Troy: Myth and Reality at the British Museum. Did Troy really exist?

I went to see the Troy exhibition at the British Museum recently and I really liked it. I have wanted to see it since it opened as I studied classical works like The Odyssey and classical mythology at school. I was intrigued at what the exhibition would be about and how it would tell the story of Troy and the Trojan war.

The story of the city of Troy is one that goes back thousands of years. It is one of the most important events in classical mythology.

The powerful city of Troy rests on the western coast of Anatolia, now known as Turkey. The Greeks sailed across the Aegean Sea to take revenge for the abduction of one of their queens called Helen. This starts a war that lasts 10 years with the Greeks finally winning by deceiving the inhabitants of Troy. They build a huge wooden horse and leave it outside the gates of Troy, as an offering to the gods, while they pretend to leave. However, in secret, they have assembled their best warriors inside Troy. The Trojans fall for the trick, bring the horse into the city and celebrate their ‘victory’. In the meantime, the hidden Greeks open the gates to the rest of the army that has returned. The city is seized and Troy falls, signifying the end of the city and the war.

Spread by ‘bards’ – storytellers – the story of Troy was presented in the poems The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer as far back as 8th – 7th century BC and are arguably the first great works of Western literature.

Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy…

The Odyssey, Homer (around 700 BC)

Heroes and villains emerge, with the stories addressing universal themes of heroism, violence, love and loss that are still prevalent today. You can read more about the story of Troy here.

The exhibition was very well structured with a nice route, taking you from the beginnings and origins of the stories to its influences and how it is perceived and represented in popular culture.

You can see beautiful ancient scultpures and vases with paintings that tell the different stories of the myths.

Aeneas and his Family Fleeing Burning Troy by Henry Gibbs (1654)
Tate, London
Ceramic vase showing Achilles (the greatest hero fighting the Greeks) killing queen Penthesilea
thens circa. 530 BC
The British Museum

The exhibition also questions if the city of Troy was real with some archeological artefacts and remains on display from during the time and place where Troy was meant to be. You can read more about the search for Troy here.

I thought that the exhibition was very well detailed and informative. It took me around 2 hours to really explore and read all the information. If you’re a fan of classical mythology or simply just want to learn something new, I highly recommend it.

‘Troy: Myth and Reality’ is open until 8th March 2020. You can book tickets here.

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