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Aerial image of what is thought to be the lost city of Tenea.

Unearthing the Lost City Built By Prisoners Of The Famous Trojan War


In a monumental archaeological announcement the Greek Culture Ministry told press this week that a team of their archaeologists “located the first tangible remains” of the ancient city which was built by captives of the famous Trojan War (sparked when Helen, the wife of Sparta’s King Menelaus, fell in love with Paris of Troy) located in modern-day Turkey.

Finding the Lost City of Tenea

Last year, the Ministry released an aerial photograph of a group of 3000-year-old houses from the ancient settlement and Elena Korka, Greece’s director of antiquities and cultural heritage,  told the Associated Press  that a team of archaeologists had successfully identified “distinctive door openings, walls and floors, and had unearthed additional pottery spanning the 4th century BC to late Roman times.”

For almost a decade Korka had searched for a lost city of Tenea which was reported to have been settled by war prisoners from the battle of Troy. According to a report about the discovery in The Washington Post , Korka followed clues left by the Ancient Greek philosopher Strabo who wrote that the city of Tenea enjoyed “an ideal location to the south of the bustling ancient port of Corinth, on the narrow strip of land connecting Greek’s mainland and its Peloponnesian peninsula.”

Helen of Troy by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Helen of Troy by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. ( CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 )

Ancient Records Materialize In The Modern World

In Ancient Greek legend, Helen’s abduction from Sparta sparked a 10-year-long Greek siege of Troy . When the Romans invaded Corinth in 146 BC the city was finally destroyed marking the beginning of the Roman conquest of Greece, but “Tenea was left unharmed.” Over the last two centuries, according to the Washington Post article, Tenea was “shadowed in the history books by more consequential ancient metropolises.”

Among the a archaeologists first finds, according to a report in ABC News , were “walls and clay, marble or stone floors of buildings, as well as household pottery, a bone gaming die and more than 200 coins dating from the 4th century BC to late Roman times.” Archaeologists also discovered a pottery jar containing the remains of “two human fetuses” which is thought of as “unusual” because ancient Greeks typically buried their dead in highly-organized cemeteries which lay outside city walls.

Distinctive doorways and floors have been found. (Greek Ministry of Culture)

Distinctive doorways and floors have been found. ( Greek Ministry of Culture )

Last year, the Greek Culture Ministry announced that archaeologists had found “a trove of riches while digging up what had been a dual-chambered burial ground at the Tenea site ” and so far this year they have discovered nine burials, inscribed pottery, gold ritual artifacts, copper and bone jewelry and coins dating from the 4th century BC up to Roman times. Korka told archaeologists that “The citizens seem to have been remarkably affluent,” adding that the city was a prosperous trading center “on a key route between the major cities of Corinth and Argos in the northeastern Peloponnese.”

Reuters reports that “Among the findings was a golden coin to pay for the journey to an afterlife and an iron ring with a seal that depicted the Greek god Serapis sitting on a throne, Cerberus - a three-headed mythical dog that guards the gates of Ades - beside him.” And while so often ‘luck’ plays a big part in such magnificent historic discoveries, in this instance, it was the sheer application of skill, a claim made evident in that only last year, in a guest lecture at New York University Korka announced “Our ultimate goal was… the discovery of evidence which would help us to find remains of the settlement of ancient Tenea.”

The findings at the site included vases and a series of lamps, notably some included depictions of the Roman goddess Venus and two cupids. (Greek Ministry of Culture)

The findings at the site included vases and a series of lamps, notably some included depictions of the Roman goddess Venus and two cupids. ( Greek Ministry of Culture )

The discovery offers historians a more complete picture of Tenea’s unique function as a bridge between Greek and Roman cultures and last year Korka wrote:

“The city of Tenea testifies to the supreme artistic achievements of the Greco-Roman civilization… Its remains and findings served many purposes, one of which was to create spaces that could be read simultaneously according to Greek and Roman cultural codes, spaces where seeing both would eventually make sense.”

“We’ve found evidence of life and death ... and all this is just a small part of the history of the place,” said Korka. “The coming years will allow us to evaluate where we stand.”

Top image: Aerial image of what is thought to be the lost city of Tenea.   Source: Greek Ministry of Culture

By Ashley Cowie



Very much like the diasporic Jews, the diasporic Trojans needed a way to generate income. In the Trojans’ case, they became fluent in both Roman and Greek. They could act as middlemen, brokers of goods and services. They could profit as fair traders or as theives as in enormous profit, with each of the other side content with the deal. In an out, quickly, paid in full, the spoils to the Trojans. It makes all the sense in the world that this transpired repeatedly, making Tenea “rich”.

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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