A Touch of Classical Wisdom VIII

Works and Days

That man is best who sees the truth himself;

Good too is he who listens to wise counsel.

But who is neither wise himself nor willing 

To ponder wisdom is not worth a straw. 

-Hesiod, Works & Days c. 700 BC [1]

Fact Check it, Yo!

[1] Hesiod, ‘Works & Days‘, 700 BC. Whittingham, C., Woodfall, G., Davison, T., Baldwin, R., Payne, T., & Robinson, G. (1810). English translations, from ancient and modern poems,. London


History Around the Web: Megan ‘Faux’ Archaeology & Brawling Greek Gods

History is happening every day and new things are constantly being discovered or, as is the case with this blog, revisited. I’ve stated as a goal when starting Histastrophe! years ago that not only did I want to focus on learning more about history myself, but that I wanted to find an audience that I could discuss my passion for when it came to things long dead and gone. I’ve been trying to think of ways to better engage my visitors and what better way than to provide a weekly curation of the goings on in the history world?

Every week I want to give an internet round-up of the discussions, discoveries, controversies, or hilarity that is happening in the world of history (or that have piqued my attention!). I feel as if we few with a love of the past are sometimes living on the fringe as far as interests and hobbies go, but if doing this can help keep us all engaged and up-to-date with current History things, I feel like it’d be worth it.

So, for those of you who’ve finished watching Royal Wedding highlight reels and have had their fill of scones, here’s what else has been happening in the world of History:

This Twitter Thread by @Vengeful_Doe had me rolling on the floor in stitches. Quick hilarious fighting card profiles of Greek Gods and who specifically would be beatable in a fight. For lovers of mythology, this thread is teeming with references and enough jokes that if you were to print this off and pin to your English teacher’s desk, you’ll undoubtedly be rewarded with an A+. You’re welcome.

Frank Sinatra’s Mob Ties and Other Secrets from His FBI File

Frank Sinatra was many things: A crooner who could make bobby-soxers faint, an Academy Award-winning actor, the elder statesman of the Rat Pack. At the height of his career, it was rumored that “every woman wants to have him; every man wants to be him.”

I’m not usually a fan of the History Channel, I mean, anyone willing to serve copious airtime to programs suggesting aliens built the pyramids is sure to get a hard pass from me. But this Frank Sinatra profile that came out this week was certainly fun to see. As my readers have no doubt discerned by now, I’m deeply Italian-American in my roots–and Frankie is still a household name and topic of gossip to this day. I grew up hearing about Frank Sinatra’s mob ties and never once doubted the stories. Having never gone too deeply into research myself, it was nice to see this article float across my radar this week, validating all the stories my family had already spread.

Ancient Lost City of Mardaman Uncovered in Iraq

Ruins from the lost city of Mardaman, which dates back some 4,800 years, have been discovered in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, archaeologists just announced. A team from the University of Tübingen in Germany has been digging at the site for years now, but only last summer did they discover 92 cuneiform tablets hidden in a pottery vessel found in the remains of a palace.

Major archaeological discovery in Iraq–Archaeologists just announced that they’ve discovered the lost city of Mardaman. Mardaman was an ancient city in the Fertile Crescent that largely flourished during the Bronze Age. The city itself would have had connections with Mesopotamia, the Akkadians, and the Assyrian Empire to name a few. They’ve been digging there for years and only just found and studied the cuneiform tablets that confirmed the location, so there’s still a lot left to be discovered about this lost city. Always good to see archaeology alive and well in Iraq!

Megan Fox wants to rewrite history. So what’s the harm in that?

MEGAN Fox is a stunning supermodel and credible actress. Add her to a wealth of ancient fables, conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific technobabble. Then add funding from the Travel Channel. Sounds like a perfect fit? For ratings-hungry TV producers – yes. For those who know what they’re talking about – no.

I’m torn on this one. I’m personally a big fan of Josh Gates and his show Expedition Unknown, and though I haven’t really found any complaints about it online, I understand the inherit trouble with shows like these that tend to glamorous and simplify a complex field. Whereas Josh Gates tends to shed light on current expeditions and teams working to unravel discoveries in the making, it looks like this show is specifically focused on fantasy–that you can do all of these things without any feigning of expertise. What’s outlined in the article is an attitude by the show to both present history as accessible to everyone while also denouncing the need and expertise of trained professionals in their given fields. That’s…a little dangerous. These shows are fun, but it’s important to DO YOUR RESEARCH. And while doing that, consult scholarly sources or primary texts yourself. Don’t watch a show with that one girl from Transformers and call it good. Researchers are not infallible, I’ve provided enough examples of doubt and differing opinions among them on my blog before, but these are conversations being had by people firmly rooted in the knowledge necessary to discern fact from fiction. We should probably be listening to them.



Nefertiti versus Nefertari


Guess who I’m supposed to be…

Here at Histastrophe!, I make it a personal goal to arm my readers with random factoids they might have the pleasure of one day ‘Well, actually…” utilizing in everyday conversations to exert their historical dominance. Life is too short to go through in ignorance, after all. And while I’ve covered myths and misconceptions before, sometimes a common knowledge mix-up is nothing more than just a bit of confusion in differentiation. History certainly didn’t make it easy on us, especially with the insistence on naming all those damn kings Louis, for example.  Here’s looking a heavy side-eye at you, Kate & William

First up, two completely different famous Egyptian queens who ruled a Dynasty apart and have, unfortunately, similar monikers. Here’s how to tell the difference!



