Some Reminiscences of Dr. Schliemann
WHEN I came to Greece, Dr. Schliemann was one of my earliest visitors. I had hoped to see him at some time, and to know him distantly. It was part of my dream of Athens. To find myself at once, by his overtures, brought near him, taken into his confidence, was one of my pleasant Athenian surprises. Our first topic, after the ice was broken, was not Ithaca, or Mycenæ, or Troy, as one might have expected : it was Cuban railway shares. He had invested largely in these, and his agents had sold out on a rising market: by this contretemps he was much exercised, and anxious at once to recoup himself by new investments. It was an old acquaintance in a new light: I had not then read the autobiography in his Ilios, and had yet to learn that the uncoverer of ancient cities was first and foremost a hardheaded man of business. Almost the last time I met him, this impression was strengthened in a whimsical way. He had just returned from Troy with wagon-loads of antiquity, and I found him on the ground floor of his mansion, with Dr. Brückner and several assistants, piecing together ancient vase-fragments. He was eager to show us a fine fourthcentury vase, just found by his workmen in digging the foundations for a block of Pompeian houses near the university. Holding the precious thing in his hand, he descanted earnestly on the myth depicted upon it, until a sudden turn brought him to the subject of the new houses: they would bring him only two and a half per cent, on his investment, and he ought to make five. And at once the dreamy archæologist was transformed into the alert and ambitious man of business. Intense in everything that touches the heroic past, he was no whit less intense in what concerned the bread-and-butter present.
From our first meeting I saw much of him : invitations to his house came thick and urgent. There were grand balls, filling the great marble mansion with the élite of Athens — half a thousand guests at times. There were select dinners that brought together the élite of the élite, and will always aid me, as I remember them, to recall the old Greek symposia. There were quiet breakfasts at which a favored few came still nearer one another and the genial host, particularly when (as was my privilege on the very last occasion) one sat by his side.
All visitors to Athens, especially all Americans, know the marble mansion on the street of the university, with its beautiful frescoes on the front and its sculptured gods and heroes guarding the battlements, with its garden full of oranges and climbing roses on either side and in the rear. Even in its exterior, it is a splendid palace, with its full front looking across the city upon the Acropolis. But enter once, and the charm of the house becomes commanding. The ground floor was a great museum, in some ways the most fascinating in the world, for it was full of the rude, prehistoric things of Troy. Adjacent were the working-rooms, where one found antiquity piled pell-mell, waiting for the work of classification. Hence a wide marble stairway led up to the second floor, with its grand ball-room, drawing-room, dining-room, music-room, etc., etc. ; while another took the visitor to the top, which was Dr. Schliemann’s own. Here was his magnificent library, with its long, wide balcony ; from this balcony he was fond of pointing out the profile of Gladstone, which nature has carved in the southeast face of the Sacred Rock. The library opened into the study, which was itself a very treasury of ancient art; while across the wide hall was the Doctor’s chamber, looking out upon the lovely garden in the rear. The whole house was beautiful, with its fine mosaic floors, its frescoed walls and ceilings, very transcripts of old mythology, and the gnomic sentences and Odyssey verses which from every possible panel gave out their own sweetness and light. It was a treat to wander about the house with him and listen to his genial and often whimsical reading of the “ writings on the wall.” Over his library door stood the Delphic text, γυωθι σαυτoυravTov (“ know thyself ”), and under this, ἰατρϵȋoυ ψυ&3967;ῆs, which he always translated “doctor-shop of the soul.” The beauty and the fitness of all these gnomes and verses (and they would fill a small volume) made them no mean transcript of the mind of the man ; and should Schliemann’s ’Iλío&3965; Mέλαθ&3961;oυ some thousands of years hence share the fortunes of the Pompeian prototypes it would yield a choice harvest of ancient wisdom. This name of the mansion, the Hall of Ilium, inscribed oil its front does not savor of excessive modesty; but when I mentioned it to the Doctor one day, he rendered it at once the “Hut of Troy,” saying Homer used the word for the huts of the beleaguering Greeks. I think he was mistaken about this; but it is the word used of Priam’s palace. And certainly the man whose magic spade dug up Priam’s city had good right to borrow the Homeric name for his Athenian mansion.
