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J. G. Von Hahn's report of his excavations at Balli Dağ in 1864: The Finlay translation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 September 2013

David A. Traill
University of California, Davis


In May 1864, J. G. von Hahn sought to prove by excavation that the summit of Balli Dağ behind Pinarbasi was the citadel of Homeric Troy. This was the first systematic attempt to identify the site of Troy by archaeological rather than merely topographical evidence. Assisted by J. F. Julius Schmidt and Ernst Ziller, von Hahn excavated stretches of walling, including parts of the perimeter wall. These appeared to range in date from very early (‘Cyclopian’) to the second century BC. But he found no evidence that the site had been occupied in the pre-classical period. He concluded, however, that since Balli Dağ matched so perfectly the indications given in the Iliad, Homer must have visited the site and chosen it as the location for his poem. Von Hahn reported on his excavations in two letters (in German) to George Finlay, later publishing them in that form. Finlay's careful English translation of these reports, published here for the first time, follows a brief introduction.

Copyright © The Council, British School at Athens 1997

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page 169 note 1 In 1853 Frank Calven excavated the tumulus known as the Tomb of Priam at the summit of Balli Dağ and a necropolis outside the city walls. These excavations seem to have been of limited scope and can hardly be characterized as a search for the city of Troy. Their results, however, together with the visible traces of what he judged to be late walling and the complete lack of earlier material convinced Calvert, even before von Hahn's excavations, that the ruins were too late to be those of Homeric Troy. He identified the site as Gergis; see Calvert's, Contributions towards the Ancient Geography of the Troad. On the site of Gergithe’, Arch. J. 21 (1864) 4853Google Scholar and Allen, S., ‘“Finding the Walls of Troy”: Frank Calvert, Excavator’, AJA 99 (1995) 379407CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. 389–90 n. 62.

page 169 note 2 For further details, see the article in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, x. 366–9.

page 170 note 3 Schmidt anticipated him with a brief account of the excavations published in 1864: ‘Dr v. Hahn's Ausgrabungen im Gebiete von Troja. Sendschreiben an Herrn Prof. Welcker in Bonn’, Rh.M. n.s. 19 (1864), 591–601.

page 170 note 4 Finlay's translation is preserved among the Finlay Papers in the British School of Achaeology at Athens. I am grateful to the Director, Professor Richard Tomlinson, for permission to publish it.

page 170 note 5 For further information on most of these figures, consult the index to Cook, J. M., The Troad (Oxford, 1973).Google Scholar G. von Eckenbrecher, W. Gell, H. N. Ulrichs, and P. W. Forchhammer, all mentioned by von Hahn, are also discussed by Cook. On Calvert, see also Robinson, M., ‘Pioneer, Scholar, and Victim: An Appreciation of Frank Calvert (1828–1908)’, Anat. Stud. 44 (1994) 153–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar, ‘Frank Calvert and the Discovery of Troia’, Studia Troica 5 (1995), 323 41, and Allen (supra n. 1).

page 171 note 6 For a moderm parallel compare the humorous, but nonetheless semi-official, designation of the pinnacle in squares E4/5 at Troy as ‘Mansfeld-Tepe’; see Studia Troica, 2 (1992), 23.

page 171 note 7 See note 1 above. Calvert's article was presented on 5 Feb. 1864: see Allen (n. 1) 389–90, n. 62. Cook, however, on the basis of coin finds, has identified Karincali as the site of Gergis; see his Troad, 347–50.