The Bust of Nefertiti,  made from stucco and limestone, currently residing in the Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany.

Nefertiti is, arguably, one of the most famous Egyptian queens–right along side Cleopatra, and with growing renown, Hatshepsut. But the reason for the world’s attention has everything to do with the bust above and less to do with what we actually know about her, which isn’t a whole lot. The bust in question was discovered in 1912 by a German archaeologist in the ancient capital of el-Amarna (then Akhetaten) in a sculptor’s workshop named Thutmose. Since then, the world has been enraptured by her beauty and her image has become synonymous with Ancient Egypt. But who was Nefertiti? That’s still a matter of debate.

What we do know for sure is that she was the reigning queen and Great Royal Wife alongside her husband Akhenaten. Being the principal wife meant that you were a step above the rest of the wives and concubines that typically made up the harem of an Egyptian pimp-daddy Pharaoh. In Nefertiti’s case, she might have been a step even above that. What’s notable about the rule of Akhenaten, is that a few years into his reign, he decided to revolutionize the Egyptian cult of worship by proclaiming that Aten, a sun god, was the single monotheistic religion. This, understandably, didn’t go over too well with the Egyptians since they had an entire pantheon of gods and most cities had their own patron deity. But while the whole one-true-god experiment went on, it seemed Akhenaten shook up a bit of the social hierarchy too. When it came to his chief consort Nefertiti, archaeologists were a bit surprised to find her depicted in parallel with her husband suggesting they were both co-regents. Typically, a queen was shown behind the pharaoh or at least smaller in scale, but in this case there were many examples of Nefertiti sitting alongside her husband, walking next to him in processions, officiating at ceremonies, and even sometimes wearing a distinctive crown signifying she might have been a bit more badass boss lady under this new era of Aten. [1]

King Tut's Funerary Mask

Not gonna lie, had a crush on this kid when I was 8-years old

In fact, it’s this seeming display of power that have lead archaeologists and historians to wonder if perhaps she even became pharaoh for a period of time. After the death of Akhenaten, another extremely famous ruler took his place–our favorite clubfooted teenage boy king, Tutankhamen. But while he would have been too young to immediately rule at the time, it seems there might have been a separate ruler entirely in the interim, which some have suspected to be Nefertiti herself. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell. And herein lies the problem with attempting to subvert an entire religious order in the matter of one lifetime. Tutankhamen immediately reversed his father’s monotheism and restored the old Gods when he became pharaoh but even that wasn’t enough to  ward off the animosity towards his family. After Tut’s untimely death at such a young age, his grandfather’s old vizier Ay came to power, shortly followed by a general named Horemheb who was determined to erase as much of the family from history as he could. That’s partially why the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb was such an amazing find at the time–due to it’s unorthodox location given Tut’s early death (some believe the tomb was intended for Ay in the first place) and the resulting erasure from history that followed, it’s entirely possible that his tomb remained untouched and un-defiled for so long because people had simply forgotten he existed.

Piecing together a timeline and a story of a family who had almost been struck from history forever is no easy task. And there are a lot of theories and unanswered questions about Nefertiti, some that may never be resolved. Who were her parents? Possibly the adviser Ay or maybe she was a sister of Akhenaten. Was she King Tutankhamen’s mother or would that have been a lesser wife Kiya? If she was King Tut’s mother, perhaps we’ve already found her and is the mummy known as The Younger Lady. [2] Or, maybe she’s still out there in the sands somewhere, waiting for us to find her. You’ve probably seen her recently in the headlines, Nicholas Reeve’s having theorized a hidden chamber within King Tut’s tomb having belonged to Nefertiti (Spoiler: It wasn’t), or Expedition Unknown’s facial reconstruction on The Younger Lady trying to figure out if the mummy is possibly the queen, it’s clear that Nefertiti is still certainly in the forefront of our attention.



Queen Nefertari under the Ramasside Dynasty


As for Nefertari, a quick google image search will get you a whole bunch of images of the Bust of Nefertiti above, siiiigh. Nefertari perhaps doesn’t have a world famous bust hanging around in a museum, but she too was known for her beauty back in the day. And she must have been some looker to be Ramesses II’s most beloved wife out of his extensive harem that bore him somewhere around 100 children. [4] Ramesses II loved her so much, he even constructed a temple for her at Abu Simbel which you’re probably familiar with…


Hey baby, I heard you like monuments so I put a monument in a monument

Ramesses II was so smitten with his queen his dedication text reads like something a teenage boy would scribble into song lyrics in a flex notebook.

A temple of great and mighty monuments, for the Great Royal Wife Nefertari Meryetmut, for whose sake the sun does shine, given life and beloved. [4]

Oh, and though it would take me an entirely separate post to detail why Ramesses II is known as ‘The Great’, I’m sure you’ve all already heard of him. He’s the pharaoh commonly associated with the biblical story of Moses in popular culture re-tellings. There isn’t any verifiable evidence to suggest he was the pharaoh mentioned in The Bible, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from portraying him and his wife Nefertari whenever they’ve gotten the green light. So, perhaps Nefertari’s face isn’t featured in archaeology magazines every now and again, but she’s been immortalized on the silver screen and has become famous in her own right as a result. Take your pick!

So, a quick little guide to tell the difference between the two…

Nefertiti is the queen with the famous bust resembling Angelina Jolie.

