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The story so far:
Historians tentatively agreed that the city of Troy should be sought at the south end of the Trojan Plain.
Schliemann, a wealthy businessman and Homer enthusiast, in collaboration with Frank Calvert, another enthusiast, began digging at Hisarlik, convinced that some of the lines in The Iliad pointed to that location. He was able to unearth something.
This something was subsequently ridiculed, labeled fake, etc., by historians, because nobody likes a smart ass. Schliemann's methods and believes have been repeatedly vilified by academia. Today, folks seem to agree that what Schliemann discovered was not Troy, but its predecessor; and that his methods were so crude that the actual city of Troy, sitting higher than Schliemann thought, was destroyed during the excavation. However, there seems to be an agreement that Schliemann's choice of location was actually accurate.
(A side note: I've read The Iliad too, but in all honesty I wouldn't know where to start digging. Why Hisarlik, especially? Why not a hundred miles south of it?)
It is said that the reason for the siege, apart from the kidnapping and adultery, was that Troy served as some sort of a customs checkpoint, a coastal toll booth that charged Greek merchants an exorbitant fee for passing through. I have no idea whether this story has any scientific basis. I've looked; I haven't been able to find anything to support it.
My question is: what did Schliemann discover? Is it really Troy? And if so, how do we know this?
On my opinion, Wikipedia gives a satisfactory description of the current state of knowledge about this question. On the place which Schliemann excavated there are 11 or 12 layers of ancient cities which existed in various historical periods. One of these layers is roughly of the same time which is traditionally thought as the time of the Troyan war described in Homer's poems. (The dating of this Troyan war was established by Hellenistic scholars as 12 century BC). It is not the same layer that Schliemann thought, so in the process of his non-professional excavation he actually destroyed the most interesting (from the point of view of correspondence to the Iliad) layer.
In Hittite texts of the same epoch there are some personal and geographical names which resemble somewhat the names mentioned in the Iliad.
There is some research showing that geography and geology of the neighborhood of the excavated city fits the descriptions in the Iliad.
This is a condensed statement of what is known now.
A very comprehensive source for the recent research and the current state of knowledge is Joachim Latacz, Troy and Homer, English translation by Oxford University Press, 2001. It addresses exactly the question you asked: what is the relation between ruins in Hisarlik and Homer's Iliad. He concludes that there is a lot of evidence but there is no conclusive proof that the war described by Homer ever happened. No inscription was ever found in Hisarlik, saying "This is Troy" or "Agamemnon was here" :-)
Another good reference is Eric. H. Cline, 1177 BC. The year civilization collapsed. Princeton university press, 2014.
EDIT. Another question is why Schliemann started his excavations in this particular place. He relied on research of Frank Calvert who studied all evidence available to him. Ancient Greeks of classical epoch "knew" where Troy was. At the time of Alexander the Great there was a temple there dedicated to Achilles, which Alexander visited soon after his landing in Asia. These are already historical times, and existing evidence permits to trace Alexanders itinerary. Calvert was based on this sort of evidence, besides Homer himself.
Schliemann did not found a Homer's Troy,-he found just one of the Hittite's cities.Also ,before him Charles Maclaren signed this location like Troy.Why it is not Troy?
1.Homer says Troy is posted near the place where Simois river flow INTO Scamander,-near Hisarlik the rivers flow paralelly.
2 Homer insisted several times,in Iliad and Odyssey that Troy is acropolis city, he claims about 20 times,any more he describe Troy like hill or mountain,and we have Hisarlik which is "tell" on 25m.-Troy VII A on 8m
3.Where are the springs of water in Hisarlik,and specially HOT and COLD spring?
4.In a Troy land there are 8 rivers,one of them -Esepus made a lake down of Ida mountain.
5.There's not the Achaean's camp,and incineration's remains of wariors.
6.Near the Achaean camp there is an BROADLY CAVE,Homer says.
7.Troy is posted near Olympus,and near Hisarlik there is not the Olympus.
8.Homer's Troy is old just 150 years:-about 1350.B.C. -1200.B.C.Homer says that with precision by means of genealogy of Troyan kings,-but Hisarlik is very old city,-3000 B.C.
9.Homer says Troy is posted beetwen the hills,deep inside on the gulf,not on the coast-like Hisarlik.
10.Also Homer describe Troy area in the cold part of Mediterranean,on the place where the olives don't grow successfully,also we have the snow in the spring time.
11.In front of Hisarlik,there's no the Homer's small hillock called -Batiea.
12.Homer says-the Thracian land is on the west of Troy,-but on the west of "Hisarlik-Troy"is today's GREECE!
I think is enough! I am not the only one who gave this argumentation.
Source:Vedran Sinožić,Naša Troja,(Our Troy),Naklada Uliks,Rijeka,2016.,Croatia.
What did Heinrich Schliemann discover Troy?
In northwestern Turkey, Heinrich Schliemann excavated the site believed to be Troy in 1870. Schliemann was a German adventurer and con man who took sole credit for the discovery, even though he was digging at the site, called Hisarlik, at the behest of British archaeologist Frank Calvert.
Furthermore, which level of Troy did Schliemann uncover? In 1871 Schliemann took up his work at that large man-made mound. He believed that the Homeric Troy must be in the lowest level of the mound, and he dug uncritically through the upper levels.
Hereof, how was Troy discovered?
Heinrich Schliemann confirmed that the ruins of Troy lie at Hisarlik in modern-day Turkey. 1868 Carrying a copy of The Iliad in his luggage, Heinrich Schliemann arrives in Turkey determined to discover the true location of Troy. He concludes that Troy VI was destroyed by an earthquake and not fire.
How did Heinrich Schliemann teach himself new languages?
Schliemann had his own method for learning languages: &ldquoreading aloud, without making any translation, having a lesson every day, writing essays on subjects of personal interest, correcting them under the supervision of the teacher, learning them by heart and reciting at the next lesson the material that was corrected
Schliemann was born January 6, 1822 Heinrich Schliemann in Neubukow, Mecklenburg-Schwerin (part of the German Confederation). His father, Ernst Schliemann, was a Lutheran minister. The family moved to Ankershagen in 1823 (today their home houses the Heinrich Schliemann Museum). 
Heinrich's father was a poor Pastor. His mother, Luise Therese Sophie Schliemann, died in 1831, when Heinrich was nine years old. After his mother's death, his father sent Heinrich to live with his uncle. When he was eleven years old, his father paid for him to enroll in the Gymnasium (grammar school) at Neustrelitz. Heinrich's later interest in history was initially encouraged by his father, who had schooled him in the tales of the Iliad and the Odyssey and had given him a copy of Ludwig Jerrer's Illustrated History of the World for Christmas in 1829. Schliemann later claimed that at the age of 7 he had declared he would one day excavate the city of Troy.  
However, Heinrich had to transfer to the Realschule (vocational school) after his father was accused of embezzling church funds  and had to leave that institution in 1836 when his father was no longer able to pay for it. His family's poverty made a university education impossible, so it was Schliemann's early academic experiences that influenced the course of his education as an adult. In his archaeological career, however, there was often a division between Schliemann and the educated professionals.
At age 14, after leaving Realschule, Heinrich became an apprentice at Herr Holtz's grocery in Fürstenberg. He later told that his passion for Homer was born when he heard a drunkard reciting it at the grocer's.  He laboured for five years, until he was forced to leave because he burst a blood vessel lifting a heavy barrel.  In 1841, Schliemann moved to Hamburg and became a cabin boy on the Dorothea, a steamer bound for Venezuela. After twelve days at sea, the ship foundered in a gale. The survivors washed up on the shores of the Netherlands.  Schliemann became a messenger, office attendant, and later, a bookkeeper in Amsterdam.
On March 1, 1844, 22-year-old Schliemann took a position with B. H. Schröder & Co., an import/export firm. In 1846, the firm sent him as a General Agent to St. Petersburg.
