For Heinrich Schliemann, a German-born amateur archaeologist digging in the heat and dust of western Turkey in 1873, it was the discovery of a lifetime: the legendary treasure of King Priam of Troy,  celebrated by Homer in the Iliad.

Painstakingly and perilously excavated, smuggled in pieces to Schliemann’s residence in Greece and revealed to an astonished world a short time later, the find was the biggest news in archaeology until King Tut’s tomb was discovered in 1922.

By - Priam's Treasure
Priam’s Treasure – by


Nearly a half-century after it disappeared from a Berlin Bunker in the chaos at the end of World War II, King Priam’s treasure surfaced again. “I have held these dull gold vessels,” said Yevgeni Sidorov, the Russian Minister of Culture, in Literaturnaya Gazeta. “They look modest, but the feeling of heat and energy of many millenniums  takes your breath away.”

Sidorov confirmed that King Priam’s trove was captured by the Red Army when it sacked Berlin in 1945. That had long been suspected. In a 1991 article in the magazine ART News, Konstantin Akinsha and Grigorii Kozlov, two Soviet writers with access to secret KGB documents, first reported that the Russians had spirited the treasure away.

Priam’s Treasure

The Russians eventually plan to exhibit the collection, which originally included a large silver vase containing about 9,000 gold objects, half a dozen bracelets, a bottle and several gold cups. But Irina Antonova, director of Moscow’s Pushkin Museum, could not say exactly  how much of Priam’s treasure was actually in Moscow. “Since these items have been kept according to a regime of strict conservation, where only one person had access to them,” she said, “and since scholars were able to see the treasures for just a few days, it is difficult to say now what there is and in what quantities.”

The original gatherer of the trove was no upright Indiana Jones sort but a multilingual adventurer who never hesitated to inflate his own legend. After obtaining U.S. citizenship, perhaps by fraud, Schliemann divorced his Russian wife and married a Greek mail-order bride. He then travelled to Turkey, where, as an American, it was easy for him to get a  permit to dig for history.

The Gold of Troy - Priam's Treasure
The Gold of Troy


Uncovering evidence of seven cities on the site of Troy, he determined from his reading of Homer, which he treated as gospel, that it was the second, or “burnt,” city to which the Iliad referred. Modern scholars are increasingly skeptical that Homer was Schliemann’s muse, pointing to the fact that Schliemann’s Troy dates from around 2500-2200 B.C., far too old for the saga, which takes place around 1250 B.C.

Turkey as well as Germany and Russia will probably lay claim to the treasure. Schliemann’s original right to the treasure was contested by Turkey and decided in a Turkish court in 1880; the wealthy prospector  was fined a nominal sum, although the Royal Museums of Berlin chipped in 50,000 gold franks to placate angry Turkish authorities.

PAID IS PAID! screamed a headline in a Berlin newspaper last week. Possession, however, is nine-tenths of the law, and the Russians are unlikely to give the treasure up gracefully. In the meantime, the only sure  thing is that lawyers of several nations will engage in a battle that will make the Achilles-Hector struggle look like a picnic before the gates of Troy. Wherever it really was.

Berlin Royal Museum

A. Find words in the text which mean the same as the following.

1. taken out of ground (paragraph 1):
2. treasure (paragraph 2):

3. means of reaching (paragraph 3):

4. cause to stop feeling angry (paragraph 5):
5. in a pleasant way (paragraph



B. Mark the statements as True (T) or False (F).
1. King Priam’s treasure was transported legally to Greece by Schliemann.

2. The Russians secretly carried the treasure from Berlin to Russia at the end of the Second World War.

3. The whole treasure was originally kept in a large silver vase. 4. It is not exactly known whether the whole or parts of the treasure are in Russia. 5. The writers Akinsha and Kozlov were first told about the treasure by Irina Antonova.

6. Schliemann married a Greek probably to make matters concerning the treasure easier for himself.
7. There are doubts about the treasure really dating from the time of Homer’s saga.

8. Turkey took Schliemann to court for stealing the treasure. 9. The Royal Museums of Berlin tried to prevent Schliemann from paying the fine and getting the treasure. 10. Two nations will be claiming the treasure in the future.

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