Heinrich Schliemann

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Heinrich Schliemann : biography

6 January 1822 – 26 December 1890

On April 7, 1852, he sold his business and returned to Russia. There he attempted to live the life of a gentleman, which brought him into contact with Ekaterina Lyschin, the niece of one of his wealthy friends. Schliemann had previously learned his childhood sweetheart, Minna, had married.

Heinrich and Ekaterina married on October 12, 1852. The marriage was troubled from the start. Schliemann next cornered the market in indigo (an important dye) and then went into the indigo business itself, turning a good profit. Ekaterina and Heinrich had a son, Sergey, and two daughters born in 1855, 1858 and 1861 respectively. Schliemann made yet another quick fortune as a military contractor in the Crimean War, 1854-1856. He cornered the market in saltpeter, sulfur, and lead, constituents of ammunition, which he resold to the Russian government.

By 1858, Schliemann was wealthy enough to retire. In his memoirs, he claimed that he wished to dedicate himself to the pursuit of Troy.

As a consequence of his many travels, Schliemann was often separated from his wife and small children. He spent a month studying at the Sorbonne in 1866, while moving his assets from St. Petersburg to Paris to invest in real estate. He asked his wife to join him, but she refused. Schliemann threatened to divorce Ekaterina twice before actually doing so. He claimed to have utilised the divorce laws of Indiana in 1869 although he obtained the divorce by lying about his residency.

Life as an archaeologist

Schliemann’s first interest of a classical nature seems to have been the location of Troy.

At the time Schliemann began excavating in Turkey, the site commonly believed to be Troy was at Pınarbaşı, a hilltop at the south end of the Trojan Plain. The site had been previously excavated by archaeologist and local expert, Frank Calvert. Schliemann performed soundings at Pınarbaşı, but was disappointed by his findings. It was Calvert who identified Hissarlik as Troy and suggested Schliemann dig there on land owned by Calvert’s family. In 1868, Schliemann visited sites in the Greek world, published Ithaka, der Peloponnesus und Troja in which he asserted that Hissarlik was the site of Troy, and submitted a dissertation in Ancient Greek proposing the same thesis to the University of Rostock. In 1869, he was awarded a PhD in absentiaBernard, Wolfgang. (in German). from the university of Rostock for that submission. David Traill wrote that the examiners gave him his PhD on the basis of his topographical analysis of Ithaca, which were in part simply translations of another author’s work or drawn from poetic descriptions by the same author.

Schliemann was at first skeptical about the identification of Hissarlik with Troy but was persuaded by Calvert and took over Calvert’s excavations on the eastern half of the Hissarlik site. The Turkish government owned the western half. Calvert became Schliemann’s collaborator and partner.

The ‘[[Mask of Agamemnon’, discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876 at Mycenae now exhibited at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.]]

Schliemann needed an assistant who was knowledgeable in matters pertaining to Greek culture. As he had divorced Ekaterina in 1869, he advertised for a wife in a newspaper in Athens. A friend, the Archbishop of Athens, suggested a relative of his, seventeen-year-old Sophia Engastromenos (1852–1932). Schliemann, age 47, married her in October 1869, despite the 30 year difference in age. They later had two children, Andromache and Agamemnon Schliemann; he reluctantly allowed them to be baptized, but solemnized the ceremony in his own way by placing a copy of the Iliad on the children’s heads and reciting one hundred hexameters.

Schliemann began work on Troy in 1871. His excavations began before archaeology had developed as a professional field. Thinking that Homeric Troy must be in the lowest level, Schliemann and his workers dug hastily through the upper levels, reaching fortifications that he took to be his target. In 1872, he and Calvert fell out over this method. Schliemann was angry when Calvert published an article stating that the Trojan War period was missing from the site’s archaeological record.