Profile of Troy: The Hittite-Trojan Connection

Who were the Trojans?

Picture of the Walls of Troy

Walls of Troy

This turns out to be a very tricky question.

Part I: The Greek Assumption

Picture of Heinrich Schliemann

Heinrich Schliemann

Until the 19th century when German businessman Heinrich Schliemann followed his idiosyncratic dream and found Troy on the coast of Turkey near the Hellespont, many people thought “Troy” was the stuff of myth. We can now say with reasonable certainty that we know where Troy existed. A contemporary dig, begun under the leadership of the German archaeologist Manfred Korfmann, has confirmed the earlier identification and revealed a great deal more about the nature of this famous city.

However, knowing the city’s location doesn’t tell us what cultural/ethnic group the residents belonged to, what language they spoke, what their religious system was.

Picture of Greek Temple of Apollo Smintheon near Troy

Greek Temple of Apollo Smintheon near Troy

If you read the Iliad, you would think you had the answer—the Trojans were basically Greeks. Rather like Star Trek, heroes from the opposing sides in Homer’s poem can carry on conversations without any translators. In the Iliad the Trojans have temples to Apollo and Athena, who were also Greek gods. Based on Homer, scholars from past generations sometimes concluded that the residents of Troy were culturally the same as the Greeks who sailed across the Aegean to attack their city. When I started writing my novel about Briseis, a woman taken captive by the Greeks, I assumed the same thing.

It’s true that Greeks in the Archaic period, well after the “Homeric” period of Troy, colonized the western coast of Anatolia (modern Turkey). It’s also true that the Greeks had powerful outposts there in the relevant period—the Late Bronze Age, such as at Miletus (Milawata in Hittite correspondence). Mycenaean Greek pottery and other signs of trade influence have been found at Troy. The Trojans interacted with the Greeks in ways both friendly and warlike.

Nonetheless, the assumption that the Trojans were a variety of Greek is wrong.

Part II: The Hittite Connection; The Trojans are Luwians

map of Hittite Empire with Luwian region shown on western part of map

Hittite Empire with Luwian region shown on western part

Scholarly opinion now leans toward identifying the Trojans as part of the Luwian peoples who occupied large swaths of what we now call Turkey, primarily in the Western and Southeastern portions, throughout the Bronze Ages.

My primary source for the rest of this discussion is The Luwians, ed. H. Craig Melchert.
Melchert - The Luwians

So who were the Luwians and how does that connect the Trojans to the Hittites?

cuneiform tablet Pictures, Images and Photos

cuneiform tablet with “envelope”

A key issue is that we know a lot about the Hittites from their written records, but no such libraries of clay tablets have been found in the western Luwian areas such as Troy. Most of what we know about the Luwians is found in the Hittite texts which include a lot of Luwian information in the Luwian language. It’s a lopsided filter through which to view a people, but it’s the best we can do at this point until tablets are found at a Luwian site. Hence the Hittite connection: If you want to understand the Trojans/Luwians, by necessity you must examine the Hittites. That is why so much of the information on this website is about Hittites.

Beyond the lack of extant tablets from Luwian sites, studying the Hittites to understand the Luwians/Trojans is useful because they are closely related culturally and religiously. If we could go back in time and watch the two cultures, we would no doubt realize that the two peoples did a number of things differently, but the similarities would probably outnumber the differences overall. So in the absence of a large body of information about the Luwians/Trojans, an historian or historical fiction writer can turn to the Hittites and extrapolate with a fair sense of being roughly on track.

Hittite bronze statue of a mother and child, possibly a goddess

Hittite bronze statue of a mother and child, possibly a goddess

Part III: A summary of who the Luwians were and the ways the Luwians and Hittites influenced each other

The Luwians and Hittites were Indo-European. Scholars are still debating at what time period these Indo-European groups arrived in the area of Anatolia and from what region they might have come, but they differ from their eastern neighbors such as the Assyrians, Babylonians, etc. who have Semitic or other origins. Luwian, as a language, is part of a closely related group including Hittite, Palaic, Lycian, Lydian, and Carian. All of these languages of ancient Anatolia are derived from a prehistoric language we may call “Proto-Anatolian” which in turn derived from “Proto-Indo-European.” Indo-European encompasses most of the languages of Europe—so to that extent the Luwians’ language and the Luwians themselves are remote “cousins” of Greek, but they had separate developments from very early on. (For more on Indo-European)

Linguistically the Hittites and Luwians were close in many ways, and language is a significant cultural determinor. The Hittite language directly borrowed many Luwian words. Indeed by the height of the Hittite empire, a majority of the residents of Hattusa, the Hittite capital, spoke Luwian. The Hittite king and royal family spoke both Luwian and Hittite.

hieroglyphic seal, photo by Baris Askin

hieroglyphic seal, photo by Baris Askin

We cannot be absolutely certain that Luwian, rather than Palaic or some other similar language, was spoken in the region around Troy, but it seems the most likely choice based on the evidence. The only piece of writing from Troy, a hieroglyphic seal, is written in Luwian. (Luwian was written in both cuneiform and hieroglyphics depending on the context.) Also the oldest form of the name for Troy known to the Hittites, Wilusiya-, is a Luwian formulation. The later Hittite name for Troy is Wilusa.

The Luwians as a people never formed one unified state. By the Late Bronze Age the western Luwian lands were roughly grouped into five states, Troy/Wilusa being one of them. They occasionally acted together in war. Treaties exist between these states and the huge Hittite empire to the east of these lands. The Hittites are dominant in these treaties and other correspondence between them. Although these Luwian areas are frequently not formally part of the Hittite empire, they are under its political influence.

Hittite King offering to God photo by Dick Osseman

Hittite King offering to God photo by Dick Osseman

A wide variety of religious influences between the Hittites and Luwians can be found in the written evidence. Luwian cultic texts were incorporated from an early period into the Hittite religious texts. That means the actual ritual practices of the Hittites would include Luwian elements.