Nefertari is the queen in that crappy Ridley Scott Exodus movie.

Who knows where the hell Nefertiti is or even who really mothered King Tutankhamen.

We uh, er, found Nefertari’s knees.

Nefertiti maybe probably kinda who knows got to play as Pharaoh before she died.

Nefertari got temples and the most lavish tomb known to queens.


Does that help?


Fact Check it, yo!

[1Samson, Julia. “Nefertiti’s Regality.” The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. 63, 1977, pp. 88–97. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3856305.

[2Rose, Mark. “Who’s in Tomb 55?” Archaeology, vol. 55, no. 2, 2002, pp. 22–27. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41779653.

[3] Kemp, Barry, and Albert Zink. “Life in Ancient Egypt Akhentanen, the Amarna Period, and Tutankhamun.” RCC Perspectives, no. 3, 2012, pp. 9–24. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26240370.

[4Agnew, Neville, and Shin Maekawa. “Preserving Nefertari’s Legacy.” Scientific American, vol. 281, no. 4, 1999, pp. 74–79. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26058441.


Ruminations on Pirates & Rum


Aside from the obvious pillaging, trinket burying, and severe lack of lemons–nothing apart from a flag adorned with skull and crossbones could fill the popular mythos of pirates as effectively as a passionate love of Rum. But where did the idea come from and how many daiquiris could they possibly have been guzzling while terrorizing the high seas?

Before we set our coordinates and dive in on the history of rum and pirates thing, I want to briefly touch on what, specifically, rum is. Don’t laugh, I’m sure most of us chug whatever giggle juice we can find without much thought to where it came from. And, in this case, the distillation of rum is insanely relevant to what I’m about to get into in this post. So, for those who don’t really know what’s in their piña colada, rum is distilled from sugarcane by-products, specifically in this case, molasses. And, historically, where could you find an over abundance of molasses from 1650-1730 AD along with pirates? The Caribbean, baby.

As a colonial territory, the Caribbean was rampant with European special interests, sugar plantations, and, er, despite what Kanye West thinks–slavery.

planting sugar cane

The Triangular Trade is certainly a post for another day, but the bare essentials of it was the creation of a trade highway in the middle of the Atlantic. Slaves were taken from Africa and shipped off to the Caribbean and then were worked on plantations where “a total environment in which the lives of the captive workforce could be bent unremittingly to maximize output” [1]. From there, sugar & molasses were imported back to Britain and (with sometimes slaves) to North American colonies, with an exchange of needed goods sent back. Rum was at the heart of this exchange. In the process of crystallizing cane sugar, one of the by-products of this process produced a considerable amount of molasses, which no one really knew what to do with. When life gives you molasses, one of the cheapest and easiest things to do was make rum out of it, and thus in turn created an abundant and bountiful return for the West Indies. [2] Unlike the French, who refused to distill rum and preferred to remain loyal to the classic French brandy and wine, they were simply throwing away around half a million gallons of molasses a year in the 1680’s on their Caribbean colonies. To get an idea on how crazy the export game was, in 1702 Barbados exported more than 200,000 gallons of rum. 30 years later, that number rose to 4 million. [3]

Rum-men traded rum for slaves in Africa, and then slaves for molasses in the West Indies. Frequently, molasses served as a partial payment for the slaves, thereby making the circle of Caribbean involvement complete. [2]

And so it was that rum became exceedingly popular in the 18th century. In England, where brandy and wine became less readily available while warring with the French, an average of 1,317,062 gallons of spirits had been made from molasses between 1728 and 1736. By 1740, the annual consumption in London was estimated at 14 gallons per person. The Royal Navy even instituted a rum ration, guaranteeing a sailor a half pint of it a day. The Scottish had their own run at it, trading and smuggling around British tariffs. [1] North American colonies like Rhode Island and South Carolina got into the rum production game too. In fact, it seemed like everyone was guzzling rum down like water except for Georgia, those Southern Gents tryin’ their darnedest to ban the evil nectar. [4]

Found the people were grown very mutinous and impatient of labour and discipline. …this petulancy was owing chiefly to several of them having got into drinking of rum.Oglethorpe on why Georgians can’t handle their drink. [4]

So where do pirates come in to play? Clearly, an inclination to drinking copious amounts of rum wasn’t mutually exclusive to pillaging and plunder. For pirates, it’s probably nothing more than happenstance.

With The Triangular Trade, not only were there avenues of trade across the Atlantic, but also prime targets for a little self-serving economic prosperity to anyone willing to take it. Piracy increased around the same time, at first with privateers and marauders with official licenses from their respective governments to attack and plunder enemy ships, blurring the lines between agent and villain like with Sir Francis Drake and Captain Henry Morgan. But during the early centuries, it was not unusual to feel a sense of loyalty to a homeland. Pirates during the Golden Age, however, were loyal to their crew alone. These pirates were unique in that they were made up of a band of misfits, characterized as castaways, escaped slaves, and ex-sailors disenchanted with the employment opportunities and financial prospects available to them. [5] They were a counter culture in explicit retaliation of nationalist enterprises in trade and resented political and religious authority. These were rebels operating within the bounds of their own ideology and lifestyles–with the recourse to spend lavishly on all kinds of pleasurable indulgences from fancy clothes and prostitution to, yes, rum. And yet, despite their supposed anarchy, they still “developed a distinctive work culture with its own language, songs, rituals, and sense of brotherhood as well as shared institutions and agreed-upon rules for their social order.” [6] This is where the Pirate’s Code comes from, and one such example from Captain Black Bart’s Pirate Law shows how even the respective indulgence of rum was worked into the deal:

