Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Text Size

MYTHS OF CRETE & PRE-HELLENIC EUROPE, Chapter 4 Schliemann's Discoveries







History in Myth and Legend--Schliemann's Discoveries

The Hellenes and Pelasgians--Evidence of Folk-legends--Thucydides on Cretan Origin of ean Civilization--Solar-myth Theories--Achilles and Odysseus as Sun-gods--The "Aryans" and the Iliad--Trojan War and Vedic Myths--Schliemann's Faith in Tradition--Story of his Life--Resolution in Boyhood to excavate Troy--How he became a Merchant Prince--Troy located at Hissarlik--Early Discoveries--First Treasure Hoard--Trouble with Turkish Officials--Excavations in Greece--Work at Tiryns--The Cyclopean Walls--Legends of Giant and Fairy Artisans--Hittite Method of Building--Excavations at Mycen-The Lion Gate--Ramsay's Finds in Phrygia--The Rich Mycenn Graves--"Agamemnon's Tomb"--A Famous Telegram--Later Excavations--Schliemann's Scheme to explore in Crete--Death of the Famous Excavator.

THE knowledge possessed by European scholars a generation ago regarding pre-Hellenic civilization was of slight and doubtful character. Histories of Greece devoted small space to the Heroic Age. These usually began by stating that Greece was so called by the Romans, that it had been anciently known as Hellas and embraced several States--Attica, Arcadia, Ach, Botia.--and that the term Hellas had wider significance than was attached to it in modern times, having been used to denote the country of the Hellenes wherever they might happen to be settled, so that Cyrene in North Africa and Miletus in Asia Minor, for instance, were as essentially parts of Hellas as Arcadia or Botia. It was also recognized that the Hellenes were not the earliest inhabitants of Greece proper. Before these invaders entered into possession of the country it had been divided between various "barbarous tribes", including the Pelasgi and their congeners the Caucones and Leleges. Thirlwall, among others, expressed the view "that the name Pelasgians was a general one, like that of Saxons, Franks, or Alemanni, and that each of the Pelasgian tribes had also one peculiar to itself". The Hellenes did not exterminate the aborigines, but constituted a military aristocracy. Aristotle was quoted to show that their original seat was near Dodona, in Epirus, and that they first appeared in Thessaly about 1384 B.C. It was believed that the Hellenic conquerors laid the foundation of Greek civilization.

Grote, on the other hand, declined to accept the theory that the Pelasgians constituted the sole indigenous element in Greece. "In going through historical Greece", he said, "we are compelled to accept the Hellenic aggregate with its constituent elements as a primary fact to start from. . . . By what circumstances, or out of what pre-existing elements, the aggregate was brought together and modified, we find no evidence entitled to credit. There are, indeed, various names affirmed to designate the ante-Hellenic inhabitants of many parts of Greece--the Pelasgi, the Leleges, the Kuretes, the Kaukones, the Aones, the Temmikes, the Hyantes, the Telchines, the Botian Thracians, the Telebo the Ephyri, the Phlegy These are names belonging to legendary, not to historical Greece-extracted out of a variety of conflicting legends by the logographers and subsequent historians, who strung together out of them a supposed history of the past, at a time when the conditions of historical evidence were very little understood. That these names designated real nations may be true but here our knowledge ends. We have no well-informed witness to tell us of their times, their limits of residence, their acts, or their character; nor do we know how far they are identical with or diverse from the historical Hellenes, whom we are warranted in calling, not the first inhabitants of the country, but the first known to us upon any tolerable evidence." The attitude assumed by this cautious historian regarding the Pelasgians is still defensible in these days when different archlogists apply the term in different ways, one holding, for instance, that the Pelasgians were the eans of Mediterranean race, and another that they were a late "wave" of pre-Hellenic conquerors. Grote insisted that all Herodotus knew about the Pelasgians was that they occupied a few scattered and inconsiderable townships in historical Greece and spoke a barbarous language. 1 He pointed out, however, that our term "barbarian" does not express the same idea as the Hellenic word, "which involved associations of repugnance", although derived from it. "The Greeks", he explained, "spoke indiscriminately of the extra-Hellenic world with all its inhabitants whatever might be the gentleness of their character and whatever might be their degree of civilization". All non-Hellenes were, as the Chinese put it, "foreign devils".

