Trojan War - The Real Story
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[ 'Where Troy Once Stood' by I.Wilkens, revised edition; Part II, Chapter 1; page 4 of 22 ]

that are essential for the search for Troy's location, as these rivers can still be identified in England today. Here follows the passage describing how eight rivers swept away the Achaean camp wall after the war because 'no offerings had been made to the gods during its construction':

But when…the city of Priam was sacked in the tenth year, and the Argives had gone back in their ships to their dear native land, then verily did Poseidon and Apollo take counsel to sweep away the wall, bringing against it the might of all the rivers that flow forth from the mountains of Ida to the sea – Rhesus and Heptaporus and Caresus and Rhodius, and Granicus and Aesepus, and goodly Scamander, and Simoïs, by the banks whereof many shields of bull's hide and many helms fell in the dust, and the race of men half-divine – all of these did Phoebus Apollo turn the mouths together, and for nine days' space he drave their flood against the wall ; and Zeus rained ever continually, that the sooner he might whelm the wall in the salt sea. And the Shaker of Earth, bearing his trident in his hands, was himself the leader, and swept forth upon the waves all the foundations of beams and stones, that the Achaeans had laid with toil, and made all smooth along the strong stream of the Hellespont, and again covered the great beach with sand, when he had swept away the wall ; and the rivers he turned back to flow in the channel, where aforetime they had been wont to pour their fair streams of water. Thus were Poseidon and Apollo to do in the aftertime…. (XII,17-35)

If we assume that the Iliad is a dramatized account of historical events, we must also explain how floods could wipe out a long earthen wall over its full length in a very short time. This appears to be perfectly possible provided there is a particular configuration of watercourses, as we will find hereafter.

The river Scamander was also 'called Xanthus by the gods'(XX, 74). The Iliad mentions a ninth river in the Trojan plain: the Satnioïs (VI,34 ;XIV,445 ;XXI,87). Further away was the Caystrius (II,461) while there was still another river at 'great distance from Troy', the Axius (II,849). Finally, the Odyssey mentions a river called Temese (1,184).

Upon examination, one finds more than a vague resemblance with the British rivernames as it appears that Homer's rivernames have survived virtually intact after some 3200 years and despite Britain's numerous foreign invasions and extensive linguistic evolution (see the corresponding numbers on Map 2) :

(Map 2: Troy In England)

Ancient Greek
(= 'seven fords')
HeptaporusHiz and Ivel
(have seven fords)
3KARESosCARESusKARESdic in the
Middle Ages,
now CAR Dike
4RHODIosRHODIusRODIng (4a) or
Kennett (4b)
6AISEposAESEpusISE (6a) or Lark (6b)
9SatniOEIS SatniOÏSLittle OUSe
10KAÜSTRiosCAYSTERYare (near


[ 'Where Troy Once Stood' by I.Wilkens, revised edition; Part II, Chapter 1; page 5 of 22 ]

Despite their age and transcription into ancient Greek, the prehistoric rivernames show such a high degree of similarity with those of actual rivers in England both individually and as a group, that there can be little doubt that Troy was situated in Cambridgeshire. The random geographic order in which the poet listed the rivers in his epic can be explained by the requirements of meter. A more serious problem is that some rivers have changed course in the lowlands known as 'Fenlands' or have been canalized, while the Karesos has disappeared altogether. This is not surprising in a landscape which has been subject to important changes over time, either by nature or human intervention. In some places the soil has sunk several meters due to the drainage of marshes, peat shrinkage, peat burning and turf cutting while the silting up of the Wash has moved the shore nearly forty kilometers farther north. The region has changed to such an extent that we must rely on historical reconstructions by geographers5.

Among the rivers, a particular problematic case is the Karesos, the present Car Dike, an extinct river which was canalized in Roman times and which was still called 'Karesdic' in the medieval Danelaw Charter. As its watercourse has dried up over time, only a small part of the ancient river is retraceable in Cambridgeshire.

The Heptaporos (Greek for 'seven fords') could well be the river Hiz, which continues as the Ivel before running into the Great Ouse because it did have seven fording places close together at Ickleford, Langford, Biggleswade, Stratford, Girtford, Tempsford en Barford6. Of these, Ickleford is situated on the prehistoric Icknield Way, a road running from Avebury in the southwest to Norfolk in the northeast which would have existed in Homer's time.

The Rhodios, one of the eight rivers that washed away the Achaean campwall, cannot be the present Roding as this river flows south to the Thames. But Rhodios could have been the name of a northwards flowing roddon now called the Kenneth, as ancient watercourses in the Fenlands are still called roddons or rodhams.

Phonetically, the Aisepos has survived as the Ise. But it flows into the Nene too far west of Cambridge to be the river meant by Homer. There is, however, reason to think that the river Lark was meant which flows east of the Cambridge plain, because Homer specifies that the Aesepus rises 'from the nethermost foot of Ida' (II,824). The Ida, meaning 'woods', are the hills that bounded Troy on the south and east. The Lark does indeed rise from the spurs of the hills around Cambridge, near Bury St Edmunds. Parts of these hills are still covered with forests known as 'Ditton Woods'. Homer also says that the locals 'drink the black water of Aesepus' (II,825), and it could well be that the villages Drinkstone and Blackthorpe near Bury St Edmunds are reminders of ancient rituals associated with the Aesepus.

