Troy (called Ilium in ancient times) was the site of the fabled Trojan War; tales of this mytho-historical conflict have been recounted throughout the ages in great works like the Iliad of Homer, and Publius Vergilius Maro's Aeneid. Most of the tales - the cherished myths of a hundred generations - are probably apocryphal, but the city is not, and a we have a good deal of archaeological evidence that tells of its history.

Troy is located on a hill called Hissarlik in northwestern Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), about 5km from both the Aegean and the Hellespont. A number of settlements were built on the site throughout the Bronze Age; they're referred to by the layer they occupy in the archaeological record, from Troy I to Troy IX.

Troy I - This was the first settlement, a small, fortified citadel on the hilltop that was built around 3000 BCE, and eventually destroyed by a great fire. The inhabitants of Troy I used tools made of copper, stone, and bone. All of their pottery was shaped by hand; evidence suggests that spinning and weaving were known to them. Their buildings were primarily built of mud-brick over stone foundations.

Troy II - The second settlement on the site, built somewhere between 2500 and 2300 BCE, appears to have been a reconstruction by the same people that built the first. The new city was slightly bigger - 110m across - and generally circular. Troy II had a strong sloped wall topped with a vertical brick superstructure, reinforced by small rectangular towers and pierced by two gates. The material culture of Troy II seems to have been quite advanced over that of Troy I - for example, the potter's wheel seems to have come into widespread use. Large quantities of gold, silver, and electrum treasure were unearthed by Heinrich Schliemann when he discovered and excavated the site in 1870, which led him to believe that Troy II was the city of Priam that was levelled by the Atreides in the Trojan War. Troy II does appear to have been destroyed by an invading force - buildings were toppled and there was widespread fire - but it is now believed that this conflict was not the one remembered as the Trojan War.

Troy III-V - Three distinct settlement periods occurred at Hissarlik from approximately 2300 to 1700 BCE. These evidence a cultural continuity with the earlier towns, which suggests that the culture that destroyed Troy II either moved on or was assimilated into the local culture. Each successive settlement was larger and more populous, but they don't appear to have flourished to the same degree as their predecessors. The area suffered a number of invasions during this period - notably, by the burgeoning Hittite civilization - which may explain this to some degree. Unfortunately, Schliemann destroyed most of Troy III, IV, and V in his zeal to reach what he believed was Homer's Troy, so we know less about them than we'd like. It is not clear what brought each of these distinct settlement periods to a close.

Troy VI - Troy VI, which existed during the period lasting from 1700 to 1250 BCE, is a great deal different from the preceding incarnations of the city. Its massive fortifications, built from squared blocks of hard limestone, dwarf those of the earlier periods, and the larger, free-standing houses suggest that the builders of Troy VI had superior knowledge of engineering, masonry, and urban planning. Unfortunately, most of Troy VI is gone - during Hellenistic and Roman times, the top of the mound was removed to provide spacious grounds for a great temple to Athena. However, enough evidence remains to suggest that the citadel was built in a series of concentric, radiating terraces. Troy VI was destroyed by a massive earthquake, perhaps concurrently with the eruption of Thera (now Santorini) that was once believed to have wiped out the Minoan civiliazation.

Troy VIIa - Troy VIIa represents the rebuilding of Troy VI after the earthquake that levelled most of it, during the period from 1250 to 1180 BCE. The cyclopean walls were repaired and reinforced, and the dwellings rebuilt on the ruins of the old. Certain evidence from Troy VIIa suggests (at least to people seeking historical evidence of the Trojan War) a city under siege. For example, the houses in the outer ring of the acropolis were smaller and more densely-packed, indicating that a larger population sought protection within the city's fortifications. Also, most houses were built with large pithoi (a kind of jar) sunk into the floor, providing a large storage area for foods and liquids - presumably in response to a siege. Troy VIIa was destroyed by a conflagration that levelled the entire city, and human remains have been found in the wreckage. This is significant, as none were found in the remains of earlier catastrophes, notably Troy II and Troy VI - this indicates that the disaster which befell Troy VIIa was widespread enough that the survivors were unable to recover and bury all of the slain.

Troy VIIb - The houses of Troy VIIb were built on the foundations of Troy VIIa, indicating a reconstruction of the stricken city (probably around 1180 BCE.) The fortifications were repaired, and there do not appear to have been any major cultural changes. However, Troy VIIb was again destroyed by a general conflagration after less than a century of occupation, and was not rebuilt. The causes of this final disaster and the abandonment of the site are not known.