Historians who were more inclined than Grote to attach weight to folk-traditions were yet unable to gather much from those of the Hellenes regarding their origin, except that they professed to have come from "the East" and claimed to be descendants of an eponymous ancestor called Hellen. The story of this patriarch and his family is given in the Hesiodic version of the World's Ages myth. When Zeus resolved to destroy the wicked Bronze Race by sending a great flood, he spared Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, who took refuge in an ark. According to one tradition, this couple, on praying to Zeus, were enabled to repeople the devastated world by throwing over their shoulders stones which were transformed into human beings. These were "the Stone Folk". Another tradition made Deucalion the ancestor of the whole Greek race, through his son Hellen, who had three children, named Dorus and lus, the ancestors of the Dorians and lians, and Xuthus, whose sons Achs and Ion, were the progenitors of the Achns and Ionians.

The period that elapsed between the early settlement of the Hellenes and the siege of Troy was called the Heroic Age, after the fourth Hesiodic Age of the World, or the Homeric Age, during which the civilization depicted in those great epics the Iliad and the Odyssey had full development.

Historians parted company when they came to deal with the prehistoric period. Thirlwall was inclined to sift historical matter from the legends. Grote, however, was frankly sceptical. "That which I note as Terra Incognita", he said, "is in his (Thirlwall's) view a land which may be known up to a certain point, but the map which he draws of it contains so few ascertained places as to differ very little from absolute vacuity." 2 Dealing with the Trojan war, he declared that, "though literally believed, reverentially cherished, and numbered among the gigantic phenomena of the past by the Grecian public, it is in the eyes of modern enquiry essentially a legend and nothing more". His answer to the question as to whether the war ever took place was: "As the possibility of it cannot be denied, so neither can the reality of it be affirmed". 3 We who are "wise after the event" may rail at Grote, but it must be remembered that he wrote at a time when little was known regarding ancient Egypt, Babylonia, and Assyria, except what could be derived from classical writers and Biblical references. He, however, recognized that the myths had a psychological if not a historical value when he wrote: "Two courses, and two only, are open: either to pass over the myths altogether, which is the way in which modern historians treat the old British fables, or else to give an account of them as myths; to recognize and respect their specific nature, and to abstain from confounding them with ordinary and certifiable history. There are good reasons for pursuing the second method in reference to the Grecian myths, and when so considered they constitute an important chapter in the history of the Grecian mind, and, indeed, in that of the human race generally." 4 He did not agree with those, however, who believed that the Homeric picture of life was wholly fictitious. Indeed, he drew, like others, upon the epics for evidence regarding customs and manners of life in early Greek times, although he held they contained "no historical facts".

It was generally recognized that the petty states of Greece were ruled over by hereditary chiefs, whose power was limited by a military aristocracy. "Piracy was an honourable occupation," as one writer put it, "and war the delight of noble souls." Some historians added, on the authority of Thucydides, 5 that the commencement of Grecian civilization might be dated from the reign of King Minos of Crete, who had cleared the ean Sea of pirates. Grote could not, on the other hand, believe that the Minos legends had any historical value. "Here we have", he wrote, "conjectures derived from the analogy of the Athenian maritime empire of historical times, substituted in place of the fabulous incidents and attached to the name of Minos." 6

It should not surprise us that the so-called "doubting Thomases" among the historians hesitated to make use of myths and legends. Grote held that if he were to proceed with a view to detect a historical base in the stories of Troy and Thebes, he would be compelled to deal similarly with the myths of "Zeus in Crete, of Apollo and Artemis in Delos, of Hermes and of Prometheus". If Achilles was to be taken seriously, although he was of supernatural origin, what of Bellerophon, Perseus, Theseus, and Hercules? These would also have to be "handled objectively".

In time the exponents of the new science of Comparative Mythology, which at its inception was based chiefly on philological evidence, attracted much attention and impressed not a few serious students of classical history with their theory that classical legends were renderings of immemorial religious myths, the gods and goddesses having been transformed into human heroes and heroines. "In Greek mythology", it was contended, "each different aspect of nature had many different names, because a few simple elements crystallized into many different forms. This is why there are so many gods and goddesses." As much may be granted, although, as is now believed, the view is somewhat narrow. But when the theory was given practical application it led to rather too sweeping conclusions of rather fanciful character. "Zeus", wrote one authority, "is married to many different wives. The bright sky must look down on many lands. His visits to different countries are thus explained. . . . Achilles is child of the sea-goddess; so the sun often appears to rise out of the water. His bride is torn from him, and he sulks in his tent; so the sun must leave the dawn and be hidden by dark clouds. He lends his armour to Patroclus except the spear; none other can wield the spear of Achilles: so no other can equal the power of the sun's rays." And so on until the absurdity concluded with: "Achilles tramples on the dead body of Hector, but Hector is of dark powers, though noble in himself; so a blazing sunset tramples down the darkness. Finally, Achilles is slain by an arrow from a Trojan. He is vulnerable only in the heel, but the arrow finds him there. So the sun is conquered by the darkness in his turn, and disappears, a short-lived brilliant thing."

