The rise and fall of Holy Troy

Homer’s celebration of the fall of Troy was the bible of Greece and the rebuilt city would forever be defined by her forebear’s glorious defeat.

Xerxes visited a modest New Troy on his way to conquer Greece. He would honor Priam, as an Asian king defeated by the Greeks …

Xerxes ascended into the Pergamus of Priam, since he had a longing to behold the place. When he had seen everything, and inquired into all particulars, he made an offering of a thousand oxen to the Trojan Minerva, while the Magians poured libations to the heroes who were slain at Troy. The night after, a panic fell upon the camp: but in the morning they set off with daylight, and skirting on the left hand the towns Rhoeteum, Ophryneum, and Dardanus (which borders on Abydos), on the right the Teucrians of Gergis, so reached Abydos.

On his way to defeat Persia, Alexander paid homage …

Then, going up to Ilium, he sacrificed to Athena and poured libations to the heroes. … As he was going about and viewing the sights of the city, someone asked him if he wished to see the lyre of Paris. For that lyre, said Alexander, I care very little; but I would gladly see that of Achilles, to which he used to sing the glorious deeds of brave men.

and …

Alexander started from Elaeus and put into the Port of Achaeans … It is also said that he went up to Ilium and offered sacrifice to the Trojan Athena; that he set up his own panoply in the temple as a votive offering, and in exchange for it took away some of the consecrated arms which had been preserved from the time of the Trojan war. It is also said that the shield-bearing guards used to carry these arms in front of him into the battles. A report also prevails that he offered sacrifice to Priam upon the altar of Zeus the household god, deprecating the wrath of Priam against the progeny of Neoptolemus, from whom Alexander himself was descended. … WHEN he went up to Ilium, Menoetius the pilot crowned him with a golden crown; after him Chares the Athenian, coming from Sigeum, as well as certain others, both Greeks and natives, did the same.

He promised to rebuild her but died too soon so his successors took up the task …

The present city of Ilium was once, it is said, a village, containing a small and plain temple of Minerva; that Alexander, after his victory at the Granicus, came up, and decorated the temple with offerings, gave it the title of city, and ordered those who had the management of such things to improve it with new buildings; he declared it free and exempt from tribute. Afterwards, when he had destroyed the Persian empire, he sent a letter, expressed in kind terms, in which he promised the Ilienses to make theirs a great city, to build a temple of great magnificence, and to institute sacred games.

After the death of Alexander, it was Lysimachus who took the greatest interest in the welfare of the place; built a temple, and surrounded the city with a wall of about 40 stadia in extent. He settled here the inhabitants of the ancient cities around, which were in a dilapidated state.

Still she wasn’t much to look at and then the Romans came …

The present Ilium was a kind of village-city, when the Romans first came into Asia … Demetrius of Scepsis says that, when a youth, he came, in the course of his travels, to this city, about that time, and saw the houses so neglected that even the roofs were without tiles … injured by the Romans under the command of Fimbrias … where the inhabit- ants refused to admit him into the city, as they regarded him as a robber. He had recourse to force, and took the city on the eleventh day. When he was boasting that he had taken a city on the eleventh day, which Agamemnon had reduced with difficulty in the tenth year of the siege with a fleet of a thousand vessels, and with the aid of the whole of Greece, one of the Ilienses replied, We had no Hector to defend the city.

No doubt, exagerating, the poet Lucan says the first Caesar found little there …

by the town of Troy burnt down of old
Now but a memorable name …
even her stones were perished

but rebuilt …

here with glad return
Italia’s sons shall build another Troy,
Here rise a Roman Pergamus.

Glad return because Trojans fled west after Troy’s great fall and that led to Rome. Pious emperors would be good to New Troy. Horace alludes to Augustus even moving Rome back there. Young Nero …

In the consulship of Didius Junius and Quintus Haterius, Nero, now sixteen years of age, … Anxious to distinguish himself by noble pursuits, and the reputation of an orator, he advocated the cause of the people of Ilium, and having eloquently recounted how Rome was the offspring of Troy, and Aeneas the founder of the Julian line, with other old traditions akin to myths, he gained for his clients exemption from all public burdens.

And Claudius …

He allowed the people of Ilium perpetual exemption from tribute, on the ground that they were the founders of the Roman race, reading an ancient letter of the senate and people of Rome written in Greek to king Seleucus, in which they promised him their friendship and alliance only on condition that he should keep their kinsfolk of Ilium free from every burden.

Philostratus says Hadrian came and gave. Herodes Atticus asked him for money to build an aqueduct. Caracalla visited all the ruins of that city.

But then came a slow decline. The Goths besieged in the late 260s and the rise of Christianity gave its holy to Jerusalem. Still it clung to its tourist attractions. In 355, the apostate emperor Julian came …

reached Ilium at the time of full market (between nine and ten in the morning) … There is a sanctuary of Hector where a bronze statue stands in a small chapel. Opposite to him they have put up Achilles in the open air … Happening to find the altars still burning … Hector’s statue anointed with fat … into the sacred precincts the témenos of the Ilian Athene … all the statues perfectly well preserved

But by 421, after the wife of an emperor visited the area, she could write …

Ilios between the Ida and the sea the city once so magnificent merits that we shed tears over it for it is so completely ruined that not even its foundations remain

She was wrong about its foundations. They do remain. Finally recovered in the nineteenth century, you can visit them in the plain of the Troad today.

35 Responses to “The rise and fall of Holy Troy”

  1. jett Says:

    A little tidbit on what happened to those who escaped Troy. As you mentioned, may went West (Carthage come to mind) but they also went South. If you study the lineage of Jezebel in the Bible you soon discover that though she came from now Lebanon her family had come from Troy. There are some other traditions like that and I often wonder how so many escaped the Greeks but obviously a great number did.

  2. conor Says:

    That’s interesting - I never knew Troy stretched into the bible. But then, so many claimed lineage to Troy - it was a favorite of German kings after the fall of the west. Who, do you know, first claimed Trojan lineage for Jezebel?

  3. jett Says:

    I want to say - I read this years ago so I will check into this again - there is a specific scripture that gives Jezebel’s ancestry and indicates Troy. I will try and look it up over the next few days and let you know. I just remembered it was there and thought it was odd no one ever talked about it. Like I said, I’ll pull out the specifics for you and send it to you.

  4. conor Says:

    thx Jett. The way stories weave …

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