Bright and unique as was the mansion itself, it was the man in it, with his unique personality, that made it an event to enter there. More than any other man in new Greece, he had about him the old Greek flavor. German though he was by birth, American by adoption, cosmopolite by his far wandering life, he seemed a better Greek than any of the Greeks. Taking up the alphabet only after he had wrung a fortune out of fate by his own pluck and fortitude, and at the age of thirty - four, he had come to write and speak and think ancient Greek as a second mother tongue. The old authors, whom we spell out laboriously at college and then lay on the shelf forever, were his daily familiar society. How often have I found him in his library poring over Lucian as one of us might thumb his Thackeray ! But it was Homer he knew best. A few weeks before leaving Athens for the last time, he came to call upon us. We were already entertaining a poor Ithacan, who, as a countryman of Odysseus and a special student of Homer, had Iliad and Odyssey at his tongue’s end. The meeting of the two men was as the collision of two old rhapsodists, and the fire flew. Schliemann acknowledged my introduction of the Ithacan with a spontaneous burst of Homer ; he was himself Odysseus “ all marred with the salt foam of the wine-dark deep ” which had tossed him hapless on the Phæeacian strand, and as such he made his plaint to fair-armed Nausicaa: “I supplicate thee, O queen, whether thou art some goddess or a mortal! ” and so on to the end of that long and splendid speech. Then Nausicaa of the white arms (by the mouth of our Ithacan) answered him and said : “ Stranger, . . . since thou hast come to our city, and our land, thou shalt not lack raiment ” — and all the rest. Long the combat raged ; fast flew the winged words and hot: for the men were on their mettle. Schliemann’s mood was worthy of Odysseus himself, “like a lion of the hills trusting in his strength, who fares out under wind and rain, and his eyes are all on fire.” Pitted against the Ithacan who knew nothing but Homer, the odds were yet with the old German who at the age of eight, in his father’s humble parsonage at Ankershagen, had conceived the object of his life, to digup Troy, but had to wait nearly thirty years before he could learn the Greek alphabet.
Speaking of the mansion and the man, the picture is far from finished without the figures of his charming family. The world knows how Mrs. Schliemann, a true Athenian, born and bred under the shadow of the Acropolis, shared his labors at Mycenæ and Troy, the very right hand of all his glorious enterprise ;1 but the world does not know so well with what an Attic grace and dignity she presided in his home, and made it a bright and memorable spot for all who were honored with his friendship. Still less does it know their children, Andromache and Agamemnon, the former a beautiful and accomplished girl just blooming into womanhood,2 the latter a bright and sturdy boy of twelve. It was their father’s wish that they should carry on his unfinished work, and they promise to be every way worthy of the trust.
Christmas was a great day always at Dr. Schliemann’s, with the good old German Christmas-tree loaded down at the head of the ball-room. As usual, following the old Greek custom, my invitation was expansive enough to take in a countryman who was staying in Athens. We did not wait for the small hours, as most of the guests did, but I can never forget that I shared Schliemann’s last bright Christmas joy. The house was alive with youth and merriment, " chasing the glowing hours with flying feet,” and host and hostess were at their beaming best. Each guest received a number and drew the corresponding trinket from the tree : simple and whimsical enough, some of them, but mine will have a permanent place among the treasures of a little maid who never saw his kindly face. The great man cherished to the last his childlike loves and ways : the day after his death Andromache dwelt upon this: “ He would always have the nuts gilded as in his father’s house in childhood.” And his friend Virchow, whom he had visited at Berlin after the fatal operation at Halle, had just written the family how well he was looking, and congratulated them on the happy Christmas they would have on receiving him back !
