80 Famous People – Heinrich Schliemann

The discovery of the City of Troy was never taught when I was in school. There was a special on the History Channel some years ago, but I didn’t watch much of it. If you’re not familiar with the story – Troy was an ancient city located in what is now modern Turkey. Little was really known about the city itself, and for a long time it was considered part of Greek mythology. Homer wrote both the Iliad and the Odyssey around the Trojan War, in which Paris of Troy steals Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, and takes her back to Troy. Troy falls when the Greek soldiers hide inside the Trojan horse and are brought inside the city walls during a night of drunken celebration. In the 1800’s, a couple archeologists came to the conclusion that Troy actually did exist historically and set out to find it. According to the wiki entry, the German Heinrich Schliemann took up excavation at a location now known as Troy II following meetings with the Brit Frank Calvert. In the entry, Calvert is credited with giving Schliemann the encouragement necessary to search for Troy on his own.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Heinrich Schliemann was born in 1822, in Neubukow, Germany. At age 9, his mother died and he was sent by his Protestant minister father to live with an uncle. At age 11 he started attending the gymnasium in Neustrelitz, but his father was accused of embezzling church funds and the family fell into poverty. At age 14, Heinrich began working at a grocery to raise money for the family, but his health turned bad and he burst a blood vessel at age 19. He lost his job and took a position on a steamer instead. The steamer was bound for Venezuela, but went down in a gale. Schliemann and the other survivors washed up in the Netherlands and he took a job as a messenger office attendant in Amsterdam. At age 22, he joined an import/export company, which sent him to St. Petersburg, Russia. He took the opportunity to learn Russian and Greek. His brother, Ludwig, had become a gold speculator in California. When Ludwig died, Heinrich traveled to California and started up a bank in Sacramento. He made a fortune buying and reselling gold dust, but there were complaints of short-weight consignments, so he sold his business and returned to Russia. He married Ekaterina in 1852 and they had 3 children. He cornered the market on indigo dye, then made more money as a military contractor for Russia in the Crimean War. He retired in 1858 and spent a month studying the Greek language and history at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1866. He asked Ekaterina to join him in France but she refused to move so he divorced her, then formally decided to search for the city of Troy. In 1866, he visited several Greek locations and published a paper asserting his belief that Troy was at Hissarlik in Anatolia (modern Turkey). His divorce was finalized in 1869, and he advertised for a new wife through the newspaper. He met 17-year-old Sophia Engastromenos and they married in 1869 and later had 2 children. His major find in the Troy dig was called “Priam’s Treasure”, but after writing about it publicly, the Turkish government revoked his permission to dig and sued him for a share of the gold. It was smuggled out of the country and is currently in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. He died in 1890 from complications from a chronic ear infection. Although most of his claims or discoveries have been either discounted or questioned, he’s still identified as the man that discovered Troy.

The intro manga has Youichi and gang following up a school rumor of a big stone hidden behind a Shinto shrine building near the school. Mami says that she’s heard a related story – about ghosts that haunt the area around the shrine. Now frightened, Youichi notices a button in the middle of the stone and pushes it. Everyone jumps back when the stone splits open – revealing Study Bell. The manga wraps up with Merrino’s butler, Angora, stepping out of the room behind Study Bell. The butler tells the kids that he had to return to Sheep Planet, and discovered a worm hole that connects his parent’s room on the Sheep Planet to Earth via the Shinto shrine rock. He introduces his parents to the kids, but they’re disappointed that their original discovery turned out to be a failure. The next day, Mami jolts upright in class, realizing that the existence of a worm hole is also pretty cool.


The main manga is by Setsuko Yoneyama (Absorb; Ability, Majyo Rin, Record of the Lodoss War: Deedlit’s Tale) this time. The images of the older Heinrich do come relatively close to existing photos, but that for him as a child, and all of those for Sophia, are pure cartoon. Setsuko does a pretty good job on the background art, though. The story is laid out a bit differently this time, in that Heinrich narrates the entire thing in first-person.

It starts out with Schliemann introducing himself and immediately going into a flashback. At age 8, he received a history book as a present from his father. Looking at the pictures, he notices that at least one of them matches up with another history book he read, and he announces that Troy is real and that he’ll find it. He’s passed on to an uncle who reads a dissertation paper he wrote, and decides to allow him to attend school. But, his father gets accused of embezzlement, the family goes broke, and he has to quit school. To raise money for the family, he starts working at age 14, but pushes himself too hard and starts coughing up blood. Unable to work, he’s fired. He finds a job on a ship heading to South America, but it sinks in a gale and he washes up in the Netherlands. There, he gets a job in a trading company. But it isn’t until about age 22 when he’s sent to St. Petersburg that he finally has time to study languages at night for his own purposes. He jumps over huge blocks of his life until deciding he has enough money to pursue his dream of finding Troy. He goes to Paris, studies at the Sorbonne, then goes to Anatolia with some history and mythology books. Based on the descriptions in Homer’s works, he settles on Hissarlik as the most obvious place for the Troy ruins. He hires some men, is joined on the dig by his new wife Sophia, has some difficulties with the Turkish government, but within a fairly short time uncovers a drinking cup that leads to the rest of the Priam Treasure lode. The story ends with Heinrich telling Sophia to wear the Priam gold headdress and jewelry, and the narration talks about his finally being able to achieve the dream that he held so close to his heart ever since childhood.

The textbook section goes into more detail regarding Schliemann’s upbringing, marriage to and divorce from Ekaterina, and his travels to India, China, Japan and the U.S. Sidebars describe his methods for learning new languages within a few months, information on Sophia, a mention of Arthur Evans’ discovery of Knossos, and the fact that Schliemann actually dug too far (to Troy 2) and overshot the section of Troy that dates to the Trojan War (Troy 7). The last 2 pages describe other famous historical ruins that maintain some level of mystery – Machu Picchu, Pompeii, Mohenjo-daro, the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (which is surrounded by the Terracotta Army, Easter Island and Great Zimbabwe. Naturally, we also get the 2 postcards.

I know virtually nothing about the discovery of Troy, so I have to take both sources at face value. The Famous People mook treats Heinrich as a romantic dreamer that overcomes great odds to finally achieve on his own a dream that he’s had from childhood, and it includes the incident where a drunk sailor singing about Troy reminds him of that dream. The wiki entry pretty much rips that story apart, saying that the drunk sailor was probably something Heinrich fabricated, and that he’d gotten much of his start in finding Troy from Calvert (who’s not mentioned in the mook at all). The main manga ignores Ekaterina, and Schliemann’s semi-criminal activities in Sacramento and Turkey, although the textbook section does mention some of this in passing. As always, the primary attractions for me in the Famous People series are the photos and historical drawings in the textbook section, and this mook is no exception. I’d never heard of Mohenjo-daro or Great Zimbabe before, so reading about them now is pretty interesting. But, if you want a factual write-up on Schliemann, you’re better off finding a verified account from the library.

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