Mycenae

SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH US

The Kingdom of Agamemnon

Awe and Allegiance at the Cradle of Mycenaean Civilization

An unexpected awe will fill up your soul. Traces immortalized from time; in the palaces of Mycenae, the ghost of Aegisthus, Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, persons of myth and tragedy dipped in human passions, seem to hang around seeking for vindication, as the tragic poets did. Mycenae, the capital of Greece in prehistoric times and religious center of the Mycenaean world, was firstly called rich from Homer eight centuries ago. Aeschylus was the first who, in the peak of the Greek culture, followed from Sophocles and Euripides, revived the fate of the generation of Atreides talking about the palace of the Mycenaean. It’s more than a century since Schlieman, the first to unveil the mysteries of Mycenae, brought to light the royal tombs of its citadel opening a new chapter in the history of European civilization. Mycenae is the place that fueled archaeology, literature, theatre and research with an astonishing wealth of material, unique in the world! Just like the Trojan War never happened, and Agamemnon did not exist so as to sacrifice his daughter so that winds would blow and grasp the woman of his brother from the arms of Paris while loading the treasures of his father on the ships. All these legends and myths illuminated the fantasy of Homer. Yet, it felt like humanity united the moment that Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and Iphigenia were born again from an amateur archaeologist searching for the Treasure of Atreus. Signed by the name Heinrich Schliemann, his telegram to King George I was saying “… I saw the face of Agamemnon. I found incalculable treasures in the tombs of Mycenae, archaic objects made from pure gold. The treasures themselves can fill an entire museum, the most beautiful in the world…”. However, this face that was confronted from him belonged to a king of Mycenae who lived there three hundred years before him; this golden mask became one of the most recognizable findings of international archaeological excavation. He was the one who found the palace of Mycenae along with its underground tanks that used to supply it with water three centuries ago. From the large plateau, where the throne room used to be one, Agamemnon stood and felt invincible. The rich city of Atreus and his sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus, and all of the Mycenaean kings who lived there will definitely amaze you; the phantasmagorical view of the Argolis plain and the timeless view of the Aegean Sea from the palace will take your breath away. The Lion Gate, the official entrance to the city of Mycenae, will leave you speechless. Heritage and legacy of this powerful European civilization, Mycenae is one of the most important archaeological sites in the world you will ever discover. Protagonist of the show is no one else than your imagination, which will guide you through the palace of Agamemnon and the religious center of the Acropolis, the Cyclopean walls and the underground cisterns, the vaulted tomb of Clytemnestra and the Treasure of Atreus. Will you explore a route between epic and drama?

Best of Mycenae

The Acropolis of Mycenae

The Acropolis of Mycenae is one of the most important archeological sites of the country that served as the cradle of the Mycenaean civilization. Mentioned from epic poet Homer and geographer Pausanias, Mycenae was the most powerful town of Greece in the prehistoric times. The Mycenaean civilization dates back to 1.600 BC to 1.100 BC. The acropolis of Mycenae was built on the slopes of a hill protected from the cyclopean walls. The entrance of the citadel is the Gate of the Lion. Mycenae was firstly discovered from archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s. Today, the citadel itself has many traces of cisterns, houses and public buildings crowned from the acropolis on the highest spot of the hill. It is worth mentioning that many experts did not believe that Mycenae existed until amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann excavated the site in the 1870s. Following the excavations of Mycenae, Tiryns and Troy, Schliemann was named father of Mycenaean Archaeology. In 1999, Mycenaean was included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

The Archaeological Museum of Mycenae

The Archaeological Museum of Mycenae is one of the most important archaeological museums of Greece located within the archaeological site of Mycenae. The ideal for the construction of the museum belongs to archaeologist Giorgos Mylonas, member of the Greek Archaeological Society, which was inaugurated in 2003. The museum comprises from three levels exhibiting 2.500 items from excavations of the site of Mycenae dating from the Copper period till the Hellenistic times. Of the most impressive exhibits include the copy of the Golden Mask of Agamemnon, whose original mask made of pure gold is kept in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, while the jewelry pieces are very impressive. The first room of the museum is dedicated to life of the Mycenaean civilization, the second room is dedicated to life after death while the third room id dedicated to the concepts of administration. art, science, religion, and trade.

The Cyclopean Walls

The Cyclopean Walls are a main characteristic of the Mycenaean architecture. The Mycenae’s cyclopean walls are the most famous examples of Cyclopean masonry. The term derives from mythical Cyclopes who was believed that was the one who built them, as he had the strength to move these huge boulders.