page 171 note 8 For Brøndsted's views on Pinarbaşi/Ballı Dağ see Dorph, N. B. (ed.), P. O. Brøndsteds Reise i Grœkenland i Aarene 1810–1813. (Copenhagen, 1844), II. 280353.Google Scholar For relevant excerpts in English, see Mejer, J., ‘Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt and Heinrich Schliemann’ in William M., Calder III and Justus, Cobet (eds.), Heinrich Schliemann nach hundert Jahren (Frankfurt, 1990) 302–5.Google Scholar

page 171 note 9 For instance, in the discussion of the Curtius Steps near the beginning of the second letter, Finlay's translation, reflecting von Hahn's original version, reads: ‘None of us remembers having seen any similar ancient construction and from the style of the masonry we place it among the best remains of ancient building which are known.’ In the margin, however, Finlay pointed out a parallel in the recently excavated Theatre of Dionysus in Athens. In the published German version von Hahn omitted the sentence ‘None of us remembers …’ and substituted the reference to the similar construction in the Theatre of Dionysus.

page 171 note 10 Cook, Troad, 128–40; Kossatz-Pompé, A.-U., ‘Balli Dağ, der Berg von Pinarbaşi: Eine Siedlung in der Troas’, Studia Troica 2 (1992), 171–83.Google Scholar

page 173 note 1 See Fig. 2.

page 175 note 2 Fig. 1 b Reyer Blocks {Reyer-Quadern} On the naming of the different parts of the acropolis, see the opening of the following letter.

page 175 note 3 Fig. 1 d-e Prokesch Bastion {Prokesch-Bastion}.

page 175 note 4 Fig. 1 c Reyer Passage {Reyer-Gang} ; drawing on Fig. 4; see also pp. 180–1

page 175 note 5 Fig. 1 g Spratt Terrace {Spratt-Terrasse}.

page 176 note 6 Hahn, J. G. von, Albanesuche Studien I, 121.Google Scholar

page 176 note 7 Fig. 1 f.

page 176 note 8 Such shelving foundations are still found today in many parts of Greece, even in plains, particularly where the penetration of water under the wall must be guarded against.

page 176 note 9 Fig. 1 h Leake Wall {Leake-Mauer}

page 176 note 10 Fig. 1 i-p Mauduit Wall {Mauduit-Mauer}.

page 177 note 11 Fig. 1 v Finlay Polygonals {Finlay-Polygone} sketch on Fig. 3.

page 177 note 12 Fig. 1 w Hahn Corner {Hahn-Eck}; sketch on Fig. 3.

page 177 note 13 Fig. 1 x.

page 177 note 14 Fig. 1 u Ziller Wall {Ziller-Mauer}.

page 177 note 15 Fig. 1 dd Lechevalier Square {Lechevalier-Viereck}; see also p. 181 below.

page 179 note 16 The square blocks of the square building on the summit of the acropolis described above were quarried on the spot. The two large corner stones are of white stone and consequently have been brought from a distance.

page 180 note 17 Fig. 1. Acropolis von Pergamos.

page 180 note 18 See p. 177 above and Fig. 3.

page 180 note 19 Sketch on Fig. 3.

page 180 note 20 See pp. 175–6 above.

page 180 note 21 See p. 175 above and Fig. 4.

page 181 note 22 See pp. 177–9 above.

page 181 note 23 Sketch on Fig. 4.

page 183 note 24 Steph. {Byz., Ethnika,} ad vocem mentions also the form Γἑργις genit. Γέργιθος and adds that the town had a temple of Apollo, in which was the grave of the prophetic Sibyl and that this Sibyl was represented on the coins of Gergith. Perhaps the form of the town's name is Aeolic and its original form Gorgis, like Kerkyra for Korkyra; see {F. G.} Welcker, , Kleine Schriften II, 39, note 71.Google Scholar It seems, however, that Herodotus does not rank its inhabitants, who were descendants of the ancient Teucrians, among the Aeolians, for he says (5.122): ῾Yμέησ) εἰλε δὲ έργιθας, τοὺς ὑπολειφθἑνταστῶνἀρΧαίωνΤευχρῶν ‘(Hymeës) captured the Gergithians, the remnants of the ancient Teucrians.’ Ephorus (see Strabo, 678 {= 14.5.23 = FGrH 70 F1}) also ranks the Trojans amongst the barbarian tribes of the country and in the Iliad the Achaeans and Trojans are considered as ἀλλοδαποί (Il. 3.49, 19.324, 24.382).