The hero of the Odyssey met a similar fate. "Odysseus is the sun in another character, as a wanderer, and his adventures describe the general phenomena of daytime from the rising to the setting of the sun. . . . His journey is full of strange changes, of happiness and misery, successes and reverses, like the lights and shadows of a gloomy day."

The Iliad, as a narrative, was regarded with contempt. "There is nothing noble or elevated in the gods or heroes", remarked one solar-symbolist, who referred to himself as "one of the advanced thinkers". "Everyone knows", he went on, with unconscious humour, "that the Iliad is a poem which tells two stories: of a war between the Greeks and Trojans to recover a Grecian woman named Helen, who had run away from her lawful husband with a Trojan hero named Paris, and carried a great treasure with her; also of the anger of Achilles, a Grecian hero, and the dreadful consequences it brought upon the Grecian army encamped upon the plains around Troy." A physical explanation of this "petty legend" had to be sought for. Professor Max Mler declared: "The siege of Troy is a repetition of the daily siege of the East by the solar powers that are robbed of their brightest treasures in the West". One of his critics and followers, Mr. Cox, remarked with much justification that this was "not quite plain", but he only added to the confusion by urging a new hypothesis. "Few will venture to deny", he remarked, with the characteristic confidence of the theorist, "that the stealing of the bright clouds of sunset by the dark powers of night, the weary search for them through the long night, the battle with the robbers, as the darkness is driven away by the advancing chariot of the lord of light, are favourite subjects with the Vedic poets." So was Greece robbed of its heroes and Troy swept out of existence. "If such a war took place", Mr. Cox argued, "it must be carried back to a time preceding the dispersion of the Aryan tribes from their original home."

But while these and other examples of what Mr. Andrew Lang has characterized as "scholarly stupidity" impressed not a few prominent men, a small band of students strenuously declined to regard the Homeric legends as products of traditional myths "based on the various phenomena of the earth and heavens". One of these was the self-educated merchant, Henry Schliemann, whose faith in Homer led him to make discoveries which have thrown a flood of light on early ean civilization, and incidentally shattered forever the theories of the solar mythologists. "The Trojan War," he wrote in 1878, "has for a long time past been regarded by many eminent scholars as a myth, of which however they vainly endeavoured to find the origin in the Vedas. But in all antiquity the siege and conquest of Ilium by the Greek army under Agamemnon was considered as an undoubted historical fact, and as such it is accepted by the great authority of Thucydides. 7 The tradition has even retained the memory of many details of that war which have been omitted by Homer. For my part, I have always firmly believed in the Trojan War; my full faith in Homer and in the tradition has never been shaken by modern criticism, and to this faith of mine I am indebted for the discovery of Troy and its treasure." 8

The story of Heinrich Schliemann's life is a fitting prelude to an account of his epoch-making discoveries in Asia Minor and Greece which "led up", as Mr. Hawes says, "to the revelations in Crete from 1900 onwards". He was born on 6th January, 1822, in the little German town of Neu Buckow, in the duchy of Mecklenberg-Schwerin, and was scarcely twelve months old when his father, a Protestant clergyman, removed to Ankershagen, near Waren. At this village the future archlogist, who was a precocious child, received impressions before he was ten years old which influenced his whole life and prompted him to achieve renown as a pioneer in the domain of pre-Hellenic research. Ankershagen was enveloped in an old-world atmosphere; it was indeed an ideal "homeland", with its antiquities, legends, and superstitions, for one of Heinrich Schliemann's temperament and mental leanings. The summer-house in the manse garden was reputed to be haunted by the ghost of his father's predecessor, Pastor von Russdorf, and near at hand was a small pond out of which each night at the stroke of twelve a spirit maid was believed to rise up, grasping a silver cup in her hand. In the village a ditch-surrounded mound--one of the kind called a Hunengrab, or "Hun's grave"--had attached to it a story about a great robber who buried in it his favourite child in a golden cradle. Legends of similar character are told regarding "giants' graves" in these islands. Treasure was also said to lie concealed under a round tower in the local land-proprietor's garden. "My faith in these treasures was so great", Schliemann wrote in after years, "that whenever I heard my father complain of his poverty, I expressed my astonishment that he did not dig up the silver bowl or the golden cradle and so become rich." 9

