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besik bay or hellespont?

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BEŞIK BAY OR HELLESPONT?

Even after Schliemann's dream had come true and the prehistoric settlement at Hisarlık was accepted as the city of Priam by scientists the discussions about Troy did not come to an end. One of the subjects discussed at a symposium held in Bryn Mawr college in October 1984 was the location of the Greek camp and the ships.

"Fill him with desperate courage until such time as the Achaeans shall reach the ships and HELLESPONT in rout."

(lliad XV 231-233)

"While she was on her journey to Olympus, the Achaean menat-arms, fleeing with cries of terror from men-killing Hector, reached the ships and the HELLESPONT"

(lliad XVIII. 150-151)

As we understand from these lines, according to the lliad the Greeks landed at the mouth of the Scamander river on the Helespont. But some scientists do not agree with this. One of them is Prof. Manfred Korfmann who directed the excavations in Beşik bay and is still directing the excavations in Troy. By taking account of some important factors like, "the water sources", "the strong and nearly ceaseless winds which usually blow from the northeast" and "the current of the Dardanelles", Korfmann claims that Beşik Bay is the only convenient place for anchorage and embarkation.

First of all, on the slopes around Beşik bay there are enough fresh water sources to cover the needs of a big army even for a long time. Also, the sea in Beşik Bay is shallow and sandy. The seafarers of prehistoric times could easily beach their ships along the sandy shores. Besides this, according to paleogeographic soundings the basin has silted up following the erosion of the surrounding hills. So the bay extended far inland thus offering an even more protective harbour than today. But the current in the Dardanelles is very strong, especially in spring time with the melting snow and rain when the rivers which flow into the Black Sea carry far more fresh water. The current runs through the Dardanelles at a speed of 9 km. per hour. By adding to this the negative effect of the north wind with an average speed of 16 km. per hour, it can be understood that during the Trojan War when the technique of sailing against the wind had not been discovered, the mouth of Scamander, which is open to the north wind, would not be a convenient place for anchorage and embarkation.

During the excavations near Beşik Bay, remains of a port were unearthed. In particular graves were uncovered a few metres from the ancient sea shore from the 13 th. century B.C. Those graves could well be the graves of the Achaeans who camped here. In addition paleogeographic studies show that the topography of the plain of Troy was very different from the present. For example, around 2000 B.C. the sea level was 1m. higher than today. These scientists believe that "the axis of the battlefield lay to the south of Troy and to the east of Beşik bay. Thus they suggest that Beşik Bay should be considered the site of the lliad and Odyssey to reconsider some of their interpretations in the light of the geological and geographical analyses.

Without objecting to these hypotheses, I think that some of the Achaeans who had rowing boats, despite the strong wind and current, camped on both sides of the mouth of Scamander. If the Achaeans came to Troy with 1200 ships as told in the lliad, they might have camped at Sigeum and Rhoeteum as well as Beşik Bay. For example, I believe that Achilles, who had a quarrel with Agamemnon, camped for away from him.

 

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