Troy VIII - Hissarlik was resettled around 700 BCE by Greek colonists, possibly from the islands of Lesbos or Tenedos, as the city of Ilion. This incarnation once again reused the great walls of Troy VI, and appears to have prospered, under the rule of the Persian empire, until the liberation of Asia Minor by Alexander the Great in 334 BCE. Alexander, who is said to have slept with a copy of the Iliad beneath his pillow, made Ilion his first stop in Anatolia, as he wished to make an offering. Clearly, then, the site was remembered as that of Priam's city by its contemporaries. After Alexander's death, his successor commissioned the great temple of Athena (which occupied a space almost half as large as all of Troy VI) - this is presumably when the top was sheared off the mound.

Troy IX - Troy IX was the final incarnation of ancient Troy; the Troy IX period lasted from 85 BCE to the 5th or 6th centuries CE. This final settlement was known as Novum Ilium or "New Ilion," and was the recipient of numerous honors - Julius Caesar gave it immunity from taxation, and Augustus enlarged and beautified the sanctuary of Athena. In later years, Constantine considered the site for his new capital, before settling on Byzantium. The city, which remains largely unexcavated, was a large and prosperous Hellenic Roman city. However, it waned as trade in the area declined; the emperor Julian visited the area in 355 CE, but by the 4th century little remained but a small farming community, and the hill was completely abandoned by the 12th century. Troy slept beneath its mound for more than seven hundred years before being rediscovered; archaeological work continues at the site to this day.

So was this truly the site of the events recounted by Homer and Vergil so long ago? Opinions vary. Some hold that the destruction of Troy VIIa corresponds with the period in which the historical war probably would have taken place, and consider the architectural aspects of the city proof that it was under siege. However, there are other equally plausible explanations for the evidence found, and textual clues from the remaining accounts suggest that the Trojan War may have actually taken place elsewhere - in Greece near Mount Ida, or indeed anywhere in the Mediterranean that the Achaean raiders may have undertaken raids. It has been suggested that the story comes from Egypt, and the raiders may have actually been the "sea peoples" mentioned in Egyptian chronicles. Furthermore, some think that there never was a Troy at Hissarlik, or even at all - that the conjunction of a people called the Troes (the Homeric Troie is an adjective derived from the name) and Ilion in Greece produced the name, which was later transferred to Hissarlik in the 8th century BCE. In the end, there is simply not enough information to say who or what formed the basis of the Trojan War tales - it's possible they're Bronze Age stories of an even earlier event that were handed down intact. What we do know is that a fascinating city - a fascinating series of cities - stood on the Hissarlik hill in Asia Minor, and that there is much to be learned from their remains.

I used information from the Republic of Turkey's Ministry of Culture website, the Perseus Project's encyclopedia entries on Troy, and Jeremy Rutter's awe-inspiring lecture notes on the "Prehistoric Archaeology of the Aegean" in the preparation of this writeup.

THE CITY OF TROY

In attempting to create a background against which to set a perspective of Heinrich Schliemann’s actions (and subsequent discoveries) I will first provide as much information about the site in question as I can possibly salvage. There are few reliable sources about Troy, which is in fact merely one city of approximately nine settlements based in the area. In this dissertation I am referring to all settlements based in the same geographic location in general, but in particular to Homeric Troy. The site of Troy (also known as Hissarlik) is located on the western coast of present-day Turkey (near the mouth of the Scamander River), on the opposite side of the Aegean Sea to Greece, and to the north of the Mediterranean Sea.

This region is believed to have possessed a vast succession of inhabitants throughout a prolonged cycle of settlement, destruction and reconstruction (perpetrated by a number of parties) spanning 5100 years (from Neolithic settlers in 3600 BC and passing through the hands of Greek and Roman conquerors, among others, until its final abandonment in approximately the year 1500 CE). It is believed that no less than nine settlements were constructed on the mound of Hissarlik, although much evidence was destroyed by Heinrich Schliemann’s haphazard excavation methods. The following is largely concerned with Homeric Troy, as most current knowledge of Mycenaean civilisation deals with this specific settlement.

