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Dates and Events

Photo: Crossing the Euphrates


15 July: Max Adrian Hubert von Oppenheim is born.


Georg Schweinfurth explores Egypt and the eastern Sudan.


Gerhard Rohlfs crosses North Africa.


Gustav Nachtigal traverses the Sudan and the Sahara; at the same time Georg Schweinfurth explores the region between Nile and Congo. The Suez Canal is completed.


Heinrich Schliemann excavates nine levels of ancient Troy and discovers the Treasure of Priam.


18 January: Following Prussia’s victory in the Franco-Prussian War, King Wilhelm I, King of Prussia, is declared Emperor of Germany in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.


At the Congress of Berlin, the German Empire mediates in Balkan politics.


He fulfills the obligatory military service of one year as a volunteer in the 15th Uhlan Regiment, Strasbourg.


Max von Oppenheim transfers to the University of Berlin


At his father’s inducement, he returns to Cologne to continue his studies of law with a tutor.

Great Britain occupies Egypt.


24 February: in Cologne Oppenheim passes his first state law examination, and after the title Dr. jur. is conferred upon him by the university in Göttingen on 1 March, he immediately begins his training as a law clerk. The winter is spent travelling through Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor.


Max von Oppenheim’s clerkship training takes place in Bergheim near Cologne, Wiesbaden, Rüdesheim, and Oppeln. During this period, he becomes personally acquainted with the German explorers of Africa Gustav Nachtigal and Gerhard Rohlfs.


Germany initiates a colonial policy. Carl Peters founds the German Colonial Society (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft).


Max von Oppenheim travels to Morocco for the second time.


Emperor Wilhelm II dismisses Imperial Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, putting an end to an epoch of German politics.


6 June: Oppenheim passes the assessor examination in Cologne.


In September, Oppenheim, in the company of Wilhelm Joest, undertakes his third journey to the orient, spending the winter 1892/93 in Cairo.

The initial segment of the Anatolian Railway, from Istanbul to Ankara, is completed.


24 June: In Damascus, Oppenheim begins his travels from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf and onward to India and German East Africa, where he purchases a large stretch of land with the intention of growing coffee.


Oppenheim’s plan to lead a German expedition to Lake Chad comes to naught after the chieftain of an Arab tribe conquers the region.


Max von Oppenheim resides primarily in Berlin where he works on his travelogue Vom Mittelmeer zum Persischen Golf (From the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf).


He travels to Constantinople where he has a private audience with Sultan Abdul Hamid II.


Max von Oppenheim is made attaché at the Imperial German General Consulate in Cairo.


During a journey in the Lebanon, he becomes acquainted with Emir Shekib Arslan.

War breaks out between the Ottoman Empire and Greece.


Max von Oppenheim accompanies Prince Alfred von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha on a journey to Jerusalem and Transjordan.

An Anglo-Egyptian army conclusively quells the Mahdist Revolt in the Sudan.
Emperor Wilhelm II’s voyage to the Orient awakens British fears of a potentially massive engagement of the German Empire in the world of Islam. The German Oriental Society (Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft) is founded.


Max von Oppenheim undertakes a journey exploring Syria, Upper Mesopotamia, and eastern Turkey; in its course, he discovers Tell Halaf on 19 November.

Establishment of the Vorderasiatische Abteilung (Near Eastern Department) of the Royal Museums in Berlin and the first excavations of ancient Babylon under direction of Robert Koldewey.


Max von Oppenheim travels to the USA to evaluate how a transcontinental railway might affect a country’s economy and society.


Beginning of construction of the Baghdad Railway, financed with German capital and intended, when complete, to run from Konya in Anatolia to Baghdad. Excavations under the direction of Walter Andrae begin at Assur.


After another sojourn in the USA, Oppenheim publishes a study projecting how railway construction in Mesopotamia could result in an economic and social boom.

8 April: Great Britain and France sign a series of agreements, the “Entente Cordiale,” settling their centuries’ long rivalry over influence in North Africa.


Max von Oppenheim attends the 14th International Congress of Orientalists in Algiers as a delegate of the German Empire. Afterwards, he travels through Algeria and Tunisia.

Tensions develop between Germany and France during the First Moroccan Crisis.


Max von Oppenheim participates in the 15th International Congress of Orientalists in Copenhagen.