page 183 note 25 The remarks of Stephanus in the previous note may be connected with the Lechevalier Square, the contiguous oblong and the female figurine.

page 183 note 26 The Mendere is the chief river of the Troad. The length of its course exceeds 7 German miles (33.6 km), the breadth of its river-bed in the lower reaches, 200–300 feet. Its drainage system extends over one third of the range of Mt Ida and the water that it carries from there in winter converts the plain into a lake. In contrast, the springs from whose immediate confluence the stream of Bunarbashi (Bunarbashi-Su) is formed, never cause a significant rise in the stream, and the run-off from the northern slope of the chain of hills that borders the south end of the plain—a drainage area of at most four English miles broad by two long—can cause the stream to flood its banks only in the event of heavy thunderstorms and then only for a few hours.

Of the tributaries which flow into the Mendere in the plain, the Bunarbashi has by far the smallest drainage area. Both the Kemer and the Dumbrek are much more liable to flooding than the Bunarbashi, not only because of their much more extensive drainage areas, but also because they flow through enclosed valleys. Neither is mentioned in the Iliad. We consider the Thymbra mentioned at Il. 10. 428–30 (πρὁς μἐν ἀλὀς ‘on the seaward side’ πρὸςΘὺμβρης ‘on the Thymbra side’ instead of ‘to the east’ and ‘to the west’) to refer to the dry, hilly land between the two streams, for the Θὺμβρα plant (satureia mont.), known only there, does not grow by streams or in marshes. We consider it impossible that the Iliad should have passed over the three other streams of the Troad and turned this, the smallest one, into the river that floods the plain (for this is the primary characteristic of the Scamander), and in the fight of the gods, set it beside the Olympian gods as the only local god of the Troad. The companion of the Olympians could only be the chief god of the region. Consequently, if it was a river-god, it could only be the Mendere. We understand therefore the often quoted words, ἒνθαδὲ;πηγαὶ at 22. 148 not in the sense “where the two springs of the Scamander gush forth” but as “where two springs flowing into the Scamander gush forth.” The lower course of the Bunarbashi stream even today has no independent name; it is usually called after the hamlet Jerkessi, while the names Bunarbashi (‘head of the springs’) and Kirk Giös (‘forty eyes’) are restricted to the area of the springs. Similarly, we assume that at the aforementioned lines the poet simply forgot the name of the intervening stream (the Simois), which those springs have to pass through before flowing into the Scamander. I could give several examples where natives I questioned about the course of streams, omitted two or three intervening rivers and represented the stream we were discussing as flowing directly into the main river or the sea (see, for example, my Reise von Belgrad nach Salonika {Vienna, 1861} 69). We should not expect from Homer the scholarly terminology of today's geography.

Most of the year the bed of the Mendere shows two broad expanses of bright yellow sand on both sides of the current of water, which even in summer is yellow in colour. The name Xanthos (‘yellow’) therefore reflects the natural appearance of the river, while the colour of the clear, transparent water of the Bunarbashi flowing through dark bogs could only give rise to the name Melas (‘black’). In holding the view that Mendere = Scamander we ally ourselves with all the more recent researchers known to us, such as Welcker, Ulrichs, Eckenbrecher and Brøndsted. Only Forchhammer persists in the old view, put forward by Lechevalier, that Mendere = Simois.

page 185 note 27 {F. G.} Welcker, , Kleine Schriften, II, 60.Google Scholar

page 185 note 28 Il. 21.544 ff.

page 185 note 29 Strabo, 598 {= 13.1.35}, mentions a sanctuary of Apollo Thymbrius at the junction of the river Thymbrius (today's Kemer) with the Scamander. If Apollo, in the guise of Agenor (whom he has safely spirited away) lures Achilles as far as the Scamander (21.603), I do not think it improbable that he leads him to the place where his sanctuary either existed in the time of Homer or was later built in accordance with this passage of the Iliad. Achilles would therefore have pursued Apollo not quite two English miles in a northeasterly direction and would have returned from the northeast towards the Scaean Gate, thus forcing Hector to flee westwards towards the springs.

