about the period of the war, such as Hittite and Egyptian documents? How does the tradition of the fall of Troy to Greek invaders fit in with the events at the end of the Late Bronze Age?

Intended audience

Anyone with an interest in history, archaeology and/or ancient literature.

Delivery style

Five, face-to-face lectures delivered over one day, illustrated with artefacts, maps, plans and photographs of the sites.

Materials

The lecturer will provide a handout with maps, plans and literary quotes. Please bring a pen and paper.

Features

  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

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