The Trojan War: Archaeology, History, and Literature

  • 2920 BCE

    Troy I

    First settlement to be built at Troy, at a site today known as Hisarlik, in western Turkey.
  • 2550 BCE

    Troy II

    Second settlement at Troy. Archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann believed Troy II was the site of Homer's Troy. The famous cache of gold known as "Priam's Treasure" was discovered here.
  • 2250 BCE

    Troy III

    Third settlement at Troy. This site marked a period of transition between the wealthy Troy II and the more impoverished and isolated Troy IV.
  • 2200 BCE

    Troy IV

    Third settlement at Troy. Troy IV was relatively impoverished and isolated compared to many of the city's other iterations.
  • 2000 BCE

    Troy V

    Fifth settlement at Troy. A new population seemed to arrive at the site.
  • 1740 BCE

    Troy VI

    Sixth settlement at Troy. This Troy was a wealthy city with impressive fortification walls. Many scholars believe that this is the city Homer describes in the "Iliad."
  • 1200 BCE

    Troy VII

    Seventh settlement at Troy. Troy VII was built immediately after Troy VI was destroyed in some sort of catastrophe, only to be destroyed itself a century later. Some scholars believe that the Trojan War story was inspired by the destruction of this city.
  • 700 BCE

    Homer's Life

    Homer, if he was a historical person, is thought to have lived at the end of the Greek Dark Ages. He composed both the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" orally, based on traditions passed down from the end of the Bronze Age.
  • 700 BCE

    Troy VIII

    Eight settlement at Troy, built after a period of abandonment following the destruction of Troy VIII. This city and the city of Troy IX were both called Illion. Troy VIII corresponds to the Greek Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods.
  • 510 BCE

    "Illiad" and "Odyssey" Recorded

    Homer's epics were written down in Athens, during the reign of the tyrant Pisistratus. They represent merely one version of the Trojan War story and only two of the poems that comprised the epic cycle, which told the entire saga of the Trojan War. None of these poems survived intact.
  • 480 BCE

    Xerxes Visits Troy

    The Persian king Xerxes visited Troy on his way to Greece to fight an alliance of Greek city-states in the Persian War. He sacrificed a thousand cattle, hoping this would bring him good fortune in the conflict.
  • 458 BCE

    Aeschylus' "Oresteia" performed

    The tragic playwright Aeschylus lived in Classical Athens. He wrote three poems about the turmoil in Mycenae, Agamemnon's home city, following Agamemnon's return from the war.
  • 450 BCE

    Sophocles' "Ajax" Performed

    Sophocles was a tragic playwright in Classical Athens who wrote several plays about the Trojan War. This one concerns the suicide of the hero Ajax, who disgraced himself after Achilles' death. The exact date of the first performance is unknown.
  • 450 BCE

    Sophocles' "Electra" Performed

    Similarly to Aeschylus' "Oresteia," this play concerns the turmoil in Mycenae following Agamemnon's return from Troy. The exact date of the first performance is unknown.
  • 425 BCE

    Eurpides' "Andromache" Performed

    The tragic playwright Euripides lived in Classical Athens. He wrote many plays about the Trojan War. This one concerns the fate of Hector's wife after the fall of Troy.
  • 423 BCE

    Eurpides' "Hecuba" Performed

    This play concerns the fate of Hecuba, the queen of Troy, after the fall of the city.
  • 417 BCE

    Eurpides' "Electra" Performed

    Like both Aeschylus and Sophocles before him, Euripides also wrote about tragedy in Mycenae after Agamemnon's return. In this play, Agamemnon's daughter gets revenge for her father's murder.
  • 415 BCE

    Eurpides' "Trojan Women" Performed

    This play concerns the fate of the women of Troy after the fall of the city. Characters include Helen, Andromache, and Hecuba, whom Euripides also wrote about in their own eponymous plays.
  • 415 BCE

    Herodotus' "Histories" Written

    Herodotus, the first Western historian wrote a history of Greece. He dated the Trojan War to circa 1250 BCE, contemporary with Troy VI.
  • 412 BCE

    Eurpides' "Iphigenia in Tauris" Performed

    One of two Iphigenia plays Euripides wrote, this one is an alternate version of Iphigenia's usual story that takes place after the Trojan War. In this retelling, Iphigenia survives and is reunited with her brother, Orestes.
  • 412 BCE