An ancient castle also made a strong appeal to the boy's imagination. It was supposed to have the usual long underground passage leading to somewhere, and to be visited nightly by awesome spectres. At one time, the legend ran, it was the abode of a notorious robber knight, Henning Bradenkirl, who buried his treasure and committed suicide when, revelation having been made of his designs on the life of the Duke of Mecklenberg, his stronghold was besieged by that great nobleman. Henning found no rest in his grave, and it was whispered among the young folks that time and again he had thrust out one of his legs with purpose apparently to visit the spot where his hoard was concealed. "I often begged my father", Schliemann has told, "to excavate the tomb, in order to see why the foot no longer grew out." This belief that there was a kernel of truth in ancient legends caused him ultimately to search for traces of ancient Troy, and open the graves of heroes who, according to classic narratives, had been buried with their armour and rich ornaments. "My firm faith in the traditions", he wrote in 1877, "made me undertake my late excavations in the Acropolis (of Mycen and led to the discovery of the five tombs, with their immense treasures." 10 So the boy was "father of the man".

The impecunious clergyman of Ankershagen cast over the mind of his son, Heinrich, the romantic glamour of classic myth and legend. The nursery stories he related were not of elves and giants, but of the last days of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were then being excavated and greatly talked about, and of the great deeds of Homer's heroes on the windy plain of Troy.

It was a memorable day in Heinrich's life when he received as a Christmas present, in his eighth year, an illustrated child's history of the world-one of those popular works which stimulate young minds with the desire to acquire knowledge. An engraving depicted the last scene in the siege of Troy. The "topless towers of Ilium" were wrapped in flames, and amidst the smoke and confusion the wounded warrior eas was seen taking flight, carrying his father Anchises on his broad back, and leading by the hand his son Ascanius. From that hour the spectacle of mighty Troy haunted the mind of the little German boy, and the Trojan War became as familiar to him as if it had been waged on the village green and Ankershagen, instead of Troy, had been sacked.

Heinrich failed in his attempts to impress his boy friends with glowing versions of Homer's narrative, but he infected with his enthusiasm the minds of two girl companions. One of these, Minna Meincke, a farmer's daughter, promised to marry him when she grew up, and assist him to discover the Hun robber's golden cradle, the silver cup of the pond nymph, the treasure concealed by Henning, and to accompany him to the land of dreams to explore the ruins of ancient Troy. Strange to relate, half a century afterwards, not Minna, but another who became Mrs. Henry Schliemann, actually did help her husband in his famous excavations, and one of the results of their joint labours was the finding of the most valuable treasure any archlogists have ever had the luck to uncover.

Heinrich's father intended to give him a classical education, but fell into financial difficulties, with the result that when the boy was fourteen he became apprenticed to a village grocer. At nineteen he injured himself when lifting a heavy cask, and went to Hamburg, where he secured a situation as a cabin-boy on a brig bound for Venezuela. The vessel however, was wrecked on a sand-bank off the Island of Texel during stormy weather, but fortunately the crew escaped in a small boat. Heinrich afterwards secured a situation at a Hamburg warehouse. Having a good deal of leisure time at his disposal, he studied languages with so much success that he acquired a wonderful knowledge of Dutch, English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

At twenty-four he was employed by the firm of B. H. Schroder & Co., and, having by this time obtained a knowledge of Russian, he was sent to St. Petersburg. He prospered there and began to trade on his own account, dealing chiefly in indigo. At forty he found himself a millionaire. Ere he retired, however, he studied modern and ancient Greek and Latin under Professor Ludgwig von Muralt.

Having wound up his affairs, he began to travel extensively. For several months he resided in China and Japan, and wrote on his return his first book La Chine et Le Japon, which was published at Paris, where he settled down to study archlogy. The time was drawing nigh when he could visit the scenes of Homeric glory, and make search for traces of ancient Troy and the graves containing treasure. He was resolved to realize the dream of his boyhood, which he had treasured during the years so full of business anxieties and cares. "Father," he had once said, when his childish eyes were fascinated by the engraving of Troy, "if such walls once existed, they cannot possibly have been completely destroyed; vast ruins of them must still remain, but they are hidden beneath the dust of ages." His father had shaken his head, but, to pleasure the lad, admitted that it was possible, and then agreed that when they were able to do so they would both search for and excavate the ruins of the famous city.

