HEINRICH SCHLIEMANN

 Heinrich Schliemann, a German businessman who was born in 1822 in Mecklenburg, read the Iliad by heart at a very young age. He was blessed with enough imagination to discover Troy, and felt the excitement of the Trojan War deeply. While many people thought that Troy was only a legendary city which never existed, Schliemann be­lieved every line of the Iliad. He accepted the Trojan War as an historical fact, and learned sev­eral languages in order to under­stand the Iliad better. To make the world believe the existence of Troy, with the guidence of Homer he started making plans to discover Troy.

First of all he needed limitless money for it was necessary to see the world and support the

excavations. Thanks to his en­thusiasm, as well as his great luck, he made four immense for­tunes at various times in his life. Especially by supplying materials for the Russian army through the blackmarket, during the Cri­mean war, and by banking in Cal­ifornia during the gold-rush.

After solving the money prob­lem, now he was ready for ar­chaeology. Besides exploring Troy, one of his childhood dreams was to see the Great Wall of China. So he went there first. By hiring private guides he visited the great wall. He enjoyed climbing it and measured the bricks. Detaching a brick from the wall and carrying it all the way down with great effort was his first serious encounter with archaeology(!) The guides laughed at him, because of the trouble he had carrying a solitary brick, but we do not think they would tolerate this in today’s un­

derstanding of archaeology. The China visit took Schliemann away from thoughts of Troy. He visited almost half the countries in the world, and learned 12 or 1 3 languages. He had three chil­dren by his Russian wife. By now he was a 43 year old weary man with grey hair. But still he had no idea what he would do with his life. Should he become a writer or a philologist? He was restless and unhappy. He went to America again, but he could not stay there long and went back to Paris. In Paris he at­tended important meetings with his mistress and led a luxurious life. But nothing appeased him. Why was he living? Why was he unhappy? Why was he always wandering around the world like a homeless beggar? While he was asking himself these questions, the memories of Homer which had enchanted his childhood filled him again. Did not Odysseus wander so many years and return to Ithaca and meet his wife Penelope? Did not he enter his own home dis­guised as a beggar on his return from his long wanderings? He suddenly decided to go to Greece. He thought he might find his own Penelope there. That would stop his wanderings. From the moment he set foot on Ithaca he was like a man en­chanted. He had to go every­where and see everything. In spite of the heat he was deliriously happy. In a short time he organised a small team con­sisting of a donkey and four workers, and started to dig at Mount Aetios. He found 20 vas­es containing ashes. He was sure they were human ashes. One of these urns might well contain the ashes of Odysseus and Penelope or their de­scendants. This easy success led him to believe in his innate ability as an archaeologist and whetted his appetite for ar­chaeology. He worked by instinct and enthusiasm. After further fruitless excavations he went to Mycenae, Tiryns and Athens and later set out for Troy by way of Istanbul.

The Russian consul obtained a guide and two horses for him. As he wandered over the plain of Troy he was in high spirits, pleased to see the storks flap­ping their wings on the roofs of the houses.

He went to Pinarbasi, which was long believed to be the site of Troy. After doing research there he decided that Pinarbasi was not the place.

Frank Calvert, an Englishman who acted as American vice-consul for the Dardanelles, had done some preliminary digging at Hisarlik. Believing that he had found Troy, he invited the British Museum to begin excavations. He wanted the British to have the honour of discovering Troy, but nothing came of his pro­posals. When Schliemann came he decided to help him as much as he could. He took him through the site and showed him the remains of a temple formed of great blocks of hewn stone which he had excavated by himself.

Schliemann concentrated on Hisarlik. Everything fitted in well with the Iliad. All that need­ed was to remove these great stone blocks and find the ruins of Priam’s ‘marble palace and his treasure. He discussed his the­ories and plans for the excava­tions with Calvert. He was in a mood for quick action. But it was already late in the season for digging. Permission also had to be obtained from the Turkish Government.

