2018 is the year of Troy in Turkey and excitement is growing as the western province of Canakkale where the historic city is located, plans a series of events to celebrate its 20th year as a World UNESCO Heritage site.
Declaring 2018 as the year of Troy is not only a celebration but effort to promote its historical status because visitor figures are expected to double from an average of 500,000 people.
Famous celebrities have been invited to join the celebrations. These include Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom and other top performing stars who appeared in the 2004 Troy movie.
Organisers will also invite international athletes to take part in sports and games competitions and actors will participate in replicating famous scenes from the Trojan war. Much anticipated is performances by the renowned Fire of Anatolia dance troupe who have earned countrywide respect for their themed Troy theatrical shows.
A key feature throughout the year will be the 10,000-square meter Troy Museum. With 3000 square meters dedicated to exhibitions, visitors will see a wide range of archaeological artefacts from the city of Troy on display. However, unless efforts are successful, one group of valuable objects will be missing.
For many decades, the Turkish government has negotiated with museums around the world as well as art collectors to reclaim its lost treasures, smuggled out of Turkey by bandits and professionals, mostly during the latter half of Ottoman rule.
The treasures of Helen of Troy also called the Trojan gold, or Priam treasures are one such example. In 2012, with the help of the Penn Museum in the USA, the Turkish government managed to reclaim 24 gold ornaments belonging to the treasure, but this has so far been the only advancement.
In 2015, national newspapers reported the Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture was stepping up its efforts to reclaim the treasures to coincide with the opening of the new Troy Museum. Unfortunately, most of the treasure still sits in room 3 of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art in Moscow, Russia and so far, no news reports suggest any hints of its return.
Throughout history, there was always suggestions, that Troy as described in the famous poem “The Iliad” by Homer was a myth. Then in the 19th century, when excavations began in Hisarlik hill, archaeologists discovered the remains of more than one version of the city, dating over a period of thousands of years.
This is a surprising fact, but Greek mythology also paved the way for legendary stories about Troy to be forever engrained in time.
The first is the face that launched a thousand ships. In Greek mythology, Helen of Sparta was the most beautiful woman in the world and the daughter of Zeus. She fell in love with Paris, the eldest son of King Priam and when she ran away to Troy with him, the Greeks launched a war as revenge.
The war raged on for nine years, and it seemed there was no end in sight. The Greeks realised full-on battle was fruitless, feigned surrender and presented King Priam, with a wooden horse as a token of respect.
Citizens of Troy took the horse inside the city walls but were oblivious to the soldiers hidden inside. When the city went to sleep, the hidden soldiers crept out, opened the gates and the downfall of Troy started, as fires and murders snuffed out its future.
One notable fighter during the war was Achilles, who was half immortal. Towards the end of the war, the king’s son Paris shot him in the heel with an arrow causing his death. The term “Achilles heel” became a popular everyday term to show a person’s weakness.
Excavations are still ongoing in Troy and will continue to do so for many years, but in the meantime, Turkey celebrates its historical importance, not only for the country but also for history and literature.