In 1868 Schliemann paid his first visit to the scenes of his future triumphs and wrote a book entitled Ithaca, the Peloponnesus, and Troy, in which he ran counter to the theories of those contemporary scholars who believed that Troy had existed, by locating its site, not on an inland summit near Bunarbashi, but farther north and near the seashore on the top of the hillock of Hissarlik. He also announced where he believed the graves of the Atreidat Mycencould be located. For this original treatise he received his doctor's degree at Rostock.

In the spring of 1870 Dr. Schliemann put his theories to the test by beginning to dig at Hissarlik. At the depth of 16 feet the first wall was laid bare, and he was then fully convinced that success would crown his efforts. Accordingly he made preparations for excavation work on an extensive scale. The Turkish authorities hampered him greatly, however, and it was not until late in the following year that he could proceed with the work. In the following year a great depth had been reached, but although a broad trench laid bare a series of walls and a fine piece of Greek sculpture, no definite conclusions could be reached from the results, promising and suggestive as these were. Work was resumed early in 1873, when the weather was so cold that "of an evening", wrote Dr. Schliemann, "we had nothing to keep us warm except an enthusiasm for discovering Troy". The weeks went past, and at length Fortune smiled and the dreams of boyhood began to find rich realization. One day, during the dinner hour, when no workmen were near, Dr. Schliemann and his wife discovered a treasure hoard of gold and diadems and daggers, silver jars and copper vessels and weapons, which they hurriedly carried off and concealed. Its mere monetary value was not far short of 1000. During the winter Dr. Schliemann wrote an account of his discoveries which was published in book form under the title Trojan Antiquities. He had cut through several successive towns on the hillock of Hissarlik. The second city from the bottom was named by him "Homer's Troy"; he called its largest building "Priam's Palace", and the hoard he had discovered with his wife, "Priam's Treasure". Most archlogists now believe, however, that the sixth city, which was much more extensive than the second, was the capital celebrated by Homer.

Schliemann's theories were ridiculed by the "authorities" in every country in Europe. He was a "rank outsider" and regarded with suspicion by the theorists who were convinced that Troy could not possibly have been situated at Hissarlik. Comic papers made fun of him as a dreamer of vain dreams, but a few open-minded scholars were profoundly impressed and anxious for more information. Schliemann was not discouraged either by learned criticism or superficial ridicule. What concerned him most was the attitude assumed by the Turkish Government, which was not entirely free from the suspicion or blackmailing propensities. Operations at Hissarlik had to be suspended, but the undaunted pioneer did not waste his time. He turned his back upon Troy and was led to Mycen in Greek territory, by the ghost of Agamemnon. There and at Tiryns his excavations resulted in the discovery of traces of a culture similar to that found in the sixth city at Hissarlik. The results of this archlogical "campaign", which was carried on during 1876-7, were published in Mycenin 1878. A preface contributed by the late Mr. W. E. Gladstone contains several passages which reflect the interest which was aroused throughout Europe at the time by Schliemann's work. "When the disclosures at Tiryns and Mycenwere announced in England," wrote Mr. Gladstone, "my own first impression was that of a strangely bewildered admiration, combined with a preponderance of sceptical against believing tendencies, in regard to the capital and dominating subject of the Tombs in the Agora. I am bound to say that reflection and fuller knowledge have nearly turned the scales the other way. . . . I find, upon perusing the volume of Dr. Schliemann, that the items of evidence, which connect his discoveries generally with the Homeric poems, are more numerous than I had surmised from the brief outline with which he favoured us upon his visit to England in the spring." 11

Tiryns, now called Palcastron, was, according to Pausanias, named after Tiryns, a son of Argos. It was the reputed birthplace of Hercules, and famed for its Cyclopean walls. "The circuit wall," wrote Pausanias, "which is the only remaining ruin, was built by the Cyclopes. It is composed of unwrought stones, each of which is so large that a team of mules cannot even shake the smallest one: small stones have been interposed in order to consolidate the large blocks." 12

Mycenwas also reputed to have been built by these giant artisans, who numbered seven, and came from Lycia. It was probably on account of this legend that, as Schliemann suggested, the whole of the Argolis was referred to by Euripides as "Cyclopean land". Similarly, many ruins in Asia Minor and Mesopotamia were credited by tradition to Semiramis, while the Egyptian Sesostris was supposed to have erected gigantic works in various localities. This habit of accounting for ancient remains as the handiwork of mythical and semi-mythical persons was of great antiquity and widespread character. Fairies and elves and giants were supposed to have erected dolmens and stone circles. Gaelic-speaking people in Lewis at the present day, for instance, refer to the standing stones at Callernish as Tursachan, a name which has been derived from the Norse word Thurs, a giant or goblin. In Cumberland another circle is associated with the memory of the mythical giantesses "Long Meg and her daughters". Several promontories in different localities have been credited likewise to fairy artisans who were endeavouring to bridge over an arm of the sea. Thor, according to the Teutonic wonder-tales, formed valleys by smiting a mountain range with his great hammer, while the "Flint Hills" were formed by the fragments he shattered from the great flint boulder flung towards him by a giant enemy. In Scotland numerous hillocks are referred to as spillings from the creel of the giantess (Cailleach) who erected mountain houses for her children. This custom of attributing not only hills, but also buildings, to supernatural agencies has survived even into Christian times. Not a few ruins of early chapels in these islands have still associated with them folk-tales about fairy builders, who accomplished their work in a single night.