    Eurpides' "Helen" Performed

    This play offers up a different explanation for the Trojan War that absolves Helen of guilt. In this version of the tale, Helen never went to Troy, but an image of her did. The real Helen was actually in Egypt, and the Trojan War was fought over her ghost.
  • 409 BCE

    Sophocles' "Philoctetes" Performed

    This play takes place during the Trojan War, when Achilles' son, Neoptolemus, meets Philoctetes, a hero from a bygone age and comrade of Heracles.
  • 408 BCE

    Eurpides' "Orestes" Performed

    This is yet another play about Agamemnon's homecoming to Mycenae and the chaos that followed.
  • 406 BCE

    Eurpides' "Iphigenia in Aulis" Performed

    This is the second of two plays about Iphigenia that Euripides wrote, telling a different version of the story.
  • 334 BCE

    Alexander the Great Visits Troy

    When Alexander the Great first invaded Asia Minor, he stopped at Troy to offer sacrifices to Achilles. Alexander claimed descent from Achilles on his mother's side.
  • 19 BCE

    Vergil's "Aeneid" Published

    The "Aeneid" was Rome's epic poem about Troy. In this version of the story, the Trojan Aeneas leads survivors of the war to Italy, where they found the civilization that would become Rome. The Julio-Claudian family was supposedly descended from Aeneas, a claim that is glorified in this poem.
  • 8

    Ovid's "Metamorphoses" published

    The poet Ovid wrote about many myths related to the Trojan War in this and other works. His poems are more cynical than Vergil's pro-Roman, pro-Augustan epic.
  • 20

    Augustus Caesar Visits Troy

    Augustus financed several rebuilding and restoration projects in the city during his visit. A statue was raised in the theater in honor of his generosity.
  • 85

    Troy IX

    Ninth settlement built at Troy, contemporary with the Roman period. This was the last settlement to be built at Troy before the site was permanently abandoned.
  • 100

    Dares' and Dictys' Accounts Written

    Dares and Dictys wrote so-called "eyewitness" accounts of the Trojan War, one from the perspective of the Trojans, the other from the Greeks. Both accounts were instrumental in preserving and transmitting the Trojan War story to the Middle Ages.
  • 300

    Quintus of Smyrna's "Posthomerica" Written

    This poem filled in the gaps between the end of Homer's "Iliad" and the fall of Troy as described in the "Aeneid." Quintus is thought to have drawn heavily on the now-lost works of the epic cycle, making this an important source for modern scholars.
  • 550

    Site of Troy Abandoned

    Troy IX, the city of Ilion, was abandoned after it was destroyed by an earthquake. There were no more settlements at Troy.
  • Jan 1, 1095

    Troy and the Crusades

    During the Crusades, Troy, which was nearby the route the crusaders took, served as an important metaphor for the decadent East, doomed to fall.
  • Jan 1, 1100

    Anglo-Norman "Eneas" Written

    A poem written in the courtly love tradition of Medieval Europe. In this version of the tale, Eneas (Aeneas in Vergil) falls in love with the Italian princess Lavine (Lavinia).
  • Jan 1, 1100

    Benoit de Sainte-Maure's "Roman de Troie" Written

    This poem was written in the courtly love tradition of Medieval Europe. In it, Sainte-Maure tells the tale of four sets of lovers from the Trojan War era. He introduces Troilus (here in love with Briseida) as an important character.
  • Jan 1, 1287

    Guido della Colonna's "Historia Destructionis Troia" Written

    Intended to be a prose adaptation of "Roman de Troie" with less emphasis on romance. Colonna was interested in attributing a cause to the fall of Troy and considered the respective roles of fate and free will.
  • Jan 1, 1330

    Giovanni Boccaccio's "Il Filostrato" Written

    Poem inspired by the "Roman de Troie." Boccaccio was the first Medieval author to write about a romance between Troilus and Cressida. His work inspired Chaucer to write his own version of this story.
  • Jan 1, 1381

    Geoffrey Chaucer's "Troilus and Criseyde" Written

    This is another courtly love story. Chaucer contrasted the doomed, earthly love of Troilus for Cressida with the love the faithful have for God.
  • Jan 1, 1473

    "Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye" Printed

    This book, a translation of a French work by Raoul Lefèvre, was the first book to be printed in the English language.
  • William Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" Written

    Another retelling of the now-popular tale of Troilus and Cressida, probably the most famous version of the story.
  • Racine's "Iphigenia at Aulis" Written

