"According to the archaeological and historical findings of the past decade especially, it is now more likely than not that there were several armed conflicts in and around Troy at the end of the Late Bronze Age. At present we do not know whether all or some of these conflicts were distilled in later memory into the 'Trojan War' or whether among them there was an especially memorable, single 'Trojan War.' However, everything currently suggests that Homer should be taken seriously, that his story of a military conflict between Greeks and the inhabitants of Troy is based on a memory of historical events--whatever these may have been. If someone came up to me at the excavation one day and expressed his or her belief that the Trojan War did indeed happen here, my response as an archaeologist working at Troy would be: Why not?"The article includes two sidebars, "Evidence from Homer for the Trojan War" by Joachim Latacz, a professor of Greek philology who's got a book on the subject coming out later this year, and "Evidence from Hittite Records for the Trojan War" by J.D. Hawkins, a professor of ancient Anatolian languages. The conclusion you can draw from reading both sidebars is that they've found Anatolian records from right around the time of the Crisis of 1200 BCE to a territory called Wilusa, which by exclusion has to be right where the current Trojan digs are; known patterns of linguistic drift would have rendered that as Wilios in Greek of around 1200 BCE, and Ilios (the other name for Troy in the text) by the time of Homer. There's also now reliable dating of the hexameter style of the poem to the 15th century BCE, which renders it not improbable that accounts of a war around the year 1200 could have been rendered in that form and preserved.
This is great news for anybody who cares about Classics studies and archaeology, of course, but even better news for Hellenic Reconstructionist Pagans. You see, the Iliad is one of our best sources for examples of how the ancient Greeks perceived the nature and abilities of the Gods, and even without the movie coming out soon, the Iliad is worth reading even if just for that alone. (Feel free to skip over the excruciating gory details of how each minor character disemboweled other minor characters; I did.)
According to the Wikipedia, the Iliad is available online for free in the following translations:
- Alexander Pope - verse translation, the one that everybody use to have to read, mixes Greek and Latin deity names which I find unbearably distracting
- Edward, Earl of Derby - blank verse, and has all the flaws of Pope with none of the poetry
- Andrew Lang - prose, very readable - this is the translation that was the easiest for me to finish
- Samuel Butler - prose, has its fans, reads like Lang with slightly more modern grammar. This one's also available on Project Perseus in a format where you can click between Butler and the original Greek
- Ian Johnston - free verse, very recent, and the web site seems to be down right this minute. I only just discovered this one, was browsing it through Google cache, very tasty looking