Calvert was amused by Schlie­mann’s wild enthusiasm. He owned half of the Hisarlik hill and generously promised to help him. His generosity, so unlike a merchant, confused Schliemann. He knew that without Calvert he would not be able to do any­thing. On his return home he wrote many letters to Calvert de­manding answers to many ques­tions such as what sort of a hat he should wear. How many work­ers should he employ? Should he choose them from the Turks or the Greeks? The cost of the ex­cavations and so on.

As he was preparing himself for the excavations, he was looking for a suitable wife who would ac­company him during the excava­tions. He had divorced his Rus­sian wife and decided upon a Greek bride because he liked the sound of the language, especial­ly when spoken by women. In his diary one day he wrote as fol­lows:

“I am intoxicated by this lan­guage, it surprises me that a language can be so noble! I do not know what others think but it seems to me there must be a great future for Greece, and the day can not be far distant when the Hellenic flag will fly over Sancta Sophia!”

In addition to this absurd proph­ecy, he also wrote:

“What amazes me more than anything else is that the Greeks, after three centuries of Turkish domination, still preserve their national language intact”.

As he was writing this he never considered that this was be­cause of the boundless toler­ance by the Turks for other na­tions and cultures. He was travelling everywhere with Greek books and saw the world through Greek eyes, and be­came a fanatical champion of Greek claims to Con­stantinopole, the “megalo idea”. So a Greek wife would be ideal for him. But how to find one? He decided to write a letter to Vimpos, a Greek priest. De­scribing her qualifications, he wrote:

“She should be poor, beautiful, a Homer enthusiast dark haired, well educated and possessed of a good and loving .heart”. Vimpos collected photographs of suitable young Athenian girls and sent them to Schliemann. He chose the picture of a 17 year old girl named Sophie and decided to meet her. He visited Sophie’s familiy and questioned her carefully. She was beautiful but how about the other things? He enquired, “Would you like to go on long

journeys?” The answer was yes. After getting the right answer to a history question, she had to recite passages from Homer by heart. Sophia did and passed the examination. In a short time he married Sophia and turned to the subject of Troy.

He wrote letters to Calvert. Al­though he could not get per­mission for excavations, he left Sophia in Athens and came to Troy.

The eastern part of the mound belonged to Frank Calvert, the western part belonged to two Turks living in Kumkale. Be­lieving that the most important buildings were in the western part overlooking the sea, he started to dig from the west with ten workers. He was so sure of finding great buildings and treasure that he did not even get permission from the Turks. He thought they would forgive his audacity when they saw the treasure and large buildings.

The first day he uncovered foun­dations of a house. The second day, with eleven more workmen, he uncovered the whole house. Among the cinders he found a coin bearing on one side the im­age of Hector with the in­scription ‘Hector of Troy’. In Schliemanns eyes this was the most auspicious sign of all. On the third day, fearing that the Turkish landowners might arrive at any moment, he made two long trenches, one from east to west and another from south to north. By slicing across the top of the mound he hoped to form a general picture of the buried city.

Schliemann was right. The Turks arrived soon. They asked him what he was doing on their property. Schliemann explained through an interpreter that he was doing scientific work and the results of this would be prof­itable for Turkey. He was plead­ing and giving long explanations about his discoveries but the Turks were more interested in the heavy blocks of stone he had unearthed. They intended build­ing a stone bridge over one of the rivers nearby and these blocks suited their purpose ex­actly. Schliemann would let them take the stones for the bridge.


He also paid them forty francs. They agreed to let Schliemann continue digging. But he knew that this truce was temporary. After getting enough stones for their bridge, they ordered him to stop digging. They also de­manded 100 pounds for the damage he had caused. Of course he refused to pay but he had no defence against their ul­timatum. As he was leaving Hi­sarlik he understood that he had to buy the hill. For this he wrote letters to some important peo­ple in Germany, France, Athens and Istanbul. In a letter to Safvet Pasha, the Turkish minister of Culture, he tried to explain that he was not a “treasure hunter.” His only desire was to prove that the city of Troy was be­neath the mound at Hisarlik. He desired permission only for that. Meanwhile Frank Calvert had ob­tained from the two Turkish landowners a verbal promise that they would sell their prop­erty to Schliemann for 1000 francs. But Safvet Pasha bought the land for 600 francs on be­half of the ministry.