In time, Schliemann represented a number of companies. He learned Russian and Greek, employing a system that he used his entire life to learn languages Schliemann claimed that it took him six weeks to learn a language  and wrote his diary in the language of whatever country he happened to be in. By the end of his life, he could converse in English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Swedish, Polish, Greek, Latin, and Arabic, besides his native German.  : 28–30
Schliemann's ability with languages was an important part of his career as a businessman in the importing trade. In 1850, he learned of the death of his brother, Ludwig, who had become wealthy as a speculator in the California gold fields.
Schliemann went to California in early 1851 and started a bank in Sacramento buying and reselling over a million dollars' worth of gold dust in just six months. When the local Rothschild agent complained about short-weight consignments, he left California, pretending it was because of illness.  While he was there, California became the 31st state in September 1850, and Schliemann acquired United States citizenship. While this story was propounded in Schliemann's autobiography of 1881, Christo Thanos and Wout Arentzen,  state clearly that Schliemann was in St Petersburg that day, and "in actual fact, . obtained his American citizenship only in 1869."
According to his memoirs, before arriving in California he dined in Washington, D.C. with President Millard Fillmore and his family,  but W. Calder III says that Schliemann didn't attend but simply read about a similar gathering in the papers. 
Schliemann also published what he said was an eyewitness account of the San Francisco Fire of 1851, which he said was in June although it took place in May. At the time he was in Sacramento and used the report of the fire in the Sacramento Daily Journal to write his report. 
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 Petrovna Lyschin (1826–1896), the niece of one of his wealthy friends. Schliemann had previously learned that 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 dye and then went into the indigo business itself, turning a good profit. Ekaterina and Heinrich had a son, Sergey (1855–1941), and two daughters, Natalya (1859–1869) and Nadezhda (1861–1935). 
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 36 years old and 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 doing so. In 1869, he bought property and settled in Indianapolis for about three months to take advantage of Indiana's liberal divorce laws, although he obtained the divorce by lying about his residency in the U.S. and his intention to remain in the state. He moved to Athens as soon as an Indiana court granted him the divorce and married again two months later. 
Heinrich Schliemann was an amateur-archaeologist. He is often used as a good example for archaeology students of how it shouldn't be done. [ citation needed ]
Schliemann was obsessed with the stories of Homer and ancient Mediterranean civilizations. He dedicated his life's work to unveiling the actual physical remains of the cities of Homer's epic tales. Many refer to him as the "father of pre-Hellenistic archaeology." 
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 absentia  from the University of Rostock, in Germany, for that submission.  David Traill wrote that the examiners gave him his PhD on the basis of his topographical analyses of Ithaca, which were in part simply translations of another author's work or drawn from poetic descriptions by the same author. 
In 1869, Schliemann divorced his first wife, Ekaterina Petrovna Lyshin, whom he had married in 1852, and bore him three children. A former teacher and Athenian friend, Theokletos Vimpos, the Archbishop of Mantineia and Kynouria, helped Schliemann find someone "enthusiastic about Homer and about a rebirth of my beloved Greece. with a Greek name and a soul impassioned for learning." The archbishop suggested a young schoolgirl, Sophia Engastromenos, daughter of his cousin. They were married by the archbishop on 23 September 1869. They later had two children, Andromache and Agamemnon Schliemann.  : 90–91,159–163
Schliemann was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1880. 
Troy and Mycenae Edit
Schliemann's first interest of a classical nature seems to have been the location of Troy. At the time he 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. 
Schliemann was at first skeptical about the identification of Hissarlik with Troy but was persuaded by Calvert.  Schliemann began digging at Hissarlik in 1870, and by 1873 had discovered nine buried cities. The day before digging was to stop on 15 June 1873, was the day he discovered gold, which he took to be Priam's treasure trove.  : 36–39  : 131,153,163–213
A cache of gold and several other objects appeared on or around May 27, 1873 Schliemann named it "Priam's Treasure". He later wrote that he had seen the gold glinting in the dirt and dismissed the workmen so that he and Sophia could excavate it themselves they removed it in her shawl. However, Schliemann's oft-repeated story of the treasure's being carried by Sophia in her shawl was untrue. Schliemann later admitted fabricating it at the time of the discovery Sophia was in fact with her family in Athens, following the death of her father.  Sophia later wore "the Jewels of Helen" for the public.
Schliemann smuggled the treasure out of Turkey into Greece. The Turkish government sued Schliemann in a Greek court, and Schliemann was forced to pay a 10,000 gold franc indemnity. Schliemann ended up sending 50,000 gold francs to the Constantinople Imperial Museum, and some of the artifacts. Schliemann published Troy and Its Remains in 1874. Schliemann at first offered his collections, which included Priam's Gold, to the Greek government, then the French, and finally the Russians. However, in 1881, his collections ended up in Berlin, housed first in the Ethnographic Museum, and then the Museum for Pre- and Early History, until the start of WWII. In 1939, all exhibits were packed and stored in the museum basement, then moved to the Prussian State Bank vault in January 1941. Later in 1941, the treasure was moved to the Flakturm located at the Berlin Zoological Garden, called the Zoo Tower. Dr. Wilhelm Unverzagt protected the three crates containing the Trojan gold when the Battle for Berlin commenced, right up until SMERSH forces took control of the tower on 1 May. On 26 May 1945, Soviet forces, led by Lt. Gen. Nikolai Antipenko, Andre Konstantinov, deputy head of the Arts Committee, Viktor Lazarev, and Serafim Druzhinin, took the three crates away on trucks. The crates were then flown to Moscow on 30 June 1945, and taken to the Pushkin Museum ten days later. In 1994, the museum admitted the collection was in their possession.   
In 1876, he began digging at Mycenae. There, he discovered the Shaft Graves, with their skeletons and more regal gold (including the so-called Mask of Agamemnon). These findings were published in Mycenae in 1878.  : 57–58  : 226–252,385
Although he had received permission in 1876 to continue excavation, Schliemann did not reopen the dig site at Troy until 1878–1879, after another excavation in Ithaca designed to locate a site mentioned in the Odyssey. This was his second excavation at Troy. Emile Burnouf and Rudolf Virchow joined him there in 1879. 
Schliemann began excavation of the Treasury of Minyas at Orchomenus (Boeotia) in 1880. 
Schliemann made a third excavation at Troy in 1882–1883, an excavation of Tiryns with Wilhelm Dörpfeld in 1884, and a fourth excavation at Troy, also with Dörpfeld (who emphasized the importance of strata), in 1888–1890. 
On August 1, 1890, Schliemann returned reluctantly to Athens, and in November travelled to Halle, where his chronic ear infection was operated upon, on November 13. The doctors deemed the operation a success, but his inner ear became painfully inflamed. Ignoring his doctors' advice, he left the hospital and travelled to Leipzig, Berlin and Paris. From the last, he planned to return to Athens in time for Christmas, but his ear condition became even worse. Too sick to make the boat ride from Naples to Greece, Schliemann remained in Naples but managed to make a journey to the ruins of Pompeii. On Christmas Day 1890, he collapsed into a coma he died in a Naples hotel room the following day the cause of death was cholesteatoma.
His corpse was then transported by friends to the First Cemetery in Athens. It was interred in a mausoleum shaped like a temple erected in ancient Greek style, designed by Ernst Ziller in the form of an amphiprostylee temple on top of a tall base. The frieze circling the outside of the mausoleum shows Schliemann conducting the excavations at Mycenae and other sites.
Schliemann's magnificent residence in the city centre of Athens, the Iliou Melathron (Ιλίου Μέλαθρον, "Palace of Ilium") houses today the Numismatic Museum of Athens.