During the days of Homeric Troy’s eminence, it was a prosperous city, geographically blessed with numerous trade partners and sufficient military strength to repulse most attackers. The events of the fall of Troy have altered the perspective of most to view the city in a more poetic, only semi-historical light. Many have attempted to chronicle or in some way recount the events which led to this dramatic point in history, in some cases many centuries after the occurrence.

Many historical figures have attempted to affiliate themselves with the heroes of Trojan legend – Julius Caesar himself claimed descent from Aeneas (the subject of the Aeneid), a Trojan warrior who supposedly survived the sacking of Troy carrying his father and left the eastern Mediterranean region (illustrated below).


THE FALL OF TROY (THE TROJAN WAR)

It is extremely difficult to ascertain the reasons for the fall of Troy, due in large part to the fanciful nature of most sources of information about this historically remote event. No authoritative narrative of the entire war is known to exist. The Iliad (a work credited to a poet named Homer who himself may actually have been a number of poets amalgamated into one) gives us a fanciful account at best, and the fact that a great deal of our current awareness of Troy is in some way derived from it is an indication of the rarity of reliable sources. A discriminating analysis of the available (and remotely credible) sources, however, permits us a limited understanding of some of the prominent events which conspired to cause the fall of the Troy.

According to the Iliad, Troy was besieged by a number of Aegean kingdoms (the predecessors of the Hellenes) and although the existence of a number of these kingdoms (and the cities contained therein) is doubted, it is not improbable that the Greek city-states allied to seize Troy; in the Iliad, it is said that Helen, the wife of the King of Sparta was stolen by Paris, a Trojan prince. The Spartan king, Menelaus, allied with other Greek leaders in a desire for vengeance. It is far more likely that the war was based on economic desires; Troy was, as aforementioned, an exceptionally wealthy city, being situated in an opportune location to trade with other parties in the Mediterranean region and well-known for its production and crafting of gold.

The Greek leaders (and their deeds) are doubtlessly exaggerated for the benefit of the audience, but for the most part they are likely to have been real people. Agamemnon was the King of Mycenae, which was perhaps the most powerful and influential kingdom of the time, and certainly likely to involve itself in this opportunity to seize greater wealth and further cement its domination. He is also said to be the brother of Menelaus, and this gives the alliance even greater credence. The leaders of smaller states could have involved themselves out of obedience to more powerful rulers, to attempt to seize valuable resources for themselves, or any number of diverse reasons. To summarise, the kingdoms generally put aside their own feuds and allied against a common rival. Having established that this alliance is credible, we move on to the war itself.

It is written that the city of Troy was besieged for ten years, after which it fell to the aggressors. Given the nature of siege warfare (and the low population of the era – the war would have caused a horrifying attrition rate), it is improbable that any city could have withstood a decade of constant assault. From this springs the notion that the fighting was sporadic - perhaps with the Greeks landing, attacking the city for a season or two, retreating to accommodate for climatic change (or societal pressures) and resuming combat with the arrival of appropriate conditions (this is entirely possible – the Hissarlik region can be bitterly cold in winter months, and there was much disparity between the numerous factions of the allied Greek army which may have caused temporary lulls in the fighting). To recount every battle fought would be an exercise in unnecessary tedium – not only are most battles consigned to historical (and even poetic) obscurity, but are likely to have been contrived by the poet as opportunities to display his characters and achieve dramatic tension. Therefore we move ahead to the actual end of the siege as chronicled in the Iliad.

The scene began with Achilles, King of the Myrmidons, finally relenting to requests to permit Patroclus, his friend, to fight on his behalf (having refused to fight himself due to a grudge against Agamemnon). Patroclus falls to the Trojan champion, Hector (one of the sons of Trojan King, Priam), and in a rage Achilles chases the Trojan soldiers away from the body of his friend and turns on Hector. Terrified, Hector flees and Achilles pursues him. Three times they ran around the walls of the city, and finally the two met in combat. Achilles slays Hector with a spear-thrust to the throat and, still enraged, drags the corpse behind his chariot around the city. The Iliad reputedly ends with the broken body of Hector being returned to a humbled Priam. The fates of Paris and Helen appear to be obscured. The story of the Trojan War continues, however.

In around 70 BC a Roman poet by the name of Virgil wrote a poem entitled the Aeneid. In it, he describes how Romans are the descendants of a Trojan warrior who escaped the sacking of the city. While this connection is almost universally believed to be erroneous, it does display the popularity of the war, even many centuries after it ended.

