Schliemann’s Culinary Adventures in Italy

Heinrich Schliemann, a man of the world, ca. 1870. ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

A day does not go by in the Archives of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) without an inquiry about the Heinrich Schliemann Papers. More than one third of the collection has been digitized and made available for research online; still, these inquiries keep coming from all over the world, including destinations as remote as Japan and Cuba.  Though unquestionably a legendary figure, Schliemann’s popularity is largely due to the richness of his personal archive, which remains an inexhaustible source of information for a wide range of audiences: historians, archaeologists, fiction and non-fiction writers, even film producers. (I have written about Schliemann before [Schliemann of Troy: The Story of a Linguistic Genius] and have hosted two posts by Curtis Runnels [Who Went to Schliemann’s Wedding? and, “All Americans Must Be Trojans at Heart”: A Volunteer at Assos in 1881 Meets Heinrich Schliemann], the author of The Archaeology of Heinrich Schliemann: An Annotated Bibliographic Handlist [2007].)

To the rich list of books and articles that have been written about Schliemann I would like to add the recent publications by Umberto Pappalardo, who has been studying Schliemann’s activities in Napoli and on the island of Motya, and Massimo Cultraro’s new book with the sibylline title L’ ultimo sogno dello scopritore di Troia: Heinrich Schliemann e l’ Italia (1858-1890). Before them, in 2012, Elizabeth Shepherd published a comprehensive article about Schliemann’s wanderings in Italy in the fall/winter of 1875, especially his interest in the site of Populonia. Schliemann travelled to Italy seven times, first as a tourist (1858), and later, especially after the discovery of Troy (1871-1873), as a celebrity and potential excavator. He even drew his last breath in the streets of Naples one morning in December 1890. Yet, until recently, Schliemann’s Italian days remained understudied.

Schliemann, who was fluent in Italian (as he was in many other languages), kept detailed travel diaries during his tours of Italy.  In order to shed light on Schliemann’s time on the peninsula, both Pappalardo and Cultraro have conducted thorough research in the Schliemann papers, as well as in other archives in Italy, with great results.  For example, Pappalardo has discovered in Giuseppe Fiorelli’s archive (Fiorelli [1823-1896] excavated Pompei in 1865) that Schliemann in 1874 was negotiating with the Italian authorities for the sale of Priam’s Treasure that he had removed (i.e., stolen) from Troy without the permission of the Ottomans (Pappalardo 2018b). The sale did not take place because the new Italian kingdom did not have the means to buy the Treasure; however, two years later (1876), according to Pappalardo, Schliemann sent, as a gift, 196 stone tools from Troy to anthropologist and ethnologist Giustiniano Nicolucci (1819-1904). Nicolucci would sell them later to the Anthropology Museum of the University of Napoli where they remain today.

The Motya Charioteer, ca. 470-460 B.C. Giusepe Whitaker Museum, Mozia.

What is also little known, at least to the wider public, is that during his third Italian journey (1875), Schliemann was in search of a back-up dig (in case he was not allowed to return to Troy). In this effort he was encouraged by the Neapolitan authorities to look for sites in Italy. One of them was Motya. From 19-22 October 1875, he sank a number of test trenches on the island of Motya at the western tip of Sicily, but was discouraged by the results (Pappalardo 2018a). It is perhaps understandable that the excavator of Priam’s Treasure, who was also not known for his patience, would have bigger expectations. Had he stayed longer, however, he might have discovered the famous Motya Charioteer, which was excavated in 1979.

Cultraro’s book about Schliemann’s journeys to the Italian peninsula is also of great interest because he is concerned with Schliemann the traveler and has looked to his diaries as a source of ethnographical information about Italy in the late 19th century. Even more interesting is the fact that Cultraro has dedicated a separate subchapter, titled “A tavola con Schliemann,” to Schliemann’s dining habits in Italy (2018, pp. 148-152). As expected, most of Schliemann’s culinary comments belong to his first trip in 1858, when he got his first true taste of Italian food. (To judge from his complaints, he wasn’t very impressed.) There are far fewer comments about food during his 1868 trip (I suspect that by then he knew what to expect or avoid). With Massimo’s permission, I am presenting here, in translation, excerpts from this subchapter concentrating on Schliemann’s first trip. (Many thanks to Cecilia Cozzi for the English translation and to Jack L. Davis for editing it.)