Further excavation of the Troy site by others indicated that the level he named the Troy of the Iliad was inaccurate, although they retain the names given by Schliemann. In an article for The Classical World, D.F. Easton wrote that Schliemann "was not very good at separating fact from interpretation"  and claimed that, "Even in 1872 Frank Calvert could see from the pottery that Troy II had to be hundreds of years too early to be the Troy of the Trojan War, a point finally proven by the discovery of Mycenaean pottery in Troy VI in 1890."  "King Priam's Treasure" was found in the Troy II level, that of the Early Bronze Age, long before Priam's city of Troy VI or Troy VIIa in the prosperous and elaborate Mycenaean Age. Moreover, the finds were unique. The elaborate gold artifacts do not appear to belong to the Early Bronze Age.
His excavations were condemned by later archaeologists as having destroyed the main layers of the real Troy. Kenneth W. Harl, in the Teaching Company's Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor lecture series, sarcastically claimed that Schliemann's excavations were carried out with such rough methods that he did to Troy what the Greeks could not do in their times, destroying and levelling down the entire city walls to the ground. 
In 1972, Professor William Calder of the University of Colorado, speaking at a commemoration of Schliemann's birthday, claimed that he had uncovered several possible problems in Schliemann's work. Other investigators followed, such as Professor David Traill of the University of California. 
An article published by the National Geographic Society called into question Schliemann's qualifications, his motives, and his methods:
In northwestern Turkey, Heinrich Schliemann excavated the site believed to be Troy in 1870. Schliemann was a German adventurer and con man who took sole credit for the discovery, even though he was digging at the site, called Hisarlik, at the behest of British archaeologist Frank Calvert. [. ] Eager to find the legendary treasures of Troy, Schliemann blasted his way down to the second city, where he found what he believed were the jewels that once belonged to Helen. As it turns out, the jewels were a thousand years older than the time described in Homer's epic. 
Another article presented similar criticisms when reporting on a speech by University of Pennsylvania scholar C. Brian Rose:
German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann was the first to explore the Mound of Troy in the 1870s. Unfortunately, he had had no formal education in archaeology, and dug an enormous trench "which we still call the Schliemann Trench," according to Rose, because in the process Schliemann “destroyed a phenomenal amount of material." [. ] Only much later in his career would he accept the fact that the treasure had been found at a layer one thousand years removed from the battle between the Greeks and Trojans, and thus that it could not have been the treasure of King Priam. Schliemann may not have discovered the truth, but the publicity stunt worked, making Schliemann and the site famous and igniting the field of Homeric studies in the late 19th century. During this period he was criticized and ridiculed of claims to fathering an offspring with a local Assyrian Girl sparking infidelity and adultery which Schliemann did not confirm or deny. ' 
Schliemann's methods have been described as "savage and brutal. He plowed through layers of soil and everything in them without proper record keeping—no mapping of finds, few descriptions of discoveries." Carl Blegen forgave his recklessness, saying "Although there were some regrettable blunders, those criticisms are largely colored by a comparison with modern techniques of digging but it is only fair to remember that before 1876 very few persons, if anyone, yet really knew how excavations should properly be conducted. There was no science of archaeological investigation, and there was probably no other digger who was better than Schliemann in actual field work." 
In 1874, Schliemann also initiated and sponsored the removal of medieval edifices from the Acropolis of Athens, including the great Frankish Tower. Despite considerable opposition, including from King George I of Greece, Schliemann saw the project through.  The eminent historian of Frankish Greece William Miller later denounced this as "an act of vandalism unworthy of any people imbued with a sense of the continuity of history",  and "pedantic barbarism". 
Peter Ackroyd's novel The Fall of Troy (2006) is based on Schliemann's excavation of Troy. Schliemann is portrayed as "Heinrich Obermann".
Schliemann is also the subject of Chris Kuzneski's novel The Lost Throne. [ citation needed ]
Schliemann is the subject of Irving Stone's novel The Greek Treasure (1975), which was the basis for the 2007 German television production Der geheimnisvolle Schatz von Troja (Hunt for Troy).
Schliemann is a peripheral character in the historical mystery, A Terrible Beauty. It is the 11th book in a series of novels featuring Lady Emily Hargreaves by Tasha Alexander. 
Did Heinrich Schliemann discover Troy? - History
Archaeology: Troy and Heinrich Schliemann
People, Places, Events and Terms To Know:
|Father of Mediterranean Archaeology |
Mask of Agamemnon
I. Introduction: History and Archaeology
Among the more visible forms of historical research going on today are those relating to archaeology. The glamour of digging for buried treasure, a notion fostered by decades of movies like The Mummy Returns, could not be further from the gritty truth. Archaeology is sweaty, filthy, tedious, back-breaking work—and in the field, an occupation rarely practiced in the vicinity of functioning bathrooms—nor are jewels and treasure the objects uncovered by most archaeologists today. Rather, the micro-analysis of pollen and traces of DNA are the sort of "gold" they seek.
But that's not the way the general populace sees the field. To most people, archaeology is that rare academic field which holds out the promise of romance, adventure and riches. Nothing encapsulates this view better than Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first Indiana Jones movie. It opens with the hero exploring a cave full of gold and jewel-encrusted statuary and, when he moves something, the whole place falls apart. Anyone with the slightest awareness of archaeology should be horrified. My own reaction, when I first saw the scene, was "That man just destroyed the entire site! And he didn't even photograph it. He should not get tenure!"
Outside of exceptional digs like Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, few archaeological explorations have unearthed golden treasures or the like. Even fewer archaeologists have grown rich off what they've found, which comes as little surprise when you think about what they're actually doing. They're rooting through other people's garbage, and how much gold is there likely to be in someone's trash? More often, the original owners—or someone else if for some reason the owners had to leave their valuables behind—have gone through the site and taken for themselves whatever precious things there may have been. Gold, in particular, has been stolen and recycled so often that it's possible to say some bit of that ring on your finger, no doubt, saw Babylon once. All in all, everything found in an archaeological site is mostly, by definition, "garbage." Only to us, it's not really garbage, but priceless data about what-really-happened-in-the-past.
A good example of this comes from Mesopotamian archaeology. At the bottom of a well in Nimrud, one of the major cities of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (ca. 900-612 BCE), were found a series of sculpted ivories, pieces which wealthy Assyrians used as insets in decorated furniture. Today, ivory is a highly valued commodity—there is an active black market in African ivory—so it might seem puzzling to modern people why such beautiful and intricately carved pieces were discovered so unceremoniously dumped at the bottom of a well.
But to historians, the answer is obvious. In the seventh century BCE, ivory per se was not considered a valuable commodity as it is today. It was, in fact, used back then much the way plastic is today, to mold figures which were later either dyed or overlaid with precious materials. In the case of the Nimrud ivories, a layer of gold foil originally covered them, as can be seen from the traces of gold still visible on one of these pieces. Thus it seems safe to conclude that the Medes, who looted and sacked the city of Nimrud in the late seventh century BCE, stripped the gold off these ivories and threw what they considered its useless remains down the well. To them, the ivory was "garbage" and that's why we've found it today.
So trash, it turns out, is a relative term. From an archaeologist's perspective, much like a detective's, people speak volumes about themselves through what they throw away. No doubt, some day our dumpsites will define us, too, and future archaeologists will probably label our age as something like "Early Plastic IA." But we know our lives are more than plastic, which highlights the likelihood of distorting history when simple names like "Iron Age" are attached to a period because the material remains of that time, its garbage, encourages a vision of the period based on the things left for us to find.
The same holds true of all archaeological work—it's a danger which comes with any form of "recovered history"—we risk defining a civilization by what we see in its dusty tracks, forgetting those remains were left in the equivalent of an ancient dustbin. Despite the glamour of finding old things, we must remember that archaeology provides only certain avenues into understanding what-really-happened and thus works best in concert with other ways of approaching the past. That is, when archaeological evidence is complemented by external sources such as documentary and other historical data, we can feel certain we have come closer to what-really-happened-in-the-past.
