November 22, 19
World Civilization to 1500 Research Paper
When Heinrich Schliemann emerged from Turkey in June of 1873 with a hoard of treasure, the whole world took note. He claimed to have found the ruins of ancient Troy. Schliemann had rejected the prevailing scholarly doctrine that Homer was a mythmaker, not a historian or scholar. Even today, some people argue that the actual ruins of the historical city of Troy are in Croatia, not Hisarlik, Turkey, as Schliemann claimed. This position is outdated now, just as it was when Schliemann first made his great archaeological discovery. Evidence clearly shows that the majority of our present knowledge of the famous ancient city of Troy comes of Homer’s writing and from Heinrich Schliemann’s archaeological discoveries. In my opinion, Homer should be accepted as a legitimate source of historical reference and, therefore, so should Schliemann. Regardless of conflicting beliefs, the remains of Troy must, in fact, be at Hisarlik since Schliemann was guided to this site by Homer’s descriptions in The Iliad.
While the Greek people remained steadfast in their strong traditional heritage, most of the non-Greek world at Schliemann’s time asserted that the events set in Troy were figments of a great imagination, and were intended only to entertain. Nevertheless,
Schliemann began to question these accepted beliefs regarding the existence of a real Troy at a very young age. Heinrich’s father had given him a history book, and intrigued by its illustrations of the mythical city, he began his lifelong obsession to find the lost city. He learned the Greek language and studied Homer's epics extensively. Considering geographical descriptions, Schliemann began to believe that he would find the city around Hisarlik, Turkey. In 1870, he and one hundred workers set out to prove his theory (Time-Life, 10). In doing so, he took The Iliad as literally as if it were an eyewitness account.
Regardless of much criticism of Schliemann’s personal life, his business ethics, and his methods of excavation, he is often regarded as the “father of archaeology.” In this field, few are better known than of Heinrich Schliemann. This assessment comes from the impact of his excavations. Spanning a period of twenty years, he initiated the study of a completely new period in world history; the Bronze Age Aegean, stretching from ca. 3500 to ca. 1050 BC. Having never studied archaeology formally, this achievement was particularly remarkable (Bloedow, 1).
Schliemann’s own personal journals and letters confirm and justify much of the criticism he has received. Blatant deceit surfaced often throughout his career as an amateur archaeologist, in his family life, and in his earlier career as a ruthless international merchant. Although much valuable information was destroyed in his excavation, one must consider the nature of archaeology prior to his study of Troy. Virtually non-existent as a science, archaeology existed in the form of treasuring hunting. Most supported Jacob Bryant’s statement in the book In Search of Trojan War, “I would as soon as go in quest of Utopia, or of the Carib Island of Robinson Crusoe, and his cabin; and I should return with equal emolument.” The fact remains that Schliemann was a true pioneer in the science of archaeology. By today’s standards, his methods would be unacceptable, however, at that time, practices were advanced.
Greek tradition suggests that the Trojan War occurred in the twelfth century BC. The upper classes of twelfth century Greek society were aristocrats and chiefains who considered warfare as the major means to gain honor and a reputable position in society. During times of peace, the warriors passed their time at great feasts where they were entertained by minstrels and bards who sang songs and chanted poems about historical heroes and heroines. The entertainers were also the vehicles through which a rich history was passed down through countless generations. Greek tradition accepts Homer as one of these bards, and The Iliad as his creation to preserve the historical events at the end of the Trojan War.
There is no reason to doubt the historical accuracy of these epics and songs, considering the high regard with which they were upheld in their society. Since the events generally outlined in these long poems were already familiar to the listeners, a bard would be subjecting himself to much ridicule should he vary what was accepted as fact. The dignity of the art of storytelling depended upon the bard’s recollection of important characters, settings, and events.
“Among Homer’s most famous characteristics as a poet are his lack of ornamentation, sentimentality, and romanticism, and his complete objectivity… Homer understood that some things are best left to the imagination of the audience because too much detail can be a limitation rather than an asset and can constrain the thoughts of the individual reader or hearer” (Milch, 20).
It is evident that Homer told his stories with little or no personal embellishment. To question Heinrich Schliemann’s dependency on Homer as a source of historical reference is to question the integrity of Greek tradition which was, in fact, very carefully preserved through minstrels and bards such as Homer.
Although many people doubt the existence of the city of Troy and the occurrences cited in Homer's epics, factual evidence of the Trojan culture is still being found and studied. The civilization of Troy I has been dated back to around 3100 B.C. A fortification wall that still stands three meters high surrounded this civilization. Inside this wall, large freestanding houses made of mud bricks were the main place for residence. Many small tools made of copper, as well as a number of vases and sculptures, have been discovered around these houses. Evidence of a fire that destroyed Troy I leads us to the next civilization of Troy II. This settlement began around 2550 B.C. Fortifications were greatly extended in the period of Troy II. Large amounts of gold, silver, as well as tools and vessels made of copper and bronze were found. Many of the sculptures and figurines found in the settlement of Troy II resembled those found in Troy I. Evidence of the use of the fast wheel led to popularity of new shapes of shallow dishes and plates. Pots and lids bearing faces were also found in the civilization of Troy II. Troy II, like the first city of Troy, was destroyed by a fire. Troy III's fortifications, domestic architecture, pottery and figurines were a continuance of the first two cities of Troy. At the end of Troy III, the town was demolished for no obvious reason. Archaeologists proposed that this culture be named the Maritime Troia culture. This name comes from the close links with the material culture of a substantial number of other fortified, coastal sites throughout Anatoilia and islands in the Aegean Sea.
The civilization of Troy IV occurred around 2100 B.C. A significant shift in material culture between Troy III and Troy IV lead archaeologists to refer to this period as the Anatolian Troia culture. This shift includes a change in domestic architecture, the use of organic tempering for pottery, and an increased attention to hunting. Figurines of this time period were the chipped stones of flint and obsidian. Houses in this settlement were rows of two room residential units that fronted the same street. Like Troy III, there is no known reason for the demolition of Troy IV. The architecture of the houses of Troy V were much the same as those in Troy IV. There is an increase in built-in furniture, such as fixed hearths, ovens and benches in this settlement. These developments suggest an overall rise in the standard of living in this town. No known reason for the destruction of the city of Troy V has been found. The rulers of Troy VI appear to have used the construction of fortifications surrounding the citadel as a never-ending public works project. This royal citadel is the site of the king's palace, the city's temples, and the residences of the king's principal officials. Columns, thought to be related to a cult, were found in the city of Troy VI. Some authorities believe that a Trojan cult, related with those of Minoan Crete, existed as the chief religion of this period. Many Greek myth enthusiasts see the myth of the Trojan horse as a metaphor for the earthquake that destroyed Troy VI. Some believe this because the horse was sacred to the Greek god, Posiedon, the divinity responsible for earthquakes.
Word Count: 1404