TitleHeinrich Schliemann, his ear disease and hearing impairment: an extraordinary life with a pitiable finale for the most illustrious dilettante in the history of archaeology
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsMylonakis, Ioannis, Alessandro Martini, and Rosario Marchese-Ragona
Secondary TitleAudiologia e Foniatria
Date Published05
PublisherPadova University Press
Place PublishedPadova, IT
ISSN Number2531-7008
Keywordsearly ear and mastoid operations, hearing loss, Hermann Schwartze, otogenic cerebral abscess, Schliemann, Vincenzo Cozzolino

Heinrich Schliemann was a worldwide celebrity in the late 19th century, and his lasting fame derives more from his adventurous undertakings as an amateur archaeologist than from his remarkable success as a businessman. His medical history and the circumstances in which he died in Naples in 1890 have aroused great interest in the international scientific community. The fact that this occurred after surgery performed in Halle by Prof Hermann Schwartze for exostoses and possible cholesteatoma that had caused a severe hearing loss, unbearable for the hyperactive Schliemann, has particularly intrigued otologists and audiologists and made them particularly eager to investigate and reflect on the matter. Medical data on Schliemann’s otological disease and the way he was reacting to it, transpire from his correspondence and diaries, direct witness statements regarding his (now lost) medical records, together with accounts of his condition during his last days given by Vincenzo Cozzolino, the last otologist who tried to cure him. An analysis of all the available sources points to an otogenic cerebral abscess complicating Schliemann’s chronic ear disease after surgery as the main factor behind the death of the most prominent amateur archaeologist in history. Despite the difficulty to ascertain some details, this paper, based on an extensive use of original data, focusses not only on the possible causes behind this fatal disorder but also on the elements of Schliemann’s character that determined his choices on the timing and manner of treatment and eventually led to a tragic ending for his spectacular life