The Aeneid tells that one day the Trojans discovered that the Greeks had abandoned their camp, and there was no sign of their fleet. At first elated, their disposition soon turned to puzzlement as they found a giant sculpture of a horse constructed of wood. At first sceptical, they were convinced they should take it as a trophy when a Greek man, posing as an escaped prisoner, told them it was an offering to the Goddess Athena. Contained within the horse were the best soldiers of the Greek army who, when the opportunity availed them, opened the city gates to allow the remainder of the Greek army to attack, sacking and pillaging. When the city was excavated (or, rather, cities), a large number of valuable artefacts were found which suggest that the survivors returned to the region and built anew, although to most there was only one Troy.


THE EXCAVATION OF TROY

Although there have been multiple cities of Troy, Heinrich Schliemann sought only one. When digging began at the site, Schliemann negotiated with two Turks (who owned the land on the other side of the hill) to acquire permission to dig. The Turks agreed, in exchange for a stone foundation (which Schliemann believed to be the Temple of Athena) which he had already uncovered (which they desired for a bridge they were constructing). Schliemann reluctantly agreed, and commenced digging in 1870. He was forced to an abrupt halt on April 21, however, when the Turks, deciding they had enough stone, revoked the agreement. Following this, Schliemann attempted to gain permission from the Turkish government itself. Finally, on October 11, 1871, he acquired the government’s acquiescence and recommenced digging (on the condition that he surrendered half the treasure he acquired to the Turkish government).

For a great deal of time he found little of great value, and certainly nothing blatantly indicative of the site being the legendary Troy. Most of the artefacts were crudely engraved clay tiles and obsidian knife-blades. On June 18, 1872, Schliemann discovered a relief of the Sun God, Apollo, riding the four horses of the sun, an item which was likely to be from a much later period than that of the Trojan War (but which he nonetheless smuggled out of the country to adorn his garden). By this point he had become thoroughly disheartened, losing his previous faith in his judgement of the location of Troy.

On August 4, however, he discovered several gold pins and the bones of a woman who, he judged (based on the bones’ colour) had died during the burning of Troy. To follow this in May of 1873, his crew found two gates 20 feet apart, and the foundation of a large building behind the gates. Rallying his hopes, he dubbed the entrance the Scaean Gates, and named the building Priam's Palace. Shortly after this, Heinrich and his spouse, Sophia Engastromenos, discovered a large amount of valuable artefacts and, wishing to keep their find a secret, gave the ruse that it was Heinrich’s birthday and as such, the crew were permitted the day off. Unearthed during this time were a copper shield, a copper cauldron, a silver vase, a copper vase, a gold bottle, 2 gold cups, a small electrum cup, a silver goblet, 3 silver vases, 7 double-edged copper daggers, 6 silver knife blades, 13 copper lance-heads, 2 gold diadems, a fillet, 4 gold ear-drops, 56 gold earrings, and 8,750 gold rings and buttons.

Smuggling this treasure from the site, Schliemann sent it to his friend, Frank Calvert, who subsequently hid it with other contacts all over Greece. Convinced that neither the Turkish nor Greek governments could pursue any course of action on the matter, Schliemann wrote his first account of the find. The Turkish government did discover his deception, however, and demanded that he return the stolen artefacts. Schliemann refused, and, until August of 1876, he was caught in constant battle between the Greek and Turkish governments.

For a time, Schliemann abandoned Hissarlik in the hope of finding more spoils at Mycenae. On the aforementioned date, the Greek government made an agreement to allow him to excavate at Mycenae, but from the beginning this project was hampered by constant debate over the right of the Greek officials to intervene in Schliemann’s work. Nevertheless he made some significant discoveries; having immediately started digging near the Lion Gate, an imposing structure with a large lintel topped by a relief of two lionesses facing each other. There was a great circular space south of the Lion Gate, perhaps an ancient open-air meeting place, and in this space his workers found two tombstones. Excavating the graves, Schliemann discovered abundance of gold funerary goods and, in Schliemann’s typical fashion, decided that the graves were those of Agamemnon, Cassandra, Eurymedon, Clytemnestra, and Aegisthus; all heroes of myth, who had been the direct subject of much of his archaeological career. Also, he unearthed a 12-inch high vase with a painting of a procession of soldiers marching off to war and, notably, the appearance of the illustrated soldiers was similar to that of Mycenaean warriors around the time of the Trojan War.