Pleasant as are my recollections of the Schliemann routs, I recall with far greater pleasure the quieter hospitalities of his house, When I arrived in Athens, Boetticher’s attacks on his Trojan theory were exercising him beyond his patience, and he was preparing to do his work at Troy over again, challenging the learned world to sit in judgment upon it. His preparations were minute and exhaustive. The grounds of the mansion were piled with spades, till they seemed a mining camp. American passports for himself, his family, and his servants must be taken out : it should never be forgotten that Troy was uncovered under the protection of our flag. It was amusing enough to set under the American eagle the names of his servants, Æneas and Creusa and Priam and Telamon; but he would have nothing but Homeric servitors about him. And when he went back to Troy, he might have set the Homeric story on the stage of the ancient theatre he discovered there — so far as names were concerned. Well, the world knows the story of his second siege of Troy, and how far it went toward settling Captain Boetticher and his necropolis theory. The work was indeed unfinished, and was to be resumed the next spring. Mrs. Schliemann will go on with it as the mission of her widowhood.
But I set out to speak of Sehliemann’s return from Troy that spring. He was feeling happy enough over the progress made, and the protocol just then published by Virchow and the other authorities who had gone to Troy at his request, and he gave a little dinner to which some twenty of his friends, mainly archæologists, sat down. I think the dinner was an expression of his feelings, all the way from the soup to the sweets ; but it became preöminently so when he rose to propose the health of the chief guest, a German engineer officer who had made his Trojan surveys. For unmitigated frankness, I have never heard the equal of that speech. For some reason he spoke in English, and the burden of the language, which he managed well enough in conversation, increased with the intensity of his feeling as he went on to bless his friends and blast his enemies. Altogether the effort, with its effect, was indescribable ; but it was like the man in its unstudied simplicity, and not a heart there but felt toward him the warmer and more trustful for it.
After this Schliemann went again to Troy, and kept the work going until the season stopped him. Several of my friends, who visited him there, have told or written me of the warm welcome he gave them and his unstinted hospitality. Among others, two English ladies, traveling alone, desired me to give them a letter to him, and as they were of the heroic order that Schliemann admired, I did so. They landed at the Dardanelles, secured a guard and an ox-cart, and in this Oriental state advanced on Ilium, several hours distant. Schliemann and his people received them with three cheers, declaring theirs “ the first carriage that ever entered Troy.” In person he showed them over the ancient city, entertained them on the Acropolis where Ilium was, and dismissed them with a proper escort.
I remained in Athens all the summer long, bent on reading the Attic calendar from end to end ; most people flee from the place if they can get away. My family joined me here in August, when the heat was at its height. A few days later I went to show my daughter the Troy collection, supposing Dr. Schliemann to be with his family at an Austrian watering-place. To my great surprise we found him at home, hard at work with the new Trojan spoil; he had been buried there for a month without people’s knowing he was in town. His delight at seeing my daughter, though only an incident of his spontaneous sympathy with youth, impressed me deeply. No young man could have been more gallant; and, with the ruling passion in him strong, he decorated her offhand with an Homeric name, and a divine one at that, Artemis, appealing to Dr. Brückner, his assistant, to say if she did not look the image of the goddess. It was enough to turn an older head; but we had to take him seriously when the next day brought this invitation in his dear old Greek : I beg you, with your daughter Artemis and your wife, to breakfast with me day after to-morrow, Sunday, when the sun is in mid-heaven.” With Artemis I presented myself in due time, to find a choice group of his intimates already with him. There were two university professors and several savants from the German Archæological Institute, and a fine young fellow, the Doctor’s protegé, from the University of Berlin. Artemis, as sole representative of her sex, was installed in the place of mistress of the mansion, while I sat on the Doctor’s left, facing the Nestor of Greek archæology on his right. I am thus particular because the occasion is consecrated in my memory as the last of its kind. Just before he left, I was invited to another little breakfast with him, but I could not go. So my last symposium with the last of the old Greeks — alas ! that I should have to say " last " of either — was on that bright Athenian Sunday at high noon in the brilliant banquet-chamber of the Hall of Troy. The picture cannot fade, nor can it ever be recalled without a warm feeling about the heart for the man who was great enough to be as simple as a child. The little maiden just escaped from the Wild West could hardly have felt more at home in her father’s cottage than the simple great man made her feel in this extraordinary experience of presiding at his board.