Every Man has a Vote in Affairs of Moment; Has equal Title to the fresh provisions, or strong Liquors, at any Time Seized. [6]

Therefore, it’s safe to say that pirates themselves, as diverse a band of miscreants as can be, have some form of a shared culture. And at least in pop culture, happen to be associated with rum. Whereas their consumption of rum during the 18th century was little out of the ordinary, more contemporary authors seem to shed particular light on the coupling in no dissimilar a way as any other popular outlaw characterization would a Wild West gunman with a cowboy hat or Prohibition-era mobster with a Tommy gun. [6] One of the earliest literary examples comes from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island written more than a hundred years after the more famous high sea shenanigans took place. In it, we not only get the image of peg legs and shoulder-warming parrots, but the classic ‘Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest, Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum.” [1] And obviously, the romanticizing hasn’t stopped there.

Related image

Edward Teach, aka ‘Blackbeard’. Supposedly enjoyed his rum with gunpowder, probably how he managed the smokey hair tendril look.

Now, pirates are distinctly part of the Disney narrative, which in and of itself, is nearly a monopoly as a juggernaut of cultural output with the vacuum of Star Wars, Marvel, and now Fox Searchlight tangled in its web. The irony of Pirates of the Caribbean then being a narrative text within the Disney world and thus commoditized for gain in its own image is not lost on me.

“Although piracy, mutiny, and rogue sailors may have certainly existed, the manner in which they are displayed in the ride–as swashbuckling caricatures, bungling and gluttonous–is more a function of exposure to other media, not to factual pirate accounts.” –  [7]

And though I absolutely adore the Pirates of the Caribbean films, it’s important to point out how Disney manufactures and contextualizes their stories. It’s no secret that their films aren’t exactly congruent with the origin stories of which they’re based, and Pirates is no different a fairy tale than Cinderella is. With base material like Treasure Island, add in all those Errol Flynn movies, and Disney’s own Peter Pan and The Swiss Family Robinson, and you’ve already got a known place of reference. And with the first Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) film in particular, the screenwriters who were responsible for Aladdin (1992) and Shrek (2001), were already established as priding themselves on exceedingly self-aware and referential fans of fairy tales. “Slyly poking fun at the very essentialized pirate narratives and Disneyfication they were enlisted to produce” [7], they created a film both riddled with Easter eggs in synergy with the park ride and the opportunity to sell memetic jokes as merchandise. The ongoing one, in particular, should be fairly obvious…

Image result for why is the rum always gone gif

Image result for why is the rum always gone gif

Image result for why is the rum always gone gif

That’s not to say it’s all Disney’s fault by any means. Just look at all of these various rum brands that are capitalizing on pirate imagery to sell their product. But even this is completely fair, as pirates were known for making their own version of grog called ‘bumbo’ because who doesn’t like a little extra spice in their life? You could say they’ve probably earned their labels.

And, if we get right down to it, associating rum with pirates is just more fun. Because rum’s tangled history is a bit of a messy one, and it’s not one people usually like to call for shots of at a Miami dance club. With rum, there is a direct link with the slave trade, a drink synonymous with colonialism and sometimes used to barter with for slaves (or to subdue them with). [2] Then there’s traders in North America who would ply Native Americans with rum and cheat them out of their wares, getting them hooked on the drink much the same way as the British did with Opium in China. [8] And then of course, the pervasive image of rum became an evil one during the Temperance movement, especially with the associations above. [9]

But all that aside, rum is good as Jack Sparrow would say. So why not just let the pirates steal all the love?


Fact Check it, yo!

[1Grabiner, J. (1998). ‘Some Disputes of Consequence‘: Maclaurin among the Molasses Barrels. Social Studies of Science, 28(1), 139-168. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/285753

[2Nesbitt, Jennifer P. “Rum Histories: Decolonizing the Narratives of Jean Rhys’s ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ and Sylvia Townsend Warner’s ‘The Flint Anchor.’” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, vol. 26, no. 2, 2007, pp. 309–330. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20455331.

[3Ostrander, G. (1956). The Colonial Molasses Trade. Agricultural History, 30(2), 77-84. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3739927

[4Sweet, J. (2010). “That Cursed Evil Rum”: The Trustees’ Prohibition Policy in Colonial Georgia. The Georgia Historical Quarterly, 94(1), 1-29. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40585152

[5Dawdy, S., & Bonni, J. (2012). Towards a General Theory of Piracy. Anthropological Quarterly, 85(3), 673-699. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41857267

[6Mackie, E. (2005). Welcome the Outlaw: Pirates, Maroons, and Caribbean Countercultures. Cultural Critique, (59), 24-62. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4489197

[7] Petersen, A. (2007). “You Believe in Pirates, Of Course…”: Disney’s Commodification and “Closure” vs. Johnny Depp’s Aesthetic Piracy of “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Studies in Popular Culture, 29(2), 63-81. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23416141

[8DiVirgilio, J. (2005). Rum Punch and Cultural Revolution: The Impact of the Seven Years’ War in Albany. New York History,86(4), 434-449. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/42677835

[9] McArthur, Judith N. “Demon Rum on the Boards: Temperance Melodrama and the Tradition of Antebellum Reform.” Journal of the Early Republic, vol. 9, no. 4, 1989, pp. 517–540. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3123754.

