Born January 6, 1822 in Neubukow, Mecklenburg-Schwerin,Johann Ludwig Heinrich Julius Schliemannhe was the German archaeologist and excavator of Troy, Mycenae and Tiryns. He is sometimes considered the modern discoverer of prehistoric Greece, although studies in the late 20th and early 21st centuries revealed that much of himself was self-promoting to establish his reputation.
Schliemannhe was the son of a poor shepherd. According to one of his autobiographical accounts, it was an image of Troy on fire in a history book that his father had gifted him when he was seven years old that remained in his memory throughout his life and sustained his fervent belief in the historical foundations of the Homeric poems. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a grocer and, again, according to himself, it was at the grocer that he heard Homer declaim in the original Greek. He worked for several years in the grocery store and then decided to emigrate. To do this, she became a cabin boy on a ship from Hamburg bound for Venezuela. After the ship was wrecked off the Dutch coast, he became a clerk and then an accountant for a trading company in Amsterdam. He had a passion and talent for languages, as well as a remarkable memory, and those factors, combined with great energy and determination, enabled him to learn to read and write multiple languages fluently. The accounts vary, but their competition certainly included Russian and ancient and modern Greek.
In 1846 his firm sent him to Saint Petersburg as an agent. There he founded a business on his own and embarked, among other things, in the indigo trade. In 1852 he married Ekaterina Lyschin. He made a fortune at the time of the Crimean War, primarily as a military contractor. In the 1850s he was in the United States and became a US citizen, retaining that nationality for the rest of his life. Upon returning to Russia, he retired from business at 36 and began to devote his energies and money to the study of prehistoric archeology. To train, he traveled extensively in Greece, Italy, Scandinavia, Germany and Syria and then went around the world, visiting India, China and Japan (he wrote a book on the latter two countries). He also studied archeology in Paris.
In 1868Schliemannhe brought his great fortune to Greece, visiting Homeric sites there and in Asia Minor. The following year, after meeting the English archaeologist Frank Calvert,Schliemannpublished his first archaeological book,Ithaka, der Peloponnes und Troja(“Ithaca, Peloponnese and Troy”). In that work he argued what Calvert (whose name conveniently removed from the discussion) had convinced him: that Hisarlık, in Asia Minor, and not Bunarbashi (Pınarbaşı), a short distance south, was the site of Troy. He further stated that the tombs of the Greek commander Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra, at Mycenae, which had been described by the Greek geographer Pausanias, were not the tholoi (vaulted tombs) that were outside the citadel walls, but were within the Citadel. He was able to test both theories through excavations over the course of the following years. Meanwhile, he divorced his Russian wife and married a young Greek student named Sophia Engastromenos, whom he had selected through a marriage agency.
A number of isolated discoveries had been made beforeSchliemannstart digging. French geologist Ferdinand Fouqué dug in Santorini in 1862 and found walls covered in house frescoes and painted pottery under 8 meters of pumice stone, the result of the great eruption that divided the original island into Thera (modern Thíra) and Therasis (modern Thirasia) . Geologists of that time dated the Santorini eruption as 2000 BC. C., which suggested a great antiquity for Fouqué’s findings and the existence of prehistoric cultures. Calvert himself had dug Hisarlık and, authorities believe, was instrumental in convincingSchliemann, whose financial resources were much greater than Calvert’s, that Hisarlık was the site of Troy.
WhenSchliemannproposed to resume work at Hisarlık in February 1874, he was delayed by a lawsuit the Ottoman government had brought against him over the division of his booty, particularly the treasure in gold, and it was not until April 1876 that he obtained permission to continue work. During the delay publishedTroja und seine Ruinen(1875; “Troy and its ruins”) and began an excavation at Mycenae. In August 1876 he began work on the tholoi, digging next to the Lion’s Gate and then inside the walls of the citadel, where he found a double ring of slabs and, within that ring, five shaft tombs (one sixth was found immediately after his departure). Buried with 16 bodies in the circle of pit tombs, was a great treasure trove of gold, silver, bronze and ivory objects.Schliemannhad hoped to find, and believed to have found, the tombs of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, and published his findings in hisMykenä(1878; “Mycenae”).
After a failed excavation at Ithaca in 1878, he resumed work at Hisarlık that same year. In 1880, 1881 and 1886, he excavated the site of the Hacienda de Minias, at Orcómeno in Boeotia, but found little more than the remains of a beautiful roof. He made a third excavation in Troy in 1882-1883 and a fourth from 1888 until his death. In his first season he had worked alone with his wife. In 1879 he was assisted by Émile Burnouf, the classical archaeologist, and by Rudolf Virchow, the famous German pathologist, who was also the founder of the German Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory. In his last two seasonsSchliemannHe was expertly assisted by Wilhelm Dörpfeld, who was a practical architect and had worked on the German excavations at Olympia. Dörpfeld brought to Troy the new system and efficiency of the classical German archaeologists working in Greece, and was able to expose the stratigraphy in Troy more clearly than before and revolutionize Schliemann’s techniques. In 1884,Schliemann, together with Dörpfeld, excavated the great fortified site of Tiryns near Mycenae.
Evaluations of the work ofSchliemannthey began to change even during his lifetime. From further research on Frank Calvert and his articles, it is clear that Calvert deserves most of the responsibility for locating Troy in Hisarlık. The archaeological practices ofSchliemannThey also left a lot to be desired. In his determined drive to discover Homer’s Troy, he damaged and destroyed other layers of settlements. His self-promotion and methods of appropriation cast even more doubt on his actual achievement, although the broadcast of his various claims undoubtedly brought a much greater general awareness of the ancient history of the region.