Ep. 017 – Black Ships on Trojan Shores

Today we delve into a grey area between myth and history: the Trojan War. The Homeric epic poem The Iliad is now one of the most well known Greek myths. Before the discoveries of Mycenae and Troy around the turn of the century, almost no one believed that the Trojan War had actually happened. Now, archaeological evidence from Troy and other Anatolian coastal cities, combined with letters and treaties found in Hittite archives give us a glimpse at a what may be the historical basis of the Trojan War. Homer tells us of black ships on Trojan shores and of epic clashes between heroes who were aided by the gods. The Hittite archives tell us of Mycenaean raiders on the Anatolian coast and of a Hittite king who moved in to quell a Mycenaean backed rebellion. Listen to today's episode to see what we now know about the state of the Bronze Age world at the time Herodotus thought the Trojan War had been fought.

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  • Hiller, Stefan, The Mycenaeans and the Black Seain Robert Laffineur & Lucien Busch (eds.), Thalassa: L'Egèe préhistorique et la mer, pp. 207–216 (Liège: Univerité de Liège, 1991).
  • Kelder, Jorrit M., Mycenaeans in Western Anatolia, in Talanta, Proceedings of the Dutch Archaeological and Historical SocietyVols. 36-37 (2004-2005).

  2 comments for “Ep. 017 – Black Ships on Trojan Shores

  1. Judy economou
    May 11, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    I have a question about King Suppiluliuma (Hittite) and the request from King Tutankamen’s widow “for a son to marry”around 1338 bc how would a messenger travel and how long would it take from Thebes to Karkamis Turkey on the Syrian border where he was fighting? by horse,chariot, boat?

    • Brandon Huebner
      June 2, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      Hi Judy. Great question, and not one easily answered. This is by no means an answer with incontrovertible proof, but I would suspect that the method of travel for a messenger coming from Egypt would depend on the time of year. The wind patterns in the Mediterranean for a majority of the year make it much easier to travel from north to south, but an Egyptian origin would necessitate the opposite. In ideal conditions, a sea voyage would probably have been much quicker than a land-based journey, but there are enough variables that it’s hard to estimate.

      I would point you to pages 63–64 of the book War in Ancient Egypt: The New Kingdom by Anthony J. Spalinger. He notes the variables as well, but he cites other more knowledgable writers who estimate that a “land journey from the Nile Valley to Phoenicia would have taken 2 to 3 months,” while a sea voyage of between similar points could have varied anywhere between 17 and 40 days depending on wind and sea conditions.

      Hope that’s somewhat useful for your purposes 🙂

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