In the Hittite law codes, there are mentions of separate penalties for Luwians as opposed to Hittites. This means that the two peoples interacted closely and constantly, but it also means that the Hittites viewed the Luwians as a people separate from themselves.

Interesting historical footnote:

Why did Hittite texts survive and not Luwian?

Only one piece of writing has been found at Troy, a hieroglyphic seal, so a logical assumption would seem at first to be that the Trojans didn’t write or read. However, the Hittite side of correspondence and treaties with the Trojans and others in this Luwian area are extant, so we know that the kings of Troy/Wilusa had scribes and written records.

So why haven’t tablets at Troy been found? You’d think clay tablets would survive—after all pottery shards pop up everywhere in archaeological sites.

Pots are fired, clay tablets are not. Clay tablets melt away into the dust unless a catastrophic fire burns so hot and long that the tablets are in essence fired. The absence of a “library” at Troy may perhaps be explained by something as simple and arbitrary as the lack of a hot-enough destructive fire in the correct buildings.

What about Greeks and writing?

Linear B Tablet Pictures, Images and Photos

Linear B Tablet

The Mycenaean Greeks were also literate—they wrote a form of Greek called Linear B and also corresponded with the Hittites. Unlike the Hittites, they did not use writing to record myths, laws, and other interesting cultural documents. They used writing primarily as financial record keeping.

Writing was lost to the Greek world after the Late Bronze Age and was rediscovered with a new alphabetic writing system around the 8th century BC. From that time on they used more or less the letters we are familiar with as Greek. Around the time of this rebirth of literacy, the oral poems we know as the Iliad and Odyssey were put into written form.


Profile of Troy: The Hittite-Trojan Connection — 80 Comments

  1. I have never heard of Luwians before this article. How interesting! It seems to me that the more we learn about human cultural evolution, the more it resembles molecular evolution (in which I am also an amateur reader): we have multiple similarities, but vast and diffuse paths to those similarities, convergin, diverging, and convoluting again and again. Thank you for this article.

    Also, as I am a distinct amateur in history, especially pre-history, please include as much as possible date ranges somewhere on your site I could refer to. Perhaps a scale (e.g., when was Late Bronze Age?)

    I love this website. Thanks Judith

    • Thanks for the lovely comment. I love the comparison of human cultural evolution to molecular evolution. A date chart would be a good addition, although I confess I have to check someone else's when I need something more general than within a couple centuries! It would be a good project for me, however. I will add it to my ever-growing list! What I need is another writer or two for this site.

  2. Hi Judith
    I’m wanting to put sth about Luwian writing in a book on Native American culture. I thought they were on the west coast of Sumeria but now it seems they’re far away in southwest Turkey. And other map seems to show them in east Turkey. I’m confused. Does this represent movements? Are they thought to be members of the Sea Peoples? I’d be really glad if you’d email me, . And if you’re able to advise me about the copyright permission for using hieroglyphics and syllables I got from another website, it would be a real help. I have to go to press but haven’t authority. Can we say a role that the Luwians had in human history??

  3. The Luwians as an ethnic grouping are in a number of geographic places within ancient Anatolia. They precede the Sea Peoples by a long measure so if they are included in those migrations, that is a later piece of their history, but I’m not up on the whole Sea Peoples debate, although from what I understand, I wouldn’t say Luwians in particular would be primary. The book I recommend in this article (Luwians, Craig Melchert–you can click through from my website and buy it directly) is the best source of information on the Luwians and can best answer your questions I believe.

  4. Another follow up to Sally-Anne: How do the Luwians tie in with a book about Native Americans? That has me pretty puzzled.
    RE the geography of Luwians, I was focusing only on one of their locations as it relates to the topic of Troy. Ancient Anatolia is a patchwork of peoples–Luwian, Hurrian, Hatti, etc. No one group stayed or lived in only one area generally speaking.

  5. To Sally-Anne,
    As far as copyright from other sites, you must have written permission to use materials from anyone’s site, unless it is posted as available for anyone to take–which is rare. Places like Photo Bucket are set up for more general use, and some parts of Wikipedia have common use agreements. You must read carefully on each site and each subpart on places like Wikipedia. For example, you could not take photos from my site because some of mine are under agreements with their original sources that would not extend to anyone else. I’m not familiar with the site you mention, but contact them, not me, for permission to use their site.

  6. Some people have tied Luwians to Maya just by the similarity of their glyphs. After noticing it, I found others also noticed it.

    The point I am getting at in relation to copyright is the confusion over whether people can literally copyright the alphabet that belongs to a people. That some people give their time / life to research it is still hard to balance against that. Obviously there ought to be some sort of protocol. But I haven’t seen anything.

  7. Interesting that there are similarities in the writing systems, although that must be by chance and the universal inclinations of the human mind. As far as copyright and alphabets go, if you create your own images of an alphabetic system, then you can use them, I’m sure. The issue you asked me about was taking other people’s work from their site, for which, yes, you need written permission whether the image is of an alphabet or a pot. If this is a hard copy book you are getting published, surely your publisher can assist you with these issues? Can’t you draw the needed alphabet letters yourself for your publisher if this is an area of expertise of yours?

  8. Given enough time I could draw them, but I’d probably want to draw them exactly the same as the others had done them 😀 I’m the publisher, so it’s up to me. I’ve bought copyright permission for Maya glyphs this week. Maybe I can contact Mr. Melchert, perhaps he did a syllabary.
    Since I’ve devised an interpretation of how the Maya phonetic glyphs are designed, I’m able to make comparisons more systematically.