Schliemann did not attach historical importance to the legends of Hercules, who was reputed to have held sway at Tiryns for a prolonged period. Indeed, like Max Mler, he was inclined to regard the famous folk-hero as a sun-god.



But he was convinced that the Cyclopean walls were of great antiquity, and engaged in systematic excavations with purpose to obtain evidence which would connect the civilization of Tiryns with that of his Homeric Troy. He found a number of terra-cotta female idols, with exaggerated breasts, and terra-cotta cows, which had evidently a religious significance. These he connected with the goddess Hera. Examples of primitive pottery were also brought to light, including hand-polished black vases and bulky jars. When he reached the prehistoric strata he collected obsidian knives, whorls of blue and green stone. In some places he found the remains of walls built on the rock and of water conduits of rough unhewn stones. The stones of the ancient Cyclopean wall measured about 7 feet long and 3 feet thick in most cases, but some were of even greater dimensions.

At Mycen "situated in the depth of the horse-feeding Argos", as Homer sang, 13 Schliemann's early researches were more productive. Here he set out to prove his theory that the graves of the Atreidwere situated not outside but inside the citadel wall. He found that the wall revealed three different methods of construction, which he assigned to three separate periods. These are the Cyclopean, in which large boulders were secured by small blocks; the Polygonal, with accurately hewn joints; and the Rectangular, in which the blocks were "dovetailed".

In the north-west corner he cleared the famous "Lion's Gate". It measured 10 feet 8 inches in height, and was 9 feet 6 inches wide at the top, and 10 feet 3 inches at the bottom. The great lintel, which excited admiration, was found to be 15 feet long and 8 feet broad. At this point the wall, constructed on the Rectangular system, is composed of stones 6 and 7 feet in length, many of which are notched to fit into the corners, or jutting points, hewed in others. This system of rough "dovetailing" is characteristic of Hittite buildings. The Euphrates River wall at Carchemish, the oldest known engineering construction in the world, which has been utilized by the engineers in connection with a "Bagdad railway" bridge at this point, is a characteristic example of the Rectangular style of architecture.

Above the great lintel of the principal entrance to the Acropolis of Mycen lies the great limestone slab sculptured in relief, on which two lions rampant, heraldically opposed, rest their forepaws on the "altar" with its shapely pillar "crowned by a curious capital, composed of a fillet, moulding, roll, and abacus". Similar lion and pillar groups have been found by Professor Ramsay in Phrygia. In one instance the goddess Cybele takes the place of the pillar. "The idea of the lions as guardians of the gate arose", Professor Ramsay considers, "in a country where Cybele was worshipped, and where the dead chief was believed to be gathered to his mother, the goddess. . . . The Phrygians adapted an old heraldic type to represent the idea. . . . In the interchange of artistic forms and improvements in civilization which obtained between Phrygia and the Greeks, the lion type passed into Mycenduring the ninth, or more probably the eighth century B.C." 14

Schliemann's guide to Mycenwas Pausanias, who wrote 15 : "Amongst other remains of the wall is the gate on which stand lions. They (the walls and the gate) are said to be the work of the Cyclopes, who built the wall for Proteus at Tiryns. In the ruins of Mycenis the fountain called Perseia, and the subterranean buildings of Atreus and his children, in which they stored their treasures. There is the sepulchre of Atreus, and the tombs of the companions of Agamemnon, who on their return from Ilium were killed at a banquet by isthus. The identity of the tomb of Cassandra is called in question by the Lacedonians of Amycl There is the tomb of Agamemnon and that of his charioteer Eurymedon, and of Electra. Teledamus and Pelops were buried in the same sepulchre, for it is said that Cassandra bore these twins, and that, while as yet infants, they were slaughtered by isthus together with their parents. Hellanicus (495-411 B.C.) writes that Pylades, who was married to Electra with the consent of Orestes, had by her two sons, Medon and Strophius. Clytemnestra and isthus were buried at a little distance from the wall, because they were thought unworthy to have their tombs inside of it, where Agamemnon reposed and those who were killed together with him."