At Table with Schliemann
by
Massimo Cultraro*

The diaries that concern his travels and lengthy sojourns in different parts of the [Italian] peninsula are dominated by accurate descriptions of food and of the cost of meals. If we compare these descriptions with those of his travels in other parts of the world, for instance those in the Far East (China and Japan in 1866) or London in 1844, references there to food appear very infrequently or, in some cases, are totally absent. Italy seems to be the place for ethno-anthropological considerations of alimentation, with comments not only on the quality of local products, but also about dining customs (Cultraro 2018, 148-149).

Heinrich Schliemann in1861, three years after his first Italian journey. ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

In his descriptions of visits to principal Italian cities, Schliemann, who was careful to maintain a very sober lifestyle and fearful of wasting time, rarely wanted to take breaks. Only once on a very cold and rainy day in November in Rome, did he go into a coffee shop for a hot chocolate, although his true motivation was that he wanted to spend time with a prelate, whom he had asked to help him with grammatical exercises [Diary A3, Nov. 28, 1858]. Schliemann often had meals alone, but it could happen that a lunch was more elaborate, as was the case in the restaurant of a hotel in Baia in spring 1868, when he was eating in a very beautiful landscape and had “maccaroni with two bottles of excellent wine,” the price of which he noted (Cultraro 2018, p. 149).

In Rome, he allowed himself to have a lavish breakfast at the Caffè Greco, frequented by foreigners; “coffee was served with finesse in glasses, prepared with sugar, and cost, without bread, only 2 baiocchi”; there he allowed himself the luxury of reading Il Giornale di Roma. [Diary A 3, Nov. 24, 1858]. He went there very often and his descriptions agree with the accounts of other foreigner travelers and artists who, in the same years, went to the same place. “The room seems to be enveloped in a thick fog,” said the American William Gillespie in 1845, “because everyone smokes and drinks coffee, conversing in a variety of languages with no attention to etiquette” (Cultraro 2018, p. 149).

Schliemann’s description of Caffé Greco, Nov. 24, 1858, Diary A3, page 4. ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

Ludwig J. Passini, Artist in Caffè Greco in Rome, 1856. Public domain.

In his Italian diaries, a description of lunch is accompanied by an indication of prices, usually in French florins, according to a habit that he began to follow during his first years in Amsterdam (from 1842), when a lack of economic resources required him to keep strict control over his expenses.

Schliemann did not crave luxury, so long as the cuisine was good and a restaurant was clean. His frequent comings and goings in Rome were usually concluded by a dinner in the restaurant of the Hotel Minerva, where there was good balance between quality of the meals and price. One night, tired from too much walking around the city, he stopped at the restaurant of the hotel, and describes a dinner consisting of “pea soup, meat with legumes, and wine at one’s discretion. An abundant evening meal, to which Schliemann was not accustomed, forced him to retreat to his room, and “having eaten and drunk too much,” he fell into a very gloomy and troubled sleep, and then rose from bed at four in the morning. This was not the first time that an excess of food and wine in Italy compelled him to spend a very tormented night.  Also on Capri, after having drunk three bottles of wine in an unrestrained manner and having eaten excessively, he felt sick and suffered a sleepless night (Cultraro 2018, p. 150).

Hotel Minerva, next to the Pantheon, Rome.

During a trip from Rome to Naples, in December 1858, in Terracina, even though he complained about the excessive price of “six paoli” for a lunch in a “osteria”, he was satisfied with “broth, roasted fish with potatoes, meat, fruit, and bad wine!”

Schliemann’s first contact with Sicily left negative impressions.  He disembarked on December 18, 1858, after a night inauspicious and not to be remembered.  While he was searching the streets of Messina for a restaurant, he found one where he ate “with great disgust and repugnance” because of its filthiness.  The situation seemed to improve some days later in Syracuse, where he had lunch in the restaurant of the Viceroy Hotel, dining on “broth, cabbage with meat, fried fish, sardines, and an omelette” to which he added a bottle and a half of wine.  Even though the meal was excellent and the food abundant, he felt compelled to fight with the owner of the hotel over their expensive prices, following the suggestion of a man from Syracuse who was sitting in the same restaurant. His anonymous dining partner, “a Danish man who spoke Swedish,” also was able to get a better price for full board by bargaining.

