In transcribing this article from the Google Books online version of one of the 1877 Illustrated News articles on Schliemann’s work, I have added paragraphing to make reading easier. This article immediately follows an introduction to the archeologist’s work, “Dr. Schliemann’s Researches at Mycenae,” and I have added the portrait of Schliemann from it.

Dr. Schliemann, The Explorer of Troy and Mycenæ. Click on images to enlarge them.

Our Special Correspondent and Artist writes as follows: Athens, Feb. 26.

The objects found by Dr Schliemann have been more than once on view, in one of the rooma of the National Bank. These precious articles have been placed there for safety, and will remain there in the strong roam till a suitable museum can be provided, where they will all be labelled, and will be exposed, in proper cases, for the public to see them. Till this is done, it will be only privileged individuals who will have a chance of getting a peep at what has too long lain quietly under the earth at Mycenæ. Mr Newton, from the British Museum, is expected out here by the next French mail, and will no doubt have a special view of all that is important. At present those objects are being photographed, for the purposes of illustrating the work upon which Dr. Schliemann is now employed, rekating his discoveries. This is to be published by Mr. Murray, and it is said that £6,000 is the some the publisher has agreed to pay for tbe copyright. If I mistake not, that is about what Dr Livingstone received for his Travels in Africa.

Two cases of the seventeen at present containing this collection were taken out the other day, and were laid on a table for Admiral S1r James Drummond and the officers of the fleet to look at. Those two cases seemed to contain the most valuable of the gold articles, and they are, perhaps, the most important as bearing on the art of the period. The predominating form of ornament is that of a circle, which is filled up in various ways, but most often with radiating lines, each line being connected with a semicircle at the circumference. It might be taken for a subjective style of representing the petals of a flower. Tbe beautiful cow's bead, with golden horns, has one of these circles of gold, about two inches in diameter, attached to the forehead, This Dr. Schliemannn, I understand, identifies as a symbol of the sun; and it is quite possib;e that such is the meaning of the raylike lines upon it. Its connection with the crecent horns of the cow is undoubtedly a strong confirmation of this idea. It Is a combination which was very common in past times; and a crescent with a star is still a favourite emblem among the Mohammedans, who are thus, we find, only continuing an emblem that existed tn the most archaic period. This particular ornament might be seen on almost every one of the gold objecs exhibited. The golden girdle is covered with it; it is upon tbe gold covering of what have evidently been dagger-sheaths; it figures upon drinking cups; and there were trays exhibited of circles in gold all impressed with this favorvite symbol. The signification which Dr. Schliemannn ascribes to this ornamental will become an important point of discussion when his book appears, for it is the predominating feature of all the art which had two developed at this period of the Atridæ. It is more frequent than the meander or spiral ornament, and the well-known Greek fret seems not to have come into existence at that early date. It was a solar symbol, its importance and constant repetition beyond that of all other symbols may thus have an explanation. Tbe spiral form of ornamentation is also found among these gold relics. The meaning of this particular form is doubtful. It may possibly have been merely a result of working with gold wire. Tbe same material is still in use in our own day as we find it in the beautiful filigree work of Malta and Trichinopoty, where the spiral form is a feature springing from the material. It now becoming evident that the exquisite tracery and spiral ornamentation of the Celtic and early Anglo-Saxon period first began from a similar source. That the early Greeks did use wire in this way is evidenced by one or two small objects found by Dr. Schliemannn at Mycenæ, where the wire itself was wrought into spiral objects of ornammtation.