In September of 1878, Schliemann arrived at Hissarlik, and on October 21, 1878 he found a small cache consisting of 20 gold earrings, some gold spiral rings, 2 electrum bracelets, 11 silver earrings, 158 silver rings, and many gold beads. This time Schliemann was able to keep only one-third of his findings, the Imperial Museum at Constantinople claiming the rest. Also, as aforementioned, Schliemann made one last (unsuccessful) attempt at finding conclusive proof that Hissarlik truly was Troy before abandoning the site to the hands of future archaeologists. The methods with which he excavated were representative of the relatively primitive historical awareness of the time – essentially, he sunk broad trenches into the hill, disregarding the possibility of many artefacts being damaged and/or lost by his actions. In fact, by digging as deeply as he did, he uncovered pieces of a city as much as a thousand years older than the legendary city and in so doing, destroyed a great deal of the Troy he sought.


ADDITIONAL NOTES

The information presented above is the official (and popular) recount of Heinrich Schliemann’s life, mostly derived from material published in his autobiography (from where most subsequent biographies gain much of their content). Evidence has emerged, however, to suggest that a significant amount of Schliemann’s recount is fabricated, and the specifics of it are often self-contradictory. Another reconstruction of his life follows (derived in large part from ‘the Golden Treasures of Troy; the Dream of Heinrich Schliemann’).

Although Schliemann professes to have been enraptured with Homeric Troy virtually all his life (and, as such, had always desired to become an archaeologist), the credibility of his claim to have possessed Universal History since 1829 is in doubt, as Schliemann’s first mention of the book is in a letter written in 1875 – when Schliemann was 53. Although the copy of Dr Jerrer’s book was indeed contained within his library (the book itself also being a 1828 edition, although this is not necessarily indicative of the date of purchase), the signature ‘Heinrich Schliemann’ within the cover has been analysed, and it has been deduced that the writing is not that of a child. This is the beginning of a long series of (possible) lies which conspire to dramatically change our perception of Schliemann.

Next, although Schliemann claims to have immigrated to the United States of America in 1850 and, when California was made a state in 1854, gained citizenship, evidence suggests that he did not arrive until 1851, and only ever acquired American citizenship in 1869. Furthermore, his account of his escape from the San Francisco blaze is blatantly false – business documents state that he was actually in Sacramento. Even had he been present in San Francisco at the time he stated, he could not have witnessed the disaster, which actually occurred a month before (May 6, 1851).

With reference to his archaeological practices, and the manner in which he states he began excavation of Hissarlik, there is some dispute over the presence of an arrangement with the Turkish landowners – some sources state that he simply arrived, despite refusal from the Turkish government, and began excavation. A number of sources also imply that many of his ‘findings’ were in fact forgeries. His book about his excavation of Hissarlik (entitled the Ilios) states many things which evidence suggests never occurred, such as a fictitious instance in which he was attacked by wild dogs in Ithaca. There are also a number of aspersions cast on the role of his wife, Sophia, in the excavation of Troy.

It is entirely possible that these deliberate misdirections were intentional, and motivated by egotism, although a second theory is that they (the falsified accounts) were simply an exercise in style – that is, Schliemann had no intention of distributing these notes to the public, and was simply refining his techniques with the various languages he learned. This is reinforced, in part, by the fact that his account of the San Francisco fire was almost identical to an article in a San Franciscan newspaper, save in first-person narrative format).

I believe the former to be largely true (that is, Schliemann attempted to rewrite his past). I believe this on the basis of what I have deduced of the man’s personality. A man who was so driven to be revealed as a towering figure in human history would be likely to alter certain details if he found himself lacking in any way, although in some instances I would be willing to believe that the documents involved were no more than an attempt at rote memorization of language or private musings. Irrespective of which case is true, the manner in which he desired to be remembered becomes clear when one views the inscription at the entrance to his tomb. It simply reads “for the hero Schliemann.”


Sources

Books:
Ceserani, Gian Paulo and Ventura, Piero, ’In Search of Troy’, 1985, Macdonald and co, Maxwell House, 74 Worship St, London
Edmonds, I.G, ’the Mysteries of Troy’, 1977, Thomas Nelson inc. Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee.
Duchêne, Hervé, ‘The Golden Treasures of Troy; the Dream of Heinrich Schliemann’, 1996 (English translation), Thames and Hudson Ltd, London and Harry N. Abrams, New York

Internet Sources:
http://studentweb.tulane.edu/~agregor/
http://emuseum.mnsu.edu/information/biography/pqrst/schliemann_heinrich.html
http://webhome.crk.umn.edu/~sneet/WesCiv/TrojanWar.htm

Other Sources:
History classes!