  9. Sounds like you’re getting it sorted out. I’m glad you were able to purchase the needed copyrights. I have to say, this is a new issue to me–copyrights of alphabets, but I’ve only used photos of different scripts on tablets etc, so I’ve never had to deal with it.

  10. interesting- is someone trying to copyright an ancient script? that must surely be public domain! or more likely their own reinterpretation thereof, which might be a different matter. [ eg the phaistos disc symbols, which have been ‘standardised’ for a computer font.] by the way, i dont see why there should be any particular ‘links’ between north america and pre-classical civilizations. that there may have been occasional ‘driftings’ across the atlantic cannot be ruled out, but perhaps we shouldnt assume they had any substantial effect on the americas.

  11. I was never quite sure what the copyright issues were with Sally-Anne, but she seems to have sorted them out so that’s okay. I’m inclined to agree with you about no real connection between North America and pre-classsical civilizations, as I mentioned to her. I hesitate to see evidence for contact in similarities of glyphs or artistic motifs alone, given the weight of evidence against contact. But one of the nice things about the web is that a huge variety of research can go on among a much wider variety of people and as a result there are a lot of new and less academically accepted ideas being pursued–I’m all for pursuit of intellectual ideas. If something doesn’t pan out, nothing’s lost in the thinking about it.

  12. Interesting article! I myself am an amatuer historian. I find these things so fascinating! The movements of peoples have always been something I liked to study. I am working on a project for myself concerning the Sea Peoples and the how the Phoenicians were one of the factors in the movements of peoples. I think the Iliad and Odyssey themelves give a glimpse of how things were in that era. I came here because I had wanted to know if the Greeks had ever mentioned the Hittites since they mention the Greeks? This article did shed some light for me. Thanks for sharing this bit of history with us!

  13. I’m glad you enjoyed it. The Mycenaean Greeks and the Hittites clearly had lots of contact, but the era of the Sea Peoples is at the very end of the Hittite Empire. Indeed the movements of peoples you are studying is possibly one of the factors that led to the demise of the Hittite Empire and its disappearance from human memory. I’d love to see some of what you are writing. I find that early Iron Age period fascinating but confusing. If you have pieces you’d like to publish on my website, send a sample. I enjoy a multiplicity of views and I’m most definitely not knowledgeable enough about the Sea People to write on that topic! Thank you, Judith

  14. I agree that the Bronze Age Trojan kingdom must have had writing, scribes, etc. In all probability they used either Nesite (Hittite) or Akkadian, or both, for diplomatic correspondence. But even if some tablets did survive the centuries, I have wondered whether Schliemann’s original huge, massively destructive, trench – cut straight through Hissarlik – may have destroyed the Trojan (Wilusan) tablet store.

  15. It’s certainly true Schliemann has a lot to answer for in the way of destroying the site of Troy and he wasn’t interested in clay tablets. They have sifted carefully his “trash” piles–that’s where they found the one example of writing if I’m remembering rightly. I’d love to hear what someone who’s worked the site during the last 15 years thinks.

  16. Hello Judith,
    Do you have any comments or references for the suggestion that Minoan Greek (Linear A) was “Luvian”

    Brian Derby

  17. Hello Brian,
    I know next to nothing about Linear A, but I’ll make an attempt to answer your question. I’ve never read anything suggesting that Luvian is the same as Minoan. Luvian in Anatolia is written with the cuneiform script, so a system completely different from Linear A, which doesn’t mean they aren’t different writing systems representing the same language, but it leans against that assumption. Luvian is pretty distant from Mycenaean Greek. We don’t, as far as I know, know what the Minoans spoke. Here’s a clip from Wikipedia on the subject that might help explain why I and I suspect everyone else would say there’s no way to make any connection to Luvian because we don’t know enough about Minoan: “Though the two scripts – Linear A and B – share some of the same symbols, using the syllables associated with Linear B in Linear A writings produces words that are unrelated to any known language. This language has been dubbed Minoan and corresponds to a period in Cretan history prior to a series of invasions by Mycenaean Greeks around 1450 BC.” So, though we can say a fair amount about Linear B, Mycenaean Greek, the same can’t be said about Linear A. Equally we know a fair amount about Luvian, though like Linear B, its translation is far from complete. Linear A continues to be a mystery.

  18. Very nice article, thank you!
    Might you perhaps know where I might poke about for the legendary (?) connection of Latin and Luwian as purported by Virgil in the Aeneid? Caesar did consider his Julii clan to be descendants of the Trojans (Iulius > Ilios / Wilios / Wilusa > Iliad) though likely more as a resume enhancement than actual history.

    I’m cruelly subjecting my children to beginning Latin this summer. They’re actually enjoying it, especially discovering the names of the Seven Dwarves in Latin. My eldest daughter wants to be a writer, and she reads voraciously. She is delighted to discover the meaning of many words she’s read via Latin etymology.

    As I’ve also been trained in Classical / Koine / Biblical Greek, I still find it amazing that Latin has no definite article, which played such an important role in Greek grammar. I was just curious if the lack of a Latin indefinite & definite article may hint at Luwian roots to the language.

    Nonetheless, thanks for a good morning read!!

  19. Hello Rev. Gross,
    Yikes. I am definitely no expert on Luwian. There is an excellent and entirely readable (given your background anyway) book on the Luwians, and I’m thinking that may be the place to start sifting your ideas out. The editor is H. Craig Melchert. The Luwians (Handbook of Oriental Studies/Handbuch Der Orientalistik) (Handbook of Oriental Studies: Section 1; The Near and Middle East). It’s readily available online and probably in any university library.
    That said, I have to say my recollection of what people have traditionally made of the Romans claim to be related to Trojans was that it was purely political fantasy–a bit of false nostalgia and desire to be connected to an illustrious past. But you know, so much of what we thought has been upended in the realm of classical and near eastern studies. I just don’t know about this particular question of Latin and Luwian and Virgil. Luwian is, of course, an Indo-European language, related, I think, to Greek rather closely. The way Hittite and Luwian was written down was so different than Greek, of course, since they chose different writing systems entirely, but the actual languages are related. Sorry not to have a better answer for you.