Moreover, in over-reading one type of data and ignoring others, there is the danger of creating new "invented histories." For, while one approach may appear to offer answers which do not require outside confirmation because they rest on a body of facts so powerful and a picture so compelling that there seems no need to seek external sources or corroboration, nevertheless by looking at only one side of the past we may lose sight of the fuller, broader, more complex and problematical truth of what-really-happened. In other words, when gazing upon an ancient city like Nimrud or Troy and poring over their dazzling remains, we must not forget to ask why we find what we find, or else in piecing the data together we may construct a historical scenario which reflects our preconceptions, our hopes, our world more than that of the ancient peoples who lived there and left what they left behind. Those are the ingredients of invented history.
Such issues have swirled around modern archaeology ever since its inception in the nineteenth century. Its founder himself provides an excellent example of the enormous rewards and pitfalls implicit in the discipline. A German businessman with romantic dreams of finding a lost civilization resplendent in gold and steeped in epic heroism, this man did the world a great service by bringing to the public's attention the value of exploring the material remains of the past. At the same time, however, he opened up questions which still devil historians today.
Certainly one of the most sensational news stories of the nineteenth century was the discovery by Heinrich Schliemann of what is now widely assumed to be the site of Troy, the city in and around which The Iliad of Homer takes place. Before Schliemann's excavations, the modern world had considered Troy for the most part a matter of myth, not reality. With his extraordinary find, Schliemann radically redirected scholarly thinking about the ancient past and, no less controversial himself, the man's own life and character measure up well to the notoriety of his discovery. That is, Schliemann has turned out to be almost as worthy a subject of history as the subjects he studied: Troy and Homer.
A genius at learning languages, Schliemann spoke several fluently by an early age, and using those skills along with abundant charisma and a strong drive to succeed, he quickly made a fortune as a merchant. By middle age he could retire in considerable comfort and at that point decided to pursue a dream he later claimed he'd had since childhood, the quest to find Homer's Troy. Because the world portrayed in Homeric myth seemed so real to Schliemann, he believed it must have actually existed once.
Nor did this dream lack historical credibility. In later classical antiquity, there was a site known as "Troy." Alexander the Great, for instance, had visited it early in his eastward surge across Asia, and a later Greek geographer Strabo speaks of "Ilion" (the Greek spelling of Ilium) as if it were a real place. So some ancients, at least, believed Troy had once been a real city. Still, critics could counter—and not without some credibility of their own—that the bureau of tourism in ancient Asia Minor might have had something to do with advancing that opinion.
Armed, then, with not much more than a little ancient evidence, loads of money and his copy of The Iliad, Schliemann went to Greece. There he married a woman who could recite Homer from memory, and together they set about searching for the Troy of Homeric legend. Schliemann also had a good idea of where to begin looking. Because, according to Greek myth, the general Agamemnon who led the Greeks against the Trojans had collected his mighty force in Aulis, a site on the eastern shores of Greece, Troy must have lain to the east of Greece. If it had been west, Agamemnon would surely have mustered his forces in western Greece. So, Schliemann looked to the rising sun.
History held other clues, too. According to Homer, Troy was a very wealthy city, which meant it almost certainly occupied a strategically important location. In the northwestern corner of Asia Minor is the Hellespont, straits separating Turkey and Greece. Not only did sources in later antiquity assert that this was the general locale of Homer's Troy, but the Hellespont is also a likely site for a powerful and prosperous city in prehistory. Control of a strait allows a city to tax the trade ships that pass through it—many cities in antiquity grew rich off tariffs of that sort—and knowing from Homer that Troy lay near a coast, Schliemann started looking at the area around the Hellespont for a likely place to dig. It didn't take him long to see how right his instincts were.
After a brief false start in another place, Schliemann heard from a less well-funded explorer who also happened to be in the area hunting for Troy that a promising-looking mound lay in a plain near the Turkish village of Hissarlik. It's important to note that Schliemann had many possible dig sites in front of him. The Near East is littered with tells, mounds which were once ancient settlements and cities. So, Schliemann might have dug in many places, but he decided to work at the mound that lay near Hissarlik.
Almost upon first digging into it, it was clear that the site he was uncovering had been an important city in antiquity. For one, this mound had many levels which meant the city had been rebuilt several times but, more important to Schliemann, it had large walls just as Homer describes those around Troy. The German archaeologist captured the ears and hearts of many of his contemporaries when he announced across Europe that he had found Homer's Troy.
Schliemann's discovery of this city and his claim that it was the Troy of Greek legend brought with it many important implications. First and foremost was that Homeric epic was not merely myth, not just a story but history. This opened a new door to the past. After all, if Homer's Troy could be real, why not Abraham's Ur or Moses' Goshen? In the years following Schliemann's announcement, more than one religious organization began funding digs in the Near East, and whatever truths might lie behind the tales of the past became the subject of dinner-table conversations across the western world. The popularization of classical archaeology was under way.
Soon thereafter Schliemann again took center stage 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. Clearly, Schliemann saw this as a victory for archaeology and science, not the pillage of an eastern culture by greedy westerners as many see it today.
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 find, leaving the impression of "treasures" rather than one coherent hoard. Furthermore, Schliemann reported finding it in a location which he could not have known at the time dated it several centuries prior to the age when Homer's Troy would have fallen if such an event actually happened (ca. 1180 BCE). All this made it seem unlikely that Priam's Treasure was a single find which had ever belonged to anyone named "Priam."
And, in general, things didn't go Schliemann's way on other fronts. For instance, the cultural zenith of this site—that is, the level with the richest deposits and largest population—also belonged to an age long before Agamemnon could have led the Greek siege. Instead, the Troy that properly dated to Homer's city, a level which archaeologists have termed Troy VIIA, turned out to be a shabby resettlement of a once great city. Worse yet, it wasn't clear how Troy VIIA had met its end. It might have been destroyed by siege but, if so, there wasn't a comprehensive "burn layer" capping it, evidence of a cataclysmic conflagration, the way Troy falls in Greek myth. If Homeric legend were at all historical, there ought to have been evidence of some massive fire and mayhem, but there wasn't. True, other earlier "Troys" had clearly fallen prey to violence, but not Troy VIIA.
Nor would evidence of a siege necessarily constitute definitive proof this was Homer's Troy anyway, since virtually all cities of any standing in Asia Minor were attacked at some point during the second millennium BCE. It was a time of great turmoil and upheaval throughout the ancient world, and other civilizations in Asia Minor, like the once mighty Hittites, had collapsed and disappeared around the same time as Troy was said to have fallen. All in all, if Schliemann's site was indeed Homer's Troy, many of the archaeological pieces didn't harmonize well with the literary evidence, on the surface at least.
IV. Schliemann and Mycenean Civilization
But Schliemann was a businessman who knew how to keep his eye on the big picture and not obsess over details. When confronted with the anomalies of his Troy, he simply turned his attention from Asia Minor to mainland Greece and started excavating a new site. There he found even greater fortune and fame. Among the ruins of Mycenae, the legendary home of Agamemnon in the northeastern Peloponnese (the southern part of Greece), the German archaeologist uncovered another lost civilization. This extraordinary instinct for where to dig was, without doubt, his greatest gift and for which he is deservedly called the Father of Mediterranean Archaeology.
At Mycenae, Schliemann again unearthed the remains of a thriving, second-millennium culture now known as Mycenean Civilization. Among the many rewards for his efforts there, a fortress and several rich tombs were discovered. Particularly, in the Grave Circle where the Myceneans had entombed their rulers, Schliemann brought to light a series of gold death masks which had been used to cover the faces of dead princes. When Schliemann found a particularly handsome death mask, he wired back to his colleagues in Europe, "I have looked on the face of Agamemnon." Thus, this discovery came to be known as the "Mask of Agamemnon" and has turned into one of the most famous archaeological artifacts ever brought to light, gracing more books on Greek archaeology than perhaps any other single find.
But what did Schliemann really find? Certainly, his "Troy" was an important city in the prehistory of Asia Minor. Nor can it be doubted that he uncovered a Greek civilization which thrived during the latter half of the second millennium BCE. Nevertheless, the question remains: Is this the Troy of legend? Is this Mycenae the home of Homer's Agamemnon? And even if they are, to what extent does any of this confirm the historicity of Homer, namely, Homeric epic as a record of what-really-happened? One thing's for certain: there's nothing's simple or straightforward about any of this, nothing like the way archaeological evidence is often seen in the popular mind as compelling and incontrovertible proof of what-really-happened-in-the-past.