Also the title of an unremittingly dire adaptation of the Iliad recently unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses. A particularly cynical plot, it used the bait and hook of good actors and a reasonably well regarded director to lure you in, defenceless, into almost three hours of some truly terrible costume drama.

I refuse to include spoiler space for this tripe: if you don't know the story, you're not educated enough to be allowed near a PC anyway. In any case, nothing can spoil what is already a thoroughly rotten experience. I urge you to read on even if you had been planning to see this movie, as I am eager to discourage you from such a foolish waste of your precious time, or at least lower your expectations enough to make the ordeal somewhat less painful. If after all this you still don't want to know what happens, look away now and abandon all hope.

Performances

I suspect I am not alone in rushing to see this movie primarily because it will probably be Peter O'Toole's last. I knew he was extremely unwell, but so was Ollie Reed while making Gladiator, and that worked out better than alright. Not so here. It was heart-rending seeing one of my acting heroes totter on and off screen without any of the impish charisma he is so loved for. Gaunt, pale, with visible cataracts, he looks, sounds and moves like a sick old man who should have been left alone. Goodbye Peter - this is not how I want to remember you.

Brad Pitt, I think, will put this one right up there with Legends of the Fall on the list of films he doesn't want to talk about - but, credit where it's due, his Achilles was the only consistently decent male performance. Given some truly terrible lines to work with, he made the best out of a surprising number of them.

Almost as bad as seeing Peter O'Toole overreach himself was watching Brian Cox absolutely humiliate himself with a hammy, overdone, unconvincing job of Agamemnon. Brendan Gleeson as Menelaus wasn't bad, but had very little screen time. Among the other Greeks, Sean Bean was simply thrown away on a tiny handful of badly scripted scenes as Odysseus (and frankly looked like he was a bit embarrassed to be caught on tape), the character of Ajax was reduced to an Obelix-like caricature with no substance and no lines, Patroclus was a snivelling little runt badly played by Garrett Hedlund and John Shrapnel was playing up to Brian Cox and was therefore abysmally bad as Nestor.

Things did not go much better for the Trojans. It pains me to say it because they're both such lovely blokes, but Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom really can't fucking act. Scenes with just the two of them in particular just made you want to run away and hide. No other "names" in the Trojan lines, but whoever they were, they were all pretty bad.

One thing that particularly threw me was how ugly Helen was - the German model picked from a line-up to play her apparently had to put on 7kg to come up to normal human standards, but was still scrawny, with a pinched expression and no acting ability whatsoever. Saffron Burrows, a normally ravishing and competent actress, looked like she hasn't had a decent meal in a couple of years, and never seemed to actually get going - even as she was delivering her lines she looked like she was still waiting for the call to action. A small ray of light appeared in the form of Rose Byrne, a pretty young thing who gave a very respectable performance as Briseis, helped by having some of the only decent lines in the script. The only other female speaking part was that of Thetis, a tiny cameo executed with predictable charm by the still very beautiful Julie Christie.

Production

This section should really be broken down into two parts: quality and accuracy.

In terms of quality here isn't really much to quibble with. The cinematography was decent enough, the sets were appropriately grandiose, the costumes were shiny and spangled, the stunts were competent, the battle scenes large. But after The Lord Of The Rings and even Gladiator (which really set the tone for these costume drama war films anyway), that's simply not enough. I can't think of a single stunt or effect that impressed me, and while the city of Troy sets were large and obviously designed to impress, they had none of the imaginative flare of Peter Jackson's Minas Tirith.

From the point of view of historical accuracy, on the other hand, it was an absolute shambles. OK, I do realise that not many people know or care what ancient Greek armour looks like, and frankly we don't even have very good evidence for the period we assume includes the Trojan War. But not to get even a single sword design right? Not an urn, not a sandal, not a tent - it's all made up bollocks! The ships have hulls, the soldiers wear iron armour, the royal palace of Troy looks like the bastard child of Crete and Egypt. Just to give you an idea how bloody, well, Hollywood-ised it all was: everyone wears these incredibly elaborate, bejewelled, embroidered and bespangled clothes to show how rich they are. At the same time, none of the robes are hemmed - they are left to fray and dangle, presumably in deference to the sartorial incompetence of the ancients. It's just pathetic.