We may infer that the Simoeis would be the Great Ouse because the goddess Hera stayed her horses where this river joins the Scamandrios (V,775), the present Cam. The Satnioeis was then the Little Ouse, a river that was not part of the group of eight rivers that washed away the Achaean campwall, as it flowed into the Wash northeast of the camp.

The region of the 'streams of Kaüstrios' which the poet described as being particularly rich in fowl, including cranes, is the wide estuary of the Yare in Norfolk with its many bird sanctuaries. The Yare was called the 'Gariennos' by Ptolemy in the 1st century AD and 'Gerne' in the Middle Ages. These names are cognate with the word for 'crane' in both Greek (geranos) and Welsh (garan). These days the cranes are rather rare here because of the draining of marshes and agricultural development. But the Homeric name 'Caystrius' (or 'Cayster') is preserved in the region by Caister-on-Sea, Caister Castle and Caistor St Edmund.

The 'wide-flowing Axios' being 'far from Troy' in allied territory (II,849) must be the mile-wide river Exe in Devonshire, Southwest England.


[ 'Where Troy Once Stood' by I.Wilkens, revised edition; Part II, Chapter 1; page 6 of 22 ]

Regarding the Temese, which is mentioned only in the Odyssey (1,184), Homer supplies no information as to its location. It is very likely that the Thames is meant not only because it was called Tamesis in Roman times and Temes in the Middle Ages but also because bronze was traded here, produced with tin from Cornwall, which was the only major source of the metal left in Europe by 1200 BC, a fatal circumstance which would eventually – after nine years of preparation - lead to the Trojan War.

In Turkey, only a few rivers were given names from the Iliad, but without regard to the particular configuration described in the epic. Besides, they are flowing wide apart in various regions of the country, invalidating the scene of the Achaean campwall being swept away by the combined force of eight rivers (see Map 1b in Part I, Chapter 1). As the Troad's group of rivers cannot be found elsewhere in Europe, the 'broad plain of Troy' must have been the wide plain in Cambridgeshire.

(Map 1a: Traditional site of Troy in Turkey - zoomed in)

(Map 1a: Traditional site of Troy in Turkey - zoomed out)

The War Dykes

Every now and then the 'riddle of the dykes' is brought up in the regional press as the public often wonders about the origin and purpose of the two enormous dykes northeast of Cambridge, called the Fleam Dyke and the Devil's Dyke or Devil's Ditch. (In addition there are the smaller Bran or Heydon Ditch, and the Brent and Mile Ditches, built as barriers on the prehistoric Icknield Way). As these dykes obviously have no hydraulic function they may have had a military purpose by forming a barrier linking the river Cam to the west to dense forests on the hills to the east. The plain itself had already been cleared around 2000BC according to archaeological research. Although the dykes and ditches seem to be meant as barriers to horse-drawn war chariots, it was never clear for which war. The dykes were not mentioned by Roman historians as they were probably of no use to the Roman army. But after the discovery of a Roman coin and potsherds under one part of the Fleam Dyke, the earthworks were believed to date from the time of the tribal warfare between the Mercians and the East Angles in the sixth and seventh century AD. Although this has been confirmed by radio-carbon dating of parts of the Fleam Dyke7, elements of much older earthworks seem to have been used in the most eastern part of the dyke where a few potsherds of the early and middle Bronze Age were found. The archaeologist Prof. McKenny Hughes therefore preferred to speak of 'multi-period dykes' while more recently Alison Taylor cautiously concluded that 'though most defensive dykes in Cambridgeshire have been shown to be Anglo-Saxon in their final phase, they often seem to be preceded by Iron Age works, and elsewhere in East Anglia they are commonly Iron Age in date. This is also a strong possibility for the Fen Ditton example'8 (Fen Ditton, or High Ditch, is the western part of the Fleam Dyke near the Cam).

It could well be that the dykes are late Bronze Age in their very first phase but that they had been partly set, eroded and levelled by the fifth century AD when they were reconstructed by the invading Anglo-Saxons for their wars with the Mercians. Seen from the air, cropmarks show a former extension of the Fleam Dyke which might well be very ancient but which is now ploughed under. What remains today of the Devil's Dyke and the Fleam Dyke are stretches with a length of 12 and 6 kilometers respectively, an average height of 5 meters and a ditch about 4 meters deep. The overall width of the dykes and the ditches combined is about 30 meters at the base. A large army must have been at work to construct the two dykes which run parallel at a distance of 10 kilometers (see Map 3). The ditches dug in front of the dykes

(Map 3: The Battlefield of Troy)


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Author: Iman Wilkens, FRANCE
Contact address: Trojan War, Tipyn o Gymru, Northway Lane, Tewkesbury, GL20 8HA, United Kingdom

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