That Asshole Heinrich Schliemann


A golden mask found by Schliemann that he named “The Mask of Agamemnon” which he did not, in fact, find on Agamemnon. >eyeroll<

Where is Troy located? That’ll be a question most people might be asking themselves mid-binge of Netflix’s new HBO inspired show Troy: Fall of a City. And while I just recently complained to NonWashable on our podcast about the prevalence of historical dramas desperately trying to be the next Game of Thrones despite a wealth of interesting material beyond boobs in HD, I’m willing to give this one a watch (5 minutes in and it already featured stirrups but oh what the hell). But, before I do, I’ll be raising my fist and cursing the name Heinrich Schliemann to the Gods. Because if you were wondering where you could find the historical and ancient city of Troy featured in The Illiad today, the answer is you can’t. Heinrich Schliemann destroyed most of the main site.

Who was this dogfaced [1] rich dude who is famous for helping found scientific archaeology and also foolhardily inspiring the “oh my god for the love of all that is holy do not do this” guide to digging up relics and excavating sites?

Born a pastor’s son in 1822, Heinrich Schliemann grew up incredibly poor. But what his family lacked for in wealth they made up for in notoriety, for when Heinrich was a young boy, his father was publicly accused of adultery. Presumably, in no less the same fashion of shame and ridicule as the Scarlet Letter (but probably without the emblem ‘A’). Not soon after, Heinrich’s mother passed away when he was only 9 years old forcing his father to send him off to live with his uncle. It’s somewhere here where Heinrich’s love for Homer began. [2]

Heinrich Schliemann

The problem is, nobody can really be sure. There is a clear divide among scholars on whether or not Heinrich Schliemann is a “pathological liar”, a fraud, or even worthy of our contempt in the first place. Did he falsify his findings and over exaggerate his passion for Homeric epics to fit his narrative? Or was he a product of his time, still spear-heading an infantile science and ushering in the wave of Bronze Age Archaeological interest? [3] Whether or not it’s true that Heinrich confessed to his father at the age of 7 of harboring a dream to uncover the heroes of the Trojan Wars and prove their validity, we can absolutely be sure that he was, at one time or another, obsessed with all things Greek. 

Heinrich Schliemann’s rag to riches story is so wild and fitting, most have rightly wondered how much of it was embellished for dramatic effect like he was some kind of swashbuckling Casanova. After his father wasn’t done being a piece of work and was accused of embezzling church funds, Heinrich was forced to go to vocational school without the prospect of an education at University. Pulling up his bootstraps, he apprenticed at a grocery at 14 years-old where apparently he heard a drunk miller reciting Homeric verse which incited his passions (Okay, which is it, Heinrich?). [2After this he ended up on a merchant ship somehow and happened to be shipwrecked, survived it and hitched up in Holland shuffling through random jobs before managing to get into imports/exports. Then, of course, he became involved with the California Gold Rush, because why not. Rolling in the gold dust, he took himself to Russia where he struck even more gold selling indigo and then explosives to the Russian military during the Crimean War like some glorified Tony Stark. By the age of 36, he was a polyglot and so incredibly rich he could retire for the rest of his life in Avenger’s tower. (By modern estimates, at the time of his death, Schliemann would have been worth around 72 million dollars) [3]

But happy, he wasn’t. At this point, he had become disenchanted with his life in business and even more so with his wife. Writing to his father, he called out the “lies and deception” of the business world and spoke of wanting to travel to Greece where “Philogy and archaeology will provide me with plenty of useful labor for a long time.” As if in the throes of a mid-life crisis, he dove headfirst into Grecian life like a prepubescent boy discovering anime for the first time. He went to Paris to study archaeology and focused on studying everything he could about Ancient Greece, including teaching himself the language. Having dealt with plenty of Greeks during his numerous business dealings, he harassed everyone he knew that could provide him on any study materials they could possibly possess so that he could absorb everything he could about Ancient Greece going so far as to refer to the octopus shaped country as his ‘fatherland’. [2]

Thoroughly fed up with his Russian wife too, he committed residency fraud in the United States so that he could get a divorce and then immediately ran off to Athens to find the first young Greek woman he could get to respond to a newspaper advert and marry him, who was only a paltry 30 years his junior. He had two kids named Andromache and Agamemnon and baptized them using a copy of The Illiad just in case anyone doubted his dedication to being a Graecophile fetishist.

Armed with a spry Greek wife with knowledge of the culture and a PhD awarded in absentia over a submission that he has since been accused of cribbing from another author’s work, he was set to start digging. [4]

He came into archaeology in an intuitive rush, in a mid-life crisis, and the scholarship, reasoning, and excavation technique all had to be developed later. – Easton [3]

But where? Heinrich Schliemann is falsely attributed to having discovered the historical site of Troy but despite his claim, it’s patently untrue. The archaeological site where Heinrich spent the majority of his career, Hisarlik, was already tested by Frank Calvert, a colleague of Schliemann’s who advised him to start digging there. Prior to that, Hisarlik was noted as a potential archaeological site by Richard Pococke in 1740 and then Franz Kauffer in 1793. It was Edward Daniel Clarke in 1801 who first identified it as Classical Ilium based on found coins and inscriptions, and then Charles Maclaren claimed it to be Homer’s Troy. Heinrich wasn’t even the first one to dig there, that would be John Brunton which was then followed by Frank Calvert who was unfortunate enough not to gain wide funding from the British Museum to excavate even further, passing along his knowledge to Heinrich Schliemann and thereby losing his place in the popular culture’s imagination as a hero of Archaeology. So, no, Schliemann did NOT discover Troy. He was, however, the first to excavate it on such a wide scale. [3]


Schliemann’s wife Sophia, photographed wearing some of ‘Priam’s Treasure’. Schliemann had claimed she was present upon discovery of the treasure and helped dig it out of the trenches but later admitted she was in Athens at the time.