Besides, if Homer and his poetic predecessors were making up the story of Troy, none of this makes much of an impact on the central question at hand: are Homer's epics an account of actual past events? In other words, Schliemann's dream of proving that Homer's saga constitutes a record of a real military campaign which took place in the second millennium BCE, his discovery of Priam's Treasure and the grandiose claim to have "looked on the face of Agamemnon," all of it has little hope of historical validation if Homer and his audience saw The Iliad and The Odyssey as essentially works of beautiful but fantastical fiction.
And how could they not? People in Homer's day had no access to the sort of historical records on which we today depend, especially regarding the period when Agamemnon supposedly led the Greeks to Troy. That's because a long dark age of unrest and illiteracy (1100-800 BCE) separated Homer's audiences from Achilles and Odysseus and the world embodied in Homeric myth. Also, we now know Homer was an oral poet, a bard whose epics were composed on the spot for performance (see above, Section 3). Thus essentially an entertainer, possibly blind, recounting events which happened centuries before his lifetime, is there any real chance that Homer preserves an accurate picture of the past, anything like history in the modern sense of the word? It's impossible to answer that question with any certainty, making it wiser on the whole to doubt than believe the assertion.
Despite all these problems, however, most archaeologists still refer to the site near Hissarlik as "Troy"—and, of course, the general public follows suit—and a good many historians today speak of the Trojan War as something historical. Whatever its validity, Schliemann's vision of Troy as a real place and Homer as a historian of sorts shows one thing for certain: histories will linger around, even when they entail serious contradictions and face grave challenges, if for some reason people want to believe them. So, no matter how much of it is invented, an important aspect of this historical "inquiry" concerns not the reality but the attraction of Homer's Troy.
More than changing the general perception of Troy as pure myth into a reflection of history, Schliemann has become a legend of sorts himself, and deservedly so. Call his Troy Homer's or not, this "Father of Mediterranean Archaeology" accomplished many important things. Because of his work, for instance, the world realized the value of unearthing ancient sites in a systematic fashion. Ironically, for all he played up to the press and glamorized the treasures he found, Schliemann popularized archaeology as something more than digging for gold. More important yet, his induction of a generation of students into scientific archaeology led the academic community to stress meticulous and thorough record-keeping at sites, along with the careful analysis of all finds. His disciples would go on to seed programs in archaeology worldwide.
Indeed, Schliemann's records both of the excavations he conducted and of his business and personal affairs were so comprehensive it wasn't until recently that scholars began to comb through them. It didn't help that, as a master of language, Schliemann wrote them in quite a few different tongues. There probably aren't ten people alive today who have the sort of linguistic aptitude he did—along with the command he had of certain languages—so there are few people who can actually read everything he left behind. Therefore, to sift through all of Schliemann's writings requires a collective effort, arguably out of proportion to the rewards it might deliver. Thus, for a long time his voluminous archive simply wasn't read.
But over the last few decades classical scholars have been exploring Schliemann's diaries, with very interesting results. While much of what he recorded was light-hearted, some mere practice exercises at various foreign languages—these entries as such were probably never intended for public consumption—all the same they reveal disturbing tendencies in Schliemann's character. For example, he writes of meeting people whom he could never have met, such as the American President Millard Fillmore. At another point in his diaries, Schliemann details his involvement in a devastating fire in San Francisco at the same time, however, his own carefully documented itinerary proves he missed this event by several days.
And more directly incumbent on archaeology, his diaries also contradict the story he told of his wife's assistance in smuggling "Priam's Treasure" out of Turkey. They show, without doubt, it couldn't have happened the way he said it did, because she wasn't even with him at Troy when "Priam's Treasure" was dug up. His own records even cast doubt over his tale of hearing the Trojan saga at his father's knee, instilling in him the lifelong dream of discovering the city. At least, there is no mention of such aspirations until a convenient moment much later in his life, after he had unearthed "Troy."
It's not clear how important all this really is. In the end, it comes down to whether one chooses to label Schliemann an inveterate liar or a hopeless romantic, and whether or not his penchant for refracting the truth affected in any significant way his work as an archaeologist. Even without his diaries and accounts, few would say Schliemann was not a man possessed of strong imagination—pioneers usually are—the issue is, did the fantasies well-evidenced in his writings pervade his scientific work as well as his personal life?
Unfortunately, there is some evidence it did. For instance, it has been suggested more than once that "Priam's Treasure" seems to be a collection of artifacts belonging to different periods, as we noted above, leading many to suspect that Schliemann gathered them from various graves and sites in and around Troy and later concocted a more newsworthy story of their discovery. His tale, replete with hidden treasure, female guile and bumbling Turkish guards, makes for a fairly theatrical script, in fact, almost the same plot as Mozart's opera The Abduction from the Seraglio.
But it's hard to assess this fairly now, because later in life Schliemann donated "Priam's Treasure" to the Berlin Museum where it stayed until 1945. In the chaos of the siege of Berlin at the end of World War II, Schliemann's Trojan treasure simply disappeared. The assumption was it had fallen into the hands of black-market art dealers and either was in a private collection somewhere—if so, it couldn't be put on public display without being confiscated by international authorities—or had been melted down because it couldn't be resold as such. In any case, without the treasure itself, there was no way to analyze and date it conclusively.
But in 1994, all that changed. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russian authorities acknowledged that "Priam's Treasure" had for fifty years been housed in their land—some of it was in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and some in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg—Russian soldiers during World War II had, in fact, seized and smuggled it out of Germany. Now the hostage of several claims originating in at least three different countries (Germany, Russia and Turkey), the Trojan hoard is back in the public eye. Hopefully, answers about its nature and origin will one day be forthcoming.
But other controversies continue to swirl around Schliemann and his legacy to archaeology. The most sensational of these surrounds the so-called "Mask of Agamemnon." Though it's not clear that the particular one now called the "Mask of Agamemnon" is the same that Schliemann first referred to by that name, he later allowed the famous bearded mask to bear that designation. It is far and away the most presentable of the masks Schliemann discovered in Mycenae, lacking the bulging eyes and puffed cheeks that make several of the others look by modern standards ridiculous. In fact, the "Mask of Agamemnon" is particularly modern in its appearance, including a handle-bar moustache, something highly unusual in ancient art. More than one art historian has noted it looks remarkably like Schliemann himself, or perhaps Schliemann's idol, King Ludwig of Bavaria.
To make matters even more complicated, those analyzing Schliemann's diaries and records have found a note from him requesting that a friend in Paris find him a goldsmith who would work without putting his seal on the metal, an illegal activity. Schliemann himself visited France soon thereafter. This trip immediately preceded the discovery of the mask, and the question has naturally arisen: "Did Schliemann go to Paris to have this mask forged for the very reason that he was planning to say to the world 'I have looked on the face of Agamemnon,' but had not yet found a death-mask warranting such a pronouncement," in other words, a discovery worthy of the headline. After all, he didn't want anyone to add, on the heels of such a momentous declaration, "Yes, and he looks like a rather large bug. Perhaps it's not him but his brother Arthro-memnon?"
It only complicates the issue further that Schliemann was himself directing the workers at Mycenae when they discovered this mask soon after he had returned from Paris. But if he had it forged, how did Schliemann sneak it into the site past the Greek guards who were watching his every move to prevent him from stealing artifacts from Greece as he had from Turkey? Perhaps they weren't inspecting his bags when he came into the site, only when he left.
This is, of course, speculation based on circumstantial evidence without clear or convincing proof. And many possibilities besides outright forgery exist, for example, that the "Mask of Agamemnon" is genuine but Schliemann "improved" it by making it look more stylish for the day, adding or accentuating the moustache in particular. But if it was, in fact, counterfeited in any way, it would be one of the greatest con-jobs in history and would leave many a modern scholar red-faced at having been so completely taken in.