Sicily, dominated by the pervasive filthiness of people and things, was the setting for another unexpected experience: when he arrived in the village of Belvedere, near Syracuse, Schliemann took refreshments at the house of a shepherd where he ate “bread, four eggs, wine, and a fruit salad like our cucumbers and very nice.” (Cultraro 2018, p. 151).

His final judgment on the city and its food was very harsh: “…. foods are very bad, broth consisting only of water mingled with vermicelli and cheese, and the thought of the disgusting filthiness in which foods were prepared repeatedly increased my loathing and repugnance.” He repeated the same thoughts even more aggressively, in his account of the following day, when to his description of watery broths, he added that butter was unknown, noting that “everything is fried or roasted here with veal or pork fat and it is a delicacy if something is fried with lard.”

To his eyes, Sicilian cooking seemed to be very fatty and full of oil: “The butter is here sold at 9 tari to the roll of 2 1/2 pounds and it is terrible. Cream and fior di latte are unknown here. Coffee is drunk black because there is no cow milk; the goat milk is already very skim and mixed with still more water is very expensive.”  His complaints, however, end on a positive note: “The only good thing here in Syracuse is the wine which has the strength of a Madeira and the sweetness of muscato wine, although, if while drinking it, one remembers with how much filthiness it is produced, it cannot be drunk without disgust.”

Another unhappy Italian meal for Schliemann, Dec. 23, 1858, Diary A3, p. 59. ASCSA Archives, Heinrich Schliemann Papers.

His trip to Catania, nearly eleven hours by coach, brought further disappointment: while referring to the exhausting trip and to its frequent (and useless) stops, he could not help but conclude that “what is the most annoying thing is that in no place was there an opportunity to have something to eat and drink.” Luckily, the trip from Catania to Messina was somehow different and, in the railway station of Acireale, during an exchange of horses, Schliemann did manage to have “goat cheese and two glasses of wine.”

He reëvaluated Sicilian cooking in Messina, where he was invited by the commercial agent Saraceno to his home, together with other foreign guests, including the American consul.  “The lunch was very good,” Schliemann wrote, “broth with meatballs, then fish with butter sauce followed by pasticcio and focaccia, roast beef, sorbetto, roasted chicken, fruit, and more” [Diary A3, Dec. 23, 1858]. This lunch in Messina is his only truly positive comment on Sicilian cooking. Also, in the course of his second trip in 1868, he did not comment on the food, except to remark that, after a trip by boat to Aci Trezza under a burning sun,“ I returned to Catania ,” he noted in his diary, “with a feverish thirst, drank a bottle of beer with ice, and went to bed (Cultraro 2018, p. 152).

References

Pappalardo, U. 2018a. “Heinrich Schliemann a Mozia,” Sicilia Archeologica 110, pp. 109-138.

Pappalardo, U. 2018b. “Heinrich Schliemann a Napoli: note di viaggio e documenti,” Napoli Nobilissima 4:3, pp. 58-64.

Shepherd, E. J. 2012. “Schliemann a Populonia e altrove,” Rassegna di Archeologia 24, 2009-11, pp. 143-165.

Schliemann’s Diary A3 (1858) in the ASCSA Archives: https://www.ascsa.edu.gr/archives/schliemann-diary-a-3


*Massimo Cultraro is Senior Researcher at the National Research Council (CNR), Institute for Archaeological and Cultural Heritage, Catania (IBAM). His main research field is the archaeology of the Aegean Bronze Age, with reference to the long-term interconnections between Greece, the Southern Balkans and Italy. Since 2007 he has served as scientific director of the Iraq Virtual Museum, an international multimedia project promoted by the CNR and the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs (www.virtualmuseumiraq.cnr.it). As scientific head, he has also carried out many projects in Montenegro, Portugal and Georgia under the international agreements between the Italian CNR and its international counterparts.

In addition to L’ ultimo sogno dello scopritore di Troia, his publications include L’anello di Minosse. Archeologia della regalità nell’Egeo preistorico (Milan 2001), I Micenei. I Greci prima di Omero (Rome, 2006), and two publications in press: Troy in the Bronze Age (Genova 2019) and a monograph on Scholars at War. The Italian Archaeology during the First World War (Rome 2019).