Story

Here is where it all goes seriously pear shaped.

The Iliad is, like, the greatest war epic ever told, yeah?

It's a story known, quoted and loved by millions over countless generations, no?

So, you'd think they wouldn't try and improve on it, right?

WRONG!

They re-wrote the Iliad, I kid you not. Remember Aeneas? They didn't. And the bit where Achilles kills the Queen of the Amazons? She wasn't even there. Oh, and Hecuba? No such person. Kassandra? Never heard of her.

Menelaus dies in the first half hour. Who needs him to found Sparta? Agamemnon hangs on a bit longer but is ultimately never allowed to return home and be slaughtered by his wife as nature intended. Achilles lives right up until the sack of Troy (huh?), at which point he is killed by Paris, who then gets off scot free with Helen!

I don't see why David Benioff even bothered calling the film Troy - he obviously didn't like the original story. Whereas the Iliad is the foundation myth of Greek nationhood, and naturally presents the Greeks in a noble and heroic light, the producers here obviously felt that modern audiences will identify better with the besieged Trojans. So kills off all those nasty Greeks and leave enough of a happy ending at the end for Troy II to be just vaguely feasible. It's a bit like making Hamlet and having him live happily ever after with Ophelia because you don't like sad stories - why, I ask you, bother? If you don't think the original story is good enough for you, leave it the crud alone! We like it just fine, thankyouverymuch!

Even had Benioff adhered to the letter of the story, I don't think he would have made anything very watchable from the original text. The dialogue feels like it was written by a committee: one moment surprisingly pithy, then without warning plummeting into the very depths of hyperbolic, stilted nonsense.

It's a very, very bad movie. Don't bother with it. Really.


Vital statistics:

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

Produced by Winston Azzopardi, Wolfgang Petersen, Diana Rathbun and Colin Wilson.

Partial Cast List:

Brian Cox - Agamemnon
Brad Pitt - Achilles
John Shrapnel - Nestor
Brendan Gleeson - Menelaus
Diane Kruger - Helen
Eric Bana - Hector
Orlando Bloom - Paris
Garrett Hedlund - Patroclus
Sean Bean - Odysseus
Julie Christie - Thetis
Peter O'Toole - Priam
Saffron Burrows - Andromache
Rose Byrne - Briseis
Tyler Mane - Ajax

Troy. Movie. Released 2004. Avoid like the plague.

First of all, this is a very very very bad Lord Of The Rings rip off. All the battles are incredibly Paelenor Fields Helms deepish,almost to the point that it looked like a Weird Al Yankowich "tribute". It even had a bit of Legolas (Orlando Bloom's character - Paris) firing arrows and some old-Boromir, (Sean Bean's character - Odysses) in a tough man, plan-hatching, all-around tough son of a gun role.

It isn't all bad... The action is pretty good and, if you pretend LOTR never happened, it would probably be regarded as something quite special, but LOTR's great strength was that you always felt that each arrow fired meant something because the characters meant something, their journey meant something and what they were fighting for was worth fighting for. Troy is the antithesis of everything that was so special about LOTR. This is all over a woman for a start: For pete's sake - Helen of Troy is just some King's wife that Orlando Bloom had banged a couple of times. It failed to work as an epic love story, which you felt meritted a huge war costing the lives of thousands.

Indeed, it was hardly the final heroic surge on the black gates to buy Sam and Frodo some time.

It is epic and huge at times. The scene with the thousand ships could have been one of cinema's great moments. But to compare to LOTR again, when the Uruk-Hai were lining up outside Helms deep, when the Mumakill elephants were coming onto the horizon in ROTK, you got that "you're all pretty fucked right here" feeling, but here? Nada.

I think a lot of this has to do with a fear for the safety of the characters which LOTR does so well. This has a lot to do with atmosphere and scale and certainly music. Troy fails miserably on each of these counts, which is a crying shame because it had so much potential. Never does a piece of music enhance the dramatic irony, never does a violin elicit the thought of a tear.

Although I'm usually a big fan of his, Brad Pitt (Achilles) had more hero shots than any character in the history of Cinema, and if the guy was the least bit believable as the toughest warrior who ever lived, they may have worked. Pitt as the uncharismatic shortarse just came across as cheesy.

