David A. Traill, Excavating Schliemann: Collected Papers on Schliemann. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1993. Pp. xiv + 278, incl. 25 illustrations. ISBN 1-55540-891-5. US$54.95.
Department of Greek, Roman & Egyptian Studies, Monash University.
Excavating Schliemann is a collection of twenty-one articles written over the last two decades by David A. Traill. Two of them are noted as forthcoming. All but no. 17 on Stamatakis and no. 19 on Sophia Schliemann focus on the writings and personality of Heinrich Schliemann. They represent Traill's contribution to what he calls the 'current re-evaluation of Schliemann' (p. xiv).
In the Editor's Foreword, William M. Calder III justifies the publication on the grounds that bringing together Traill's various articles makes for ease of consultation (p.xii). That is true. But therein lies a problem: how to organise the material. The ordering does not follow the chronological order of publication. It is mostly theme-based. So the two summaries of Schliemann's career follow one after the other (Chapters 1 and 2), and the pre-archaeological activities of Schliemann are separated from his archaeological work. However the Sophia Schliemann article does not fit in easily anywhere, and is lumped together at the end of the book with a travel diary for the years 1868-90 and a book review.
The result of the decision to publish, under one cover, articles written over time for different audiences that might have to be informed about on-going arguments - and about points already scored in the debate - is that the reader of Excavating Schliemann is faced with an irritating amount of repetition. The case for Schliemann's untruthfulness in his writings, whether in diaries, letters or books, depends upon cumulative evidence assembled by Traill (and others). The kind of argument employed is that if Schliemann is shown to be untruthful in one instance then suspicion may be entertained in another less clear-cut case. Only occasionally is an outright lie proved beyond all doubt. Hence the importance of the established fact that when Schliemann claimed his wife Sophia was present with him at Hisarlik in late May 1873 he was lying. In Excavating Schliemann this one instance where Schliemann was caught out lying is mentioned in no fewer than ten chapters (nos. 1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 19, 21). Repetition of language used with reference to Schliemann is rife and annoying. The reader again and again comes across such loaded expressions as 'mendacity', 'penchant for fraud and deceit', 'illicit intentions' and 'fraudulent reporting'. Also, in view of the costs of publication, I am surprised at the number of times footnotes containing the same information are repeated.
Traill's 'excavation' of Schliemann before he turned to archaeology concentrates on events that occurred during various periods of time Schliemann spent in America (1850-2, 1865, 1868 and 1869). Here Traill has had the advantage of being able to seek out information from local sources to check against information contained in Schliemann's diaries and letters. He is most successful in throwing light on Schliemann's discreditable behaviour in regard to his divorce and American citizenship. Contemporary legal documents and some unguarded statements of Schliemann himself prove that Schliemann obtained his divorce illegally. Less successful, in my view, is Traill's attempt to argue that a bout of fever was not a reason for Schliemann's sudden closure of his banking operations in California in 1852. Traill admits to reconstructing a scenario (p. 47) which is not the only one possible, but no alternative that could be more favourable to Schliemann is contemplated. Illness could have been one of the contributing factors that led to Schliemann's acting as he did. Without the banker Davidson's side of the story it is going too far to describe Schliemann's report of a third attack of fever as 'sheer fabrication' (p. 46).
The 'excavation' of Schliemann's archaeological writing is likely to be of more general interest, but it should be remembered that the motivation for questioning aspects of it arises out of prior allegations of untruthfulness in his autobiographical writing. The find of 'Priam's Treasure' at Hisarlik and, to a lesser extent, the finds in the Shaft Graves of Mycenae, have been given most attention. In regard to 'Priam's Treasure' Traill has advanced our knowledge considerably. He did a nice piece of detective work in discovering the documents that allow him to trace the removal of some objects from Turkey to Greece in June 1873 (chapter 12). He and Donald Easton, one of Schliemann's supporters, are now not so far apart on the composition of the 'Treasure'. In the course of argument and counter-argument Traill seems to have dropped the scurrilous suggestion that some of the gold may have been bought in Istanbul to be planted for a great discovery. It is to be hoped that if jewellery purportedly from 'Priam's Treasure' is eventually produced in public in Moscow, further useful discussion of this 'Treasure' may continue. Traill's most recent attempt to identify additions to the 'Treasure' (chapter 16), based as it is on poor descriptions and even poorer photographs, does not seem a profitable exercise.
