Yesterday I received an interesting letter from a professor in Croatia who wanted me to hear about his pet theory that Homer’s Troy is actually located in Croatia. Vedran Sinožić is a professor specializing in Istrian history, and wouldn’t you know that he determined that the Trojan War took place in Istria. According to the description of the expanded second edition of his book Our Troy, “Istrian historian Vedran Sinožić presents his knowledge of the true location of ancient Troy. After many years of research and exhaustive work on collecting all available information and knowledge, Sinožić provides numerous arguments that prove that the legendary Homeric Troy is not located in Hisarlik in Turkey, but is located in the Republic of Croatia—in today’s town of Motovun in Istria.”
The second edition of his book appeared last year, and Sinožić spent much of this year promoting the book at international book fairs and in Eastern European media. Sinožić says that he is in the process of producing a sequel to the book as part of a planned three-volume series. He told me that he contacted me because he hoped to share his ideas with the American people.
Sinožić says that his hypothesis is based on the notion that the center of the Greek world was not the Aegean Sea but the Adriatic, and therefore the events recorded in Greek mythology actually occurred in the area between Dalmatia and Italy rather than between Greece and Asia Minor.
The argument revolves around what he sees as a series of geographic and linguistic correspondences between Homeric accounts and the geography and language of Istria at the head of the Adriatic, as well as the fact the Odysseus’ Ithaca has always been connected to the western side of Greece and the Adriatic rather than the east and the Aegean. Since I do not speak Croatian, I have not read the book but only brief accounts available online and through what Sinožić told me.
While there is a superficial logic to this general idea, there is the bigger problem that accepting it would require a wholesale revision of our entire understanding of Mycenaean and Greek history, a rejection of the established connections between the Mycenaean world of Greece and the Hittite world of Anatolia, and a rejection of the linguistic and archaeological evidence that the myth of the Trojan War derived from late Mycenaean or sub-Mycenaean wars with the city-states of what is now Turkey. The correspondence, for example, between Hittite references to place names like Wilusa and people like Alexander, and their Homeric counterparts is increasingly difficult to dismiss, especially to replace it with less directly related linguistic elements from Slavic languages.
But at heart, the argument is an emotional one rather than a logical one, something that the author admits in describing his book for a Croatian publication: “I was led by some feeling or instinct to find Troy in Istria. With frequent visits to the towns and villages of Istria, filled with a feeling of love, I came to Motovun. After just one day reading Truhel, I realized that Motovun must be Troy, and that Ithaca must be the island of Unije, because it must be near to Troy.” Unije was known to the Romans as Nis, from which the modern name derives, but to my knowledge there is no evidence of a Greek presence in the Bronze Age. Similarly, for the Trojan War to have taken place in Istria would require so much more infrastructure and so many more archaeological remains that currently exist.
This seems to be another case of the curious law that those who go looking for famous people and events in unusual places often find them close to their homes.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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