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Adapted from the interpretive plaque:
This sanctuary was perhaps founded as early as the 1st quarter of the 7th century BCE. It was dug into the ruins of the lower town of Troy VI and Troy VII, and these Archaic remains seem to have included altars, walled precincts and large buildings, perhaps temples. Best preserved is the altar in the so-called Lower Sanctuary. It is not known to which god or gods the Archaic sanctuary was dedicated, but it remained in use throughout the Hellenistic period and long into Roman Imperial times, albeit with extensive alteration.
In the mid 3rd century BCE. a new and lavishly decorated building was constructed .... During the first half of the 2nd century BCE, this building was dismantled and two new temples built .... The layout suggests that the sanctuary was associated with secret rites. The exterior walls of the precincts were nearly 4 meters high, screening sacrifices at the altars from the uninitiated.
The sanctuary was built at a site where the island of Samothrace can be seen, and it seems likely that this is the sanctuary of the Samothracian gods mentioned in Trojan inscriptions. Nearby finds included an abundance associated with Cybele and Dardanos, who figured prominently in the Samothracian mysteries. These gods came to be associated with the Penates (guardian spirits) of Aenaeas in the Hellenistic period, and a Samothracian sanctuary at Troy would have complemented attempts to emphasize the legendary ties to Rome.
The city was destroyed by [the Roman general] Fimbria [as part of the 1st Mithridatic War] in 85 BCE. As part of the reconstruction, ordered by Augustus (31 BCE - 14 CE), a new altar was built at a higher elevation. Beside it are the stepped foundations of what was probably a grandstand used for viewing religious ceremonies. [So we've gone from walls for keeping out prying eyes to grandstands for accommodating them!]
The upper blocks are weathered, but the lower ones, buried until the recent excavation, show the precise construction of this drystone wall, with each block custom-fit to the next. This is Bronze Age, so all of that was accomplished without iron stonecutting tools. Homer repeatedly refers to the "beautiful" walls of Troy. This structure dates from the right approximate period for Homer, but Troy VI was destroyed by an earthquake around 1250 BCE, rebuilt as Troy VIIa, & then shortly thereafter destroyed by war, generally believed to be the one recounted in the Iliad.
The city walls are visible at the right edge of the photo.
One of 2 main entrances to the early citadel, c. 2500-2300 BCE; partially reconstructed.
Troy was our 1st stop, & it really gave a sense of the depth of history here. We were glad indeed that we ignored those who said "Don't bother; there's nothing to see there." Maybe if you were expecting the topless towers of Illium you'd be disappointed (although there are some respectable structures that have been uncovered), but seeing millennia of strata emerging from this mound was as impressive in its own way as the more photogenic ruins at Ephesus or Pergamon. Besides, come on ... it's Troy.
The Roman numerals denote successive cities, built on the ruins of previous ones. Click the interpretive sign below for a key to the strata & a timeline.