The Greeks of historic times knew very little about their
prehistoric period. Instead of accurate knowledge they had only the beautiful
legends preserved in ancient poems, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Within our own day, however, remarkable excavations have disclosed the remains
of a widespread and flourishing civilization in times so distant that the
historic Greeks had lost all sight of it. As in the Orient, the labors of
modern scholars are yearly adding to our knowledge of ancient life.
SCHLIEMANN'S EXCAVATIONS AT TROY
The man who did most to reveal the prehistoric
civilization of Greece was a wealthy German merchant named Heinrich Schliemann.
An enthusiastic lover of Homer, he believed that the stories of the Trojan War
related in the Iliad were not idle fancies, but real facts. In 1870 A.D.
he started to test his beliefs by excavations at a hill called Hissarlik, on
the northwestern coast of Asia Minor. Here tradition had always fixed the site
of ancient Troy. Schliemann's discoveries and those of later explorers proved
that at Hissarlik at least nine successive cities had come into existence,
flourished, and passed away. Excavations completed in 1892 A.D. have shown that
the sixth city in order from the bottom was the one described in the Homeric poems.
It had powerful walls defended by towers, well-fortified gates, and palaces of
stone. The marks of fire throughout the ruins indicate that the city must have
been destroyed by a disastrous conflagration.