Introduced by Caroline Moorehead
A story of adventure, obsession and discovery, accompanied by rare photographs.
For the educated classes of 19th-century Europe, the Troy of Priam, Helen and Paris, with its ‘topless towers’ immortalised in Homer’s Iliad, was a romantic ideal. For most, it was a legend; its true location, if it existed at all, lost to the centuries. But, for the eccentric German adventurer and brilliant self-taught archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, it was an absolute truth – within the pages of the Iliad was a literal map to be followed, a map that would become his life’s obsession, leading him to a discovery that would transfix the world, and would become archaeology’s greatest detective story.
Troy and Its Remains, published in 1875, is Schliemann’s account of his discoveries on and around the mound of Hissarlik, the site in northwest Turkey he resolutely believed to contain the ruins of the lost city. With trade-mark bravado, he recalls his first momentous dig as he enthusiastically uncovers each stratum of the ancient settlements within the hill. What he found would astound both his critics and supporters alike – a spectacular trove of gold and jewels, and myriad dishes, bowls, shields, swords, helmets, pottery and goblets.
That Schliemann did, in fact, find Priam’s Troy is now considered doubtful. The treasures more than likely belonged to another people who lived more than 1,000 years before the Homeric Age of Heroes. However, as biographer Caroline Moorehead writes in her introduction, regardless of his faults, Schliemann ‘presented the world with a lost civilisation’, and one of the most controversial legacies in archaeological science.
Included in this edition is a selection of plates taken from the original German edition, Atlas Trojanische Alterthümer. These rare photographs, taken at the time of excavation, capture the staggering variety of Schliemann’s finds, from owl-faced pots to the dazzling ‘Jewels of Helen’.
By 1852 Schliemann was a rich man, married to a haughty Russian girl who did not much care for him, but who bore him three children. Not that he was altogether likeable: his restlessness had become eccentricity and his manner was autocratic, parsimonious and self-obsessed. He kept travelling: four continents and nine countries in under two years, and as he journeyed, he wrote up his diary, switching language as he moved from place to place. January 1868 found him in New York, listening to Charles Dickens read from A Christmas Carol.
Yet Schliemann was, and remained, a dreamer. And in 1868, at the age of forty-six, he at last turned his thoughts to archaeology. He would, he decided, find the lost city of Troy, home to King Priam, father of Hector‘of the golden helmet’ and of‘noble Paris’ whose kidnapping of the Achaean Helen sparked the ten-year siege. His knowledge of the classical world was scanty, but he was energetic and self-disciplined, and rich enough to spend a great deal of money on excavations and the permits needed to carry them out. Boastful, impatient, maddening his fellow archaeologists and scholars with his unorthodox and cavalier ways, Schliemann would spend the remaining twenty-two years of his life trying to prove that the story of Troy and the great war between the Trojans and the Achaeans was not an epic tale, but accurate historical reporting. It would be enough, he believed, to follow Homer’s words literally, step by step, taking no guide but the Iliad, to unearth Priam’s great city.
Heinrich Schliemann (1822–90) was born in Neubukow in Germany, the son of a Protestant minister. Starting his career as a businessman, he made a fortune from the indigo trade in Russia and as a military contractor during the Crimean War. He retired from business at the age of thirty-six and thereafter devoted his energies and finances to the study and practice of archaeology, particularly the search for the historical remains of Homeric Troy, conducted in Hissarlik in Turkey from 1871. His discoveries and theories (first published in Germany in 1874, and a year later in Britain as Troy and Its Remains) were received sceptically by many scholars, who also criticised Schliemann’s haste, idealism and the use of dynamite in his excavations. However, a wide public, including the prime minister of England, William Ewart Gladstone, accepted his identification of Hissarlik as Homer’s Troy.
In 1876 Schliemann began excavations at Mycenae on the Greek mainland, searching for further confirmation of the Homeric poems’ historical truth. Here he found a number of shaft graves and a large treasure of gold, silver, bronze and ivory objects, including the famous ‘Mask of Agamemnon’, which convinced him that he had found the tombs of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Schliemann revisited the excavations at Troy over many years, with interruptions to excavate sites in Ithaca, and, in 1884, the fortified site of Tiryns near Mycenae with fellow archaeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld. Plagued by chronic ear trouble, Schliemann died in Naples on 25 December 1890. His work has been acclaimed, maligned and debated ever since.
Caroline Moorehead is the author of six biographies, including Lost and Found: Heinrich Schliemann and the Gold That Got Away (1997). Her other works include Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees (2006), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival in Auschwitz (2012) and Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France (2014). She is also an acclaimed human rights journalist and activist, and has served as a trustee and director of Index on Censorship and as a governor of the British Institute of Human Rights. In 2005 she was awarded an OBE for services to literature.
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