- The Washington Times - Friday, June 18, 2004

TEVFIKIYE, Turkey — Turkish guide Mustafa Askin stands on top of a crumbling tower of the ancient city of Troy and points to a grassy field where, he says, Achilles and Hector most likely fought to the death.

“The duel took place down there, in front of us,” Mr. Askin says, pointing to a green field near a small spring outside the city walls, a field that bears little resemblance to the sandy beach where Brad Pitt and Eric Bana battle it out in the movie “Troy.”

Archaeologists are grumbling that the film bears only a partial likeness to the city they have been uncovering painstakingly after decades of research, digs that show a large walled city that grew rich from trade but later was burned to the ground.

“Why didn’t they film it here?” asks Mr. Askin, an amateur archaeologist, guide and author of a book called “Troy,” as he stands atop the limestone city walls.

“This is real atmosphere,” he says.

In front of Mr. Askin is the green field where the two warriors are believed to have battled and a nearby spring where Trojan women are said to have washed their clothes.

Behind him is evidence of war, a layer of charcoal buried in the dirt throughout the city, reaching 5 feet deep in some areas — the remains of a city that was burned to the ground.

“I wish they had asked archaeologists for advice,” says C. Brian Rose, head of Greek and Roman excavations at the site for the past 15 years.

His digs show a city of about 8,000 people that controlled trade to and from the Black Sea. The population could have tripled in times of war as people fled the countryside, archaeologists say. Experts say there is no definitive proof that the city was ancient Troy, but almost all evidence points in that direction.

Standing on top of the ruins of the citadel, the highest point of the ancient city, tourists can still see the Dardanelles, the narrow waterway through which ships have to pass from the Aegean Sea to enter the Black Sea.

“Troy was probably an international trading emporium,” says Eric Cline, associate professor of archaeology and ancient history at George Washington University in Northwest.

The city’s markets would have been filled with gold and ivory from Egypt, copper from Cyprus, silver from Anatolia and amber from the Baltic area, Mr. Cline says.

That wealth also made Troy vulnerable to jealous neighbors.

Troy was across the Aegean Sea from the Greek city-states and on the fringes of Anatolia, where the powerful Hittite Empire ruled.

“Troy is on the outer peripheries of two major empires, both of whom wanted it on their own,” Mr. Cline says.

Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks, says outright in the film that the war was fought for power and wealth and not over a beautiful woman named Helen.

Mr. Cline, who took his students to see the movie on opening day, says he was so excited when Agamemnon gave his speech that he stood up in the middle of the theater to cheer.

“The movie was dead on in that respect, and I was impressed,” Mr. Cline says.

A student had to ask him to sit down.

The center of the city, where royalty lived, was surrounded by limestone walls that were 12 feet thick and 27 feet high.

The movie’s walls appear to be much higher and more imposing.

“They might have exaggerated a bit, but it was definitely a well-protected city,” says Nurten Sevinc, director of the Canakkale Archaeological Museum, where pottery and other relics from the city are kept.

The outer city, where the merchants lived, was surrounded by a ditch, which likely would have had a wooden wall on its interior side. That ditch would have been used to stop soldiers on chariots from approaching the wall and firing arrows.

“This made the city practically impregnable,” says Mr. Rose, a professor of classical art and archaeology at the University of Cincinnati.

Houses in and near the citadel had clay jars up to 4 feet high buried in the floor, evidence that the Trojans had prepared for a siege, archaeologists say.

There also is strong evidence that the city was destroyed in the beginning of the 12th century B.C.

A layer of charcoal and burned bricks stretches across the site. Pieces of skeletons have been found mixed in with the ashes.

Arrowheads have been found scattered throughout the city, as have some 100 stones, most likely used in slingshots, that were found in piles, Mr. Rose says.

Many of the weapons were found outside the citadel, which likely housed any royal palace.

The citadel would have been lavish; the houses found in that area are about twice the size of the homes in the lower city.

However, no palace would have had imposing stone statues like the ones in the movie. Those statues were used 700 years later and wouldn’t have been covered with loincloths, as in the film.

“They are willing to show Brad Pitt nearly nude, but they put loincloths on the Greek statues in the palaces?” Mr. Rose asks.

The Greeks also wouldn’t have put coins on the eyes of their dead.

“Coins were not invented for another 500 years,” Mr. Cline notes.

The filmmakers took other liberties, as well.

Agamemnon and Menelaus die in the movie, but they survive in Homer’s “Iliad,” the epic saga on which the film is loosely based.

Paris survives in the movie. In Greek mythology, he died toward the end of the war.

“Where they really did damage to the story is in killing people they were not supposed to and not killing people they were supposed to,” Mr. Cline says.

What about Mr. Pitt as Achilles?

“He was the opposite of what I expected,” Miss Sevinc says.

Ancient Greek vase paintings, she adds, portray the warrior as “darker, with dark hair and a beard. A rougher, harder-looking guy than Brad Pitt,” she explains.

Yet despite the grumbling, many archaeologists are reveling in the attention.

“There are mistakes, but don’t worry about it. What we like is that sales of the ‘Iliad’ are going through the roof and my Greek history class is full,” Mr. Cline says.

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