At his table one was little conscious of the eating and drinking, generous as was the fare always ; but the talk was tremendous. And there was no monopoly. Even at a little breakfast, with only a dozen covers, half a dozen conversations might be going on at once. In the medley of tongues, German always had a long lead, but Schliemann himself conscientiously preferred Greek. He thought he knew it as well as his mother tongue ; but then he thought the same of his English, in which he was mistaken. I counted it a great compliment that he often spoke and usually wrote to me in classical Greek, though I rarely exercised myself to reply in kind. At his table, and anywhere, he would turn with the greatest facility from one language to another, carrying his part, it might be, in three concurrent conversations in as many tongues. And I never saw him heavy-laden with his language but once; it was in the English toast to which I have already referred.
I find the pen running away with me, so many things crowd upon the mind as I recall the happy hours I owe him, but I must follow the Artemis incident a little further. Since his death, Mrs. Schliemann has shown me some of his last letters to her, and from one of them, written on the eve of her return to Athens, I had the mournful pleasure to transcribe in his good old Greek the original of these words: “ I entreat you, the first time you go out of the house, to call upon Mrs. Manatt. . . . She has a daughter whose name is Artemis, so Andromachidion must go with you.” Dear, thoughtful soul ! Could he have thought how that visit would be paid ! On Christmas day — day that he loved so well — Mrs. Schliemann and Andromache were visiting Artemis and her mother; and the night after Christmas the lightning flashed from Naples the news of their bereavement.
The man’s thoughtfulness left nothing out. I have his last will, a closely written document of thirteen foolscap pages in Greek, and for comprehensiveness, minuteness, and unassailability, it is the most remarkable paper of which I have any knowledge. Dealing with an estate of some three millions, to say nothing of treasures beyond all estimate, and with peculiar liability to contests, he has (humanly speaking) made it impossible to mistake or evade or overthrow an article or particle of his will. A man in the uttermost parts of the earth could open that will and administer it without asking a question of any living man, for everything is in it.
I have alluded to his “ doctor-shop of the soul ” with its Delphic text above the portal. After the operation at Halle he was in great pain, and thus he tells, in a letter to his wife, of the poultice he applied: —
“ Last night I had awful pains in my ear. Then I wondered, Is there no remedy ? when the thought came to me of the writing over my door,— γῴθι σαυτv. I meditated on the words, and then I wrote them down, and put them on the pain, and thought and thought upon them until I persuaded myself that the pain was unreal. And that was the first time I slept without pain since the operation.”
This Socratic mind-cure was like the man. By faith he saw what was invisible to other men, and lived in the company of the Immortals even in our prosaic age. He could think himself into the heart of Homer, and he could think away his torturing pain.
His life went out suddenly, among strangers, in a strange city — a vicissitude in keeping with the bitter pathos of his youth ; but few Athenians in all the long illustrious roll have had a grander funeral. Upon his pall were heaped the honors of the world, and about it gathered all the greatness that is left of Greece.
On a cloudless winter day, the lambent Attic atmosphere suffused with sunshine all the brighter for the snowy mantle on the Attic mountain tops, " at the highest spot in the Hellenic cemetery ” (so ran his will) between the Ilissus and the sea, we " heaped the piled earth on him,” and left him forever with the Immortals.
J. Irving Manatt.
- “With glad enthusiasm,” he says, “she joined me in executing the great work which nearly half a century ago my childish simplicity had agreed upon with my father, and planned with Minna,” his first love.↩
- Since this was written, I have assisted at the fair Andromache’s wedding with Leon Melas, son of the present Demarch of Athens.↩