In 1869, a few months after divorcing his Russian wife, Schliemann married the 17-year old schoolgirl Sophia Engastromenos, his choice from the several prospective brides that his old teacher, Archbishop Vimpos, had assembled. Sophia immediately found herself having to learn English, French, and German, and to reside in Paris. But Schliemann’s cosmopolitan life-style in France’s capital city, did not suit her. Sophia longed to return to Athens; they eventually did. She bore a daughter, Andromache, in 1871, and a son, Agamemnon, in 1878.
Sophia’s physical and mental health was a continuing concern to her husband, especially during the first years of their marriage. She found it difficult to cope with Heinrich’s long absences and often ‘stingy’ attitude to home economics. Eventually, and not without resistance, she learned to follow his lead and to share his passion for archaeology, becoming his close partner in the field.
In 1880, Heinrich and Sophia moved to their permanent residence, the Iliou Melathron. Following Schliemann’s instructions, the architect Ernst Ziller (1837-1923) built one of Athens’s largest and finest mansions. The local newspapers often praised Sophia for being the perfect hostess. She also became involved in many charitable activities during her marriage. Following Heinrich’s death, Sophia continued to support excavations at Troy and to make her home a meeting point for archaeologists and scholars. Her efforts to found a hospital for the treatment of tuberculosis and to establish the Vouliagmeni orphanage exemplify her great philanthropic work. When Sophia died in 1932, she received a state funeral.
Schliemann arrived in Athens in September 1869, having already decided that an Athenian girl of 17, named Sophia Engastromenos, would become his wife. Without “profound education” or “knowledge of foreign languages,” Sophia was however the ideal wife for Schliemann. Writing to his Greek friend Antonis Amiras, on September 18, 1869, a few days before his marriage to Sophia, Schliemann outlined the reasons behind his choice:
"My dearest friend, in my position all the unmarried girls in Athens, even those of the most distinguished families, daughters of ministers and admirals would want to come very enthusiastically with me to Paris, having in mind not the value of the man but only their own future position... In Germany and in France, too, I could find thousands more educated brides, but at my age it is difficult to find a woman who would marry me not only for Paris. And since I prefer certainty to uncertainty, I choose Sophia, daughter of an Athenian merchant…. She does not have deep scientific knowledge or speak foreign languages, or play the piano. Nor does she have the social graces of Paris. But I will make every effort to educate her and to make a scholar of her, and I am hopeful that I will succeed because our Greek women are clever and receptive to all cultivation if they have the means and necessary encouragement…"
ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers, Schliemann to Amiras (September 18, 1869), page 1 of 3