Needless to say, the Greek government hasn't as yet allowed the sorts of tests to be done on the mask that could prove or refute its antiquity. Their official reason is that great damage could result to the mask in the testing process—the truth is greater damage could result to the Greek tourist industry if this national treasure were shown to be counterfeit—so the mystery remains a mystery, and Schliemann, too, is as controversial today as he ever was. One thing is for certain: Schliemann would love all the press coverage he is still getting.
VI. Conclusion: Archaeology and History
In the end, the lesson here has less to do with archaeology than human nature and history in general. Schliemann, a master of ancient languages, was also a master of modern media, particularly newspapers and the popular press which he played as well as any Hollywood agent ever has. It's also important to bear in mind the world before whom his drama unfolded. It was an age in which people believed Charles Darwin was telling them they were related to monkeys, whereas Schliemann pitched his discoveries as offering "scientific" validation of a romantic, mythological past, if not biblical, a history much more palatable to them than some sort of simian ancestry.
Thus, the same populace who reveled in lush, pseudo-historical operas like Verdi's Aida, Bellini's Norma and Wagner's Ring Cycle crowded eagerly around the archaeologist's tent for a glimpse of historical Homer. Nor did its merchant promoter fail to keep himself in the public eye but looked eagerily into the "face of Agamemnon" and caught an image that was as much his own as any of his cultural ancestors'. To a world fractured along ideological lines, this well-crafted reflection presented more than just a past which people at the time could agree was worth sharing but common ground where science and myth collaborated, and as such it did a great deal of good for its day. For Agamemnon's day—if there ever was an Agamemnon's day—the benefits are less clear.
So, despite inconsistencies in the data and the bourgeois showmanship of its leading man, the very things this same age made such a show of deploring in Herodotus, Schliemann and his dream of Troy overwhelmed, for the most part, his contemporaries' educated skepticism and has continued to live in the hearts of their scholarly descendants. The entrepreneur and romantic served evidence—and to many, proof—that Western Civilization rests on a glorious, civilized, Homeric foundation, that we are the heirs of legend. If on the other side of the argument many doubt that today, it's probably all for the best. Still, to Schliemann's sense of history, no matter what amount is invented, we owe much of modern archaeology, which is without doubt the single most consequential contribution of our day to the understanding of what-really-happened-in-the-past. The dirty data covered by time and uncovered by archaeology are the greatest historical story of our age.
Schliemann has been praised and given recognition for shining new light on ancient Greek civilization, and is often heralded as a father of archaeology. However, some of his claims, as we have seen, have been questionable and even disproved with modern evidence. Many of his critics have gone as far as to refer to him as a con and a fraud and suggested that his excavations were simply hoaxes that he fabricated for the sake of gaining fame.
Perhaps one of Schliemann’s greatest faults was also the greatest fuel for his archaeological effort. His unwavering belief in a Homeric Troy, and an epic Greek Bronze Age. He stuck to this belief ever since he was a young child, and in his older age, he wrote an autobiographical piece where he distinctly recalled the conversation he had with his father, in which he was determined that there must be some ruins of Troy left to find. Schliemann wrote this about fifty years later, much to the surprise of his peers, who found it hard to believe that one could recall a memory like that after so long. (Payne) Now, while scholars are in agreement that Troy existed, the actual size of the city, and the details of events in the Trojan War are often debated, and it is agreed that much of what Homer wrote in The Iliad is based in fantasy. There is no concrete evidence that some of the major characters presented in Homer’s poetry, such as Helen or Achilles, even existed, or that the war itself was on such a grand scale as Homer describes. Homer was writing about the Trojan war hundreds of years after it occurred, and there are some obvious fantastical nuances of his work. This makes Homer a questionable source overall when examining ancient Greek history. Homer’s work may be useful for looking into the heroic values and social entertainment of his time, but he simply isn’t reliable enough to link his writings to archaeological evidence. However, Finding archaeological evidence for a Homeric Greece seemed to be what Schliemann wanted the most, even if that meant exaggerating his findings, or even falsifying them.
Schliemann, in a word, was a man of the people, and a bit of a show boat. This often lead to self-aggrandizing, and very selfish behavior. In the case of his decision to excavate Hisarlik, for example Frank Calvert, an English archaeologist of the time, advised Schliemann to dig there. Calvert, himself, had dug there previously, but had no luck in the discovery of a great Troy. However, despite Calvert’s suggestion leading to this great find, it is known that Schliemann gave no credit whatsoever to Calvert for the discovery. Schliemann’s act of approaching this dig site was unbecoming of an archaeologist, to say the least. The Turkish government, toward the end of the dig, ended up rescinding his permission to excavate at Hisarlik and also sued him for a share of “Priam’s Treasure” because he had started his work before he was given approval. The conduction of the dig was very careless. Greek archaeologists such as Panagiotis Stamatakis, accused him of destroying other ancient artifacts by his hasty method of excavation in order to find what he wanted evidence of a Homeric Troy. These methods of approach and selfish acts give a strong base for skepticism, and when it came down to the actual discovery of this treasure, a large and impressive collection of items such as jewelry, pottery, and weapons, it was immediately inundated with questions and doubts.
Photograph of Priam’s Treasure
In Schliemann’s diary, where he initially wrote of his findings, his account is sketchy and incomplete and he was found to have misidentified several artifacts. Specifically, his accounts of the location and dates of his discoveries are vague and he often contradicted himself. One of the biggest pieces of evidence against Schliemann is that the land where he dug is not where Troy is actually believed to be (Easton). Hisarlik, the site that Schliemann and Calvert dug at, contained nine ancient cities built on top of each other, all surrounded by a high wall. Schliemann started his excavation at the second city, however modern day archaeologists have concluded that the sixth and seventh cities are the closest candidates for what the city of Troy would have been. It has also been proven that the artifacts found were from a time period much earlier than what Schliemann had stated. The jewels that Schliemann claimed had once belonged to Helen were estimated to have actually been 1000 years older than his estimates. This evidence leads some archaeologists to believe that Schliemann’s findings are actually a part of what is known as Troy II (Lovgren), and not Homeric Troy.
The faultiness and inconsistencies of Schliemann’s records did not help the legitimacy of the findings, but these circumstances could, in fact, simply be Schliemann’s misinformed opinion. Being fueled once again by his desire to find evidence of Homeric Troy. In other words, it can’t be said that Schliemann deliberately lied about the accounts of his findings, but they can be considered questionable. However, it is irrefutable that Schliemann blatantly lied about other certain aspects of the discovery. For instance, he originally stated his wife was present when he discovered the treasure, but that was found to be false. He admitted that it was a lie, but excused it by saying that he only wrote it in his diary so that his wife would feel more involved in the discovery. Schliemann rashly proclaiming his findings to be that of King Priam brings up further questions. When Schliemann claimed it to be, “Priam’s Treasure”, it wasn’t a claim based in logic, but rather one based in emotion. Schliemann wanted there to be proof of Homeric Troy, so, no matter what he found, he would have somehow linked it to those epic stories so as to support his belief in those legends. These lies and misinformation may seem like small transgressions, but nothing about archaeological discoveries can be skewed even in the slightest, lest the accuracy and legitimacy of the findings be called into question.
Many modern historians believe what Schliemann found in his Hisarlik excavation was only actually a few small bronze artifacts, combined with other items of different ages and styles that were found at other sites. It is thought that he combined findings from these sites for the purpose of announcing it and showing off his work, as he was wont to do. Another gray area that opens to questioning is the fact that Schliemann began his career by drawing everything he found, giving possible room for his bias. However, in 1872, his findings were photographed, and in 1873, they were drawn by a third-party artist. Out of all the items supposedly found at Priam’s Treasure, none of them are found recorded in his early documentation. This may be inconsequential, given Schliemann’s poor skill for documentation and hasty nature, but the very fact that the point can be made leaves a large red flag on Schliemann’s history and is very alarming.
