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Last Updated: Friday, 28 May, 2004, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
Is London really based on Troy?
Jean Gray
BBC News Online

Muscular bronzed heroes in tantalisingly short skirts were not just native to Troy but once graced our own shores (if legend is to be believed).

Though their tans, as displayed in the latest Hollywood blockbuster of that ancient city's name, would not have lasted too long after they pitched up near the River Dart in Devon.

Brad Pitt in Troy
Troy story: could Brad Pitt be the image here of our ancestors?

The story goes that a warrior leader named Brutus, of royal Trojan lineage, set sail for Albion, as Britain was then called, with his men - known as Britons - after being shunned back home.

They reportedly founded a city on the Thames and called it Troia Newydd, or New Troy. The word London came much later, perhaps from Lud's Town.

The tale was most likely derived from the record set down by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 12th Century in his much maligned History of the Kings of Britain.

We are talking about a time when people didn't know a lot about the past and relied on legend and word of mouth
Jenny Hall, Roman curator, Museum of London

According to Jenny Hall, Roman curator at the Museum of London, and other scholars, Geoffrey of Monmouth dreamt up the story and other people picked up on it.

"We are talking about a time when people didn't know a lot about the past and relied on word of mouth.

"We now know that the Romans created the first settlement on the site of London. There is no archaeological evidence for any earlier settlement."

Monmouth, who wrote in Latin, had claimed he was translating from a much older source in the early British language.

His chronicle was widely accepted as the definitive account of the course of British history in his day and remained so for nearly 600 years, until a more critical world became sceptical of its claims.

King Arthur

Central to the tale of Britain's Trojan hero is the London Stone. An ancient proverb goes that "so long as the stone of Brutus is safe, so long shall London flourish".

The block, formed from a type of limestone called oolite, lies behind glass and an iron grille outside the offices for the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation in Cannon Street in the City of London.

Other legends are also attributed to the block. One traces it back to Druid times and another claims it is the stone from which King Arthur pulled the sword, though several places in Britain make the same claim.

The London Stone
Behind its iron grille, the London Stone keeps the secrets of its origins hidden

The most generally accepted theory is that it was placed during the Roman creation of the walled City.

John Clark, the Museum of London's medieval curator, says the stone is undoubtedly Roman in origin - a lump hewn from a bigger monolith.

"The whole concept of London being the new Troy and the story of the London Stone are very interesting, but there are so many legends attached to both that they can't tell us anything about the origins of London."

That's a pity. So we can't add burnished, athletic Olympian heroes to our family tree? Let's just leave it to the gods to decide.

Review: Troy
21 May 04  |  Entertainment
Unearthing Troy's truth
21 May 04  |  Entertainment


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