The Walls of Windy Troy Essay - Critical Context

Marjorie Braymer

Critical Context

Braymer was one of the first to adapt a biography of Schliemann for young readers. She saw him as one of the world’s great legends—a person who had a pervasive influence on history, one who could serve as a heroic example of hard work and perseverance. The public consensus in 1960 had settled upon an image of Schliemann as a passionate amateur who, in spite of tremendous obstacles of birth and education, remained fixed upon his goal. The debate that had raged after his death regarding his successes and failures had been resolved along the lines first set forth by Emil Ludwig in Schliemann: The Story of a Gold-Seeker (1931). Even though his archaeological methods had destroyed key evidence of Troy, Schliemann was admired for establishing a basis for all subsequent Bronze Age discoveries. He was seen as a product of his age, no worse than some and better than most. In many ways this image agreed with the historical image of the ideal American.

The present assessment of Schliemann is mixed. Scholars no longer excuse him for destroying evidence of Troy. Simple care could have avoided many of the errors he committed. Archaeological science was new, but nearly forty years of work on biblical and classical sites had already refined its techniques. Moreover, Schliemann was cautioned to proceed slowly even before work began at Hissarlik. Calvert had advised him of the complexity of the site. Schliemann learned as work progressed at Hissarlik, and his technique improved. He did have the ability to grow and develop, but credit should also go to those around him. Much of Schliemann’s success in interpreting Troy is attributable to the advice and direction provided by Dörpfeld. Still, it was the force of Schliemann’s character that made the discovery of Troy possible. The Walls of Windy Troy is valuable reading for that fact alone.