There is no doubt that Schliemann was a complex person. Whatever one thinks of him, by virtue of his achievements he stands taller, metaphorically, than all of us who evaluate or 'excavate' him more than 100 years after his death. In considering why Schliemann behaved as he did, Traill considers (chapter 9) how well he passes some 16 diagnostic tests for a psychopath.(1) While Traill goes no further than to say that 'Schliemann's character was tinged with psychopathy' (p. 124), this judgement is not only extremely prejudicial but also rests on the use of slight and, in some cases, incomplete or selective information.
I take issue with a number of points made by Traill. One comes under the heading 'General Poverty in Major Affective Reactions'. Schliemann's reaction to the death of his daughter Natalia should be judged by more than a sentence in one letter to his son. That remark in which he blames his ex-wife for the death may perhaps be explained, though not excused, as his way of coping at the time of writing with his own feelings of guilt about abandoning his children upon his divorce obtained just a few months earlier. However, not to be ignored in the situation are the very affectionate greetings he used to send to his children in his letters, the request to his son in early December 1869 to telegraph the state of Natalia's health to him (BBB 28 p. 302), the telegram sent to his son to have a photograph taken of Natalia in her coffin (BBB 28 p. 310), and the copies of letters written to his ex-wife immediately after the news of the death reached him. In one (BBB 28 p. 328) he refers to his daughter as 'l'adore/e enfant', and he writes that it is 'impossible de vous de/crire ma douleur, mon de/sespoir'.(2) Lynn and Grey Poole whom Traill often quotes when it suits him, report that Schliemann locked himself in a room in his house in Paris for three days after learning of his daughter's death, much to the distress of his new wife, Sophia.(3) The totality of Schliemann's reaction does not indicate to me a 'showy, shallow type' of emotion.
The absence of a sense of humour is another sign of a psychopath apparently. It is hard to know just how many people would reveal their sense of humour in diaries, letters and academic writing. Against the one illustration in the negative recounted by Traill (pp. 119-120) I would put what I found to be a somewhat amusing comparison made in Diary A6, p. 45, when Schliemann reached the Great Wall of China. He imagined that an orang-outang or gorilla appearing in Nevski Prospekt, St. Petersburg, with pencil and paper in his hand to record the sights, would have caused no more of a sensation than he did among the local inhabitants of Ku-pa-ku (modern Gubeikou). There is also the story written in Latin in the language exercise book (G File) about how prostitutes in California increased their earnings: 'quum juvenis veniat ad puellam ea mensuram sumit et longitudinem penis virilis metitur et vir per singulum digitum unam unciam auri solvere debet. Sed metientes virgines semper fraudent, eae enim titillant penes ut longores (sic) fiant.' In this tale is there not a hint of a sense of humour?
Under the heading 'Sex Life Impersonal, Trivial and Poorly Integrated' Traill states that evidence on Schliemann's sex life is sparse and inconclusive. Certain correspondence, perhaps unknown to Traill, can be produced that alters the picture. For example, in a letter to Baron Fehleisen dated 6 February 1867 (BBB 27 p. 27), he admits to adultery during an 18 month absence of his wife, 1862-3, pleading that he was not a saint but a mere mortal. Then in the letters sent to him in Paris in 1867 by his brother Ernst (B 61) we can read about the stormy affair he was having at the time with Mme. Alida, and there are even three angry letters from Alida Massy herself preserved in the Schliemann Archives in the Gennadius Library, Athens (B 60. 385, 385.1, 385.2).
I mention these matters only to make an obvious point that the more of the voluminous material left by Schliemann one knows about, the less easy it is to make definitive statements about Schliemann as a person. Like most of us he seems to have been a mixture of good and bad. There can be differences about where the balance lies, but the quoting of isolated incidents out of context is no way to prove a particular thesis.
Traill announces (chapter 20) that he is writing a biography of Schliemann. I wonder why, if this has long been a project of his, Traill agreed to the publication of Excavating Schliemann. He will surely be covering the same ground again. And now that he has established himself as a relentless critic of Schliemann what kind of a biography will we get from him? I would hope that Traill may be persuaded to review the stance he has adopted and argued for so forcefully. A few footnotes in Excavating Schliemann indicating recent changes of mind suggest that his views are not all immutable. Desiderata in a biography of Schliemann will be comprehensiveness and fairness.
(1) The tests are derived from H. Cleckley's book The Mask of Sanity (St. Louis 1982).
(2) I thank the Director of the Gennadius Library, American School of Classical Studies, Athens, Dr. David R Jordan, for permission to use in this review unpublished material in the Schliemann Archives. I refer to letters written by Schliemann (BBB Files), letters written to Schliemann (B Files), Diary A6 which covers Schliemann's visit to China and Japan in 1865 and G File Varia containing language exercises, many in the form of fictitious letters.
(3) Lynn and Grey Poole, One Passion, Two Loves (New York 1966).