Citadel of Mycenae

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The Citadel of Mycenae is a Bronze Age fortified acropolis-city located in the northeastern Peloponnese in Greece. It was a major center of Mycenaean civilization, which flourished from approximately 1600 to 1100 BCE. The Citadel is perhaps best known for its association with Agamemnon, the legendary king of Mycenae who led the Greek forces in the Trojan War.


The archaeology of the Citadel of Mycenae has been the subject of extensive research and investigation for over a century. The site was first excavated by Heinrich Schliemann in the late nineteenth century CE, and subsequent excavations have been conducted by a number of prominent archaeologists and institutions.

The remains of the Citadel of Mycenae include the massive Cyclopean walls that surround the city, as well as several palaces, tombs, and other structures. The most famous of these is the so-called "Palace of Agamemnon," which was the largest and most elaborate building on the site. The palace complex includes a central courtyard, a throne room, a large hall, and numerous other rooms and chambers.

In addition to the physical remains of the Citadel, archaeologists have also uncovered a wealth of artifacts and other materials that provide insight into Mycenaean life and culture. These include pottery, jewelry, weapons, and other objects, as well as inscriptions in Linear B, the earliest known form of written Greek.

The archaeology of the Citadel of Mycenae has been instrumental in our understanding of Mycenaean civilization, and it continues to be a subject of study and research for scholars and archaeologists around the world. The Citadel of Mycenae is considered to be one of the most significant archaeological sites in Greece, and it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Notable Structures

circa 3000-1000 BCE

Palace Complex
The palace complex of Mycenae was built on the summit of the hill. Most of the ruins visible today date to the thirteenth century BCE, but there is evidence that use of the site began in the Early Helladic period (circa 3000-2000 BCE). The principal part of the palace complex comprises a large court and a megaron, consisting of the entrance portico, the prodomos (antechamber) and the domos of the main hall which had a large circular hearth at the center. The throne stood half way along the south wall of the domos, which had collapsed down the hill-side, together with the south-eastern part of the room and was reconstructed recently. The megaron was the political, administrative, military and economic hub of Mycenae. It was destroyed, possibly by fire, in the late thirteenth century BCE. A part of it at least was perhaps rebuilt in the twelfth century BCE, by which time, however, it had lost the glory it once enjoyed until the end of the previous century.

circa 2000 BCE

Ramp House and House of the Warrior Vase
The two houses are situated to the south of the Grave Circle A. The "ramp house" had at least two storeys, but only the foundationsof the ground floor have survived. It was named after the little ramp alongside which it was built.

The House of the Warrior Vase was named after the famous krater decorated with a representation of Mycenaean warriors. The building consists of basements and store-rooms, as is indicated from a storage jar (pithos) containing carbonzed olives and by bronze vases found inside it. Burials of the Middle Helladic and the early Late Helladic period were found in both houses, indicating that this entire area was previously part of the so-called Prehistoric cemetery, which occupied the western slope of the hill before the fortification walls were built.

circa 2000 BCE

Grave Circle A
The structure known as the Grave Circle A forms part of an extensive cemetery of the Middle Helladic and the early Late Helladic period, which extended on the western side of the citadel. It was used exclusively for royal burials during the sixteenth century BCE. It contained six shaft graves (I-VI), five of which were excavated by H. Schliemann in 1875 CE and one by P. Stamatakis in the following year. The graves were marked by stone stelae and were occupied by inhumations of members of a family, furnished with particularly luxurious grave goods, which are now on display in the National Archaeological Museum at Athens. Initially, Grave Circle A lays extra muros. Around 1250 BCE, however, and with the extension of the cyclopean wall westwards, the royal burial ground was included within the area of the citadel and was enhanced by the construction of a circular enclosure.

circa 1600 BCE

Northern Quarter
The north-quarter appears to have been in use from the Middle Helladic period. It was utilized fully in the second half of the thirteenth century BCE, when a four room building of large dimensions and rectangular plan, a complex of adjacent rooms comprising two separate building complexes, corridors, courtyards and an extensive system of drains and conduits were constructed. The area was destroyed by earthquake and abandoned, subsequently habitation resumed only in the Hellenistic period.

On the north slope of the citadel a triangular space was formed which was occupied by two main building complexes: a two-storey building, of smaller dimensions, with megaron-type plan on the ground floo and a triangular open space to the east, and a complex of four successive storerooms. The buildings are separated from the cyclopean wall by two corridors, which are at least two meters deep, due to the configuration of the high terraces.

circa 1350-1250 BCE

Cyclopean Wall
The acropolis hill of Mycenae, where the rulers of the city had the seat of their power and activity in a grand palace, was surrounded by imposing fortifications which were constructed during the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries BCE. Mycenae, Tiryns, Midea, Athens, and Gla havewalls that surpass twelve meters in height and seven meters in width, and were provided with monumental gates and corbelled passages to underground water reservoirs. The palace of Pylos was not fortified, while according to written sources the wall of Thebes had seven gates. At the end of the thirteenth century BCE, extensive disasters of the palatial centers and their fortifications indicate the gradual decline of the Mycenaean civilization.

The fortification wall of the Mycenaean acropolis follows the natural contour of the ground and is founded directly on the outcropping bedrock. It is roughly in the shape of a triangule and covers an area of approx. 30,000 square meters with length reaching 900 meters at its longest.