One of the symbols which Dr. Schliemannn’s wonderful discoveries at Troy revealed was that of the swastika, or fylput, and he has also found it frequent in his late discoveries. It is a another ornament common all over the East, and its constant repetition on the whorls and other objects of the Archaic Trojan period was in itself a discovery in the science of symbolism. This outline will be the simplest way of conveying an idea of the symbol, which is important from its being only a variety of a cross. It is an old Buddhist symbol, common among the sculptures and coins of that faith in India. The word “Swastika, ” by which it is often designated, is Sanscrit, and is explained by General Cunningham to be an expresion meaning "So be it" as an acceptance and resignation to whatever happens in this life. The General states that It wee the formula of the “Atheistical Swastiks,” a sect who were thus named from It. Emile Burnouf gives another explanation of it. According to him, it was formed of pieces of wood, upon which another place was revolved between the palms of the hands, till fire was produced. It was, in fact, a fire-wheel, from which Agni, or the sacred fire of sacrifice, was evolved. This is the explanation which Dr. Schliemannn has adopted; and in his eyes it is only another symbolical form signifying the solar power. It is frequent on the buttons and other objects found at Mycenæ; and there is a triple-formed symbol found on the buttons, which one is inclined to believe only a variety of the Swastika. If this should turn out to be the case it will throw new light on the arms, or one might say the legs, of the Isle of Mann, and ef Trinacria, or Sicily. These buttons are very beautifully made, and, although they naturally recall Birmingham to tho mind, there is nothing “Brummagem” about them; it is doubtful if that noted Buttonopotia could produce better at the present moment. Although these articles have been called “buttons," it may be doubted if they served the purpose which we associate with such things in the present day. They may have been placed as studs on sheilds—“on tho well-orbed ox-hide shields” — or on auch as that of Ajax which was covered with brass, — or perhaps, upon harness. Many of the circular plates of gold were no doubt used for purposes of this kind as ornament. They may have been used for overlaying wood or ivory—the word “Chryselephantine” implies that this last mode of decoration was common.

Forms of Some Articles Found at Mycenæ.

Among the subjects represented on these circular plates, and a not unfrequent one, is that of butterfly: and among the repousée, as well as the smaller articles of cast metal, there is one form which to rather a surprise—that is the octopus. There are a number of specimens of it, and it to so well repesented that there need be no doubt of of its being the animal we are now so familiar with in our aquariums. It to very plentiful in the market of Athena even now, and clearly the ancient Greeks were not less familiar with it; but whether it is used on these golden articles as a symbol, or merely aa an ornament, has yet to be ascertained. There are also birds and animals, generally in subjective forms; among than a hare, or fawn-like animal, is repeated, recalling the clasp on the mantle of Ulyses, who, while still disguised, describes it to Pemelope as an evidence that had seen her husband. According to tho description. It was “a clasp of gold made with two fastenings, and in front It was variegated: a dog held in its fore feet a spotted fawn, enjoying its panting, and all marvelled at it, how they being of gold, the one strangling tho kid was enjoying it, but the other, eager to escape, was convulsively struggling with its feet.”

From these specimens of ancient art found at Mycenæ Dr. Schliemann insists, still with his usual enthusiasm, upon the reality which belongs to everything which Homer describes in relation to Troy, and that we am new getting revealed to our own eyes what the poet was familiar with when he wrote. The modern theory that the story of the Iliad to nothing more than a myth finds no entrance into the mind of Dr. Schliemann. The golden cups are entirely new in form; the most important of them is not above six inches high, and the single handle at the side clearly suggests that it was a drinking-cup. The pouring of wine into cups is often spoken of by Homer; and we have an allusion by Agamemnon himself to his own cup. In the fourth book of the Iliad the son of Atreus says:– “the nobles of the Argives mix in their cope the dark and red honourable wine; for though the other created Greeks drink by certain measures, thy cup always stands full, as [mine] to me, that thou mayest drink when thy mind desires it.” This habit may ham given come colour to the accusation of Achilles that Agamemnon waa a “wine-bibber;” and if we adopt the realistic views of Dr. Schliemann to the Iliad, it is a pleasing probability to indulge in that the cup mentioned by Homer is, after so many years, again visible, and may be touched and felt.

Prominent amongst the objects exhibited, and perhaps the most interesting in the whole collection of what has turned up at Mycenæ, is the cow’s head with the golden horns. This Dr. Schliemann identifies with with Hera, or Juno. She was said to have been born at Argos; heoce it is more than probable that she would be a favorvte deity in that region, The cow was sacred to her, and was never offered as a sacrifice at her temple. This is said to have been owing to her having taken the form of that animal. This head which has been found is not so large as that of a cow; its proportion would fit better to that of a human figure, and, if it was not uses as a mask, it may have been the head of a statue, supposing, perhaps, the rest of the statue to have been in the form of a woman, to represent the goddess. The head is said to be of silver, but it is now oxodized into a brown coffee-colour. The horns are of gold, still bright; and the nostrils also still retain traces of gilding. The head is very well executed, and is in itself a good proof of the artistic skill of tbe time. The only ornament upon it is the gold disc on tbe forehead, which has already beem described.