  20. hello,
    could be that the region of Luwia was inhabited by Dardani people. they are found in the text of hittite and egypt since the great battle of Kadesh. Dardny were allies of Hittite. after the fell of Troy-Troad or wilussa something happened there. in the greek records it said there was an invasion 100 years later the fell of troy; the Dorian invasion , referring Dardanian to Dorian who burned or destroyed Mycenaean civ and gave birth to what it ll be known as Spartans.

  21. To geni,

    Dardania is said be formed by Dardanus the father of Ilus, founder of Troy and the stem of the gens Julii. Dardania is said to have survived the flood on a hide skinned boat. It is interesting the correlation between the name Luwians which is also spelled Luvians and the word “antediluvian” meaning before the flood. Perhaps they are using the flood as a metaphor of the flooding of Dorians into Greek civilization.

    • The Trojans did have alliances with the Hittites at various times. At other times, the Trojans also participated in some revolts against their more powerful neighbors of the Hittite Empire. We know this from treaties and other documents found in the Hittite capital of Hattusha. There appear to have been several “wars” that involved the Trojans, but none of them match with any precision what Homer describes in the Iliad. Clearly there’s been some literary license. I recommend to you the book I’ve just now reviewed (you can find the review on my homepage or in my Judith’s review section) about the Trojan War. It’s a brief, very straightforward introduction to the question of what the historical reality is behind the Homeric tradition. Eric Cline, The Trojan War: A Very Short Introduction.

    • I’m not sure why this particular connection seems promising to you. People, the human race as a whole, are clearly related to each other so similarities seem pretty darn unsurprising to me. What mode of transport are you suggesting for such far scattered peoples to get to know one another and intermingle? And what real evidence is there that this intermingling happened? There would be far more than a passing similarity of look–pottery and other aspects of material culture follow people in their migrations. I know next to nothing about Maya, but I thought their culture existed a few millenia after the Hittites.

  22. Mycenaean Age of civilization, ended before ancient Greeks appeared, and replaced Phoenicians and other civilized peoples in the Mediterranean. Perhaps ancient Greeks ruined the Mycenaean Age of civilization,

  23. Tadeschi, I don’t see the relationship between the Mycenaean Greeks and later Greeks as so disconnected, nor are the great civilizations of the Near East and elsewhere in the Mediterranean so separate from the Greeks. I don’t think anyone “ruined” anything. Time passes and we see gradual shifts and influences going back and forth throughout the region. Read any of the mythology and study the archaeological records and you will find the east and west quite integrated despite the way it’s been so often taught. Modern scholarship has a much more enlightened view of the whole Mediterranean picture.

  24. Paul Harway:
    it’s not very likely Maya’s and Hittites were related, the languages don’t match at all, being completely different, Mayan civilisation goes back till at least 2000 BC and builds upon older MesoAmerican cililisations, when the Maya’s started to use their hieroglyphic writing ( to glorify their kings) in the 1st century AD they had a very long history behind them already.

  25. My bet is that the Luwians were actually refugees from the permanent drought of the Indus/Sarasvati basin of NW India. The Harappan/Luwians were also a maritime/ culture. “Luwian” is one of the exonyms of that context. My guess is that “Homer” adapted the Mahabharata as the basis of the Iliad, ie it is mostly allegorical rather than completely historical. This also can explain why there was there was a recognition between the “Sea Peoples” with Troy/Ilium at a later point as another wave of refugees from the long term drought in the Indus/Sarasvati region only by sea. The Mycenaeans were rabidly xenophobic, which makes the “translation” of the Mahabhrata into the Aegean context necessary. Glad to see that there is a running interest in the loose ends of Asia Minor. The “Phoenicians” (also an exonym) as part of a network nation of merchants were by their culture and economics NOT xenophobic or racist. The whole Indo European migration theory from Muller is an inserted and self serving narrative paid for by the same people who exploited the east through the British East Indies Company as a means of casting Indian (Eastern) culture as primitive and derivative from European sources. That crew was also big on denigrating other cultures, which made them also fans of the Mycenaeans and their xenophobia/racism. The more likely origin of the “Indo-European” migration was again the long term drought in the Indus/Sarasvati basin. Cyrus the Great’s self description of himself as an Aryan king uses the word “aryan” in its Sanskrit meaning of “cultured and spiritual.” This word choice also indicates that the Vedic/Harappan culture of what is now NW India/east Pakistan was still an active culture though reduced by flight from the drought at that point. This also partly explains as well how such a mass of people could have migrated through that region along the Silk Road. The “west” still has a whole lot of reprogramming to do still to shed the effects of the Mycenaeans and their own xenophobia/rascism. The Myceneans were a particularly pompous lot, as in the nominal “Greek” empire was actually the Macedonian empire. Exonymic references have also served as the basis of gross misrepresentation. Another example is in the exonymic “Minoan civilization” based upon an island now named Minos/Crete. This historical quest started out in realizing the affinity of Parmenides’s philosophy with the Vedic philosophy. “Pre-Socratic” is a another piece of exonymic expropriation. If anything Socrates and Plato were post Parmenidean. My bet is that the Pythagoreans were secretive exactly because of the xenophobia and racism of the Myceneans. Notable as well is that what we have known as the “Pythagorean Law” in mathematics was borrowed from the Harappan/Vedic culture as the same material shows up in the Vedic literature as sacred “rope science” related to religious altars and such. On this see The invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity by Benjamin Issac. My major point is that really the divide between the nominal West and the nominal East is a self serving fiction that does hold up upon deeper inquiry. take care, tADIT

