Heinrich Schliemann and the Discovery of Troy

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HEINRICH SCHLIEMANN AND THE DISCOVERY OF TROY

“So fight by the ships, all together. And that comrade
Who meets his death and destiny, speared or stabbed,
Let him die! He dies fighting for the fatherland-
No dishonor there!
He’ll leave behind him wife and sons unscathed,
His house and estate unharmed- once these Argives
Sail for home, the fatherland they love.”
–The Iliad Book 15 lines 574-580, by Homer

Today, on the plains of Western Anatolia lies the site of one of the most well known and prosperous cities of ancient times, Troy. The city in which the so-called blind poet, Homer, lived; the city that was ambushed by a large wooden horse; the city with so many ancient tales and legends. Yet it seemed before 1871, these stories and legends were purely fictional. It was a young German man who set out to find Troy for himself. This man was Heinrich Schliemann, a brilliant archaeologist and discoverer of Troy. In the early ages of western civilization, around 800 B.C. a man named Homer started the enduring legacy of Troy. Although the dates are not exactly clear of which Homer lived, and who he actually was as a person, he is credited of writing two famous ancient epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Iliad described the events of the Trojan War, and is simply an epic tale that contains over 15,000 lines. For the past 2,500 years this epic has been read globally. The Iliad provided themes, motifs, and archetypical characters that are still present in literature today, proving Homer a literary genius for his time (Loutro). Homer’s epics were recognized across the globe as great literary works, however due to the presence of Olympian gods as well as fantastical creatures and supernatural events in the texts, these works were assumed by scholars to be fictional tales rather than history. Few people believed Homer ever existed, nonetheless the Trojan War occurred, but they would be convinced otherwise due to one man, Heinrich Schliemann, who unfolded the legend of Homer by digging at Hissarlik, found Priam’s prestigious treasure, and credited his name with one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time. Heinrich Schliemann was born on January 6, 1822 in New Buckow, Germany. His father was a local priest, and wanted Heinrich to be well educated. Heinrich loved to read, and when he was only eight years old, his father got him a copy of Jerrer’s Universal History in which he saw an image of Troy (Knox). The image caught his interest, so his father bought him Homer’s epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Schliemann grew up reading these books over and over, as his interest for both Troy and Homer grew. When Schliemann was fourteen years old his mother passed away, which gradually caused Schliemann’s family in poverty due to the lack of income. Schliemann was forced to leave school and find a job, for his father knew Heinrich was smart enough to educate himself. Schliemann found work at a local grocery store, where he was only an apprentice to the grocer. For five and a half years Schliemann worked at the grocery store, producing just enough money to help out with the family. Schliemann’s employment at the store ended when he was 20 years old, when he injured his back lifting a barrel of whiskey. Schliemann knew he would be out of hard labor for a while, so he decided to set out on his own, and try to make a living elsewhere.

Schliemann decided not only to leave Germany, but to leave Europe altogether. He boarded a ship headed for Colombia, where he was hoping to become a merchant, selling goods. The ship experienced difficulties within the voyage, as they were forced to make a pit stop in Amsterdam (Knox). Schliemann liked Amsterdam, so he chose to stay there for a while. He figured he could find a nice steady job in Amsterdam, but was unfortunate, and only worked small jobs for three years. Making only $160 a year for those three years, Schliemann was living in destitute. Though...
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