You may not be delighted with the methods of Heinrich Schliemann, just like the true archeologists are, but you could not but take off hat to such a strong belief in oneself and own knowledge.
The Greeks forgot where Troy is.
The Greeks forgot where Delphi is.
The Greeks forgot where Mycenae is.
Schliemann discovered and showed them their own history.
Our way to the Peloponnese peninsula lied from the Athens through the Corinth Canal. Just exactly where the German self-educated archeologist Heinrich Schliemann was hoping to find and finally found the Ancient Greek Mycenae.
Here are the gates to formerly one of the most powerful capitals of the ancient world – Mycenae. Passing them you will find yourself… among the not that well-preserved pile of the stones. Someday your seemingly eternal city will be just the same stones as well. Greek Mycenae is an ancient kingdom, fell into oblivion many-many years ago. And I wonder how many such kingdoms still covered with the Greek severe stony land.
An ordinary – and notice a poorly educated boy Heinrich Schliemann – left his house only with a knapsack on his back, being so young and walking after his fond hope to find the Troy.
It’s not hard to understand! Sometimes I also starve if not to open the North Pole, than at least to go and glance at the discoveries of the others.
The Lion Gate of Mycenae is one of the most ancient constructions in the whole world. Even after more than three thousand years the gates managed to preserve their stately look. This is the main entrance into the formerly well protected fortress. The gates are arrayed by two lions – they are beheaded nowadays.
For ages these two dreadful guards kept staring at everyone who entered the gates. Even today they still evoke some kind of a mystical shiver, just like every these lions can get alive and jump the unbidden guests from their pedestal. We enter the city.
Mycenae lay out at the rocky hill, which opens a great view for a many miles around, so that enemies could not escape being distinguished. The city was surrounded by the forceful wall, which reached ten meters in height and not less than five meters in widths.
There was a belief that only the giants Cyclops were able to move such huge blocks. And so, these walls went down in history as the Cyclopean.
Do you know how many similar hills have we saw on a way from the Athens to Peloponnese? Innumerable amount! How did Heinrich Schliemann manage to notice Mycenae at that particular hill?!
The sharp rise leads to the top. January in Greece is jolly amazing: +15, the sky is blue and the sun is shinning – in the meantime we don’t know that the weather will dramatically change and Delphi will burst upon our eyes in a very mysterious look.
We climb up to the ruins of the Mycenaean royal palace, built between 1350 and 1330 B.C. – today one can barely recognize it. Only a vivid fantasy may help you to imagine Agamemnon himself going the same road and you following him like an invisible shadow.
Schliemann’s own history is interesting just as much as his archeological discoveries. His father, a priest, kept telling the old legends when Schliemann was a little boy, so more likely this interest to the ancient history was awaken in Heinrich junior in the childhood.
But Rome was not built in a day – he became a successful archeologist more than thirty years on, after the discovery of Mycenae.
The God graced him with the gift for languages. He managed to learn English, Dutch, French, Italian and Portuguese for less than three years, and started to learn Russian afterwards.
When he was done with Russian, he started to learn Greek. He learned the Modern Greek during six weeks only and passed to the ancient language of the Hellenes by studying it through the texts of Iliad and Odyssey. In the short run Heinrich was able to read his beloved Homer currently.
Thanks to his own talents Schliemann became a man of a big popularity and great possessions when he came to forty. And just at this particular time the rumor that Iliad – the original extract of Homer – was found in Egypt has come to his ear to the far Russia by some unknown means.
- Homer existed! That means that Troy also exists somewhere!
Schliemann was 46 when he decided: now or never. His far childhood dream may come true.
He will find Troy in 1873 and will make a logical conclusion: Troy is found, which means that the Trojan War is not a myth. Mycenaean Helen, how beautiful you had been to ruin the whole kingdom?
Stubborn as never, Heinrich Schliemann decided to confirm Homer’s great epic and prove to the whole world that Agamemnon – the king of Mycenae and the leader of the Greeks during the Trojan War – was a real historic figure.
As the myths say, Agamemnon reigned in Mycenae – prehistoric Greek city, which was located at the Peloponnese peninsula. According to the Iliad it is the “populous city”, “the gold full Mycenae”.