    • Obviously our friend Tadit believes that the origins of human civilization MUST derive from India and that there is no chance of anything else to happen like the emerge of different civilizations at two, or more, different parts of the world. What i didn’t understand from the article is why there can be no connection to the Mycenaeans because of only one tablet that was found in a different language than Linear A. There are other characteristics that bring them closer to the Greeks than the Hittites like their weaponry.Trojans and Greeks had not only the same weapons, but same gods (Troy was dedicated to greek god Apollo and not some local god if there where any!!) and same traditions like the offerings to the gods, exchange of weapons, ransom of prisoners and the begging (ikesia) of the Greeks,where someone would touch the cheen or the knee. Priamus does so with Achilles as well as other Trojans. This is not something usual to give to a different civilizaion! Moreover the Trojans had as allies the Ethiopians of Memnon who could also conversate with both Greeks and Trojans. As far as we know Ethiopia was known to the Greeks, since Ethiopia is greek name meaning black face, but also appears in ancient greek civilization when Perseus went there to help Andromeda. Also there is reference in Iliad that Zeus went there to accept their offerings.How peculiar for a Greek god to accept offerings from some people that shouldn’t believe in him! From my view that means that some Greeks went there to built a colony and that came to help a friend (Trojans) when they were asked for. Sometimes i believe that the answer to our questions is in front of our eyes through the ancient myths, especialy when archaelogical excavation hasn’t provided us with the necessary evidence. Of course i might be wrong but both greek and roman myths correlate about the origins of the Trojans.

    • but do you know that, Indians and Persians are originally from the same area as Hittites?; i.e. Mittani. they left Mittani after Sargon destroyed that kingdom and they went to Persia and India and created those kingdoms in the new countries. it is not strange that so many nations in that region, except Turks and Arabs have similar names.

      • Well, it is a somewhat more complicated picture regarding origins and movements of people. Sargon is pretty late, but yes Mittani did exist and get conquered and that event did cause some movements of people.

      • It is true that Mittanis were a focal point in the History. Regarding question of Origins. A lot is debatable, since, 2 opposing theories are there around, Homelands of India and Iran.

        Since, linguistics is very Nationalistic we will remain in realm of theories until archaeological proof is discovered. Until then, we will have fiction 🙂 And that is fun.

  26. I agree with the notion that the divide between West and East is an artificial one that does not reflect the realities of trade and cultural interdependence in the wider Mediterranean and Near Eastern world. I think applying the word racist to the Mycenaeans is, however, anachronistic. I wouldn’t see them as xenophobic in the least, either. The way classical scholarship separated the Mycenaeans and others from their Eastern context can be seen as racist, but that’s quite a separate issue. Not sure I follow much of the rest of your argument, but I’m all for seeing the ancient world as far more connected than it has often been in the history of classical scholarship–but in fairness that connectedness has been widely accepted and written about for some time. I’m no ground breaker for seeing it this way! Perhaps less anger and more clear thinking would better suit the argument. You have a tendency to muddle time periods far separated from each other as if they were contemporaneous, for example.

  27. Hi Judith

    Lovely website, and thank you for such a succinct summary of what we know about the language the Trojans spoke. I agree with you that Luwian doers seem the most likely, but it is equally likely Trojan rulers and their scribes could have been bi-lingual and other language spoken in the Troad. After all – aren’t there tablets in eight languages in the Hittite archives at Hattusa?

    I just got hold of Ilya Yakubovich’s thesis on Luwian – which I am keen to read as I know he takes a far more conservative line and argues that we simply don’t know about the Trojans’ ethnicity.

    I am looking forward to the new series of digs in and around Troy by the Wisconsin-Madison university team along with the local Cannakale Onsekiz Mart university.

    I’ve been looking for substantive publications from the late great Korfmanm and his Tubingen team for years in English for the lay reader, but while following their yearly summaries, they don’t seem to have written any popular works based on that. But you may know better than me!

    Best wishes

    Tim Bowler

  28. Hi Tim, I’d love to read Yaubovich’s thesis. You are catching up to the scholarship more actively than I am. I quite agree that the Trojans were likely to be mulit-lingual and I don’t think we’ll ever know for certain what they spoke. I have not seen anything recently from the Tubingen team in English–and my German is so weak that I’m always frustrated by that, but fair enough to publish in German. I’ll have to keep track of what Wisconsin is doing around Troy. Thanks so much for alerting me. I get quite buried in trying to get my daily word count accomplished and the marketing for the novel I have coming out this fall (called Hand of Fire, about Briseis), that I often don’t get anywhere near as much time for research reading as I would like. Please do keep in touch and include titles. I’ll add anything to the informal bibliography I keep here for people like us who want to read up on Troy. My hope is that the publication of my novel will increase the interest! (Maybe wishful thinking…)

  29. Thank you for your very interesting article. I have known for sometime that the Trojan and Hittite cultures existed in close proximity and at the same time. I have often wondered why the Hittites never assisted Troy in the Greek war (if the Iliad is true). Your comments that the Hittites saw themselves differently to their neighbours may be why they did not intervene. But again, perhaps they did assist Troy. Who knows.

    • Hi Les, The Trojans and the Hittite empire did have treaties with each other. The Hittites did intervene on behalf of the Trojans (or factions within) at various points. Since there is no written record of a “Trojan War” we can’t know whether the Hittites had a part or not. I think it’s unwise to take the Iliad too literally, but it’s nice to know that there is a written record of involvement both economic and military between Troy and the Hittite Empire based in Hattusa at various points.

  30. Really interesting read, and it ties in well with a book by Cline about the fall of Bronze Age civilisations such as the Hittites, Mitanni et al.

    Perplexed by the linkage someone made in the comments about the Luwians and the Maya, history can sometimes be over complicated by people linking this race to that tribe! The greater debate is whether Luwian was related at all to Etruscan and why this Troy -> Rome myth came about.