Speaking of cheesy its best to start with the dialogue. Without question, some of the worst and most predictable i've ever heard. It makes Matrix Revolutions appear like Donnie Darko. You could guess every one of the romantic lines before they emerged from the mouths of the characters. In fact, they managed to turn one the greatest stories from ancient greek mythology into laughing stock. I can't believe with that budget that's the best they could come up with, why invest so much in stars, CGI etc with such a poorly written adaptation of the story.

Not that the dialogue matters i suppose, when this film is designed almost solely for chicks. It was like, "I know, lets find the hottest three guys on the planet and show as much of their flesh as possible" Bana, Bloom and Pitt spend more time with their clothes off than on. I lost count of how many groin shots we got of Bradley - not that I mind, but there is only so much one can take.

This was the reverse of the likes of Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie. I have problem with this, it does have a place within certain genre films, but to bastardise a time-honoured story like this by just making a cheap thrill for dumb women with no appreciation for film is a cheap cop-out.

The film is amazingly driven by the three stars mentionned above. But with the dialogue and story they were given to work with they can't drive it as far as they have in their previous films. Achilles is a great character with great inner complexities, but these really aren't developed far enough. The same with Paris, you need to believe in his love for Helen, but its just not there, they aren't given enough of those Aragorn/Arwen moments, those love-conquers-all moments which even melt the hearts of us dudes.

Could have been so much better, couldn't have been much worse...this film is saved by Eric Bana who was superb as Prince Hector, he's every bit the superhero he wasn't in Hulk, and its all in his eyes. Really superb performance, and he is truly the only character who allows the suspension of disbelief.

Orlando, as hot as he is, is really really bad and i can't figure out whether it was the poorly written character, poor direction or whether he has found his limits. He's hardly been a character actor so far in his career with Legolas in LOTR and Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean. There's time for him and his next role will be really interesting. His inability to play something other than a brave hero was worrying, but he's so hot he'll have roles coming out his ears - kinda like Keanu Reeves, i suppose.

As for the direction? The change from light to dark is sometimes really discomforting and i'm not sure about the delayed-pan shots which are suppsed to foreground an important event. They just seem too modern, and Guy Ritchie-esque to fit in here. Not good.

So "Why can't I just be entertained?" by this film? It's a pretty good question, with a really simple answer: Troy wasn't entertaining. Pirates of the Carrebean or Independence Day is entertaining, because even as unashamed popcorn flicks they can walk the walk with action, and allow you to "pick a side": cheer for the good guys and boo the bad guys.

I'm all for the odd "zone out" movie, we all need that at times. Anyone who looks at my collectin and sees the likes of ET, Terminator, Bill & Ted, Waynes World, The Rock etc will testify to that. But All of those films achieve what they are trying to achieve very well indeed. Troy fails on so many levels that its so hard to suspend disbelief long enough to immerse yourself within the 2h 45m non-plot.

To be entertained you need to belive in the characters, you need to want what they want...Troy only inspired apathy.

Lots and lots of apathy.


Uberbanana says If you want to blame Troy for bastardising a beloved story, read LOTR then watch the movies and then tell me how much was change. If you want to rant fine but if you want to review a movie do it and stop saying how things don't live up to LOTR.

SharQ says Dude if you didn't like my review of troy, that's fine - write your own - but LOTR set the benchmark, and troy doesn't live up to it - not by a long shot. Besides, there is a significant difference between rewriting for screenplay (LOTR) and disecting and hollywoodizing an old tale beyond recognition.

Troy (?), n.

Troy weight.

Troy weight, the weight which gold and silver, jewels, and the like, are weighed. It was so named from Troyes, in France, where it was first adopted in Europe. The troy ounce is supposed to have been brought from Cairo during the crusades. In this weight the pound is divided into 12 ounces, the ounce into 20 pennyweights, and the pennyweight into 24 grains; hence, the troy ounce contains 480 grains, and the troy pound contains 5760 grains. The avoirdupois pound contains 7000 troy grains; so that 175 pounds troy equal 144 pounds avoirdupois, or 1 pound troy = 0.82286 of a pound avoirdupois, and 1 ounce troy = 1apothecaries' weight, used in weighing medicines, etc. In the standard weights of the United States, the troy ounce is divided decimally down to the 10000th part.

 

© Webster 1913.

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