The success was waiting for Schliemann right at the Lion gate, as if greeting the winner, – the workers hit upon the square hole, leading to the depth of the rock, located on the right side from the main entrance to the city; this turned to be a tomb, the first of five.
The tombs, found at the Lion gate of Mycenae, were made as five huge stony wells.
This trove exceeded everything that Schliemann discovered before in its luxury and magnificence, there were diadems and brooches, gold and silver cups, and gold-figures of fantastic animals.
Schliemann was hoping to find the grave of the king Agamemnon, and found five tombs instead. Faces of some departed were covered with burial golden masks. Moreover, rich armors and ordnance were also found there. Ancient were often buried with such war attributes in order to protect them from the evil spirits.
One of the masks was amazingly well-preserved; Schliemann thought it belonged to Agamemnon, the Achaean leader in the Trojan War. Nowadays it belongs to the collection of the National Archeological Museum of Athens.
Without further delay Schliemann telegraphed to the king of Greece: “The tombs of Agamemnon and his father Atreus were found in Mycenae”; and he proudly wrote to his friends: “I looked broadly into Agamemnon’s face”.
Yes, after many years the scientists-historians using the radiation analysis approach will prove that this mask belonged to another king, who lived 400 years earlier. However it will come down in history as the Agamemnon mask.
The success continued to attend the excavations in Mycenae – the archeologists found nine more tombs of an unusual shape near the foot of the hill. It was massive underground constructions with specific domes, for which they were called the domical tombs. The most massive is now called the tomb of Atreus, it dates to XV and XIV centuries B.C. and was ravaged in the ancient times.
Once the entrance to the tomb was covered with a 120-toned huge stony block – it was a very long time ago. A 35-meters corridor, tiled with huge stones, leads to the tomb of Atreus, which is more than 13 meters height. It’s almost completely dark in here and if you want to see at least the stone masonry (there are no decorations), you’d better take a flashlight.
When you’re in the spot you clearly feel that Mycenae domical tombs have something in common with the Egyptian royal burials. These are not the pyramids, but still… No wonder: rich Mycenae kingdom maintained close ties with different countries. And, for example, 19 Mycenaean vases were found in the ancient Egyptian city Tell El-Amarna – probably, a present to Pharaoh Akhenaten.
When it comes to beautiful Helen of Troy herself, also known as Helen of Sparta, do not fall for the lovely Hollywood film version – by the time when Helen was rapt by Paris, the prince of Troy, she was no longer a young girl with the golden hair. And how many artists featured her just like that?
A black-eyed and plumped queen, who ruled Sparta along with her husband Menelaus during ten years, for some unknown reason – free will or not – got away to Troy with young Paris.
Admittedly, this is how Helen of Troy looked like.
The myths say: rumors about the beauty of the Spartan King’s daughter spread all over Greece. Many famous heroes, such as Odysseus, Menelaus, Ajax, Patroclus, proposed themselves to her as husbands. In order to avoid any grievances among these dignified bachelors the King of Sparta bounded them with the oath to defend an honor of beautiful Helen’s husband – Menelaus.
It is said that the marriage between another daughter of the King and the elder brother of Menelaus – Agamemnon, the King of the powerful Mycenaean kingdom, affected that choice.
Soon afterwards Tyndareus handed his reign in Sparta to his daughter and Menelaus. The idyll of Menelaus и Helen lasted about 10 years, in this marriage Helen gave birth to their daughter Hermione. But one day Paris, the prince of Troy came to Sparta, and taking advantage of Menelaus’s absence, take Helen away of Sparta to Troy. And this is how the great 10-years war, that took the lives of many ancient Greek warriors, began.
In Homer’s Iliad Helen suffered in her position in Troy and conduced to its downfall. When the city was taken, Menelaus broke to seek for his wife with a sword in his hand to punish for the betrayal, but when he eventually saw Helen in full radiance of her beauty, he dropped his weapon. After the defeat of Troy, Helen returned back with her husband and lived out the remaining days together.
Heinrich Schliemann devoted a half of his life to prove the historicity of Homer’s epos. This great romantic and enthusiastic man passed away in 1890. Exemplars of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey were put into the archeologist’s coffin; diplomats of different countries came to follow to Schliemann’s grave.
I’m a bit sorry that we failed to visit the house-museum of this archeologist, when we were in Athens, because it was closed for the Christmas holidays. But no doubt I will return to this place someday.