Heinrich Schliemann [1822-1890] -- By: Milton C. Fisher

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 03:1 (Winter 1990)
Article: Heinrich Schliemann [1822-1890]
Author: Milton C. Fisher


Heinrich Schliemann [1822-1890]

Milton C. Fisher

Heinrich Schliemann as Business Tycoon in Russia and
Engrossed in His Massive Excavation at Troy

David, great king of Israel, said, “Lord, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me” (Ps 131:1). By way of contrast, Heinrich Schliemann, the successful entrepreneur and antiquarian who located and excavated ancient Troy, wrote to his father from Russia in 1854, “Here in Moscow I am considered the slyest most cunning and most capable of merchants…” Later (1870), he admonished his schoolboy son Serge, “You ought to try to follow the example of your father, who in whatever situation always proved what a man can accomplish by unflagging energy alone.”

In that same letter he wrote of his four years’ employment in Amsterdam during his early twenties, “I truly performed wonders. My achievements there have never been equalled, and never will be equalled in the future.” Concerning his wholesale merchant days in St. Petersburg he wrote, “I was the most brilliant and at the same time the most astute dealer on the stock exchange.” And of his archaeological career, taken up upon retirement from business a multi-millionaire at age thirty-six, “As an archaeologist, I am the sensation of Europe and America because I have discovered ancient Troy,… for which the archaeologists of the entire world have searched during the past two thousand years.’* [*Quotations are from C. W. Ceram, The March of Archaeology. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1958, p. 33]

We’ve let Schliemann speak for himself to suggest why so many, in reaction, have branded his digging at Troy and elsewhere “unprofessional.” For though he on his own learned about ten modern languages and a couple classical ones (Latin and Greek), and though he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Rostock (writing his dissertation in classical Greek!), academic conceit on the part of established orientalists labeled him a treasure seeker and bungler.

Actually, it was Heinrich Schliemann and associate Wilhelm Dörpfeld who first discerned potentially datable stratification in ancient ruins, seven distinct occupation levels at Troy. This was a remarkable discovery and a giant step forward for the science of archaeology.

Heinrich Schliemann can be admired for his singleness of purpose and persistence in its pursuit. Few men have set their sights as did he on such an imaginative and difficult goal—at age eight! For it was ...

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