Sunday, June 05, 2005

The man behind the hat and moustache?

Personal History and Personality of Heinrich Schliemann

This section has been included as this has an impact on whether or not Schliemann was a discoverer or destroyer.

Heinrich Schliemann was born on 1/6/1822 in the village of Neu Buckow, Germany. His interest in Homeric Troy started when his father, a protestant minister, gave him a book for Christmas in 1829 entitled Illustrated History of the World, by Ludwig Jerrer. As a child, Schliemann was a hard worker and promising scholar, though his education was limited by financial constraints.

When working as a grocer, he had a friend who could recite 100 lines of the Iliad in Ancient Greek, recalling, "From that moment, I did not cease to pray to God that by his grace it might one day be permitted to me to learn Greek."

As a young man, in 1842, he dreamed of becoming rich and saw the way to make it happen. He believed wealth would make up for his shortcomings and give him access to everything he wanted in life. He dedicated his life toward the pursuit of that goal - he wasted little money on living expenses, spent nothing on entertainment, had nothing to do with women, educated himself and spent money only on the advancement his education. During this period, his genius for language became apparent - he taught himself fluent Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese in two years.

In 1852, when business ventures had made him extremely rich, Schliemann learned ancient and modern Greek, and became obsessed with it, and in 1858, he visited Greece for the first time.

He had an unhappy marriage at this time, and was filled with angst, paranoia, and personal demons.

In 1968, a beloved cousin died, and Schliemann was consumed by grief. Her death forced him to ask himself questions he had been avoiding - what was the meaning of life? What was he really living for? He turned to Homer’s Odyssey and found comfort in the idea of the hero, Odysseus, returning home. He decided to follow Odysseus' example, and resolved to return to Ithaca, the island that Odysseus ruled.

While the divorce with his wife was in occurrence, Schliemann sent a letter to his friend asking him to find him a poor, beautiful, dark-haired, well-educated Greek woman who was interested in Homer. The friend replied and at the end of July of 1869 Schliemann went to visit Sophie Engastromenos in Colonus. They married on September 23, 1869.

After this, the period of excavations of (possibly) Troy and Mycenae happened, and he was totally obsessed with his work, and ingested greatly when he could not find what he wanted, to point where it would be conceivable that he would "cheat" and plant evidence. He was without qualm about smuggling his findings out of Greece and Turkey, much to the dismay of both governments.

He did achieve success, ill gained or otherwise (discussed below), and after this successful period, he built himself a house in Athens, where he ruled like a Homeric king - his messages were sent to him in ancient Greek, he insisted that Greek be spoken at the dinner table, and he renamed all his servants after characters in Greek mythology and history. He wrote about his excavations at Hissarlik in a work entitled Ilios, but the more he pondered his discoveries, the more he became plagued with doubt that Hissarlik was really Troy.

Heinrich Schliemann remained obsessed until his death 26/12/1890, the inscription above the entrance of the great mausoleum he had built for himself a powerful declaration of how he wanted to be remembered it simply says "For the hero Schliemann."

From this, we can ascertain that Schliemann was obsessive and not at all rational, and led a rich fantasy life to the point where the line between fantasy and reality may have become blurred; in other words, he may have been slightly mad. He certainly seemed to have the predisposition to inadvertently destroy while in his mad passion to make Troy real, and may well have not seen the immorality of evidence planting, and he was obviously clever enough to be able to pull it off.

What we can draw from Schliemann’s personal history and personality is that he was so obsessed with making his Troyish dreams a reality, that he may well have seen no harm in doing so by any means necessary; he was delusional enough to think that any means would justify the ends. It could also be deduced from his background and actions that he suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, an undefined Impulse-Control disorder, depression, delusions and possibly schizophrenia.

Educational Background and Training

Schliemann worked hard at school as a boy and was regarded as a “promising student”. However, financial difficulties affected his education, and he ended up changing schools, and not finishing secondary education, let alone attending university. He joined the workforce very early and set about making as much money as he possibly could, although he was motivated to learn, as discussed above.

