Greece – Troy

CIRCUMSTANCES over which I had no control pre-vented me from being at the first siege of Troy; circumstances within my control kindly permitted me to be at the last. I did not, like Odysseus, make all manner of excuses and use every artifice to avoid going. I was too anxious to get there. I did not go in a wooden horse, — and it is yet impossible to go all the way with an iron one. The vessel that bore me is not numbered in the Homeric catalogue of ships, and I am not named among the heroes. I must, therefore, in this ‘Post-Iliad catalogue my own adventures.

Unlike Achilles, Ajax, Agamemnon, and Menelaus, I started for Troy alone. The rendezvous of the attacking party was not at Aulis, but on the acropolis of Troy itself.

I sailed away from Piraeus just before sunset, with the sad consciousness that I was saying good-by to the ” violet-crowned” city which had been my home for six months. The sunlight fell softly on Hymettus and lingered fondly over the Acropolis, ” with long, reluctant, amorous delay.” The sun and the steamer were moving away from each other; the Parthenon soon faded out of sight, and Athens was gone.

When I set foot on Asia Minor, it was at Smyrna. It was fitting to land there before going to Troy; for, of the seven cities which disputed Homer’s birth, did not the weight of tradition favor Smyrna? Think of a city tracing its importance back several hundred years before Christ, and yet remaining to-day one of the chief commercial cities of Asia Minor, — living on its trade, not on its traditions. It has been shattered by earthquake and devastated by fire, but new cities have repeatedly grown on the foundations of the old, and few have a more beautiful site. It nestles confidently on the plain by the seaside, but rises, too, tier on tier, on the hill overlooking its sheltered gulf. The notable buildings, which in ancient times gave it celebrity, are gone ; but archaeologists have delved among the ruins. Of a population of two hundred thousand, fully half are Greeks. Thus there are almost as many Greeks at Smyrna as at Athens. Athens has become European; at Smyrna Orientalism is still predominant. As you enter its great bazaars, see camels lurching through the streets, and meet Turks and Greeks in Oriental costume, you feel that you are in a different zone of life and tradition.

The next day brought me to the Dardanelles. I had the satisfaction of meeting here Messrs. Korte, Prager, Strack, and Noach, four German archaeological students, devoted friends of Dr. Dorpfeld, with whom I had before shared the joys and hardships of the Peloponnesian trip and the island excursion. We organized a cavalcade to move on Troy.

We spent the night at the Dardanelles, and next day crossed the famous strait, took horses and set out for the plains of Troy. It was a ride of several hours, much of it in full view of the Hellespont. We passed caravans of camels, six sturdy oxen yoked together ploughing the fertile fields, and a procession of sixty Turks on horseback returning from a fair or fete. Halting for a brief rest in a Turkish village, late in the afternoon we galloped up to Hissarlik with as much ardor as if we had come to save the day for the Greeks. We were three thousand years too late; the Wooden Horse had got there ahead of us.

We were cordially received at Schliemannville, as the little group of huts which sheltered Dr. Dorpfeld and his associates was called. Though these huts had not the grandeur of the palace of Priam, they probably afforded much better accommodations than the Greeks had on the plain below. If we did not find Agamemnon or Menelaus, Priain, or Paris, Odysseus or AEneas, we found Dr. Dorpfeld, Dr. Wolters, Mr. Wilberg, and a few others, helping to direct the large force of men employed in the excavations. Not by dart, spear, sword or arrow was the modern siege conducted, but by pick and shovel; and the wheeled chariots were not those of Achilles or Diomedes, but hand-cars which were carrying off the debris.