The Grave Circle A and B

The Grave Circle A and B are two royal cemetery of the Mycenaean civilization located on the south side of the Lion Gate. The burial complexes were constructed outside the fortification walls of Mycenae, which were eventually enclosed in the acropolis in the 13th century. Grave Circle A and B represent one of the major characteristics of the early phase of the Mycenaean civilization. Among the objects found in Grave Circle A are a series of gold death masks including the gold mask of Agamemnon.

The Lion Gate

The Lion Gate is the main entrance of the acropolis of Mycenae that was erected in the 13th century BC. It is a spectacular masterpiece of art that has sculpture reliefs of two lionesses in a heraldic pose. Lion Gate is the sole surviving monumental piece of Mycenaean sculpture and the largest sculpture in the prehistoric phase of the Aegean.

The Treasure of Atreus

The Treasure of Atreus, else known as the tomb of Agamemnon, is one of the most beautiful monuments of Mycenae found in a walking distance from the ancient site. Atreus Treasury is a vaulted tomb build of stone that was constructed in 1250 BC. It has a height of 13.5 meters and a diameter of 14.5 meters, which was considered as the tallest dome till the construction of the Pantheon in Rome.

The Underground Cistern

The Underground Cistern is one of the most impressive monuments of Mycenae located on the northeast side of the acropolis. The cistern was constructed in order to provide water to the residents in the 13th century. Its importance is high verging on uniqueness in the prehistoric era.

Mysterious Greece Tips

Around Mycenae: Day Trip or Long Stay?

Mycenae is one of the greatest cities of the Mycenaean civilization and one of the most impressive archaeological sites of Greece that has been designated as a World Heritage Site from UNESCO. It is an ideal destination for a day trip, as it is located 90 kilometers from Athens, 48 kilometers from Corinth and 24 kilometers from Nafplio. It should be mentioned that Nafplio is the most perfect place to stay if you are interested for a long stay. Nonetheless, if you are looking for something close, then the modern village of Mykines is for you.

Bring the Essentials

It is highly recommended to bring with you your hat, a bottle of water and sunglasses and wear your athletic shoes, as the terrain of Mycenae is bumpy and rugged. Also, bring a torch with you in order to discover the underground cistern of Mycenae, a prehistoric technical achievement! Your digital camera is a must!

Find More Information from UNESCO Official Website

If you want to find more information for Mycenae, you should visit the official website of UNESCO!

Have A Tour: It’s A Must

It is highly advisable to have a guided tour in Mycenae, as it would be a shame to understand not to learn about the center of one of the greatest civilizations of Europe!