While becoming wealthy in the 1840’s he turned towards self-education, and found himself to be something of a genius in languages - he taught himself fluent Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese in two years.

When Schliemann eventually got to Greece in 1868, he had decided he wanted to perform archaeology there, despite having never studied it, and having no previous experience. Later reports of when he collaborated with the Greek Archaeological Society reveal that his methods were questionable and unsophisticated.

In August of 1876, using ancient texts and locals' legends, instead of any kind of surveying or scientific planning, Schliemann began excavation on Mycenae. From the beginning he was involved in a battle with Greek officials over whether or not he should be supervised, and what sort of field methods he could use.

Schliemann’s contemporaries did not judge him to be a competent archaeologist, and it is evident that his idea of excavation was digging the largest pit he possibly could, and hoping it hit the right level, flippantly destroying everything on the way down.

His lack of education and training precipitated his “desTROYer” category archaeological excavation efforts.

Did Schliemann Plant False Evidence?

While excavating at Troy, Schliemann became famous when he proclaimed he'd found a trove of jewels and gold buried in a chest. These, he supposed, were the riches of Troy hurriedly buried in the panic of the Greek siege. Dubbing them Priam's Treasure, he told a remarkable tale of how he'd uncovered and secured them, that after he'd dug the pieces up he had his wife hide the treasure in her clothing and in this way she sneaked it past the overseers assigned to ensure no native antiquities were smuggled out of Turkey.

But problems lay ahead for Schliemann and his dig at "Troy." It was quickly apparent there was something odd about Priam's Treasure. For one, the artistic styles of the various pieces constituting the collection covered a wide range of dates, an unusually broad spectrum of types for a single hoard, leaving the impression of "treasures" rather than one coherent treasure. Furthermore, Schliemann reported finding it in a location which he didn't know at the time but dated it several centuries prior to the age when Homer's Troy would have fallen if such an event were historical (ca. 1180 BCE), which made it seem unlikely that Priam's Treasures had ever belonged to anyone named "Priam."
From this, we could hypothesis that he may have misrepresented or even planted his great fine – particularly since when he “found” the treasure; his excavation was going very badly indeed. He may have gathered items from all around the site into one fake “hoard”, and even have added to it with materials he purchased from other sites or from local traders. In this aspect, he seems to have a total lack of regard for scientific practice; he was a destroyer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Schliemann - Discoverer or DesTROYer?

Welcome to the Schliemann investigation institute. We, a highly trained and sophisticated team of experts, have extensively researched into the highly controversial issue of just what Schliemann was... DISCOVERER OR DESTROYER?

Heinrich Schliemann: Discoverer or Destroyer? Well, both really. Whilst undoubtedly Schliemann drove straight into an archaeological site and simply dug a massive trench right through it, destroying valuable archeological evidence and, as it turned out, the Troy of the Trojan war itself, he did a fair bit of discovering too.

At the time of Schliemann (late 19th century) there were a number of people interested in the finding of troy. Each had their own ideas about where it may be located, and there were multiple sites that seemed likely, the least probable being Hisarlik, located in Western Turkey. A man named Frank Calvert was absolutely convinced that Hisarlik was the place to dig. However he didn’t have funding, and as his theory seemed very unlikely the British Museum refused to back him. At this point Schliemann played a fundamental role, namely he volunteered to finance the expedition so long as he got to be the decision man of the team. This is the main point up for debate. If without Schliemann’s financial backing the site might still have been uncovered by some more cautious digger it would be very easy to say that Schliemann then was mainly a destroyer, and had he not been involved we would have a lot more information about Troy. But since nothing except time could back that statement up, and it simply isn’t verifiable, it is impossible to deny the fact that Schliemann played the most crucial role in uncovering Troy.