Construction begins on the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.


1. November: At Oppenheim’s request, he is released from service in the Foreign Office, and receives the title Ministerresident.


The dispatching of a German gunboat to Agadir results in the Second Moroccan Crisis.


Italo-Turkish War: The Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica become Italian colonies.


Oppenheim’s first campaign of excavations at Tell Halaf produces rich results.


War in the Balkans. The Ottoman Empire loses the Aegean Islands to Greece.


Max von Oppenheim acquires a grand apartment in Berlin at Kurfürstendamm 203.

Thanks to a putsch, the “Young Turks” gain control of the Ottoman Empire which becomes embroiled in several armed conflicts in the Balkans.


The Foreign Office assigns Oppenheim the task of creating and directing the Intelligence Bureau for the East (Nachrichtenstelle für den Orient/NfO). In November, he completes his Denkschrift betreffend die Revolutionierung der islamischen Gebiete unserer Feinde (Memorandum on revolutionizing the Islamic territories of our enemies).

28 June: The assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, designated successor to the Austrian throne, leads to the First World War.

August: The Ottoman and German Empires conclude a treaty of alliance. In November, Sultan and Caliph Mehmed V declares “Holy War” against opposing nations.


Max von Oppenheim travels to Constantinople, establishing intelligence offices throughout the Ottoman Empire where propaganda material is made available.

Gallipoli Campaign, one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War, ends with a resounding defeat of the British and their allies.

Up to 1.5 million Armenians die in massacres and on death marches at the hands of the Ottoman Empire’s Young Turk regime.


Under the leadership of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, the Arabs revolt against the Turks. They are supported in their struggle for an independent Arab state by Great Britain (T. E. Lawrence).


In the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, Great Britain and France pledge in the event of a Turkish defeat to share the Ottoman Empire’s Arab provinces.


Max von Oppenheim returns to Berlin to work on the publication of the excavation and of his research on the Bedouin.

British Troops take Baghdad.


The First World War ends with the defeat of Germany and the military collapse of the Ottoman Empire.


In the wake of the new division of the conquered Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations grants France the mandate over Syria and Lebanon while the mandate over Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Kurdish northern Iraq goes to Great Britain.


Max von Oppenheim establishes the Institute for Oriental Research in Berlin with headquarters at Savigny Platz 6.


Oppenheim continuously experiences financial difficulties, because of hyperinflation in the aftermath of the war.

The Treaty of Lausanne establishes the borders of the new Republic of Turkey. Its first premier, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, seeks to Europeanize the nation.


Max von Oppenheim serves as advisor for the precise definition of the border between Turkey and Syria.

Ibn Saud, leader of the House of Saud, conquers the Hejaz.


Max von Oppenheim successfully manages to finance a special trip to Tell Halaf. An agreement about the division of finds is reached with the regime of the French Mandate.

Kemal Atatürk gives his great programmatic speech “The new Turkey”.


Max von Oppenheim returns to Tell Halaf for a second season of excavation, simultaneously beginning work at Djebelet el Beda. He founds the eponymous Max von Oppenheim Foundation in Berlin.

The stock market crash in New York Stock precipitates a global financial crisis.


The Tell Halaf Museum opens its doors on Oppenheim’s 70th birthday.

The Pergamon Museum is inaugurated in October.


Max von Oppenheim’s financial problems prompt him to travel to the USA where he intends to sell some of his finds from Tell Halaf. But no buyers materialize, due to the economic crisis (“the Depression”).


Proclamation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by Ibn Saud.


Max von Oppenheim spends several weeks of “rest and recuperation” in Palermo, Sicily.


He travels to Syria for the last time, but is prevented by the government of the French Mandate from going to Tell Halaf and resuming excavations.

Germany’s invasion of Poland marks the beginning of the Second World War.


August: The Foundation’s apartment on Savigny Platz is heavily damaged by bombing and rendered uninhabitable. Oppenheim moves to Dresden. In November, a phosphorus bomb destroys the Tell Halaf Museum.

The German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad decisively turns the tide of the Second World War.


After the bombing raid on Dresden in February, Oppenheim goes to live with his sister Wanda von Pocci at Schloss Ammerland, on Starnberger See.

On 9 May, the German capitulation comes into force.


Spring. The 86-year old Orientalist moves to Landshut where he passes away on 15 November.