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F + 1 : The Revenge of the Trojans

At 4 am, the rattling of our anchor chain woke me up for a brief moment. The captain was lifting anchor. It was time to sail to Cardak on the Dardanelles where Serhan, our guide, was waiting. Cardak is the place where the new suspension bridge crosses the Straits linking Izmir and Bodrum to Istanbul. It was opened in March 2022 by President Erdogan.

The 1915 Canakkale Bridge was built for 300 cars/min. It struggles to achieve 300 cars/h

Serhan took us on a morning stroll through Canakkale, a town that developed around the Ottoman fortresses guarding the Dardanelles. As the Rumeli castle north of Istanbul, they were built by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror to secure the Straits. They saw action in 1812 and than again in 1915. Both times against the Royal Navy. Canakkale today is a vibrant town and home to one of Turkey's best universities. Its population increased from 30'000 people thirty years ago to 330'000 as of today.

The Trojan horse used for the movie "Troy" stands now at Canakkale's harbour front

Our guide took us then to the mine layer TCG Nusret, which played a crucial roles during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, when it laid 26 mines at night in the "Dark Harbour" bay. It was the place where English and French battle ships turned. The mines blew up the French battleship Bouvet, HMS Irresistible, HMS Ocean and badly damaged HMS Inflexible. It was the end of the naval campaign. Despite the loss of four battleship the English-French fleet had achieved little.

A Replica of the TCG Nusret in the Harbour of Canakkale

Parts of the three sunken battle ships are still on the sea floor. In the early 1960s, the Turkish government allowed a few private firms to salvage the wrecks but most of the hulls are still there. Armour graded steal must have been valuable!

Newspaper Coverage of the Gallipoli Naval Campaign in 1915

Since last year, enthusiastic scuba divers can go wreck diving in the "Dark Harbour". In 20 meters depth lies the wreck of HMS Majestic which was sunk by a German submarine during the Gallipoli Campaign.

Scuba Divers visiting the Remains of HMS Majestic on the Bottom of the Dardanelles

After Canakkale, our next stop was Troy, the old Luwian town which I described in my blog F-54. There is actually an excellent website on Luwian Studies which summarises the latest findings and conclusions. In a nutshell, the 10-years-long Trojan war was not about Helen but regional hegemony. The Greek army comprised contingents from all major Greek cities and kingdoms, so did the Trojan Army.

This Map shows the Achaean Alliance (Mycenae) and the Allies of Troy

Some sources say that the Greek forces before Troy numbered 120'000 men and had 1'200 ships. But these numbers are highly exaggerated. Achaean Greece had around 600'000 people in the late Bronze Age only. Using the sustainable force/population ratio of 2.5%, the Greek Army could not have been larger than 15'000 men - a number which sounds about right. A city like Troy with 10'000 inhabitants could not be taken though by such a small force. Catapults, rams and siege towers were not invented yet. They showed up only by 900 BC. In their absence, the fighting between Greek and Trojans ended in a stalemate.

The mighty Walls of Troy 7 from around 1'200 BC

There is one question I could not resolve yet. The Greek were able to build a horse with the planks of their ships. The size of the horse is about the size of a siege tower and it is also on wheels. So why did the Greek not build siege towers?

The Progress of Sedimentation by the Scamandar River - Troy lost its Access to the Sea

Whilst the Ilias is still told today and movies like "Troy" find wide audiences, the slow but unstoppable sedimentation by the Scamandar river cut Troy off the sea. It lost its function as safe harbour at the entrance to the Dardanelles where ships could wait until a favourable wind from the south would carry them through the Straits. Roman Emperors though loved the place and built new structures like the Odeon on the site of the old Citadel. A beautiful statue of Emperor Hadrian was thus found in Troy.

Hadrian's Statue can be seen in Troy's great Museum

The inspiration was not limited to Romans alone. Nine years after his conquest of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed visited the area of Troy and apparently said "Allah granted us the right to avenge this city (Troy) and its people after all these years". The renaissance men who spoke Latin, Greek, Farsi, Arag and Turkish and had read the Ilias saw himself as legitimate successor of the Trojan King Priam and his sons Hector and Paris.

Sultan Mehmed, the Conqueror of Istanbul in 1453

Our day ended with the crossing of the Dardanelles. We need a bay well protected from wind and waves for a quiet night. Tomorrow, we shall visit the Gallipoli battlefields where Australians, New Zealanders, French, British and Turkish troops fought valiantly but eventually for nothing.

Sunset over the S Beach in Gallipoli where Irish Troops landed

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