    Was it just wishful thinking by the Romans who, as parvenus in a world dominated by Greek culture, wanted to create a myth about themselves or was it a genuine memory of a people moving across the Mediterranean during the tumultuous end of Bronze Age and settling in areas north of Rome?

    • I agree that Eric Cline’s 1177 BCE The Year Civilization Collapsed is an excellent tie in here. He hadn’t published it when I wrote this article. I don’t see the Maya connection, either, but then I don’t know the Maya at all, so I can’t say one way or the other. As to Romans, I suspect it was just wanting to be part of the Greek world they so admired. Earliest Rome was hardly a reflection in any way culturally of this Eastern Mediterranean BA world.

  31. I have discovered a limestone tablet with script that resembles Luwian. The writing is beginning to fade since I dug it up. I can detect other symbols with a black light.
    I will gladly send a photo, but there are some characters that will only show up with UV lamp. One of them is the head of a man facing left,sitting at the bow of a boat, with something behind him. There is the outline of a sheep or lamb and a pointed arrow that is crossed. There are two short lines(one over the other)and something that sort of resembles a perched bird. I can’t tell. I am using only a simple UV light. There could be much more. I also have a piece of terracotta with numerous raised relief symbols which resemble Luwian.
    I can send photos of both. I invite anyone with Luwian culture knowledge to closely examine the find. Email to set up an appointment.
    Let me know if you are interested.

    • I have no idea where you found this tablet, but I’m assuming illegally and irresponsibly since no material should ever be removed from a site without full documentation of its full context and then placed in a university or museum collection. Sounds to me like you are contributing to the looting of the ancient Near East or else making stuff up. Either way, stop it. If you have this artifact in some responsible, archaeologically sound way, my apologies, but you say zero about provenance and where you “dug it up” so I have to assume you are a thief. Give it to a proper museum with as much information about where you found it and context as can still be honestly remembered. The Near East’s treasures are under enough assault without people like you.

  32. Pingback: Was the Trojan War circa 880 BC - Page 4 - Historum - History Forums

  33. Years ago, we took a course taught by Professor Ilya Yakubovich on Indo-European languages at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

    We would greatly appreciate being kept up-to-date on new information regarding this subject.

    Many thanks,

    Michel & Ann Kadinsky-Cade

  34. re why the Hittites did not help troy
    I’m working on a fictional thing about the grandchildren of trojan survivors tying the british myth of king brutus into the scottish irish myths of scotia princess of egypt and her scythian husband.
    Anyway could it be the Hittite empire was fighting with an expansionist Egyptian empire and did not have much resources to spare for smaller battles on a second front.

    • The Hittites were often distracted by other fronts on their huge empire, but at the time period we are discussing they had a solid peace treaty with Egypt that we see no signs of either side making major preparations to break. So the Hittites might not have favored Troy with assistance because they were stretched thin, but I don’t think we can blame Egypt. Egypt and the Hittites were the two big empires at the late Bronze Age and they seem, under the leadership of Hattusili and Puduhepa, to have realized that all they could accomplish via war with each other was mutual destruction. The battles at Kadesh must have left that strong impression with both Ramses and the future Hattusili who as his brother’s primary commander knew first hand how great their losses had been, despite ending up with some territorial gains. Ramses went homw and portrayed that conflict as an unambiguous victory, but he lost territory and gained nothing we can see, so I’m guessing he came away very cautious of further all out wars with the Hittites. Tragically some of the Egyptian prisoners from that war seem to have introduced a plague that the Hittites fought for years. Still more reason, low man power, for the Hittites to stay away from expansionist policies. They were having enough trouble holding onto what they had.

  35. Judith – Wonderful piece of writing and information. I was just venturing to suggest that, there were a group of people called Mittanis who seemed to have marital relations with egyptian kings. Now, their language had references to deities who were indo-european.

    Could it be said, that, Perhaps, the Trojan war was way more global than perceived since, if Hittites are connected to Troy, then, names like Memnon, could be have been further eastern.

    Also, another thought was, for a place like Wilusa/Troy, having multiple scripts could well have been an occupational necessity , since, it was a major trading point.

    • The kingdom of Mittanni is to the east of the Hittite empire and later under Hittite control. The Trojan War has always been viewed from the Homeric point of view as relatively “global” since Troy survives with the help of many allies, some rather far flung. The scribes at Wilusa/Troy would definitely have used multiple languages, Akkadian, Hittite and Luwian at the very least.

      • Thanks. Exactly the same as my views. Does this imply they might know Other Indo-european languages for example like sanskrit. I say this, because,
        a) The Mittani had sanskritic references.
        b) Even Hittite as a language is considered like a sibling
        c) Memnon had a reference where it is said, from Herodotus, his kingdom was up till Susa. This could mean, Real far East.

      • Hittite is Indo-european, rather close to Greek actually. I don’t know about Sanskrit. Using Herodotus to measure Hittites is quite the stretch–he’s so very much later, so I’d be careful about that.

    • I’m a little confused by your comment. Herodotus is a Greek historian not a language. Given that Sanskrit was a language in India I’m not sure why you’d expect to find it in the Middle East. I could be that awareness of gods spread between regions, but it might also be similar sounding but not inter-influencing mentions.

  36. Sorry, I made an assumption about the current discourse. There has been lot of talk, that, Sanskrit has Central Asian origins by Linguists.

    I was essentially exploring the possibility of migration of Gods across regions. But, I will not bug you anymore. This conversation was very enriching. Thanks for replying.

    • I’ve enjoyed your suggestions. I’m not a linguist so Sanskrit is not something I know much about. But I do think the migration of gods across regions is entirely plausible. The Hittites certainly adopted many of the gods they came across. It seems to have struck them as a good idea to worship anyone who might influence their lives and keep them safer. Often we have long lists of gods as witnesses to treaties etc and there are among those names that may be from the areas you are speaking of. Since for the most part, they are just names in lists, we often don’t know anything about them–origins or purpose.