To be entirely fair, there weren’t really any established practices or methods for archaeology at the time of Schliemann’s discovery. It was primarily a “treasure hunting” profession. So it is unjust to say that Schliemann was guilty of horrible destruction – he simply did what he could to uncover what he thought was troy, he also did have some sort of technique at that. His main desire was to find the Troy of the Trojan War, and he dug a missive trench all the way through the layers of cities at Hisarlik to try and locate it. He identified it as the second from last city, and then he stripped away the upper cities to get to it. As they really had nothing to go by except Homer’s description in The Iliad, and nothing like the modern dating techniques it is an understandable mistake. The thing was that what archaeologists think was the most likely candidate for the city in place during the Trojan war was the one five layers up from Schliemann’s troy, somewhere around what is now called Troy VI or Troy VII. In destroying all the upper levels modern archaeologists now have nothing to investigate to learn farther information about Troy.
What Schliemann did leave behind was an extensive amount of notes and records on his investigation into Troy, 175 volumes of records to be exact, not to mention countless personal diaries and letters. He also was something of a liar. So while it appears that he recorded his entire dig fabulously, it is very difficult to say whether anything he wrote is reliable. His honesty isn’t the only questionable aspect of Heinrich’s character. He also, after finding what he called “Priam’s treasure” (Which is now also up for questioning as to the authenticity of the find) he lied Turkish authorities and smuggled the gold out of the country and to Germany.
Though the destructive practices that Schliemann employed can be forgiven because of his ignorance and the basic lack of archaelogical method at the time, his lying is unforgivable. This is because now all the information that he provided the historical community is up for questioning, the records (which are the closest archaeologists will get to excavating the true Troy of Homeric tales) may now also be inaccurate, which would mean that an even greater amount of potential knowledge has been lost forever.

Reliability Evaluation

“Nearly 30 years ago, William M. Calder III, now a professor of classics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, began to question the veracity of the claims in Schliemann's autobiographical writings. An award-winning author and editor of numerous books on nineteenth-century classical studies, Calder demonstrated that Schliemann had a penchant for self-mythologization. Stories he told about himself--his desire from the age of eight to excavate Troy, his 1851 White House meeting with President Millard Fillmore, his discovery of a bust of Cleopatra at Alexandria--were patently untrue. Calder also questioned the authenticity of the Mask of Agamemnon. "I've learned to doubt everything Schliemann said unless there is independent confirmation," said Calder. While his revisionist scholarship has been criticized by some (Machteld Mellink, a former president of the Archaeological Institute of America, characterized it as a "vendetta against Schliemann"), many now concur that Schliemann was a brilliant dissembler.”
- Harrington, S.P.M. (1999). Behind the Mask of Agamemnon. Archaeological Institute f America. Available from :<> Date Accessed: 30 May, 2005]

· Origin: Archaeology Magazine, America, 1999. Written by S. Harrington, historian and columnist.
· Motive: To bring up the issue of Schliemann’s honesty in his written accounts, investigated by William Calder III.
· Content: Outlines the fact that Schliemann’s accounts were simply his way of creating a hero out of himself, and that the majority of his claims were untrue. Cites quotes from both Calder (saying that Schliemann was a liar) and Mellink (who said that the report was a “vendetta against Schliemann”).
· Audience: readers of Archaeology Magazine, English speaking, people interested in Schliemann. · Purpose/ Perspective: although the writer clearly believes that Calder is correct he does offer other opinions. The main purpose is to inform.
-Reliable: yes (secondary source, historical evidence, multiple opinions)
-Useful: yes, because in questioning Schliemann’s character and his honesty in recording information it brings up the question of whether Schliemann destroyed more then the actual remains of the Trojan War’s Troy; the information that may still have been used from honest documentation.


Excavations at Troy. Available from: [Date accessed: 30 May, 2005]

Harrington, S.P.M. Behind the Mask of Agamemnon. (1999). Archaeological Institute of America. Available from : [Date Accessed: 30 May, 2005]

Heinrich Schliemann (1996). Available from: [date accessed: 15 May, 2005]

Homeric Questions. Available from: [Date accessed: 29 May, 2005]

King, W. Heinrich Schliemann. University of Texas. Available from: [date accessed: 25 May, 2005]

Schliemann, Heinrich. (2005). Encyclopedia. Available from: .[date accessed: 29 May 2005].

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