And, excavate he did, using winches, crowbars, battering rams, and freaking dynamite. Plowing his way through the soil, he assumed that his Troy would be at the bottom, and so, ironically, crushed right through the real layer of historical Troy that would have featured in The Iliad. It was in those early layers of Troy where he found Priam’s Treasure. Or didn’t, according to some scholars who ascertain that he planted the treasure in order to validate his find of Homer’s Troy. [5] Either way, the treasure haul has since been dated 1,000 years before the events of The Iliad, so it certainly didn’t belong to Priam. But naming things after Iliad things was Schliemann’s jam, and just to confuse everyone he “found” (or maybe didn’t, there are scholars who say this was a fake too) [7] a golden funerary mask at Mycenae that he claimed to belong to Agamemnon even though he found no other evidence to suggest it belonged to him, you know, a corpse sometimes helping with that. The golden mask, again, was dated to 300 years prior to the Trojan War. But that’s the trouble with Schliemann.

What he wanted was to uncover the Homeric world, to know whether it existed, whether the Trojan War happened. But here also is a weakness. He was not very good at separating fact from interpretation. It is a recurrent problem in Schilemann. The burnt citadel of Troy II was Troy; the gate was the Scaean Gate; the building inside the gate was Priam’s palace, and the treasure was Priam’s Treasure. – Easton [3] But he was wrong. So wrong.

And maybe that’s why some scholarship has yet to forgive him. Obviously, radiocarbon dating had yet to exist, and neither did topographical 3D imagery. The field of Archaeology, if you can even definitively call it that at this time, was rudimentary. And despite his faults in excavating, his gold-seeking motives, or his questionable education in the discipline, Schliemann did help pioneer the science of archaeology by surrounding himself with a specialist team of photographers, surveyors, anthropologists, botanists, ancient historians, etc. [3] So where do we draw the line?

Heinrich Schliemann made Archaeology fashionable. He wrote of his experiences and findings like he was a travel blogger and he had the world’s attention, he was a rockstar. [6] He also smuggled treasures out of Turkey and dug regardless of denied permit by the Ottoman government. [3] Schliemann ushered in popular interest in Bronze Age Archaeology, sparking a new wave of excavation among the Aegean. He also inspired Arthur Evans in the excavations of the Minoan civilization, which though groundbreaking, was not without its problems–namely, the commissioned and reconstructive paintings of the actual ruins in order to make them “pop”.

Heinrich Schliemann was a champion of Greek historicity and, decidedly, not–initiating and funding the removal of a Frankish Medieval tower because it simply wasn’t ‘Classical’ enough. And it seems, this same tension exists in scholarship as well. Was he a pioneer or a pathological monster?


Siiiigh. Heinrich Schliemann’s grave site…

So which legacy of Schliemann do we go with? The douchebag who lied and swindled his way to an obsession in hunting treasure without a thought to rigid scientific integrity in weighing his claims against evidence? The guy who made it all up as he went and blasted his way through a valid archaeological site with the chutzpah to do it without even a modicum of discipline? OR do we praise him for his rigid documentation of flora, pottery, and fieldwork and his diligence in watching over his own dig site all hours of the day? The guy who, technically, didn’t know any better but was able to make some headway with his unlimited funds and helped to foster an environment where Archaeology was seen as a legitimate and necessary field of interest?

All I know is, given the disposable income, I find myself wondering how much of Schliemann I’d be if given the opportunity. A young kid with a lifelong dream of digging in the dirt trying to find History Heroes? At least, I can say, I wouldn’t have used dynamite.

But perhaps Heinrich Schliemann was simply all of us.

And we are all assholes.

Fact Check it, Yo!

[1] “Dogfaced” was a delightful insult Homer used often in The Illiad, and, I’m sure, he’d approve of referring to Schliemann as such. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25000142

[2] TURNER, D. (1990). HEINRICH Schliemann: THE MAN BEHIND THE MASKS. Archaeology, 43(6), 36-42. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41765885

[3] Easton, D. F. “Heinrich Schliemann: Hero or Fraud?The Classical World, vol. 91, no. 5, 1998, pp. 335–343. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/4352102.

[4] Traill, David A. “Schliemann’s Mendacity: A Question of Methodology.” Anatolian Studies, vol. 36, 1986, pp. 91–98. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3642828.

[5Traill, David A. “’Priam’s Treasure’: Clearly a Composite.Anatolian Studies, vol. 50, 2000, pp. 17–35. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3643012.

[6Maurer, K. (2009). Archaeology as Spectacle: Heinrich Schliemann’s Media of Excavation. German Studies Review,32(2), 303-317. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40574802

[7Arentzen, W. (2001). An Early Examination of the ‘Mask of Agamemnon‘. L’Antiquité Classique, 70, 189-192. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41660776

Paris Day 5-6: Disneyland in Paris


I’ve been to Disney World in Orlando more times than I can remember. I’m assuming it’s at least in the double digits, so to say I’m familiar with the park is probably an understatement. Disneyland Paris is something else, however, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the park was not a mirror image of its predecessors.