    A play retelling the Iphigenia myth as told by Euripides and other Classical authors. Racine depicted Iphigenia as a woman of great virtue who is spared at the end of the play.
  • Goethe's "Iphigenia in Tauris" Written

    Similarly to Racine's work a century earlier, Goethe's is another play retelling the Iphigenia myths of antiquity. Once again, Iphigenia is portrayed as a model of virtue.
  • Frank Calvert's Exploratory Excavations

    Seven years before Heinrich Schliemann began excavations at Hisarlik, Calvert had discovered ruins at the site and suspected they belonged to historical Troy. He advised Schliemann to excavate here, leading to Schliemann's great discoveries.
  • Heinrich Schliemann's Excavations

    From 1870 to 1890, German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann excavated Hisarlik, convinced it was the site of historical Troy. He discovered a great many things about Troy's early history, but due to poor excavation techniques, he destroyed a significant portion of the site.
  • Wilhelm Dörpfeld

    After Heinrich Schliemann's death, Dörpfeld, who was part of the excavation team, took charge. Dörpfeld identified nine different cities at the site.
  • Early Films about Troy Released

    Several early films focued on different aspects of the Trojan War story. Some examples include "The Return of Ulysses" (1909), "Dido Forsaken by Aeneas" (1910), and "The Fall of Troy" (1912). Troy was the inspiration for many films over the course of the 20th century.
  • Patrick Shaw-Stewart's "Achilles in the Trenches" Written

    This is one of many poems written during World War I that drew on Trojan War mythology as a metaphor for the contemporary conflict. This analogy was especially poignant for soldiers such as Shaw-Stweart who fought at Gallipoli, within sight of Troy.
  • James Joyce's "Ulysses" Written

    A modernist novel that follows protagonist Leopold Bloom throughout a single, ordinary day. His experiences are meant to run parallel to Odysseus' in the "Odyssey," and each episode in the book is named after events and characters in Homer's epic. This is merely one example of many early 20th century novels inspired by the Trojan War saga.
  • Carl Blegen's Excavations

    From 1932 to 1938, American Carl Blegen from the University of Cincinnati excavated Troy. He further divided Dörpfeld's nine cities into forty-six sub-levels.
  • "Priam's Treasure" Disappears

    The famous gold cache Schliemann found at Troy II was housed in the Royal Museums of Berlin until the end of World War II, when it suddenly vanished. For decades, the treasure was assumed to be lost or destroyed.
  • Michael Wood's "In Search of the Trojan War" Released

    This BBC documentary is still considered among the best about the Trojan War and it focuses on the archaeological heritage of the site itself. It does not, however, include information from the most recent excavations.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Firebrand" Written

    This novel is a feminist re-imagining of the Trojan War story that centers around Cassandra, a princess and prophetess of Troy. The book is inspired by theories of prehistory as a time of matriarchy and earth-goddesses that was overthrown by patriarchy and male sky-gods. Bradley uses the Trojan War as a vehicle to mark this transition.
  • Korfmann and Rose's Excavations

    German Manfred Korfmann from the University of Tubingen and American Brian Rose from the University of Cincinnati discovered a vast lower city below the citadel at Troy, previously the only part of the site to be excavated. The German excavation focused on the prehistoric cities, while the American team excavated the Classical layers. Work continued in this manner until Korfmann's death in 2005.
  • "Priam's Treasure" Found

    The cache of gold from Troy II that went missing at the end of World War II was discovered in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Apparently, the treasure had been smuggled into the Soviet Union at the end of the war. To date, the Russians refuse to return the treasure to Germany.
  • Troy Declared UNESCO World Heritage Site

    Troy was officially recognized as an important site of historical and cultural heritage by the United Nations.
  • Wolfgang Peterson's Film, "Troy"

    Wolfgang Peterson directed a movie loosely based on the events of the "Iliad," starring Brad Pitt as Achilles. The film is listed as one of the 150 highest-grossing films of all time, though its critical reception was mixed.
  • Recent Excavations

    After Korfmann's death in 2006, excavations continued for a while under the direction of his colleague, Ernst Pernicka. In 2013, a team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison had their digging permits suddenly revoked a few days before their excavation was scheduled to begin. The next year, it was announced that Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, a Turkish university, would excavate the site in partnership with a private company.
  • Madeline Miller's "The Song of Achilles" Written

    An example of a current retelling of the Trojan War story, one of many. Patroclus narrates the story, which focuses on his and Achilles' relationship.