This passage had been misinterpreted by certain writers, and Schliemann insisted, before he began to dig, that the wall referred to was not the city wall, as they believed, but the wall of the Acropolis. The city, besides, he argued, was in ruins in Pausanias's day (170 A.D.), and he might not have seen the remnants of the smaller city wall. Schliemann put his theory to proof by sinking a number of shafts, and then undertaking extensive excavations. When he had cleared away the debris from the Lion's Gate, some of which had been cast there when the Argives captured the Acropolis in the fifth century B.C., he found evidence that the city had been partially reoccupied after its fall, although Diodorus Siculus 16 and Strabo 17 had made statements to the contrary.

Schliemann penetrated to the lower and earlier city of Mycenand there made discovery of great "beehive tombs", which were the "Treasuries" of Pausanias.

Schliemann excavated also five shaft tombs, and believed they were those of Agamemnon and his companions, who on their return from Troy were murdered by Clytemnestra and her paramour isthus. They were of similar construction, and the burials appeared to him to have been simultaneous. "The five tombs of Mycen or, at least, three of them," he wrote, "contained such enormous treasuries that they cannot but have belonged to members of the royal family." Thousands of pounds worth of antique valuables were discovered in these mysterious underground chambers.

An immense impression was made all over Europe on the publication of the following characteristic telegram which Schliemann dispatched to the King of Greece, announcing his great discovery.

"MYCEN 16th (28th) November, 1876.

"With extreme joy I announce to Your Majesty that I have discovered the tombs which tradition, as echoed by Pausanias, designates as the sepulchre of Agamemnon, of Cassandra, of Eurymadon and their companions and their comrades, all slain during the repast by Clytemnestra and her lover isthus. These tombs were surrounded by a double parallel circle of plaques, which can only have been erected in the honour of great personages. I have found in the sepulchres immense treasures in the way of archaic objects of pure gold. These treasures of themselves are enough to fill a large museum which shall be the most marvellous in the world, and which during centuries to come will draw to Greece thousands of visitors from every country. As I work purely for the love of science, I make naturally no claim to these treasures, which I give with the liveliest enthusiasm intact to Greece. May it be God's will that these treasures will become the corner stone of an immense national wealth.


It is not believed nowadays that Schliemann located the tombs of Agamemnon and his followers, but happened instead on those of royal personages who flourished in a different age. The authority of Pausanias is not sufficient to settle the problem. When that distinguished writer visited the ruins of Mycenover a thousand years had elapsed since Troy had fallen. Agamemnon bulked prominently in folk-imagination, and was identified with the memorials of forgotten rulers. The process involved is a familiar one. In our own country King Arthur has similarly had attached to his memory the deeds of mythical beings who dwelt in Fairyland or selected high hills as their seats, while in the Highlands as recent a hero as Prince Charlie has been associated with hiding-places, in districts he never visited, as far north as Caithness.

But Schliemann's confident statement regarding the "tomb of Agamemnon" need not detract from the value of the services he has rendered to archlogy. In making search for traces of the heroes of his boyhood he achieved well-deserved renown as the pioneer who "opened to us the door into one of the sealed chambers of the past". He has caused early Greek history to be rewritten, and it is due to his example and triumphs that it is now possible to present a partial reconstruction of several thousand years of ean civilization.

It is indirectly to Schliemann, too, that we owe the late Mr. Andrew Lang's famous sonnet on Homeric Unity.

The sacred keep of Ilion is rent
By shaft and pit; foiled waters wander slow
Through plains where Simois and Scamander went
To war with gods and heroes long ago.
Not yet to tired Cassandra, lying low
In rich Mycen do the Fates relent:
The bones of Agamemnon are a show,
And ruined is his royal monument.

The dust and awful treasures of the Dead,
Hath Learning scattered wide, but vainly thee,
Homer, she meteth with her tool of lead,
And strives to rend thy songs; too blind to see
The crown that burns on thine immortal head
Of indivisible supremacy.

Flushed with his Mycenn successes, Schliemann was ready to return to Troy in the summer of 1878. But his difficulties with the Turkish officials delayed him. These, however, were overcome on his behalf by another famous explorer, Sir Austen Henry Layard, of Assyrian fame, who happened to be at the time British Ambassador at Constantinople. "I fulfil a most agreeable duty", Schliemann wrote in his Ilios, "in now thanking his Excellency publicly and most cordially for all the services he has rendered me, without which I could never have brought my work to a close."