Opening in April of 1992, the park is still celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year though it’s now officially crossed the 26 year mark. But we’re also celebrating other significant milestones with this park visit. The first time my mother ever got the chance to experience a Disney Park, it was with my grandmother, which was also her first visit too. It was on this trip that my mother became obsessed with Disney and Mickey Mouse, passing along her love to me as well. So, for the first time, we were both visiting a Disney park for the first time together, neither of us having been to Disneyland Paris before.

And the park is certainly unique! Not only does it have exclusive rides, but even the classic staples found at all Disney Parks are different–and we were even able to enjoy experiences that no longer exist at older parks. One of these was Captain Jack’s restaurant (though of different name back then), which is a sit-down restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which is seen from the boats going through. My mother explained that she went to this restaurant with my grandmother too, so we made sure to check it out as well. The food was amazing but I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt as full in my entire life.

We rode Pirates of the Caribbean 3 times in the course of our visit, it being one of our all time favorites from Disney Parks. Though the dialogue spoken in the ride was French, the Pirate’s Life song was sung in English so it was both familiar and fun. It also wasn’t a copy of the original, there were a few added features like a Barbossa who, under moonlight, dazzled in cursed skeletal glory. Different odds and ends like poor kitties floating on crates, a captain’s quarters, and of course the view of Captain Jack’s Restaurant made it a unique treat despite the many times I’ve been on the ride in Disney World. We also saw the new addition of a Pirate Red-Head, which has since changed over from the original wench auction.


The park worlds are all different too! There is Frontierland (not set-up the same as Disney World at all), Adventureland which is broken up by an Adventure Isle which contains a pirate ship, Skull Rock, and a maze of dark tunnel caves which is a whole lot of fun put would have probably given my parents a heart-attack if my brother and I played in them as kids. Fantasyland which includes enough exclusive features to set it apart, and Discoveryland which replaces Tomorrowland as the sci-fi otherword but with more of a steampunk flair in aesthetic. There is also a second park called Walt Disney Studios which takes the place of Hollywood Studios at Disney World which includes Tower of Terror and one of my old favorites, Animation Studio which has since been turned into a Star Wars outpost in Disney World.

And, of course, the Disney castle is different–instead of Cinderella, the castle in the middle belongs to Sleeping Beauty and upstairs there is an entire stained glass gallery featuring her story. Also, underneath the castle in a dark cave lives the dragon…

As for the rides that can’t be found at Disney World? We tried them all! Ratatouille being the most well-known, we hit up that one first especially since the lines for it are ridiculously long. And though it was fun, I can’t suggest that an hour wait is worth it. It was certainly a pleasant ride, but we were good with one go. You ride on a mouse mobile chasing around in Gusteau’s restaurant but the ride relies mostly on motion with the action happening on screen and the mouse car moving in place along in response. There are some fun moments where you do move through the kitchen and pleasant smells like citrus are injected into the air. Another exclusive ride that left us a bit wanting was Indiana Jones and The Temple of Peril. It’s a short mine cart roller coaster that hooks and loops around a cool looking temple ruin, but it mostly jostles you around and both my mother and I repeatedly had our heads pinging back and forth against our headrest so we left the ride feeling a bit disoriented and woozy. The ride also lacks the magic of integrating you into the world of Indiana Jones which other Disney rides are pretty good about doing, nothing during the ride had anything to do with the whipped crusader aside from name alone which was a shame. It could have been a roller coaster from anywhere.

One of my favorites was Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, which was a refurbishment of Space Mountain, a similar thing having happened to the ride at Disneyland California too. Space Mountain, in my experience at Disney World, isn’t a ride that had aged well. Half the time it’s broken down and the other half it’s rickety and rough, throwing you around in an un-enjoyable experience that’s hardly even dark enough anymore, the blackness of space impossible when the roller coaster tracks are visible. So I was excited to see how Hyperspace Mountain improved upon the formula and I was not disappointed. IT WAS COOL! First thing it does is launch you so fast it straps you back and you momentarily loose your breath as your body tries to adjust to the velocity, and once you’re finally able to breathe again, you’re being thrown around in the dark with flashing lasers and dogfights between X-Wings and Tie Fighters, it’s honestly a treat.


Surprisingly, in a country that prides itself on food, Disneyland Paris didn’t have much variety in options. I remember when I was a kid, the food wasn’t that impressive at Disney World either, but over the years they’ve really strengthened their culinary prowess and now you can’t turn a corner without a stall having its own unique dish to salivate and throw down $20 for (I’m exaggerating but also it’s kinda on the mark) If you’re curious to see what Disney World has going on in the food world, I suggest following Disneyfoodblog but be prepared to pack your bags and book your tickets. At Disneyland Paris, every single stall either had popcorn and ice cream or sugared crepes and a hot dog. Don’t get me wrong, these hot dogs are something else. They’re giant doggies nestled in a baguette and I could probably eat one every day but you just want some options, you know?


And maybe this is simply because of the culture in Europe. We saw signs telling people that picnicking within the park was not permitted and we were wondering, was that seriously a thing? Evidently. Most of the visitors at Disneyland Paris brought in school sized backpacks full of food that they’d consume in line for a ride. There was one guy chowing down a bowl of noodles before getting on Hyperspace mountain and I have to wonder if he had an iron gut.


