(1822 - 1890)
Schliemann was born on January 6, 1822 in the small village of Neu Buckow, Germany. His
parents were Ernst and Luise Therese Sophie Schliemann. His interest in Homeric Troy
started when his father gave him a book by Ludwig Jerrer entitled Illustrated History of
the World for Christmas in 1829.
Schliemann's mother died in 1831, and Heinrich was sent to live with his uncle,
Frederich Schliemann. While at his uncle's, Schliemann concentrated on school and was
regarded as a promising student. The next year, when Heinrich was 11, he was sent to the
prestigious Gymnasium at Neu Strelitz. His dreams of becoming a classical scholar were
broken, however, when his father, a pastor, was accused of embezzling church funds. Unable
to pay for the private academy, Heinrich was forced to attend the Realschule, the common
school. Despite his progress, he was forced to leave that school as well when his father
fell even further into financial problems in the spring of 1836.
Forced to make a living on his own, Heinrich Schliemann went to work at Herr Holtz's
grocery shop in Furstenburg. He hated everything about the job. His main joy, he later
claimed, was his friendship with a young miller who could recite 100 lines of Homer in
ancient Greek. Though he could not understand the language, Schliemann claimed that the
words inspired him, and "from that moment, I did not cease to pray to God that by his
grace it might one day be permitted to me to learn Greek."
An accident prompted Schliemann to leave the grocer's, and he wandered around Hamburg
and Amsterdam, looking for jobs. In 1842, he found employment in Prussia with the F.C.
Quien and Co. counting house, stamping bills of exchange and getting them cashed in town.
He had long dreamed of becoming rich, and he finally saw a way to make it happen. He
dedicated his life toward the pursuit of that goal - he wasted little money on living
expenses, spent nothing on entertainment, had nothing to do with women, educated himself
and spent money only on the advancement his education. During this period, his genius for
language became apparent - he taught himself fluent Dutch, English, French, Spanish,
Italian and Portuguese in two years.
On March 1, 1844, Schliemann got a job with Herr Schroder's office, a large import and
export business. He showed such shrewd negotiating skills that he was stationed in Russia
in 1846, representing Schroder as well as several other businesses. He was instantly
successful, and traveled throughout Europe both for business and pleasure.
Though he was realizing his dream of becoming rich, Schliemann remained a tortured
spirit. He learned that Minna, his childhood sweetheart, had married someone else. This
threw him into a state of depression, and he vowed that someday he would be rich enough to
marry any woman he wanted. Wealth became the elusive idol he strove for he imagined it was
a panacea that would cure all his personal shortcomings.
On May 25, 1850, Schliemann's brother Ludwig who was a banker in Sacramento had died,
leaving what was described as "a large estate." Schliemann, jealous over his
brother's relatively easy success, left for America in December of 1850, determined to
increase his own fortune as well.
Schliemann arrived in Sacramento in early 1851, and set himself up as a buyer of
gold-dust. His wealth did indeed increase, but Schliemann derived little pleasure from it.
Instead, the more wealthy he became, the more paranoid he became he was still lonely, and
now he was also afraid that somebody might try to rob him of his riches.
On April 7, 1852, he liquidated his business and returned to Russia. There, he indulged
himself in fineries - he had a large apartment, fine wines, expensive horses, and his own
carriage. On the outside he had an air of authority and sophistication inside, however, he
was as miserable as ever, tormented by ambition and sexual passions.
On October 12, 1852, he married Ekaterina Lishin, the niece of a wealthy friend.
Schliemann entered into the marriage with high hopes, but he was soon disappointed -
Ekaterina turned out to be distant, refusing to sleep with him and acting as if she were
waiting for him to die.
Perhaps in attempt to buy her affections, Schliemann turned his attention back to his
fortune. He returned to Russia and invested in the indigo market soon he controlled it,
and earned even more than before. Because of his increasing fortune, his wife became
temporarily more affectionate toward him, and she bore him a son, Sergey. During this more
happy time, Schliemann also learned ancient and modern Greek, and became obsessed with it.
His marriage became more strained over time, however, and in the summer of 1858 he and
Ekaterina had another child claiming coldly, "I stole it from her." To get away
from his miserable home life, he visited Greece for the first time. The country enthralled
him, but his visit was cut short by a summons back to Russia because of a lawsuit.