As the explorations of Troy produced a large number of owl forms as representations of Minerva, and most of them in the rudest style of art, so the diggings at Mycenæ have produced a multitude of figures of Juno, all belonging to very archaic and primitive types. The principal part of these small objects is a crescent, which is supposed to be only a form of the horns of the cow. The continuation, for there is nothing which could be called limbs, is only a stand, terminating in a base, by means which the idol could be placed in an upright position. Some images have a rude development of a head which is between the horns of the crescent, but the crescent is entirely below the head, so that they stand up as arms than horns. This suggests a strange comparison with the celebrated figure of the Juggernuauth, which General Cunningham identified with the trisul, a trident-formed emblem, peculiar to Buddhism and Brahmanism, and to which a face has merely been added on the central prong, making a combination perfectly analogous to the rude idols of Juno which have now been first brought to light. Some of these figures found at Mycenæ have nothing to indicate a head. The central member stands up, forming, with the crescebt horns, a trisul or trident; and the fact that a female figure is meant can only be determined by the breasts, which are distinctly marked on the crescent.

These are curious contributions to our knowledge of the symbolsim which was current in the earlier periods of Greek history. The golden girdle was also upon the table at the Bank; but little can be said of it except that the circular ornament was its prevailing decoration. As Punch has so satisfactorily explained the buttons which hare been found, he may also find a solution of of this supposed piece of female adornment. If the “buttons” belonged to the pages cf Agamemnon, then there could be little doubt but this waa the apron which Clytemnestra put on during the afternoons, to receiv her visitors at her five o‘clock tea

I send you this short description of what I saw during a very hurried visit. Dr. Schliemann himself goes in a week or so to England, and with his own more accurate descriptions, and the very realistic photographs which he is having made, and a few of which, by his kindness, I was permitted to look over, those who are interested in such subjects will be able to judge for themselves to the importance of three discoveries. Dr. Schliemann has

Dr. Schliemann’s Excavation in the Acropolis

The Acropolis of Mycenæ is on an isolated rock, which fits not unlike a wedge, into the valley between two very prominent hllls. The northern one is Iretus, known now known as Mount Agios Ellas, and the other as Sara. The rocky scarp of the Acropolis towards the just named hill, is so precipitous that no attack would be likely on that side. Still, there are remains of old Cyclopean masses of wall yet standing in places where the cliff is less perpendicular. On the other side, which was easier of approach, a long wall of the same ancient kind of masonry extended the whole length. This terminates at one end where the rocky point of the wedge looks to the cast up the Taller, and at the other where the wall turns to the south-east, forming one side of the approach to the well-known Lion Gateway, so named from the sculpture, over the doorway, of two lions who act as supporters on each tide of a pillar. The masonry of the wall, at this point, is of a different character. The stones are here squared, and show an approach to the rectangular or Hellenic type. This wuuld indicate a later date than the other, which has been known as the Cyclopean, but is now called Pelagic, or the Polygonal, from the irregular form of the large blocks of stone. From the Lion Gateway the wall is again continuned pretty nearly south-west for a short distance, when it turns with an angle to the south-east. In which direction it runs again till it comes to the rocky gorge already described. There are inner walls of old masonry within this, inclosing the higher ground of the Acropolis.

The Acropolis at Mycenæ. “From a Sketch by Our Special Artist [William Simpson].” Illustrated London News (24 March 1877): 320-21.

A reference to the sketch plan of Mycenæ and its Acropolis where the position of the explorations are indicated, will make the description better understood. Mycenæ was destroyed 480 B.C. when the city was deserted, and it is a wonder that any of its walls should have been now standing; but the massive masonry of the period has, to the long struggle against time, given evidence of its durability. Some parts of those walls are still as good as when first erected; while in many places the large stones have tumbled down, and the large irregular blocks are scattered about, so that at a very little distance they cannot be distinguished from the massive of rock amongst which they lie.