“They returned… but stay I did”: Doreen Canaday’s Experience of Interwar Greece

I first encountered the name “Canaday” in the mid-1980s when I went to Bryn Mawr College for graduate school. Although we did most of our work in the seminar rooms above the Art and Archaeology Library (now the Rhys Carpenter Library), for books and periodicals about history or classics we had to go to the “big library,” which was none other than the Mariam Coffin Canaday Library.

A few years later when I returned to Greece to participate in the regular program of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA, or the School hereafter), I heard people referring to Canaday House.  One of the two marble houses flanking the Gennadius Library at 61 Souidias, it housed temporarily the family of the then Director of the School William (Willy) D. E. Coulson. (The big earthquake of 1986 in Kalamata had caused damages to the Director’s residence across the street.)

An ink drawing of the Canaday House at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. ASCSA Archives, Doreen Canaday Spitzer Photographic Collection.

Finally, in the summer of 1990, while digging at Mochlos on Crete, I met Doreen Spitzer on one of the “On-Site with The American School of Classical Studies at Athens” trips that she had been organizing for years, but without realizing that Doreen Spitzer’s maiden name was Canaday. It was only after I started working as the School’s Archivist that I became aware of Canaday Spitzer’s long legacy at the American School.  Doreen Canaday Spitzer (1914-2010) served as a Trustee 1978-1996, President of the Board of Trustees 1983-1988, Trustee Emerita from 1996 and President of the Friends from 1988 until her death in 2010.  (There is a thorough biographical essay about Doreen Spitzer by Catherine de Grazia Vanderpool in AKOUE 63, Fall 2010.) Her father, Ward Canaday (1885-1976), had also served as a Trustee of the School for almost four decades starting in 1937.

Doreen Canaday Spitzer listening to Manolis Andronikos, excavator of the royal tombs at Vergina, 1981. (Between them, barely visible, Machteld Mellink.) Source: ASCSA Archives.

Spitzer also cared deeply about preserving the School’s history and supported wholeheartedly the creation of an Archives Department during her term as President of the Board. Furthermore, she would contact School members, many of whom she knew personally from her time as a student of the School in 1936-1938, to solicit their personal papers.  No wonder why my formal title is the Doreen Canaday Spitzer Archivist. Needless to say that it would have pleased her immensely to see our new and enlarged facilities at the East Wing of the Gennadius Library. Read the rest of this entry »


Grace Macurdy of Vassar College: Scholar, Teacher, and Proto-Feminist


This is a guest post by Robert L. Pounder

Robert L. Pounder, Emeritus Professor of Classics at Vassar College, here contributes a review of Barbara McManus’s posthumous book about Grace Harriet Macurdy, titled The Drunken Duchess of Vassar. Pounder, who has been conducting in-depth research on the social history of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) in the 1920s-1930s, writes that Classics was “dominated by unaware, myopic, smug, unsympathetic men, men who viewed academic accomplishment by women with condescension and skepticism.”  Women in academia, like Macurdy, were thought to be anomalies–a different species. Based on his work at the ASCSA Archives, Pounder has also published an essay, “The Blegens and the Hills: A Family Affair,” in Carl W. Blegen: Personal & Archaeological Narratives, ed. N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, J. L. Davis, and V. Florou, Atlanta 2015.


Born in 1866 in Robbinston, Maine, Grace Harriet Macurdy was the sixth of nine siblings whose parents had immigrated to the United States from the nearby Canadian province of New Brunswick just a year before her birth. Her father, Angus McCurdy (the spelling of the name was later changed to Macurdy because he did not want to be thought Irish) was a carpenter who barely eked out a living.  After leaving his children in the care of their mother and paternal grandmother for long periods and thus improving his situation somewhat, he was able to move the family to Watertown, Massachusetts by 1870; there they grew.  Watertown provided a better series of houses and slightly improved material circumstances for the Macurdy children.  Moreover, they profited greatly from the guidance of their mother and grandmother, both of whom encouraged the children, including the girls, to read, write, and pursue their educations.

Barbara McManus, The Drunken Duchess of Vassar, Columbus: The Ohio State University Press (2017).

Read the rest of this entry »


“This Horrible Crime Will Have to be Paid For”: The Sinking of the LUSITANIA

Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and a former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here reviews Erik Larson’s most recent book Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the LUSITANIA, and briefly reflects on the history of the ASCSA during the Great War.