This was not the solution he wanted. He was extremely an­gry. He wrote letters to Calvert, to find a way to buy the land. He offered to give all the gold and silver treasure he discovered to the ministry. He would even give Safvet Pasha double the value of the precious metals he might find. But he insisted he would not dig unless he was given title to the land. Nothing worked. This time he came up with a new offer. He made no claim on the land, he only wanted per­mission to find the city of Priam. He did not want any money but he would be very happy to divide the precious objects, one half for the museum, the other half for his own collection, to cover his expenses. As he was asking permission to take his share out of the country, with his Odys­seus like cunning, he said he did not expect to find any treasure there.

This last letter, written with the help of American Ambassador, solved all the problems. Poison was mingled with honey within it. On 12 August 1871 when he was in London the “ferman” con­taining the permission reached him and soon he started ex­cavating at Hisarlik. For the first time he attacked Hisarltk with the full protection of the Turkish government. The rains came, and they were still working. The number of workers was in­creasing day by day. The num­ber of workmen reached 120. He was in a hurry to find the pallace of Priam. But the things he found were not satisfactory. They all belonged to later pe­riods. He could not find anything from the time of Priam. One day he found a relief of Apollo riding the four horses of the sun.

Though small, it was a brilliant piece of work. He smuggled it out of the country with the help of Frank Calvert. For years it graced the garden of Schlie­mann’s house in Athens.

Schliemann reached his goal in May 1873. As he was standing near to a trench with Sophia, he suddenly noticed some metal ob­jects. He was sure that he had found treasure. The question was how to protect it from the workmen. None of the workmen had noticed it. Sophie was be­side him, and he turned to her and said:

“You must go at once and shout PAIDOS”. Paidos was a Greek word, as well as Turkish, mean­ing “rest period”.

Sophie had not yet seen the treasure, and was amazed at the thought of ordering a rest period so early.

“Now, at seven o’clock?” She asked.

“Yes - now!” said Schliemann. “Tell them it is my birthday, and I have only just remembered it! Tell them they will get their wag­es today without working. See that they go to their villages and see that the overseer does not come here. Hurry, and shout “paidos”. “Sophia did as she was told. The workmen were pleased with this unexpected holiday. Amin Efendi, the Turkish repre­sentative, was a little puzzled, because he was usually well in­formed about holidays, but he too obeyed “paidos”.


After all the workmen had gone, Sophia returned to the trench where Schliemann was at­tempting to dig the treasure out with a pocket knife, in danger from collapsing stones and earth. After a while he turned again to Sophia and said:

Quick, bring me your big shawl” Sophia returned with a big

shawl. The treasure was put into the shawl and together they car­ried it back to the wooden house.

The treasure consisted of a cop­per shield, a copper cauldron, a silver vase and another of cop­per, a gold bottle, two gold cups, and a small electrum cup.

 There was a silver goblet, three

great silver vases, seven double-edged copper daggers, six silver knife blades, and thirteen cop­per lance-heads, two gold di­adems, fifty-six gold earrings, 8750 gold rings and buttons. The two diadems, one of them consisting of ninety chains, en­tirely covering the forehead, were exceptional. Nothing like

  them had ever been seen be­fore.

Amin Efendi was suspicious. Ru­mours were flying around the Trojan plain. He called at Schlie­mann’s house and angrily pro­claimed he was sure something was being kept from him. Amin Efendi demanded permission to search the house. In the name of the sultan he ordered Schlie­mann to open all his chests, even the wardrobes. Schliemann threw him out of the house.

That night or the next night, six baskets and one bag, containing the treasure and other objects found previously, were taken to Calvert’s farm house near Pi­narbasi. Calvert’s farm, called Kumkale farm, is a state farm today.

In a few days the treasure and other things were smuggled out of the country with the help of Calvert.



