Home > Period, Settings > Why Not Call it Troy?

Why Not Call it Troy?

February 19, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

My last post gave a basic feel for False Light, the novel I’m writing. Its story begins about twenty years after the Trojan War ends, when tales of that victory are still part of daily life. In that post, I also use the name ‘Wilios’ to mean Troy. A reader asked “Why?” That’s a good question. Below is what I hope you will think is a good answer.

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Who conquered Troy? And what happened to the victors after that? We think we know. But do we? Achilles died in the Bronze Age, when Egyptians and Hittites were the two super-powers always clawing for lands in between. On the other hand, Homer lived in the Iron Age, when a faded, inward-looking Egypt was still there, somewhere to the south, but the bard had never heard of anybody called a Hittite. Hmmm… .

Homer’s story of Achilles’ rage amidst the Trojan War was a bard’s song passed from one poet’s memory to the next for twenty generations until it was finally written down. That memorized song somehow made it through the chaos of a centuries-long Dark Age about which we know almost nothing—except that four out of five people died at the start, writing was lost and each surviving village raided the next one for centuries. Today, only a handful of dug-up hints give us even a clue about how bad those times must have been. Or what collapsed the Bronze Age. Or how the Achaeans morphed into the amazing people who thought all those brand new thoughts and made up out of thin air most of what we call Western Civilization.

With False Light I want to bring that lost time and its people to life for you. I also hope to highlight the differences between how things truly were then and what we might assume. In addition, I want to show that human nature is a near-constant, barely changing over thousands of years. Love, hate, villainy, nobility, greed, sacrifice, courage, wisdom, foolishness, seekers of truth and corrupt demagogues have always been with us, and barbarians are always at the gate.

Most of all, I hope to tell a good story.

To help realize these hopes, I’ve chosen to use a lot of scholar-verified words and views from that ancient time. The intent is to make it easier for you as a reader to let go of the Troy you think you know—the Troy with shirtless Brad Pitts and Sean Beans conquering it (just before a ripped Gerard Butler holds off a million or so decadent Persians) or the Troy you fell asleep hearing about for weeks on end in High School. Or both.

So, how does calling Troy ‘Wilios’ fit in with that? Historical accuracy is a factor.

First, Homer called it Wilios. In the Iliad, the bard names the conquered city both ‘Troy’ (Τροη) and ‘Wilios’ (Ϝίλιος). That makes sense. Especially, if you’re a master bard with ten thousand lines of poetry to remember and you have to modify it on the fly each night to please the audience in front of you. Having two or more names for a thing—each with a different number of syllables—makes it much easier to tell a story as a poem, which was Homer’s thing. ”Thank you, thank you! I’ll be here all week. And don’t forget to tip your waitress. House Master, more wine; my throat is dry!.”

Second, Wilios is what its conquerors and defenders called the city. As I noted above, Homer lived as long after the Trojan War as we live after Drake’s victory over the Spanish Armada, or Shakespeare. Language changes over several centuries—wouldst thou not agree, mayhap, sire? And so it was for Homer. The Greek spoken by Troy’s conquerors used a ‘w’ sound, but Homer’s Greek did not. And Hittite records from the time of the Trojan War name the city and its lands Wilusa.

So, for False Light, ‘Troy’ had to be named Wilios, restoring the dropped ‘w’. And ‘the Greeks’ had to be called what they called themselves, Achaeans (also corroborated by those helpful Hittite scribes).

Make sense? I hope so. Even more, I hope these and my other author’s choices will help carry you away into this fascinating time with your mind wide open. You’re going to meet some intriguing people doing some interesting things.

Categories: Period, Settings Tags: , , ,
  1. Brant
    February 19, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Awesome answer, and detail on the novel’s intent! Now really can’t wait.

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