Drama, adventure, vice and virtues, romance, and an endless thirst for travel and knowledge, all these elements and many more constitute the life story of Heinrich Schliemann, the famous excavator of Troy and Mycenae. That story begins January 6, 1822, in Neu-Buekow in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany. A year later, in 1823, the family moved to Ankershagen, a small village in the same region, where his father, Ernst, took up the post of pastor. At the age of seven, Schliemann stated he received a copy of Georg Ludwig Jerrer’s Universal History containing an engraving of Aeneas and Anchises and Troy in flames; it was then, he decided he would one day excavate Troy.
When Heinrich was 14, he completed vocational school and was apprenticed to a grocer in Fürstenberg. After the apprenticeship ended in 1841, Schliemann went to Hamburg to seek employment, then signed up as a cabin boy aboard a ship bound for South America in hope of better opportunities. But the ship ran aground off the coast of the Netherlands. A local family saved Schliemann and helped him to travel to Amsterdam where he found employment at a trading firm. In 1844 he took a job as clerk and bookkeeper for B.H. Schröder and Co., a more eminent trading and banking house. Amsterdam was where Schliemann decided he had to learn foreign languages, within four years mastering Dutch, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian. In 1846, aged 24, he moved, to St. Petersburg in Russia, primarily as Schröder’s agent. By the next year Schliemann had founded his own company in the Russian capital, trading commodities such as dyewoods, indigo, camphor, and cigars.
"With deep emotion I recall the garden at Ankershagen with its flowers, pear trees, cherry trees, apple trees, plum trees, gooseberry bushes and the tall lime tree on which I carved my name. I recall the church steeple, which I imagined to be the tallest in the world..."
Excerpt from Emil Ludwig, Schliemann, The Story of a Gold-seeker (Boston, 1931), p. 78
Photo of the Schliemann family home in Ankershagen, now the Heinrich-Schliemann-Museum at Ankershagen
Richard Peter, photographer. Ankershagen. Heinrich-Schliemann-Museum. Deutsche Fotothek, Germany, in Copyright, Educational Use Permitted.