Dr. Schliemann made a number of experimental borings or shafts all over the Acropolis, and ultimately determined to carry out his operations at the south-west corner, between the Lion Gate and the wall; and here his scent seems to have been on the right track, as the wonderful results have given proof. The drawing which I send of the ground as it now stands since the excavations have been made, and which is accompanied with a rough sketch plan, will give a pretty dear idea of this spot. The view is taken from the top of the old wall, south of the Lion Gate, and the base of one ot the two hills. The one called Mount Sara forms the background, giving a peep to the right of the Argolic plain, now green and red from the spring crops and newly-ploughed soil. The Acropolis of Argos is at its southern extremity; beyond is the Gulf of Argoa; and the high chain of mountains, their summits covered with snow at this season, separating it from Arcadia and Laconia, forms the extreme distance of the picture. The Lion Gateway can now be entered, and it forms a fitting approach to the scene of Dr. Schliemann’s discoveries. By entering it we cone upon the spot, as those did who were living when Mycenæ was the chief city of Greece, and when this spot must have been sacred and celebrated from the illustrious dead who were interred there with all the solemnity of the ancient Greek ritual.

On passing the large blocks of the ancient portal, and turning to the right, the first things which we come upon are some old walls laid bare by the recent excavations. As the enclosures formed by these remains present an indication of either doors or windows, the visitor is inclined to believe that they were more likely to be the houses of the dead than of the living. Some other walls, found at the south-east corner, have been judged by Dr. Schliemann to be the remains of a palace — “A vast Cyclopean house” is his description of it—and the discovery of gold and other valuable articles within these walls he considers as evidence of having been a regal abode. Supposing it to have been a palace, its close proximity to the Royal Tombs would seem to show a custom in early Greece similar to that mentioned to tha Bible, where Manasech is described, in 2 Chron. xxxii. 20, aa having been buried “in his own house,” or, as it is put to 1 Kins xxi.18 to the garden of his own house.” A reference to the Sketch-Plan will show how near the place of sepulture were to the Royal residence at Mycenæ. These tombs were connected with a very remarkable structure, which has been brought to light by Dr. Schliemann'e explorations. It is a structure which is entirely new to the students of classical archeology. No similar construction has yet been found anywhere, in Greece or any other part of tba world. It is, no doubt, of a high antiquity; and its exact data will not likely become one of thre important points connected with Dr. Schliemann’s discoveries.

Dr. Schliemann’ Excavatrion of the Acropolis at Mycenæ. “By Our Special Artist [William Simpson].” Illustrated London News (24 March 1877): 284-85.

This interesting monument is a circle about 100 ft. in diameter. It is composed of two conomtric circles of stone, about 3 ft. 6 in. apart. As most of these stones are broken or embedded In tha earth, it is not easy to gauge their height; but one or two, which have been left standing, are between 5 ft. and 6 ft. high, about 2 ft. wide, and over 4 fto. thick. Some of them are now only about a couple of fact above ground; but to what extent they were originally covered below it is now impossible to aay. Tbe space between these two circles seems to have been bridged over with slabs of stone, and the upper edges of the stones have all been morticed to receive tenons, which,no doubt, kept the horizontal slabs above to their places. All these stones seem to have been worked tolerably smooth and fitted neatly together; so that the whole, when complete, must have had much of the appearance of a circular stone bench. The only break to this circle is at its north side, where there is what seems a recess; but, as the outer extremity is not compared of similar slabs to the rest of the construction, but is, on the contrary, filled up with ruse stones and rubbish. It was most probably open, and formed the door of the enclosure. The idea that it was the entrance is strengthened by its being on that side of the circle nearest to the Lion Gate, at which it would be approached by those entering the Acropolis. There is a very remarkable arrangement on each aide of this entrance or recess. The upright slabs are so placed as to form inclosures like cells. They are scarcely long enough for a tomb, but a living man could easily be stowed away in one. A prisoner to be tried could be kept there till the Judges assembled. No doubt these stone boxes were also connected with the slabs, like the rest of the circle.