Looking into his excavations in Mycenae in 1876, the motif of Schliemann’s overzealous and exaggerated findings seem to precede him once again. He discovered two circles of shaft graves containing many valuable objects, namely the series of golden funeral masks. It should be mentioned that all of the most significant finds of the site were supposedly discovered personally by Schliemann. Another nod to his knack for self-aggrandizing. When sharing his findings with the public, Schliemann once again over exaggerated, claiming that he had found the grave site of the great king Agamemnon. He had no solid proof, other than his own inspection and speculation of one of the masks he had discovered. There was no grave-marker indicating it was the final resting place of Agamemnon, and even though the mask and body were found with a wealth of coins and other artifacts, that does not mean that Schliemann’s claim was justified. As in his claim that he had found “Priam’s Treasure”, this claim, too, was based in emotion.
Other artifacts found at Mycenae
Inconsistencies in the artistic design of these masks raised particular interest, in the fact that they didn’t seem to have come from the same time or dig site. There seems to be three distinct styles of mask: two-dimensional masks with no smiles or facial hair, three-dimensional masks with more of a bowl-like structure and wearing smiles, and the third design was that of the supposed, “Mask of Agamemnon” that Schliemann found. Some of the most notable differences of this mask of Agamemnon were that it had facial hair, and the ears were cut out separately from the mask, making them stand out more. The differences in these masks gives a foothold against Schliemann that states that these findings were falsified. Schliemann was known to have allegedly smuggled treasure outside of Hisarlik, so it could be suggested that he could have smuggled the mask into Mycenae, or even added characteristics to another mask he previously discovered.
Schliemann’s rash claims, careless handling of archaeological evidence, and overall shady inconsistencies drew much scrutiny from his peers, who accused his findings of being hoaxes, and to be set up. According to the opinion of William M. Calder III, Schliemann enjoyed fabricating his work. Calder, an award-winning author and classics professor, was one of the first to question the truthfulness of Schliemann. He is quoted as saying that he has learned to doubt anything said by Schliemann unless there is independent confirmation. (Harrington)
Outside of Schliemann’s archaeological career, he had a history of being untruthful. Originally a businessman, he was known to make dishonest monetary transactions and was found to have lied to the U.S. government in order to be granted citizenship and a divorce. He also made other claims that were obviously false: such as he met President Millard Fillmore even though there is no possible way he could have, and claiming to have witnessed an earthquake in San Francisco although it is known that he was not there.
William Niederland created a modern psychoanalytic profile for Schliemann and determined that he had elements of possible psychopathy in his makeup. This is a very interesting evaluation because it would explain his extreme passion that border-lined desperation in his search for proof of an epic ancient Greece, and his seemingly compulsive lying.
The Siege of Troy
Troy was immortalized by the legendary Greek poet Homer in his epic poem The Iliad . The work was a key text in the Classical World and is often regarded as the first work in Western Literature. The historicity of the city was proven by German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s, who is regarded as one of the founders of modern archaeology. The Daily Sabah reports that Troy was the setting of the ‘‘Greek Trojan War in which Spartan and Achaean warriors from Greece besieged the city in 13th century B.C’’.
When Schliemann found the site, he believed that he had found evidence of the Trojan War that was so famously portrayed in the epic poem The Iliad . The German even named gold items he found after characters in the Homeric poem, such as ‘ Priam’s treasure’ and ‘Helen’s jewels’. However, there is much more to the history of the city than the reputed Greek and Trojan war.
‘The Burning of Troy’ (1759/62) by Johann Georg Trautmann. ( Public Domain )
Troy was destroyed and rebuilt many times over the millennia. It was built on a very strategic site and was as a result possibly attacked many times by invaders. The city may also have been burnt down accidentally. Moreover, earthquakes also may have destroyed the legendary city.
Since the 19 th century, ‘‘a total of 10 layers of settlements were discovered’’ reports Greece High Definition . Experts have called the layers Troy I to Troy XI. The first layer was found by Schliemann and every layer found since has been numbered and they have yielded many artifacts. These layers all represent settlements from Bronze Age cultures to the Byzantine Empire.
V. Who Was Schliemann?
More than changing the general perception of Troy as pure myth into a reflection of history, Schliemann has become a legend of sorts himself, and deservedly so. Call his Troy Homer’s or not, this “Father of Mediterranean Archaeology” accomplished many important things. Because of his work, for instance, the world realized the value of unearthing ancient sites in a systematic fashion. Ironically, for all he played up to the press and glamorized the treasures he found, Schliemann popularized archaeology as something more than digging for gold. More important yet, his induction of a generation of students into scientific archaeology led the academic community to stress meticulous and thorough record-keeping at sites, along with the careful analysis of all finds. His disciples would go on to seed programs in archaeology worldwide.
Portrait of Heinrich Schliemann / Wikimedia Commons
Indeed, Schliemann’s records both of the excavations he conducted and of his business and personal affairs were so comprehensive it wasn’t until recently that scholars began to comb through them. It didn’t help that, as a master of language, Schliemann wrote them in quite a few different tongues. There probably aren’t ten people alive today who have the sort of linguistic aptitude he did—along with the command he had of certain languages—so there are few people who can actually read everything he left behind. Therefore, to sift through all of Schliemann’s writings requires a collective effort, arguably out of proportion to the rewards it might deliver. Thus, for a long time his voluminous archive simply wasn’t read.
But over the last few decades classical scholars have been exploring Schliemann’s diaries, with very interesting results. While much of what he recorded was light-hearted, some mere practice exercises at various foreign languages—these entries as such were probably never intended for public consumption—all the same they reveal disturbing tendencies in Schliemann’s character. For example, he writes of meeting people whom he could never have met, such as the American President Millard Fillmore. At another point in his diaries, Schliemann details his involvement in a devastating fire in San Francisco at the same time, however, his own carefully documented itinerary proves he missed this event by several days.
And more directly incumbent on archaeology, his diaries also contradict the story he told of his wife’s assistance in smuggling “Priam’s Treasure” out of Turkey. They show, without doubt, it couldn’t have happened the way he said it did, because she wasn’t even with him at Troy when “Priam’s Treasure” was dug up. His own records even cast doubt over his tale of hearing the Trojan saga at his father’s knee, instilling in him the lifelong dream of discovering the city. At least, there is no mention of such aspirations until a convenient moment much later in his life, after he had unearthed “Troy.”
It’s not clear how important all this really is. In the end, it comes down to whether one chooses to label Schliemann an inveterate liar or a hopeless romantic, and whether or not his penchant for refracting the truth affected in any significant way his work as an archaeologist. Even without his diaries and accounts, few would say Schliemann was not a man possessed of strong imagination—pioneers usually are—the issue is, did the fantasies well-evidenced in his writings pervade his scientific work as well as his personal life?
Unfortunately, there is some evidence it did. For instance, it has been suggested more than once that “Priam’s Treasure” seems to be a collection of artifacts belonging to different periods, as we noted above, leading many to suspect that Schliemann gathered them from various graves and sites in and around Troy and later concocted a more newsworthy story of their discovery. His tale, replete with hidden treasure, female guile and bumbling Turkish guards, makes for a fairly theatrical script, in fact, almost the same plot as Mozart’s opera The Abduction from the Seraglio.
But it’s hard to assess this fairly now, because later in life Schliemann donated “Priam’s Treasure” to the Berlin Museum where it stayed until 1945. In the chaos of the siege of Berlin at the end of World War II, Schliemann’s Trojan treasure simply disappeared. The assumption was it had fallen into the hands of black-market art dealers and either was in a private collection somewhere—if so, it couldn’t be put on public display without being confiscated by international authorities—or had been melted down because it couldn’t be resold as such. In any case, without the treasure itself, there was no way to analyze and date it conclusively.