He won the lawsuit, had a third child with Ekaterina, and stayed in Russia for five
more years, increasing his fortune even more. He still traveled extensively - he visited
India, Singapore, Java, China, Japan, Nicaragua, Havana, Mexico and France, but he stayed
away from Greece. He finally settled in Paris and tried to convince Ekaterina and the
children to come live with him. They ignored his pleading, bribing and threatening,
In 1868, Schliemann sailed back to America and made arrangements to become an official
citizen of Indiana in order to officially divorce Ekaterina. Complications arose, though,
and he returned to Paris. Soon after, his beloved cousin Sophie died, and Schliemann
nearly went mad with grief. Her death forced him to ask himself questions he had been
avoiding - what was the meaning of life? What was he really living for? He turned to
Homer's Odyssey and found comfort in the idea of the hero, Odysseus, returning home. He
decided to follow Odysseus' example, and resolved to return to Ithaca, the island that
When Schliemann traveled to Greece in the summer of 1868 he had already determined that
he wanted to do archaeology. When he arrived at Ithaca, he went to work finding the palace
of Odysseus. Using Homer and the locals' legends as his guides, he started excavating on
the isthmus of the island and uncovered a group of over 20 vases, each filled with ashes
that Schliemann was certain were human. They also uncovered a 6-inch long sacrificial
knife, a clay goddess figurine, and some animal bones. In his journal, Schliemann wrote
"it is quite possible that they [the vases] contain the ashes of Odysseus and
Penelope, or their descendants."
After finding nothing more at Ithaca, Schliemann set out to find Troy in August. At
that time, Bunarbashi was believed to be the site of Troy, but Schliemann thought that the
nearby hill Hissarlik was a more likely area. Frank Calvert, an Englishman who owned the
eastern half of the hill, agreed with Schliemann, and had discovered the ruins of a palace
or temple made out of large blocks of hewn stone. Schliemann enlisted Calvert's aid
Calvert agreed to assist him and, to Schliemann's surprise, asked for nothing in return.
While the divorce with Ekaterina was still in progress, Schliemann sent a letter to his
friend asking him to find him a poor, beautiful, dark-haired, well-educated Greek woman
who was interested in Homer. The friend replied and at the end of July of 1869 Schliemann
went to visit Sophia Engastromenos in Colonus. They married on September 23, 1869.
Schliemann returned to Hissarlik in 1870, convinced that the most important discoveries
would be found on the western side of the hill, which was owned by two Turks. The owners
agreed to let Schliemann continue digging on their property if Schliemann would let them
have the stones of the building foundation he had uncovered for a bridge they were
building. Schliemann reluctantly agreed, and his excavation progressed until April 21,
when the Turks decided they had enough stone and ordered him to stop his excavation. From
this date until October of 1871, Schliemann went through a frustrating series of
negotiations with the Turkish government. Finally, on Wednesday, October 11, he returned
to Troy determined to uncover Priam's palace.
He found little that he deemed important during that excavation - among the more common
finds were phallus-shaped objects, tiles with sketches of an owl's head, terra-cotta
top-shaped objects, obsidian knife blades, and clay tiles with swastika sketches.
On June 18, 1872, Schliemann uncovered a relief of the sun god Apollo riding the four
horses of the sun. The work was most likely from the Ptolemaic period, much later than the
supposed time of the Trojan War. Though Schliemann had promised to give the Turkish
government half of the treasure he found, he and Calvert smuggled the relief out of the
country, and it ended up adorning Schliemann's garden for many years.
At that point, Schliemann had found little to suggest the site was indeed Homeric Troy,
and he became depressed and discouraged. On August 4, 1872 a breakthrough finally came
Schliemann discovered his first treasure, which consisted of three gold earrings and a
gold dress-pin. Nearby, he found the skeleton of a woman who he thought, judging by the
color of her bones, had died during the burning of Troy.
More progress came in May of 1873 when his crew found two gates 20 feet apart, and the
foundation of a large building behind the gates. In typical form, Schliemann interpreted
the findings in a way that fit his hopes - he dubbed the entrance the Scaean Gates, and
named the building Priam's Palace.
Shortly after that find came one of the most interesting of Schliemann's discoveries.
Schliemann himself found a golden treasure near the Scaean Gates, and hoping to keep his
find secret, let the crew have the rest of the day off. He and Sophie quietly excavated
the hoard themselves, certain that they had found the treasure of King Priam. Among their
findings were a copper shield, a copper cauldron, a silver vase, a copper vase, a gold
bottle, 2 gold cups, a small electrum cup, a silver goblet, 3 silver vases, 7 double-edged
copper daggers, 6 silver knife blades, 13 copper lance-heads, 2 gold diadems, a fillet, 4
gold ear-drops, 56 gold earrings, and 8,750 gold rings and buttons.
Though he never wrote down the exact date of the discovery, it is known that he did
smuggle it off the site and to Frank Calvert on May 30, 1873. On May 31, certain that the
treasure was safe with his friend, Schliemann wrote his first journal account of the find.
He later split the artifacts up, and hid them with friends all over Greece with the
treasure spread out, he knew neither the Greek nor the Turkish government could claim
ownership of it.
