top of page
  • hbanziger

F - 58 : Troy - Greeks looked for Helena but found a powerful Luwian Kingdom

Updated: Jun 20, 2022

Reconstruction of Troy - The Citadel surrounded by a Palace Garden - the Town with its mighty Walls and the Water Ways in the Valley (all photo from E. Zangger's book on Luwians)

Since we will visit Troy in the first week of sailing, I wanted to write about it. The Iliad always puzzled me. Why was King Agamemnon from Mycenae mobilising all the Greek Dukes to take a single town? Standing on the Troy Citadel, you will understand my question. It is really small. We know that Troy had once a harbour and controlled the Dardanelles (Hellespont). For a long time I assumed it controlled the grain trade from the Black Sea to Greece hence its strategic importance. But these shipments started only in the 7th century BC. The war of Troy happened 500 - 600 years earlier. Something was amiss.

Prof. Eberhard Zangger identified the Luwians as the Missing Bronze Culture Civilisation

As ever so often, perseverance and the internet helps. I started with wondering how old Miletus really was and why most of Greek’s important philosophers and thinkers came from Asia Minor and not from Athens or Corinth. Turns out that our history books missed an entire civilization in Western Anatolia, even though it was right in front of our eyes. But thanks to research by Professor Eberhard Zangger, we now can fill the gap. I highly recommend his video on YouTube from 2015. You will get a good idea in 45 minutes:

The Luwian Realm spread over 250'000 sq km compared to Mycenaeans' 60'000 sq km

In a nutshell, the dominant civilization in Anatolia during the bronze age (3’000 – 1’200 BC) were not the Hittites but the Luwians further to the west. The Luwians were part of the Indo-European language family and founded more cities than the Mycenaean, Hittite and Minoan combined. The classical towns of Ephesus or Miletus were built on Luwian settlements. There are >340 known Luwian settlements – albeit only two of them have been excavated: Troy and Beycesultan The Luwians benefitted from a rich environment. When the Tethys Sea floor folded millions of years ago, it lifted the high mountains of Anatolia (the rain catchers), created the broad valleys (fertile alluvial plains) and cracked the tectonic plate which allowed hot metal fumes to rise to the surface.

Luwian Settlements (Black Dots), Mines, Fertile Alluvial Plains and Trade Routes

Western Anatolia is rich in gold, silver, copper and lead. A similar density of precious or heavy metals is only found on the opposite side of the Aegean, in the Macedonian Mountains. In this water rich environment, the Luwians developed early tools of water management and how to use it for irrigation. Canals were built to bring the water to the right places and used for inland transportation. Dredging and construction of dykes was common. When it came to hydrologic engineering, they were probably as sophisticated as the Egyptians. The wealth in agricultural products, cattle and horses, fish and metals led to early trading and an ever-increasing division of labor.

Could only find a few Luwian Artefacts. Guess we find more once Excavations really started

Not surprisingly, the Luwian Kings were known for their wealth. The best know is probably Croesus whom we met in the Blog about the invention of coins. The Luwians were not a centralized kingdom but a loose federation of regional powers. Sometimes they allied with each other or powers like the Hittites, sometimes they went alone.

The Luwian Attacks ended the Hittite Empire and reached quickly Egypt

When they collided with the Hittites, their eastern neighbours, in the 12th century BC, the Luwian invaded Cyprus and the Levant and became known as the sea people who came from "nowhere". The only civilisation who could have mastered naval campaigns on such a scale were the Luwian.

The Sea People in Battle with Ramses III wear the Feathered Hat of the Luwians - Relief is from the Tomb of Ramses III

The re-discovery of Luwian society puts Troy and the Trojan War in a new perspective. Seems that it was a pre-emptive strike of the Mycenaeans against an ever-wealthier rival to the east.

The Mycenaean Attack which led to the Trojan War

Many Luwian harbors were attacked – not only Troy. Troy played a particularly important role amongst the Luwian Kingdoms. It had a hinterland rich in minerals, lots of fertile, arable land and was probably the biggest of all the Luwian cities.

The Mycenaeans attacked many more Ports than just Troy - that is why they needed such.a big Army - it was a Bronze Age War on a Big Scale

Evidence has now become available that there was a big harbor in the plain below the citadel and that Troy had built a slipway and canals to allow vessels to bypass the unfavourable currents of the Hellespont.

Site Map of Troy during the high Bronze Age with the Harbour and the Slipway for Vessels

Troy was far bigger than what we see today but unfortunately the harbour is still buried 5 – 6 meters below today's surface. It must have been a powerhouse. A kingdom so mighty that all of Mycenae had to come together to conquer it. An even then they could not do it and had to use a ruse (the Trojan Horse) to open the gates from inside.

We now also have a good Idea about the Location of the Town of Troy, not just the Citadel

Despite the onslaught of the Myceneans, the Luwian society survived and morphed into the Lydian and Carian civilisations which know about. Eventually the Luwian were conquered by the Persian Empire around 600 BC. Always wondered how Persia could deploy a navy three times as large as the Athenian at the Battle of Salamis (480 BC). Now we know. The Luwians and the Phoenicians provided it.

Aerial Photography of a Typical Luwian Settlement - Isle Höyük on Lake Egirdir

Since only two Luwian towns are excavated, Troy is the only one we can visit. But Troy alone will let us appreciate the sophistication of its bronze culture more than 4'000 years ago. It matches Egypt and Mesopotamia. Knowing that 338 of the already discovered 340 Luwian sites are still to be excavated is exciting news for archeology students. Am looking forward to their findings!

120 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page