But in 1994, all that changed. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russian authorities acknowledged that “Priam’s Treasure” had for fifty years been housed in their land—some of it was in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and some in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg—Russian soldiers during World War II had, in fact, seized and smuggled it out of Germany. Now the hostage of several claims originating in at least three different countries (Germany, Russia and Turkey), the Trojan hoard is back in the public eye. Hopefully, answers about its nature and origin will one day be forthcoming.
But other controversies continue to swirl around Schliemann and his legacy to archaeology. The most sensational of these surrounds the so-called “Mask of Agamemnon.” Though it’s not clear that the particular one now called the “Mask of Agamemnon” is the same that Schliemann first referred to by that name, he later allowed the famous bearded mask to bear that designation. It is far and away the most presentable of the masks Schliemann discovered in Mycenae, lacking the bulging eyes and puffed cheeks that make several of the others look by modern standards ridiculous. In fact, the “Mask of Agamemnon” is particularly modern in its appearance, including a handle-bar moustache, something highly unusual in ancient art. More than one art historian has noted it looks remarkably like Schliemann himself, or perhaps Schliemann’s idol, King Ludwig of Bavaria.
A known mask forgery / Wikimedia Commons
A horse is a horse
The tale of Troy teems with memorable characters, but perhaps its most fascinating figure is the one that never speaks—the wooden horse. This has been frequently reimagined in literature, poetry, art, and cinema. Theories about the wooden horse abound. One proposes that it was a poetic representation of the wooden ships on which the Greeks arrived that evolved into a tangible aspect of the myth. Another suggests that a Trojan betrayed the city, sketching a horse on a secret gate as a sign to the Greeks. Others point out that horses were closely linked to the god Poseidon, sometimes known as “shaker of the earth.” Does the animal represent an earthquake that caused the walls of Troy to fall?
Recent scholars have offered more pragmatic theories, including that the wooden horse was actually a siege engine. Such a device can be seen in an Assyrian bas-relief from the palace of Assurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.) in Nimrod. This “Assyrian horse” postdates the destruction of Troy VI by several centuries, but written material from the archives of Hattusa—the capital of the Hittite empire—suggests such siege engines were in use as early as the 18th century B.C.
The device described was a portable wooden shelter around 26 feet in length and six feet wide from which hung a 17-foot-long pointed stake. Beneath the protective shelter besieging warriors would repeatedly slam the stake against the wall of the city to pry open a gap between the stones and weaken the structure. The Hittite documents refer to the device using animal epithets, such as “Savage ass” or “one-horned beast.”
Frank Calvert: The Man Behind the Discovery of Troy
I remember reading about amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann and his discovery of the legendary city of Troy when I was a kid. This triggered my fascination with archaeology which continues to this day. The story goes, Schliemann was a very successful businessman who developed an obsession with the discovery of Troy, the city made famous in Homer’s Trojan War epic poem The Iliad. In the nineteenth century scholars considered Troy to be pure fantasy, even though The Iliad had described a specific location for the city in Anatolia, the name for present-day Turkey. With The Iliad in hand, Schliemann set out to prove the experts wrong. His excavations began at a site called Hisarlik in 1870, and by 1873 he had discovered what he believed were the ruins of Troy.
What I didn’t know about Schliemann’s amazing story was that he didn’t actually discover the site on his own. The credit goes to a British amateur archaeologist named Frank Calvert. Calvert’s family owned a section of land at Hisarlik, and Frank conducted minor excavations at the site and was convinced it was the location of Troy. Unfortunately, he did not have the funds to mount a complete excavation. At this time, Schliemann had been searching for Troy with no success. They met in 1868 and discussed the Hisarlik site. Schliemann had plenty of resources to begin the excavation, so Calvert gave him the opportunity.
The sad part of this story is that Schliemann never gave any credit to Calvert when he announced his discovery of Troy. He never mentioned that it was Calvert who originally studied the site and believed it was Troy. If only Frank Calvert had the means to excavate the entire site on his own, he may be remembered as the “father of archaeology”.
The treasures of Troy, on display in Russia
Inside a small room in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art, an exhibit of gold jewelry, stone axes and bowls is on display. The objects are all part of what is known as &ldquoPriam&rsquos Treasure,&rdquo the spoils of the ancient city of Troy. The items were discovered during excavation works in what is now Turkey at the end of the 19 th century. Originally given to the city of Berlin by German entrepreneur Heinrich Schliemann, how the treasure ended up in Moscow is a story of plunder, war and legal wrangling.
A man with a singular goal
Schliemann's career began in the office of the import/export firm B. H. Schröder & Co in the Netherlands. Soon, however, his outstanding talent for foreign languages earned him a promotion: he was sent as the company's representative to Russia. He was based first in St. Petersburg, and later in Moscow. Schliemann was granted Russian citizenship in 1846 in 1852, he married Yekaterina Lyzhina, the daughter of a well-to-do Russian merchant. Schliemann did not settle permanently in Russia, though. He traveled extensively and eventually divorced his wife, in part by taking up residence in Indiana.
Dr. Heinrich Schliemann with his wife. / Source: Getty Images
By 1858, Schliemann was wealthy enough to retire and decided to devote himself to finding the ancient city of Troy. In 1873, during excavation works on a hill called Hissarlik in what is now Turkey, he found his first treasure. &ldquoThe discovery of Priam's Treasure was an international sensation,&rdquo said Vladimir Tolstikov, chief curator of the collection at the Pushkin Museum and director of the museum's department of art and archeology of the ancient world.
Schliemann continued with his archaeological work almost until his death in 1890. According to different estimates, he found between 19 and 21 treasures. The collection was held at the Royal Museums of Berlin until the onset of World War II.
Spoils of war
During the war, the treasures were first kept in the basement of a Berlin bank. When aerial bombardments began, the items were moved to an air-raid bunker. In April 1945, as Soviet troops were storming Berlin, the collection remained under constant care of Wilhelm Unverzagt, a Berlin museum director. According to Tolstikov, Unverzagt, feared that the collection might be destroyed and voluntarily surrendered the crates containing the treasure to Soviet soldiers in July 1945. They were then taken to Moscow.
After the war, the Germans began searching for the collection, but its whereabouts were unknown until 1994. &ldquoOnly two people in the world knew where it was: the director of the Pushkin Museum and the collection curator,&rdquo Tolstikov said.
Priam's Treasure might have remained classified for much longer had it not been for Grigory Kozlov, an employee of Russia&rsquos Culture Ministry, who had access to archives and service correspondence. In the 1990s, Kozlov published information about the treasure in the U.S. press. After the information was made public, Russian Culture Minister Yevgeny Sidorov ordered the collection to go on display. In 1995, experts from Germany and other countries were invited to inspect the collection and sign a document certifying its authenticity. An exhibition of the collection was staged in 1996.
At this point, Germany filed a formal protest demanding that the collection be returned. In 1998, the Russian parliament reacted by adopting a law on cultural objects that had been taken by the Soviet Union World War II and were currently on Russian territory. The document declared all such objects &ldquothe federally owned property of Russia.&rdquo
&ldquoThe law came into force, no one is going to breach it,&rdquo said Tolstikov. &ldquoOur German colleagues understood that they would not be able to do anything about it, so now we cooperate successfully and organize joint exhibitions.&rdquo
Vladimir Tolstikov / Source: Nadezhda Serezhkina
Alexandra Skuratova, an assistant professor in the international law department at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), agreed that there is no point in the German government protesting the law.
&ldquoThis is a legal result, and it has legal implications,&rdquo Skuratova said. She added that Priam's Treasure may be viewed as partial compensation for the destruction of Soviet cultural objects during the war. According to official statistical data, more than 160 Soviet museums and 4,000 libraries were damaged during the war, and 115,000 books were destroyed.
Skuratova also notes that the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict was adopted in 1954, after World War II. As per the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, international treaties are not retroactive &ldquounless the treaty otherwise provides.&rdquo The parties to the Hague Convention are not known to have expressed their intention to make the document retroactive, so it cannot be applied to the Priam's Treasure case.