Giraudon/Art Resource, NY, NY

Heinrich Schliemann (1822–1890). Fired by a childhood vision to discover the remains of Homer’s Troy, Schliemann, the son of a poor German pastor, amassed two separate fortunes and retired at age 48 to pursue his dream.

Ignoring scholars who insisted that the Iliad was a fiction and that Troy lay beneath a Turkish mound called Bounarbashi, Schliemann began excavating at nearby Hissarlik in 1871. Using the Iliad as his guide, Schliemann drove a huge trench into the side of the mound searching for remains that matched Homer’s descriptions.

Schliemann succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, uncovering not one Troy but many, occupying nine successive layers dating from classical times to the Neolithic period. However, he wrongly located Homer’s Troy in the second stratum, several centuries earlier than its generally accepted Late Bronze Age (1500–1200 B.C.) heyday, about 1200 B.C.

Schliemann later excavated with equal success on the Greek mainland at Mycenae and Tiryns, uncovering a previously unsuspected pre-Hellenic Greek civilization, now called Mycenaean, that flourished in the 14th and 13th centuries B.C.