Historical Background of Mycenae

Mycenae ‘Rich in Gold’, the kingdom of mythical Agamemnon, first sung by Homer in his epics, is the most important and richest palatial center of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. Its name was given to one of the greatest civilizations of Greek prehistory, the Mycenaean civilization, while the myths related to its history have inspired poets and writers over many centuries, from the Homeric epics and the great tragedies of the Classical period to contemporary literary and artistic creation. Perseus, son of Zeus and Dana?, daughter of Akrisios, king of Argos and descendant of Danaos, is traditionally considered as its mythical founder. Pausanias (2, 16, 3) reports that Perseus named the new city Mycenae after the pommel (mykes) of his sword, which fell there, or after the Persia spring, discovered there under the root of a mushroom (mykes). According to the myth, Perseus’s descendants reigned at Mycenae for three generations. After the last of them, Eurystheas, died childless, the Mycenaean chose Atreus, son of Pelops, father of Agamemnon and Menelaus, as their king. Mycenae was founded between two tall conical hills, Prophet Elias (805 m.) and Sara (660 m.), on a low plateau dominating the Argive plain and controlling both the land and sea routes. The site was first occupied in the seventh millennium BC (Neolithic period). Very little remains of this early settlement because of continuous re-occupation up until the historical period. Most of the monuments visible today were erected in the Late Bronze Age, between 1350 and 1200 BC, when the site was at its peak. In the early second millennium BC a small settlement existed on the hill and a cemetery with simple burials on its southwest slope. Grave Circle B, a stone-built funerary enclosure containing monumental graves with rich grave gifts, indicates that the first families of rulers and aristocrats appeared at Mycenae at approximately 1700 BC. This social structure developed further in the early Mycenaean period, c. 1600 BC, when a large central building, a second funerary enclosure (Grave Circle A) and the first vaulted tombs were erected on the hill. The finds from these monuments show that the powerful Mycenaean rulers participated in a complex network of commercial exchange with other parts of the Mediterranean. The construction of the palace and fortification wall currently visible began c. 1350 BC (Late Helladic IIIA2). The latter saw three construction phases, the first wall being built of Cyclopean masonry. A new wall was erected to the west and south of the early one approximately one hundred years later (Late Helladic IIIB1), together with the Lion Gate, the citadel’s monumental entrance, and its bastion. Included in the newly fortified area were the city’s religious center and Grave Circle A, which was refurbished and used for ancestral cults. The famous vaulated tomb known as the ‘Treasure of Atreus’, with its gigantic lintels and tall beehive vault, was probably built during the same period. At approximately 1200 BC, in the Late Helladic IIIB-C period, following a large destruction probably caused by an earthquake, the walls were extended to the northeast so as to include the subterranean well. Successive destructions and fires led to the site’s final abandonment c. 1100 BC. After the collapse of the palatial system and of the ‘Mycenaean Koine’, the hill was sparsely inhabited until the Classical period. Meanwhile, several local cults of heroes developed in the area, fuelled by Mycenae’s fame, which the Homeric poems spread throughout Greece. A temple dedicated to Hera or Athena was erected on the top of the hill in the archaic period. In 468 BC, after the Persian Wars, in which Mycenae took part, the town was conquered by Argos and had part of its fortification wall destroyed. In the Hellenistic period, the Argives founded a ‘village’ on the hill, repaired the prehistoric walls and the archaic temple, and erected a small theatre over the road of the vaulted tomb of Clytemnestra. The town was abandoned in subsequent centuries and was already in ruins when Pausanias visited it in the second century AD. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the impressive Cyclopean walls of the Mycenaean acropolis attracted many travellers and antiquaries who did not hesitate to loot the site, taking advantage of the indifference and greed of the Turkish authorities. In 1837, after the Greek Independence, the archaeological site of Mycenae came under the jurisdiction of the Greek Archaeological Society, whose representative K. Pittakis cleared the Lion Gate in 1841. In 1876, after opening several small test trenches in 1874, Heinrich Schliemann began excavating Grave Circle A, where he uncovered five graves. His work was continued in 1876-1877 by trench supervisor P. Stamatakis who uncovered the sixth grave. In subsequent years C. Tsountas (1884-1902), D. Evangelidis (1909), G. Rosenwaldt (1911), A. Keramopoulos (1917) and A. J. B. Wace (1920-1923, 1939, 1950-1957) excavated the palace and cemeteries. In 1952-1955 I. Papadimitriou and G. Mylonas of the Greek Archaeological Society excavated Grave Circle B and several houses, while G. Mylonas with N. Verdelis of the Archaeological Service excavated parts of the settlement. Excavations by the British School at Athens under Lord W. Taylor uncovered the religious center, while the Greek Archaeological Society under G. Mylonas and S. Iakovidis conducted further investigations in 1959 and 1969-1974. In 1950-1955 A. Orlandos and E. Stikas supervised the restoration of the Tomb of Clytemnestra, the palace, Grave Circle B and the area surrounding the Lion Gate. The project for the ‘Restoration-Conservation-Presentation of the Monuments of the Acropolis of Mycenae and its Greater Area’, begun in 1998, was overseen initially by the Work Group for the Restoration of the Monuments of Epidaurus and subsequently by the Mycenae Committee, created in 1999. (Olga Psychogiou, Odysseus.Culture.Gr, 2015)

Travel & Transport to Mycenae: Bus and Car Directions

By Bus: KTEL Buses operate routes from the Kiffisos Station in the city of Athens to the archaeological site of Mycenae (Fichti) in Peloponnese on a daily basis. The journey usually lasts three hours. KTEL Buses also operate from the cities of Corinth and Nafplio.

By Car (120 kilometers): In order to get to Mycenae, you will have to follow the National Road of Athens to Corinth. Right after the Corinth Canal, you will have to follow the signs to the town of Tripoli. At some point, you will have to follow the signs towards Nafplio and Mycenae.

Views from the Palace of Mycenae

From the highest point of the acropolis, where the palace of Agamemnon used to be, the view to the sea is glorious!

Working Hours of the Archaeological Site

Before visiting Mycenae, get informed for the working hours of the archaeological site, as the site has different working hours in winter and summer. Usually, Mycenae is open 08:00 to 15:00 from November to March and 08:00 to 20:00 from April to October.

Photo Credits

×

Note: All the images are copyrighted from their owners. Please see Terms & Conditions. You can find the original images at the following links:

Atreus Treasury Inside: Cyarhistory.wikispaces.com

Atreus Treasury: Shutterstock

Grave Circle A: Andreas Trepte by Wikimedia

Lions Gate: Tamra Hays by Flickr

Mask of Agamemnon: Steven Zucker by Flickr

Mycenae: Ronny Siegel by Flickr

The Entrance of the Underground Cistern: Costas Athan by Panoramio

View from the Acropolis: Shutterstock