page 185 note 30 Il. 21.131–2. This was probably in winter to moderate the fury of its inundation. To form some idea of the scale of these floods, we followed Forchhammer's method and measured the height of the bramble bushes left by the last flood in the highest trees in the ravine below Balli Dagh. The height was in some places 42 feet, and in others 20 to 30 feet, above the water-surface in the river. Similar remains of brushwood in the trees like bird's nests were found at the junction of the Kemer Su with the Mendere, where the plain is level and has a breadth that takes one and half hours to traverse. Here the brushwood was thirteen feet above the level of the river in the month of April 1864. Both the fords of the Mendere were then two feet deep and wooden rafts could be transported on the river to the sea under the direction of one or two men. The inundation of 1863–64 was not an extraordinary one. (It could not be determined, however, whether the brushwood caught up in the trees that we measured dated from the flood of that or an earlier winter.〉 In very warm summers the bed of the river becomes quite dry with the exception of a few pools. From this it follows that the Mendere is at times a navigable river and at times as dry as Sibthorp and von Esthen describe it. Mr Frank Calvert can confirm their description, maintaining that he has seen the river-bed completely dry, but does not remember in what year.

page 185 note 31 Strabo, 581 {=13.1.1}: ῾Ομηρος εὶχὰζειν περὶ τω̑ν πλεὶστωνπαρὲχων᾿

page 186 note 32 Il. 22.145: οὶ δὲ παρὰ σχοπιὴ σαὶ ἐρινεὸν ἠνεμὸεντα τεὶχεος αἰὲν ὑπὲχ ;χατ᾿ἀμαξιτὸν ἐσσεὺοντο χρουνὼ δ᾿῾ὶχανον χαλλιρρὸω

(‘They sped past the lookout post and the windswept fig-tree, always keeping close under the wall, along the wagon-road, and they came to the two clear-running springs’).

page 186 note 33 Il. 22. 157: τῆ ῥα παραδραμὲτην (‘Here they ran past’).

page 186 note 34 Il. 22. 162 ff.

page 186 note 35 Il. 22. 190: διὰ τἂγχεα χαὶ διὰ βὴσσας See scholia {ad loc.} and {C. T.} Damm, {Novum Lexicon Graecum, ed. V. C. F. Rost (Leipzig, 1831)}, s.v. βῆσσα

page 186 note 36 Welcker {n. 27 above} suspects that this plain is the Idaean field mentioned by Agenor.

page 186 note 37 The course round the wall according to the Iliad is certainly not too much for exercised athletes. The smallest circle round Troy which the ground admits is about 30 stades or about one and a half hours' running time. The Athenian herald Phidippides ran the 1200 stades between Athens and Sparta in two days! Also the poet considers the feasibility of the course self-evident and only occupies himself with the question why Achilles could not overtake Hector. To explain this, he mentions that Achilles was wounded under the knee by the spear of Agenor and fatigued by the earlier pursuit of Apollo. For the same reason he makes Hector run without his shield and, as if all this was not sufficient, he is strengthened by Apollo himself. 〈Here we find the supernatural and rationalist explanations juxtaposed, but having no more to do with one another than when they contradict each other in the first and second books. For anyone with any insight into Greek partisanship, there can be no doubt that the poet sees the true intent of the opposition party in the Achaean army (which only uses the plague and Chryseis as a means to an end) to be to weaken respect for the king. Yet out of love for the Danaans, Hera inspires in Achilles the idea of calling this disastrous assembly (1.55). Similarly, Agamemnon makes it clear (2.74) that he intends to be forced into leading out the army because he is afraid that his orders for it to set out will not be obeyed. At 2.155 this is forgotten and Hera and Athena are summoned to intervene; see my Aphorismen über den Bau der Ilias und Odyssee {Jena 1856} 16 and 61. Also, in 24.358, Priam forgets that he has been expressly promised Hermes as an escort (24.182).〉

page 137 note 38 Il. 2.811: ἒστι δὲ τις προπὰροιθε πὸλιος αἰπει̑α χολὼνη ἐν πεδι1ῳ ἀπὰνευθε .περὶδρομος ἒνθα χαὶ ἒνθα