While waiting for his firman from the Turkish Government, Schliemann began operations on the Island of Ithaca, and discovered on Mount os a king's palace and nearly two hundred houses of Cyclopean construction. Then he proceeded to Troy, where he was hampered for a time by a Turkish commissioner. In the following year Professor Virchow joined him, and he received visits also from other scholars of repute. In 1880 he published his great work Ilios, Dr. Dpfeld joined him in 1882, and together they operated chiefly in the city which has now been identified with Homer's Troy. In 1884 the results of later exploration were recorded in Schliemann's Troja, to which a preface was contributed by Professor Sayce. The tireless excavator then resumed operations at Tiryns, where an ancient palace was discovered. The work was continued here in the following year by Dr. Dpfeld, who wrote several chapters in Schliemann's next book, to which a preface was contributed by Professor F. Adler.

Schliemann next turned attention to Egypt, where he excavated with Virchow with much success, and he desired also to operate in Crete, on Knossos Hill, but the political conditions on the island made systematic archlogical work in that quarter an impossibility, while the Turkish Government showed no enthusiasm regarding his proposal. It was not considered desirable that the islanders should be reminded of the greatness of their ancestors. He had therefore to abandon his scheme to make search in Crete for "the original home of Mycenn civilization."

In 1890 Dr. C. Schuchardt, Director of the Kestner Museum, in Hanover, published his critical work on Schliemann's excavations, in which he wrote: "Dr. Schliemann is now in his sixty-ninth year, but his activity and love of enterprise show no signs of decay. We may still look to him for many additions to science, and we hope to thank him for disclosing the heroic age of Greece in the periods of its prime and of its decadence, which may perhaps be found in Crete, the land of Minos." 18

On 26th December in the same year, however, Schliemann expired suddenly in Naples. His body was taken to Athens and buried in the Greek cemetery near the Ilissos, a lofty monument being erected to his memory. "He lies", writes Mr. Sellers, "in the land he loved so well; but the example of noble ambition and patient research which he set before the world will long abide as a living spirit, not only among archlogists, but among all who anywhere in the civilized world have caught something of his devotion and enthusiasm for classical learning and antiquity."

Among the honours conferred upon the great man during the closing years of his life was the degree of D.C.L. of Oxford and the fellowship of Queen's College. The Royal Institute of British Architects awarded him a gold medal, in which he took great pride. It is of interest to note that he was a naturalized American citizen.


1 History of Greece, Vol. II, pp. 350 et seq.
2 History of Greece, Vol. II, p. 358.
3 Ibid., Vol. I, pp. 434-5.
4 History of Greece, Vol. I, pp. 65
5 History of the Peloponnesian War, I, 3-4.
6 History of Greece, Vol. I, p. 311.
7 Thucydides, I, 8, 10.
8 Mycen p. 334.
9 Ilios, pp. 1 et seq.
10 Mycenpp. 335.
11 Mycen Preface, p, vi.
12 Pausanias, II, 25, 8, and Mycen pp. 2-3.
13 Odyssey, III, 163.
14 Journal of the Hellenic Society, Vol. V, p. 242.
15 Pausanias, II, 16, 6, and Mycen pp. 59, 60.
16 XI, 65.
17 VIII, p. 372.
18 Schliemann's Excavations, translated by E. Sellers, p. 16.


Join my Mailinglist

Earth-History latest articles

Receive HTML?

Joomla : Earth-history.com

Keep this website alive, a Donation will be highly appreciated

Please consider a donation supporting our efforts.


United States 31.8%United States
Russian Federation 29.6%Russian Federation
Israel 22.4%Israel
Canada 2.8%Canada
United Kingdom 2.7%United Kingdom
India 1.8%India
Australia 1.1%Australia
Germany 0.6%Germany
Netherlands 0.4%Netherlands
Philippines 0.4%Philippines

Today: 5
Yesterday: 21
This Week: 26
Last Week: 139
This Month: 432
Last Month: 526
Total: 366814

Please report broken links to the This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This is copyrighted information presented under the Fair Use Doctrine of the United States Copyright Act (section 107 of title 17) which states: 'the fair use of a copyrighted work...for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.' In practice the courts have decided that anything which does not financially harm the copyright holder is fair use

 This is a Non-Commercial Web page, © 1998-2011 L.C.Geerts The Netherlands all rights reserved.

It is strictly forbidden to publish or copy anything of my book without permission of the author, permission is granted for the recourses, for personal use only.

Privacy Statement