MYCENAE GREECE

In the foothills of Mount Agios and Mount Zara stands the ruins of Mycenae, the mythical home of Agamemnon. From 1600-1200 BC Mycenae was the most powerful kingdom in Greece. The Mycenaeans were Indo European people who began arriving in Greece around 2100 BC. By 1600 BC there were a series of small bronze age kingdoms. The best known is Mycenae. The civilization crumbled around 1200 BC and was followed by a dark ages that lasted almost two centuries. The Dorians began to inhabit the area around 1050 BC.

According to Greek Mythology, Perseus, son of the Greek God Zeus and Danae, who was the daughter of Acricio, the King of Argos founded Mycenae when Perseus left Argos for Tyrins, he instructed Cyclopes to build the walls of Mycenae with stones that no human could lift. The walls are 13 meters high and 7 meters thick and the blocks weigh up to 6 tons.

Perseus named the city Mycenae after the cap fell off his scabbard at the site, which he saw as a good omen. The Perseid dynasty ruled Mycenae for at least three generations and ended with the rule of Eurtheus, who legend claims hired Hercules to perform the 12 labors. When Eurytheus died in battle, Atreus became king of Mycenae. Mycenae is best known as the city of Agememnon, the son of Atreus. King Agamemnon led the expedition against Troy during the Trojan Wars.

Homer accounts the story in the ILLIAD and Heinrich Schliemann was the archaeologist that excavated the site in the 1870’s where he found gold artifacts like he did when he excavated the site at Troy.

The central feature of Mycenae is the great central hall called the megaton which consists of a columned porch, vestibule and main chamber. The main chamber was a long rectangular room with a central hearth and next to the hearth was a raised platform for the royal throne. The megaton was surrounded by an irregular complex of buildings that included offices, archives, shrines, armories, storerooms, workshops, potteries and oil pressing rooms.

The massive Cyclopean walls of Mycenae also enclosed residential buildings for aristocrats, various shrines and GRAVE CIRCLE A , a stone funerary enclosure that contained shaft graves. This was excavated by Schliemann between 1874-76 and is where he uncovered on of the richest archaeological finds ever to be found. This included told death masks and other items of adornment now on display at the museum in Athens. He also discovered the WARRIORS VASE showing Mycenae warriors.

South of Grave Circle A are the remains of a group of houses which line the path to Agamemnon’s Palace: the rooms on the north were private royal apartments where it is thought Agamemnon was murdered. On the palaces southeast side is the megaton, reception hall where the great hearth would have been. Following the path couter-clockwise and on the northern boundary os the citadel you come across the postern gate through which Orestes escaped after murdering his mother, Clytemnstra.

The citadel’s main entrance was the Lions Gate named to the sculpture that sits above the entrance. Outside the walls of Mycenae was the residential area of the city, Grave Circle B, and various dome shaped tombs named beehive tombs for their shape, including the Treasury of Arteus and the tomb of Clytemnstra and the tomb of Aegisthus.

Archaeological studies suggest that Mycenae was a Neolithic Age site dating back to the 7th millennium BC. The bronze age settlements of the area occurred around 1700 BC as evidenced by Grave Circle B; in 1600 BCGrave Circle A was constructed as well as the first of the beehive tombs. The majority of the construction of the walls started around 1350 BC.

Mycenaeans enjoyed a prosperous rule over the Greek mainland and areas around the Aegean Sea in a highly organized feudal system. The civilization began to decline around 1200 BC and Mycenae was abandoned around 100 years later, the area remained uninhabited until the Greek Period.

Part of the area contains the Mycenae Museum. the museum contains jars, jewelry and bronze weaponry. Replicas of Schlieman’s most specular finds are also on display but the majority of the finds are in the Museum in Athens.

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