      • Thanks for the kind words. I’m exploring a thesis that, singular scripts can actually support Multiple languages. I’m from India. and, there is a school of thought that, the Indus script which is undeciphered right now, represents just one language.The corollary is, the script was spoken by people of a singular ethnicity.

        My theory is a little different. I believe that geography has a definitive effect on language. And, if you look at current Modern India, there are many languages.
        So, I want to explore, the fact, that, Indus script could be supporting Multiple languages, just as cuneiform script does the same.

        I have no interest in origin theories, but, if anything helps decipher a script, it helps. Therefore, a lot of your points, make perfect sense for me.

        I do hope that someday we will find a Rosetta Stone which has Both Cuneiform as well as Indus scripts together.

        Maybe, I will write a blog acknowledging this discussion and present a new theory soon.

        Thank You again.

  37. Τροίᾱ Troia Troy

    I have read Taruisa as another rendering.

    You use Wiliusa or Wilusa, which is resonant with Ilios.

    Did any other people use the word Troia?

    I find it weird that this is the name most applied to the idea. Ilios / Wilusa seems like the ‘real’ name.

    It also seems the Hittites used the ‘sa’ suffix to indicate a town or city place.
    Either that or they talked like Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars.

    • You’re right about Taruisa. All the names Troy has been called over the centuries are “real” just to different people with different languages. But I do like to think of JarJar Binks entering this tale. That can only be an improvement in fun!

  38. There can be little doubt that Troy was a far-flung satrapy of the Hittite Empire with which it was contemporaneous in the middle of the 1500-1600s BC, and the Trojan War took place about then; Troy was at the junction of too many trade routes for there NOT to have been a war (if not several). This early date for the first oral versions of the Iliad and Odyssey, centuries before they were written down after interpolations/alterations (eg the aristeia of Diomedes in Book V), is born out by the presence of Idomeneus heading a powerful Cretan contingent at Troy. Cretan (Minoan) civilisation must have been decimated by the eruption of Santorini, now dated before 1600 BC, so the Trojan War must have been before then. Fascinating area of study

    • Or, if you view Homer as many layered, you can see Idomeneus as dating to an early layer and other elements from a later layer and this way of seeing oral epic leaves one unable to use it to precisely date anything, since no post or pre dates can be certainly latched onto. There can certainly be an earlier war combined with later wars that all combine to become the tradition we know as the “Trojan War” Homeric studies, and the Hittites are indeed a fascinating study, not the least because so many questions remain unsolved and continue to beckon to us to seek their answers.

  39. It is not true that only 1 inscription was ever found at troy. Long before the Luwian seal was found, writing which appears to be Linear A or B, or related was found.

    • I’ve never seen this writing mentioned in the scholarly literature. Who excavated it and where is it being stored? Was it published in any articles? I’d be very interested in such a finding.

  40. Hi Judith,

    I was trying to think of an analogy for the relationships between the Luwians and the Hittites (Francophone Northern Europe and France? Netherlands, Germany and Denmark?) but I think the closest I could imagine, though far from perfect, was England and Scotland from early medieval till early 18thC. Here we had a small political unit on the geographical border of a larger and much more powerful one, a common language in the Scottish Lowlands at least, with the religious views and doctrines of one (often the smaller!) impacting on the larger. There were times of alliance, and times of warfare, with the larger unit sometimes ‘conquering’ the smaller, but not permanently. Scots in England had a different legal status from the English for much of this time, and there were trade barriers even after the Union of the Crowns. On this analogy, it seems likely that there would have been dynastic marriages between Luwian and Hittite ruling houses (as there were with Egypt). Differences? Well, on the very sketchy Hittite evidence, they seem to have got on rather better with their Luwian neighbours than Scotland and England did – the Scots frequently allied with England’s enemies to launch joint attacks! But then, other than the Vikings, the Scots weren’t under the external pressure that the Luwians may have felt from the Achaeans.

    • I think that’s an excellent parallel with the limitations you’ve noted. I’ll probably use this idea next time I try to explain to an audience. Working in an area of history so unfamiliar to virtually everyone outside a smallish academic community poses challenges. And then there’s so much we just don’t know. I do think the evidence of a good deal of harmony between Luwian and Hittite groups is strong. I think they ended up pretty blended over time–which makes your Scottish/English parallel quite useful.

  41. Thank you so much for your article here. When I was in the Navy, they were kind enough to organise a field trip to ancient Mycenae. The Greek guide only knew that it was more ancient than classical Greece. Later on I learned about the Minoans and their culture. Just last Tuesday I was watching a public TV documentary on the Greeks which mentioned Troy. Then suddenly last night, I started thinking that Troy was in Anatolia, which was in Asia minor, which was part of the Hittite territory. Then I thought that Troy might have been a Hittite city. This would explain the animosity. I did not know who on earth could answer my question, but you just did. Thanks again!

    • I’m glad to have answered your questions. There are several excellent books, which you’ll find in the bibliography on my website.

  42. All of you who commented this MUST KNOW -that till now REAL GEOGRAPHIC POSITION OF REAL TROY CITY IS STILL UNRESOLVED QUESTION ! Turkey, Hissarlik — ? ooo meen give me a break ! we all know what kind of man was a H.Schliemann — he was a big trickster — and you must know that the possibility of Hissarlik = Troy is about 40 percent — I suggest to read something like this:

    • While Schliemann didn’t always play honest and fair (maybe never), he was sent to Hissarlik by a far more knowledgeable man at the time, from whom he stole all the credit, Frank Calvert. But beyond that, the modern digs at Hissarlik have long since put this question to bed. This is the site of Troy. There is no reason to think otherwise. The written evidence from the Hittites would have to be totally discounted and ignored and some big city that no one ever heard of added to that location. And then some unsupported location for Troy found. It’s just silly at this point. Sorry. But this is a scholarly, agreed-upon point, Hissarlik is the location of ancient Troy.