Staying a few more days at Hisarlık, Schliemann peered and


probed the trench, believed that no more treasure was left, ter­minated the excavations abrubtly and returned to Athens. What he left behind was a desolate mound riddled with corridors and trenches like a battlefield. From Athens he started writing letters to all learned societies in Europe saying that he had made ‘‘the greatest discovery of our age”. With great enthusiasm and excitement he declared that the treasure he had found was the “treasure of Priam” and Hi­sarlik hill was the legendary “city of Priam”. Using the treasure as a lever he started bargaining with the Greek government. He said he would give it to Greece if they give him full permission to excavate at Mycenae and Olym­pia. The Greeks refused be­cause they were afraid of trou­ble with Turkey.

Meanwhile Amin Efendi was put in prison because he had failed to keep close watch on the ex­cavations. On the other hand the Turks asked Schliemann pri­vately to send the fair share of the objects to the Imperial Mu­seum in Istanbul, according to the agreement. Schliemann answered that he would send noth­ing. Then the Turks instituted proceedings against him for half of the treasure. The trial lasted a year in Athens. The Greek judges found in favour of the Turks and ordered him to pay 50.000 francs. Schliemann thought the value of the treas­ure was about one million Francs. Now it was time for Schliemann to act with the cun­ning of Odysseus and play his cards skilfuly. As a gesture of friendship he sent five times the amount of the indemnity to the Archaeological Museum in Is­tanbul. He also sent seven large vases and four sacks filled with stone implements which were found in Troy. That was enough to melt the ice between the Turks and Schliemann. The skilled merchant had won his vic­tory. He demanded new per­mission from Safvet Pasha and got it in April 1876. Meanwhile the Greek government also gave him permission to excavate. Thinking that it was early for Troy, he returned to Greece and started excavating at Mycenae.

In Mycenae he was lucky again. He found some golden masks in a grave near the Lions Gate. He called one of them “the Mask of Agamemnon”. Later he excavat­ed Odysseus’ palace in Ithaca but could not find anything val­uable and abandoned the excava­tions.

Troy summoned him again. It was his sixth journey to Troy. This time he was not alone. Many scholars believed that he had discovered Troy. Some fa­mous archaeologists joined the excavations and more serious work was done. The Turkish gov­ernment sent a special commis­sioner and ten policemen to Hi­sarlik to control the excavations. On October 21, 1878 he found treasure, con­sisting of 20 gold earrings, a number of gold spiral rings, 2 heavy bracelets of electrum, 11 silver earrings, 158 silver rings and a large number of gold beads. A few days later he found another smaller hoard. This time he was allowed to keep only a

third of the treasure he found; the rest went to the Archeolog­ical museum in Istanbul.

The following year he found a few earrings and bracelets. That was all. He found no more treas­ure. His luck was not holding. He was also growing old. He re­turned to Athens and built a house, designed by himself, in the middle of Athens. He called it ‘The palace of Troy’.

Later many scientists visited Troy. Many scientific congresses were held there in the presence of Schliemann. On an excursion to Mount Ida he was soaked to the skin in a rainstorm. After that the terrible pain in his ears which had started previously be­came worse. Even after an op­eration the pain returned, more terrible than ever. It would cause his death. Against the ad­vice of the doctors he decided to leave the hospital.

Schliemann died in Naples in 1890. His coffin was trans­ported to Athens and he was buried there on a place opposite the Acropolis according to his will.

After Schliemann’s death, his best friend, the young architect Wilhelm Dorpfeld, went on ex­cavating at Hisarlik. Dorpfeld al­ways insisted that everything had to be photographed, la­belled and minutely examined be­fore it was thrown away. Being always in hurry, Schliemann re­fused to do this as he thought it was a waste of time.

The real systematic excavations at Troy started with Wilhelm Dorpfeld. The first plan of Troy was done by him. But the most detailed work was done by Karl Blegen from the Cincinnati ex­pedition. The Americans started excavating in 1932 and spent about seven seasons at Troy. Ex­amining even the smallest de­tails, they continued this careful work until 1939.

Blegen separated the different levels and examined the remains of the nine cities. He also dated them according to the fire trac­es, ceramics and buildings but mostly according to historical events.




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