A few other stray observations…

Both parks are small, which is no surprise since the internet is pretty up front about warning visitors of this. Walt Disney Studios takes less than an hour to walk all around with no stops, so if you’re planning a visit, get the multi-pass.

France being France was eager to let us know what they were responsible for inventing which was pretty funny. Declarations were featured in a few of their rides like ‘the French invented animation!’, ‘the French invented special effects!’, ‘the French invented shooting films on location!’. It was honestly endearing.

It’s a Small World WAS sung in French!

There was a severe lack of adult beverages which is the opposite problem at Disney World. Do Europeans not need to be drowning in booze in order to get through a day spent with their kids?

Both days the Aladdin signing autographs was white as hell.

Do Europeans get the same sense of wonder and awe with our history and aesthetic as we do theirs? Frontierland is an ode to the American West, do their minds tick and whirl with imaginings of Cowboys and Native Americans?

Some guy accidentally sneezed on my mother and she reflexively said “Bless you!” to him which cued a fervently concerned discussion in German where the wife was pretty sure my mother meant something along the lines of gesundheit rather than the other probable two worded phrase she might have fired off instead.

Other treats, a pineapple dole whip float. It’s not the same as the swirl featured in Disney World but it did the job. And the beignets are delicious!

All in all, I’m super glad we checked out Disneyland Paris. As lifelong Disney fans, it was really cool to experience Disney in a different way and I’ll always remember it fondly as that crazy time we went to visit Mickey Mouse in Paris. Now I’ll need to visit Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Tokyo too!


Paris Day 4: Life is Laissez-faire

Today is our last day in the city of Paris before we move on to see if Pirates of the Caribbean is sung in French. Since we wore out the soles of our shoes yesterday with all our walking, we thought we’d take it a bit easy today since we’ll be hitting the pavement hard in Disneyland. In the morning, we took a walk a few blocks down to visit a bakery and stop into a cafe for a quick breakfast.

I don’t know what it is about their ham, but every dish I’ve had with it featured is beyond amazing. It basically melts in your mouth and the flavor from the juices makes me feel like declaring France the king of the pig over Italy which just feels sacrilegious to me. As we were sitting outside on the patio, we must have looked like locals who knew what the hell we were doing because a group of fellow tourists came up to us trying to speak French, asking us for directions. We were so proud of ourselves, especially since they were looking for help in getting to the Opera Granier which we knew intimately at this point, as our hotel is located within walking distance. We told them the way and felt like proud Parisians for a minute. Not shortly after, however, my mother was back to spreading the good word of Minnesota “oop!” which does a much more satisfactory job than “excusez-moi” when accidentally running into people, if you ask me.

Since we are so close, we decided to try and see if our tourist friends made it safely from our directions and decided to tour the Opera Granier ourselves!

Named after it’s grand architect Charles Garnier, the Opera House was completed in 1875, after an assassination attempt on Emperor Napoleon III prompted a desire for a new opera location since the old one was getting a bit dangerous. Hilariously, however, France was a republic again by the time the Opera Garnier was completed. Napoleon III was super dead and unable to attend the opening, but thanks anyway!

And, of course, the Opera Garnier is known for another famous spectre, the Phantom! The novel by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opéra, is inspired by tales and events that occurred at the Opera, one in particular being the accident in which a patron was killed after a chandelier had become dislodged, crashing through the auditorium. Gaston was an investigative journalist and claimed the story as factual in the opening chapter of the novel, but unfortunately it’s mostly a work of fiction.

I think if I was sitting in the seats directly below this, I’d probably keep looking up every 5 seconds just to make sure I wasn’t about to become a ghost myself.

Standing inside the Opera Garnier is nothing short of astonishing. I probably spent 20 minutes just soaking up the gold in this room with my mouth hanging open. Despite the looks, however, it’s not as expensive as it might seem. Though some things like the fireplace and a few statues are genuinely fully gilded with gold leaf, a majority of this room was oil painted and created to give the effect of gilding.

I don’t know about you, but this works just as well for me!

There is even a sad Salieri who lives here, which I stopped giggling long enough to snap a photo of. He DID NOT kill Mozart, but R.I.P. Milos Forman.

After the Opera, we walked some more, taking in the sights and sounds of Paris. We passed a shop with sizzling hens, produce stalls, and got plenty a whiff from the flower shops lining the streets. Though it wasn’t night yet and we had no interest in seeing the can-can dancers, we waved to the Moulin Rouge anyway.

Plenty tired now from all of our walking, we kicked up our feet outside on a cafe patio so I could read my Shakespeare & Company copy of Hunchback of Notre Dame and my mother could people watch. Also, had myself a real flat white rather than the Starbucks knockoff I’m used to and a tasty savory croissant with tomato, ham, & cheese!

Though Paris is beautiful in the rain, we spent it indoors at a restaurant enjoying our last meal in town. Managed to knock off a few French cuisine staples too!

Beef bourgignoun!

Creme brûlée!

And the prettiest cappuccino I’ve ever seen!

Thanks for the love, Paris! You’ve been swell to a couple of bumpkins with a flimsy grasp of the language, and we’ve been nothing but smiles since we’ve got here! We’re in perfect moods to take to Disneyland and my mom is frothing at the mouth to get her hands on a Mickey Mouse sugar cookie. Au revoir!