The cyclopean wall was built in three construction phases. The oldest fortification, which dates to 1350 BCE (LH IIIA2), contained the highest part of the hill. For the construction of these walls boulders of hard limestone bedrock were used. During the second phase around 1250 BCE (LH IIIB2), the Lion Gate, the North Gate and the western extensions were built. At the same time the field area of the Grave Circle A was included inside the fortifications. The principal material of themasonry in this phase consisted of ashlar conglomerate blocks. During the last phase, at the end of LH IIIB2, circa 1200 BCE, the fortification was extended to the north-east, while the material used in its construction was exclusively the hard-limestone. The north-east extension was built to secure the safe access to the underground cistern, north and outside the acropolis.

circa 1280 BCE

The granary building, located north of the Grave Circle A, was identified as a granary because of the carbonized cereal grains found in its two surviving basement rooms. Its form is adapted to the cyclopean wall, which it abuts on its northern side. It comprises two corridors and a staircase that led to at least two apartments at ground level. The granary's significance is due to the special class of pottery recovered here, which is conventionally known as the granary-class and represents the last phase of local artistic creation. The building of the granary is dated to the late thirteenth century BCE and its destruction has been dated to the mid-twelfth century BCE.

circa 1280 BCE

Great Ramp and Hellenistic Chambers
The sloping ascent to the top of the citadel was remodelled from scratch in the late thirteenth century BCE, acquiring the form of a wide, monumental ramp. It is supported by a cyclopean retaining wall and was paved with this slabs ofschist. The ramp begins from the inner courtyard of the Lion Gate, follows the incline of the rock andsteps at its southern end.

South of the of the end of the ramp lies a suits of four Hellenistic chamers. Their function was possibly related to the processing and dyeing of textiles, which is indicated by the items recovered here. These activities have been attested elsewhere on the site in this period as well, in the area of the cult center.

circa 1275 BCE

Artisans' Quarter
Together with the "House of the Columns", the artisans' quarter belongs to the east wing of the palace. An extensive building complex, almost square in ground plan. It was two-storeyed, as indicated by the presence of a staircase in its north-west corner. Only the foundations have survive today.

The quarter was laid out in two rows of rooms, on either side of a narrow courtyard, at the north end of which was the entrance. The building was characterised as an "artists' workshop" on the basis of some items recovered from here, which included, unfinished ivory objects, raw materials, gold leaf, remnants of semi-precious stones, etc. It is dated to the second half of the thirteenth century BCE and was destroyed by conflagration at the end of the same century.

circa 1275 BCE

House of Columns
The House of Columns is probably the most important building on the eastern slope of the citadel. At its north-western corner, where the main entrance was situated, are reserved the door-jambs and the threshold of the conglomerate. The house ower its name ot the existence of a colonnade in its centralcourtyard. Further south survive the basement storerooms. The buildingis date to the second half of the thirtenth century BCE and was destroyed by fire at the end of the same century.

circa 1250 BCE

Building Gamma
This structure is situated on the north side of the triangular open space north of the Artisans' Quarter and the House of Columns. Its construction is adapted to the natural configuration of the ground. Only the basement of the building are preserved today. It appears to have been used in the middle years of the thirteenth century BCE and was destroyed by fire at the end of the same century.

circa 1250 BCE

The North (Postern) Gate
The north-gate was constructed during the second building phase of the cyclopean walls (circa 1250 BCE). Four monolithic blocks of conglomerate ('almond stone') from the two jambs, the lintel and the threshold. The gate was closed with a double wooden door, bolted by a sliding bar. Instead of a relieving triangule it has two plain vertical slabs set on edge above the lintel, thus transferring the weight to the two doorposts. Inside the gate is a small internal court, from which a road led up to the megaron. The special care with which the two large gates of the citadel were built attests to the Mycenaean masons' expertise.

circa 1240 BCE

Lions' Gate
The Lions' Gate of Mycenae was the main entrance to the acropolis citadel, which was always visible througout the centuries. The monolithic threshold, lintel and jambs are of conglomerate ('almond stone'). The relieving triangule above the lintel is carved with a relief of two lions facing each-other. It is believed to be the oldest monumental relief in Europe. The heads ofthe animals, which have not survived, where probably of steatite. The gate was installed with a double door, secured by a sliding bar. It is dated circa 1240 BCE, and it contemporary with the second building phase of the citadel. Beyond the entrance to the acropolis-citadel, on the east wallof the courtyard formed within the gate, a small room served as a "shrine of the gate".

circa 1225 BCE

Building Delta
This building lies to the north of the "House of Columns" and east of the triangular open space, with whichit communicates through a courtyard. It includes two rows of three basements and a row of another two rooms further south. West of these are the remnants of a staircase, which indicates the existence of an upper storey. The building was erected in the thirteenth century BCE and destroyed at the end of the same century.

circa 900 BCE

Archaic Temples
The acropolis or the citadel was not deserted after the destruction of the Mycenaean palace. Continuity of habitation at the site is confirmed by large quantities of pottery, several graves and a few buildings. Remains of a Geometric settlement (circa ninth till eighth centuries BCE) were revealed in the palace court, while the existence of a Geometric sanctuary a little to the north is conjectured. During the Archaic period (circa last quarter of seventh century BCE), a temple with a rectangular cella was erected on top of the hill. The discoveries from hereinclude unique reliefs, outstanding among which is the head of a female figure, in mature Daedalic style. The later Hellenistic temple was built upon the foundations of the Archaic one in the early third century BCE, keeping the plain design of its predecessor. An altar was possibly built further to the south, on a lower terrace. Only scant architectural remains of the Hellenistic temple have survived. Athena or Hera was the goddess worshipped in both temples.

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See Also


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