(‘There is a steep ridge in the plain at some distance in front of the city with running-space around it on all sides’).

page 137 note 39 On the hill Dedé on the left bank of the Mendere and on the south slope of the plateau whose northern point it forms, we found some slight remnants of ancient vases. Also to be found on the hill Dedé is the inscription composed of five unknown letters, of which Spratt gives a faithful copy as a vignette in his map of Troy.

page 188 note 40 To judge from the style of the numerous shafts of columns and other architectural fragments in the village of Bunarbashi, they were probably brought from New Ilium, the general quarry of the Troad.

page 188 note 41 The existing strata of the rock have so striking a resemblance to the substructions of walls that although we were familiar with this peculiarity, in several places we were so much in doubt as to feel it necessary to make a careful examination of the spot. It is not therefore astonishing if ancient poets considered them to be the remnants of walls constructed by the gods. I would nevertheless restrict this observation to the two sides of the town wall, which, according to the supposition of the Iliad (for there is no express indication), ran down from the Pergamus to the plain on its north side. That the remains of a ruined city-gate between the springs and the Mendere were still in evidence at the time of the poet and that these ruins were meant by the poet when he spoke of the Scaean gate appears to us more probable than the contrary. We consider therefore the future discovery of its foundation to be not impossible.

page 188 note 42 In my opinion, myths are formed at the same time and in the same manner as language and the formation of myths ceases when language acquires its permanent form. See my dissertation, ‘Über Bildung und Wesen der mythischen Form’, in Z.för Philosophie und philolog. Kritik, vol. 40, p. 48 ff.

page 188 note 43 This opinion rests principally on the following propositions:

1) The Baldur and Idunn myths of the Edda and the German Gudrun myths are the northern counterparts of these Grecian myths. Their derivation from the Greek is impossible because the first two are myths concerning the gods and consequently older in their form than the heroic myths of the Greeks.

2) Nothing could be further from the mind of a Greek poet than the idea of dividing his gods between his own people and foreign (ἀλλοδαποὶ Il. 3.49, 19.324, 24.382) enemies. This division, which is represented in the Iliad, can only be explained by the supposition that this was the original form of the myth and this form was preserved when it developed from a myth about the gods into a myth about heroes.

3) The principal goddess of the Troad and Mt. Ida in historic times is unknown to Homer. This was the ancient Phrygian Mother of the gods with her Corybants, Dactyls and orgiastic worship; 〈the bronze figure found by Choiseul when he opened the so-called Tumulus of Achilles represents this goddess.〉. In the Iliad, Zeus alone is in possession of Ida and Hera rests by his side. 〈It follows not only that the myth of the Iliad cannot have originated on Trojan soil, but also that by the time when it took fresh root there its pantheon of gods had already been firmly fixed and so did not allow the addition of a new deity.〉 In a work which I am about to publish, I shall attempt to establish these facts more completely. The title is ‘Vergleichender Blick auf die hellenischen und germanischen Götter- Helden- und Weltsagen.’

page 188 note 44 I agree with Curtius that the oldest historical settlements of the Greeks concerning which we have any evidence are in the coastal area of Asia Minor; see {Ernst} Curtius, , Ionier vor der ionischen Wanderung {Berlin, 1855}Google Scholar

page 189 note 45 {On Jacob Bryant's contributions to the debate about the site of Troy, see Lascarides, A. C., The Search for Troy (Bloomington, Ind., 1977) 38, 41 2.}Google Scholar