  43. Some people above commented “Why didn’t the Hittites get involved in the Trojan War?” But from what I recall they did! It is not mentioned in the Iliad, which doesn’t tell the whole story of the war, in fact it doesn’t go far enough to mention the death of Achilles or the use of the Trojan Horse. But as I recall other sources (I think it is in the Odyssey) mention how after Neoptolemus (Achilles’ son) gets involved late in the war he defeats/kills a leader named Euryplus who leads a contingent of Hittites who came to support the Trojans. It is thought by some, today, that historic Troy was under the umbrella of Hittite influence and in a quasi-feudal type system the Trojans were supposed to support their overlords (the Hittites)in time of war and vice versa. I think it is recorded that in the Kadesh campaign that Wilusa (Ilios/Troy)was represented in the Hittite army against Ramses II.

  44. Tadeschi makes the comment “Mycenaean Age of civilization, ended before ancient Greeks appeared.” But the “Mycenaean” Greeks were ancient Greeks as well. We basically have 5 major periods od ancient Greek history – the Greek Bronze Age (when the Mycenaeans existed), the Greek Dark Age, the Archaic Age of Greece, the Classical Age of Greece and the Hellenistic Age. The traditional view for the collapse of the Greek Bronze Age of the Mycenaeans was partly due to the invasion of the Dorians, who were more primitive, but had iron weapons. After that the rest of ancient Greece was a mixture of Ionians (descendants of the Bronze Age), Dorians and Aeolians (who I did not discuss).

  45. Why did the Ancient Hellenes call Troy Troy or Illeon and nothing similar to its real name of Wilusa?

    Something is wrong here.

    I find it remarkable that the regional Superpower of the Hittites did not defend Wilusa, their kin.

    It points to Troy not being in Turkey.

  46. What still amazes me is that folks, even academics, use Hellenic mythology to try and prove historical fact. What rubbish!

    Hellenes and Trojans were different. Homer confabulated Old European myths and came up with the Trojan War, that is why the Trojans have 2 names, relocating the location from mainland Europe to The Hittite Kingdom. It is well known that the Pelasgians, non Hellenic, influenced the Hellenes, giving them Gods, myths and words.

    • We’ll agree to disagree. Of course Hellenes and Trojans were different. Of course there are borrowings from the east into western myths. Most of what we think of as Greek mythology started in the Near East. That’s been established for a generation or more. That in no way forces the city of Troy into the west. Sorry. Troy is an ancient Anatolian city inhabited by Trojans who were in the sphere of the Hittite Empire. That’s what the scholarship on all levels shows. That isn’t established by using Hellenic mythology to prove historical fact. That established using archaeology and philology. You are totally free to ignore that and place Troy somewhere in Europe in your own imagination.

      • Thanks Judith.

        My contention is that Ancient Hellenes were heavily influenced by Pelasgians, Old Europeans, as Marija Gimbutas called them.

        Where actually is your evidence?

        Homer’s Troy is only Hellenic mythology.

        There is no evidence of the Trojan language. Hittite is well-attested.

        The Trojans and Dardanians are claimed as one nation, yet Dardanians are based in Helm only.

        No one else contemporary talked about the Trojan War, only the Hellenes, not the Egyptians or the Hittites.

  47. Plus the fact that Homer confabulates or duplicates names, like Priam = Alexander, and the thrusting of Greek Gods on the Trojans, points to events not being exactly like Homer wrote.

    All I am saying is that it deserves more scholarship.

  48. Alaksandu sounds suspiciously like the Greek ‘Alexandros’. Why would a Luwian-speaking king of Ilios bear an Achaean Greek name? Did ‘Luwian’ Troy have a Greek aristocracy or, perhaps more likely, given its location, was it a polyglot of various peoples? Also, I would be cautious in discounting Homer too much. Homer, whoever he was, may have been responsible for getting parts of the mythic story written down. Before this, it was a verbal tale ‘sang’ to various audiences for 400 years and more. Despite the enormous chance [‘enormous’ from our point of view] of major changes in the story some thing changed remarkably little. By the time of Homer, weapons and armor were iron or steel and had been so for hundreds of years. Why hasn’t this Iron Age reality crept into the story?

    But in the Iliad, weapons and armor are constructed of bronze, as fitting a bronze age civilization. Iron, to my recollection, is only mentioned as a semi-precious metal, a block of which was rewarded as a prize during a funeral celebration. In comparison, Virgil’s Aeneid is largely made up ‘whole cloth.’ He puts at least some of his warriors in iron armor and equips them with iron weapons–an historical unlikelihood.

    Also, an archaeologist has carefully mapped out the geography of present-day Hissarlik and ancient Troy. Despite massive siltation, he was able to define the ancient sea shore, rivers and streams. He found a remarkable coincidence to Homer’s descriptions. Now, by the time of Homer, the geography would have changed a lot. So, it is unlikely that Homer, or a contemporary, actually did their own geographic study before writing the tale down. More likely that the tale was told over and over and over with little change over hundreds of years. How? That I can’t answer but I imagine that many of the people of the time had an intimate knowledge of the old story and were very intolerant of a ‘singer’ using his imagination in free verse. If true, the peoples of the ancient Mediterranean were very different than today.

    • I don’t disagree with any of what you’ve said, nor does my post. It’s a complicated, many-layered piece of history and archaeology. Luwian and Hittite, by the way, are closely related to Greek, so similarities between them are not surprising. They are written down dramatically differently because of different choices for writing systems, but both Indo-European and not unrelated.

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