Speech on Heinrich Schliemann

The following was written in 2004 by Andrea Zuvich.

“And now, as Hector reached the Scæan Gates and the great Oak of Troy…and he soon came into Priam’s palace, that magnificent structure built wide with porches and colonnades of polished stone.” (283-292). It was words like these in the Iliad by Homer that alighted a young German boy’s heart. He was Heinrich Schliemann, and he wondered if that palace with colonnades in Troy really existed. We wonder about the same things even today- don’t we? How many of you have seen the movie Troy? See, most of you still question the past. As a History major, I have to question the past as well. Schliemann became a very notable figure in the field of Archaeology because he popularized it with his excavations at Mycenae and Troy, with his extensive use of media, and his incredible enthusiasm for history. All of which have inspired me to become more fervent in my quest for knowledge about past civilizations.

Excavatory research is the main part of any archeological dig. Schliemann used his extensive knowledge of history and of languages to help him with the many excavations. He read the Iliad and the Odyssey countless times, trying to figure out where the cities of Mycenae and Troy were located.

In Northeastern Greece, after a great deal of digging and worry he found the lost city of Mycenae. And when he came upon the Lion Gate and he knew he had made a great success. Among these ruins, Schliemann found a vast amount of golden treasure, among them large masks of solid gold- this one he boastfully declared to be the Mask of Agamemnon. Agamemnon was the legendary King of Mycenae who led the great army against the Trojans in the Homeric poems.

His greatest and most admired achievement of all was the discovery of Troy in 1870. Here, according to Schliemann’s own accounts, the ancient city lay under a large hill known as Hissarlik, in modern-day Turkey. There was much debate about whether or not the city of Troy was under that hill, but according to Archeologist Manfred Korfmann, of the University of Tubingen: “Recent excavations have unearthed an extensive town outside the citadel walls, dated to around 1300 B.C.–the approximate time when Homer’s Trojan War is supposed to have occurred.” And this means that Schliemann was right about the location.

Schliemann knew that in order to let the world know what he was discovering, he had to use the media to his advantage. After he had discovered Mycenae, he had newspapers around the world write about the golden treasures he had found. He also wrote many books about his findings including: Mycenae, Ilios, Troja, and the Ilios, City and Country of the Trojans.

Schliemann was very enthusiastic about history. He is rather like that commercial that on tv now with the girl going “I love History!” He taught himself six languages in order to better understand history.

Heinrich Schliemann spent his whole life investigating the past and telling the world about his discoveries. Schliemann has inspired me to study history as passionately as he did.

In 2001, I traveled throughout Europe and went to the current excavation site in Pompeii, Italy. There were several archeologists digging 10 by 10 foot square hole and they told me they had found another layer of the Ancient Roman city under the one that was found in the 1800’s. The experience was so thrilling for me that this past summer I went to a dig in Northern Chile where we found remains of native people and artifacts from the Bronze Age.

I hope to someday be able to go see Schliemann’s excavation sites in Greece and Turkey for myself. Schliemann (with help from his wife Sophie and friend Frank Calvert) found Troy and Mycenae. This shows that even if a story is considered myth, there may be facts about it that can be proved. And Schliemann proved that is possible. And remember, no one has found Atlantis…yet.

Heinrich Schliemann taught me the belief that if we know and understand our past, we will be able to prevent the same mistakes from occurring again in the future.

To conclude, ladies and gentlemen, Heinrich Schliemann was a great leader in the field of Archeology because he made it popular to the world. His excavatory research at Mycenae and Troy speaks for itself, he used the media of his day to announce his discoveries to the world, and he never lacked enthusiasm to achieve his goals.  As Schliemann’s friend Carl Schuchardt once said, “He was not only an enthusiastic admirer of ancient times; but he was also a thoroughly practical man of untiring skill and perseverance. The civilized world shall truly miss his devotion and enthusiasm for classical learning and antiquity.”

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