Heinrich Schliemann – a thief or an idealist?

Some of the criticism of Heinrich Schliemann is vociferous these days – and if it’s not sour, it’s morally outrageous. This is mainly because Heinrich Schliemann fits perfectly in the crosshairs of defenders of abolitionist culture who accuse people in the nineteenth century of taking values ​​that are nowadays for granted. Criticism focuses primarily on a portrait of a wealthy, old, white Schliemann who followed his tendencies in less developed countries and – depending on the interpretation – interpreted contracts in his favour or even stole “simple minds”. Therefore, one hears, the finds that he excavated and exhibited in museums in Western Europe must be returned to their countries of origin. This is quite distorted as taken from the historical context.

We live in times when those who carve out their way to prosperity through education from the simplest backgrounds are celebrated. But in the 19th century, social barriers were more stable than they are today. Someone who seriously did without a diploma from school until he achieved an eminent standard of living, someone who was successful and just got a doctorate just for the pleasure of science – all this brought Heinrich Schliemann more exclusion than praise for many years.

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