Heinrich Schliemann was a German archaeologist who was captivated by the mythos of the Bronze Age of ancient Greece. This captivation fueled his desire to prove the historical reality of legends such as Homer’s Troy. He was a pioneer in his field, excavating sites such as Hissarlik, Myceneae, and Tiryns, the discoveries of which are some of the largest and most valuable ever found from ancient Greece.
Schliemann was born in Neubukow, Mecklenburg-Schwerin on January 6, 1822. His father, Ernest Schliemann, was a Protestant clergyman who had a passion for ancient history that he passed on to his son. He would tell him stories of the tragic ends of Herculaneum and Pompeii, and the great deeds of the Homeric heroes, sparking Schliemann’s fascination with the ancient Greek world. The village in which he spent his childhood only served to further promote young Schliemann’s imagination, with tales of ghosts and treasures abounding. (Payne) At the impressionable age of eight, his father gave him a copy of Dr. Georg Ludwig Jerrer’s Universal History for Christmas.This is arguably the most influential object that Schliemann would ever possess, for it had an engraving depicting the ancient city of Troy in flames. This was the first time he was presented with what he interpreted to be an actual scene of the legends of the Trojan War. Schliemann saw the huge walls of the city and refused to believe that there were no ruins to find, despite the doubts of even his father, the one who first told him of the greatness of Troy. (Schliemann) This one book could be said to be at the core of the fire that was Schliemann’s determination to unearth the Greek Bronze Age.
Throughout his young life, Schliemann worked a few middle class jobs, and eventually became an office boy and bookkeeper for B.H. Schroder & Co., a trading firm in Amsterdam. It was here that his passion and talent for language and his extraordinary memory enabled him to learn 14 languages fluently. He claimed it took him six weeks to learn a language. By the time he died in 1890, he could read, write, and speak English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Polish, Italian, Greek, Latin, Russian, Arabic, Turkish, and German. It was his aptitude for languages that made him an extremely successful businessman in trading. He made a fortune doing military contracting during the time of the Crimean War, but retired at the age of 36 to devote his time to the study of archaeology, with the ultimate goal of fulfilling his childhood dreams. (Daniel)