Lusitania_Cover

 

“Today we learned of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine.  This horrible crime will have to be paid for by Germany some day.”
Carl W. Blegen, May 9, 1915

I confess that I have long been a fan of any Erik Larson novel, from the time my mother-in-law gave me The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (2003). But did I say novel? His non-fiction tales read like novels, and The Devil is currently being made into a major motion picture (starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese). For my birthday this year, my mother-in-law Nan hit another homerun: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania — a terrific (and fast) read. (I finished it in just over two days, one of them on a trans-Atlantic flight, a suitable environment for reading about an oceanic disaster!) Read the rest of this entry »


Food and Travel: The Slow Road to Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian and Cretan Kitchen

CurryBible


france+flagTom Brogan, archaeologist, Director of the INSTAP Study Center for East Crete, and a long-time resident of Greece, writes about his culinary coming of age, from the farms of Indiana and the dormitory food of an English University, to his discovery of (and falling in love with) ethnic cuisines. His recent encounter on the island of Crete with Madhur Jaffrey, the guru of Indian cuisine, prompted Tom to review two of Jaffrey’s cookbooks and his own slow path into the kitchen. 

Growing up in Indiana there were very few opportunities to explore the world without leaving home. The one exception, of course, was food, but this convenience came with confusing pedigrees—Greek and Indian dishes essentially reshaped to fit Hoosier tastes. It was only later while studying in England and excavating in Greece that I learned the true scale of the problem. The food served at British Universities in 1986 was comically horrible (and I suspect still is), but it did have the unexpected benefit of forcing you to try the wonderful Asian, Indian, and Turkish restaurants—most of which tasted nothing like their Hoosier counterparts. Later while exploring the prehistory of Greece, I enjoyed a similar revelation. In a country where culinary and archaeological discoveries come hand in hand, there were surprisingly few dishes resembling those I had sampled in Greek tavernas in Indianapolis or Philadelphia. The reason was an unexpected but very real lesson in any ex-pat’s life–the frustration of trying to recreate meals from home, which lies at the heart of this story. Read the rest of this entry »


EUZONES AND POETRY: JAMES MERRILL, GREEK LOVE, AND THE MAKING OF A PULITZER-PRIZE WINNER by Jack L. Davis

Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and a former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here reviews Langdon Hammer’s recent biography of American poet James Merrill, focusing on the poet’s house in Athens. Merrill, who lived much of his life in Greece, left his house in Kolonaki to the American School as a bequest.

James Merrill by Langdom Hammer

In 1945 a young undergraduate student at Amherst College met and was immediately captivated by a temporary English instructor, who became his first lover. Kimon Friar, the professor, drew James Merrill, at 20 years of age already a promising writer, into an “erotic literary apprenticeship” that was influenced both by ancient Athenian concepts of pederastia as well as the life and works of Constantine Cavafy, the Alexandrian poet. Along the way, Friar taught Merrill demotic Greek. Merrill had a gift for tongues, later even picking up Japanese as a tourist; with a fine Classical education as a foundation, he learned to speak Greek properly and deliberately, and enjoyed the language’s sound. Read the rest of this entry »


EUPHORIA

Euphoria

EUPHORIA by Lily King (London: Picador 2014)


“My loves remain wine to me, yet I become too quickly bread to them”
One of Margaret Mead’s favorite phrases, inspired by Amy Lowell’s poem A Decade (1919).

 

I remember reading some years ago about the correspondence between anthropologists Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, which left no doubt about their erotic involvement. It must have been in a review of one of the many books that have been published in the past two decades about Margaret Mead.

MargaretMead_stampAlthough I have never read anything by either woman, Mead’s work with the tribes of New Guinea was familiar. A recent documentary by Fraser Heston (son of Charlton Heston) about Michael Rockefeller’s disappearance on the island in 1961 rekindled my interest in New Guinea. The documentary includes film footage from 1969 that shows a white man canoeing with a Papuan tribe. It asks whether the young Rockefeller went “missing” voluntarily rather than fell victim to the cannibal instincts of the Papuans as previously suggested. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2946787/Is-proof-lost-Rockefeller-heir-joined-tribe-naked-cannibals-Picture-shows-white-man-Papuan-man-eaters-eight-years-mysterious-disappearance.html ). Read the rest of this entry »