The Turkish government eventually discovered Schliemann's treachery, however, and
demanded the treasure back. Schliemann refused, and attempted to offer the find to the
Greek government, if they would let him excavate at Mycenae and Mount Olympus. They
refused his offer, and Schliemann was left in constant conflict between the two
governments until Greek officials agreed to let him excavate at Mycenae, with the
agreement that officials from the Greek Archaeological Society would work with him.
In August of 1876, using ancient texts and locals' legends, Schliemann began excavation
on Mycenae. From the beginning he was involved in a battle with Greek officials over
whether or not he should be supervised, and what sort of field methods he could use.
Schliemann immediately started digging near the Lion Gate, an imposing structure with a
large lintel topped by a relief of two Lionesses facing each other. There was a great
circular space south of the Lion Gate, perhaps an ancient open-air meeting place, and in
this space his workers found two tombstones. They excavated these graves, as well as
several others found within the circle, and found an abundance of gold funerary goods.
Schliemann was convinced that he had found the bodies of the great Agamemnon, Cassandra,
Eurymedon, Clytemnestra, and Aegisthus, people he had been reading about for decades.
The Mask of Agamemnon
South of the circle, Schliemann also found an immense building, which he interpreted as
a palace. In it, his workers uncovered a 12-inch high vase with a painting of a procession
of soldiers marching off to war. This find was especially interesting, for it was possible
the Homeric war dress was similar to that of the Mycenaean soldiers.
In July of 1878, Schliemann left Mycenae and excavated at Ithaca. He identified a site
he thought was the palace of Odysseus the effort was a failure by his standards, however,
for he found neither the palace nor treasure. He did uncover the ruins of 190 houses, a
discovery modern archaeologists would be pleased with. Convinced he would find nothing of
"value," he abandoned Ithaca and decided to concentrate his efforts once again
In September of 1878, Schliemann arrived at Hissarlik, and on October 21, 1878 he found
a small cache consisting of 20 gold earrings, some gold spiral rings, 2 electrum
bracelets, 11 silver earrings, 158 silver rings, and many gold beads. This time Schliemann
was able to kept only one-third of his findings the Imperial Museum at Constantinople
claimed the rest.
Heinrich Schliemann found his last treasure in April of 1879 with two small areas of
treasure, consisting of gold disks, chains, earrings, and bracelets. His years of luck had
run out he would continue attempts at excavation for the rest of his life, but never again
would he experience the success of his earlier years.
He eventually built himself a house in Athens, where he ruled like a Homeric king - his
messages were sent to him in ancient Greek, he insisted that Greek be spoken at the dinner
table, and he renamed all his servants after characters in Greek mythology and history. He
wrote about his excavations at Hissarlik in a work entitled Ilios, but the more he
pondered his discoveries, the more he became plagued with doubt that Hissarlik was really
In May 1881 Schliemann returned to Hissarlik, determined to find something that proved
the hill was Homeric Troy. He found very little, but on the top of nearby Mount Ida found
a slab of marble which he claimed were the ruins of Zeus' throne.
In February of 1884, Schliemann excavated the mound at Marathon, where according to
legend, the bodies of 192 Athenians who fell against the Persians were buried. Expecting
to find skeletons, swords, helmets, shields and spears, he dug a trench through the mound,
but the only artifacts he uncovered were a few potsherds.
In March of 1884, Schliemann began an excavation at Nauplia, a citadel at Tiryns.
During the first season his workers uncovered the foundation of a Homeric palace the
summer afterward they found a fresco showing a boy jumping over a bull, some obsidian
knives and arrowheads, and a single gold ax half an inch wide.
At the end of 1886, Schliemann took a three-month cruise down the Nile in Egypt, where
he met the young Egyptologist E.A. Wallace Budge. In 1888 Schliemann uncovered what he
called Aphrodite's temple on the Island of Cythera, and on the island of Sphacteria, he
found old fortifications supposedly used by the Spartans in 425 BC. During this period, he
attempted several times to get permission to excavate Cnossus on the island of Crete, but
was continually turned away.
On August 1, 1890, Schliemann returned to Athens, and in November traveled to Halle for
an operation on his chronically infected ears. The doctors dubbed the operation a success,
but his inner ear became painfully inflamed. Ignoring his doctors' advice, he left the
hospital and traveled to Leipzig, Berlin, and Paris. From Paris, he planned to return to
Athens in time for Christmas, but his ears became even worse. Too sick to make the boat
ride from Napels to Greece, Schliemann remained in Naples, but managed to make a journey
to the ruins of Pompeii. On Christmas day he collapsed in the Piazza della Santa Carita
and died in a hotel room on December 26, 1890.
Heinrich Schliemann's body was brought back to Athens. His funeral tool place on
January 4, 1891, and he was buried in a cemetery south of the Ilissus, in a great
mausoleum he had built for himself. The inscription above the entrance is a powerful
declaration of how he wanted to be remembered it simply says "For the hero