In tha drawing I have made, the stones forming the circle can easily be traced, and a fair notion of its present condition be gained from it. At the same time, the reader's mind will, without difficulty, be able to conceive the restoration of the whole which has been just described. It is something new fur the classical student to consider and explain; it is a sort of puzzle ring for archeologists to put together and solve its meeting. When Dr. Schliemann’s work comes out, giving all the minute details of what he found inside, there will then be more material to guide as to our conclusions. At present we can only maka a comparison of this structure with what seems to approach nearest to it. The Pnyx at Athens suggests a slight parallel. In a constructive sense there is no comparison, for it is a semicircle, and its heavy excavation into the solid rock, and the ponderous blocks which have been used to build up its supporting wall, place it in quite a different category of architecture from that to which the fragile slabs of the ring at Mycenæ belong. But as a place of public assembly, open to the public, so that all going on within could be seen, and yet separated from tha outward crowd by a line of inclosure, the parallel holds good. These are conditions common to both structures. That public places of assembly and justice were held in circular inclosures, we have evidence from Homer himself; and, as his evidence takes us back to the period when Mycenae existed, his descriptions are af value as bearing on this point. When Nausicaa is telling Ulysses how he is to follow her to her father's house she mentions the temple of Poseidon, and the forum around it, which she says was “fitted with large stones dug out of the earth.” Again, in the shield of Achilles there is a description of an assembly where a case of ransom-money is being tried. The litigants had friends in the crowd, for they “were applauding both, and the heralds were keeping back the people; but the elders sat upon polished stones, in a sacred circle.” Such are Homer’s words, and they all but describe this remarkable discovery of Dr. Schliemann’s. The quotation seems to repopulate this spot, and we are the old inhabitants of Mycenæ, the Judges, the herald, and the actors in the trial, and, without the circle, the crowd watching what is taking place within. The close position of this inclosure to the Lion Gate, it may be remarked, is an additional reason far accepting this view of tha matter. It was a very primitive period, when the king, or chief, sat in the gate to adminster Justice; and, later, when the court had to be extended, its judicial duties were still performed in this open, public way. We may suppose that the nearest open space within the gate would be selected, and the lower terrace of the Acropolis, overlooking the city, like the Pynx at Athens, u exactly suited for the purpose.

It was within this circle that the tombs were discovered by Dr. Schliemann. which yielded such a harvest of ancient treasures of all kinds. Its character as a piece of sepulchre may be added to its sanctity as a court of justice; for, in the description of the shield of Achilles the “circle” was sacred but what made it so was not told. The so-called tombs which still remain at Mycenæ, are most elaborate constructions but they bear no resemblance whatever to this inclosure of stone slabs. A different purpose has to be found. That here given may be taken as merely suggestive of the use it was applied to. The only explanation I have heard is — and the one, I understand, that Dr. Schliemann is inclined to— that it wat a garden over the graves, and this is not at all unlikely; the burial of Manasseh in the garden of his own house becomes a good confirmatory support of this idea. If Dr. Schliemann can find in Homer any description that would show the form of gardens at that early date, and that a circle was common, few would he found to dissent from the idea. But it will better not to decide till we hear all he has to say. With Homer at his finger ends, he will, no doubt, be able to give us every quotation that can bear on the subject; and he has details, not yet given to the outer world, which may help to unravel this recently found monument of the past. There is one important point worth noting regarding the construction— the mortise in the upper edges of the slabs would indicate that a pre-existing wooden type had been followed in its erection.

[The Illustrated London News’s extensive coverage of Schliemann’s excavations of Mycenæ skips an issue and continues on 7 April with Simpson’s article entitled “The Ruins of Mycenae,” which begins with a brief mention of the Acropolis discussed above and then devotes three columns to the four treasuries found at the site.]

Related Material


“Dr. Schliemann’s Researches in Greece.” Illustrated London News. (21 march 1877): 281-83. Google Books. Web. 10 May 2021.

Created 12 May 2021