Mycenae

By the Editors of the Madain Project

Mycenae, an archaeological site found in the north-eastern Peloponnese region of Greece, is situated close to Mykines in Argolis. It is positioned approximately 120 kilometers (75 miles) to the south-west of Athens and 48 kilometers (30 miles) to the south of Corinth.

Overview

During the second millennium BCE, Mycenae was a significant hub of Greek civilization and a military stronghold that had control over southern Greece, the Cyclades, Crete, and some areas of southwest Anatolia. The period of Greek history ranging from about 1600 BCE to roughly 1100 BCE is referred to as the Mycenaean era due to Mycenae's dominance during that time.

Mycenae, an important center of the civilization, dominated the Eastern Mediterranean from the fifteenth to the twelfth centuries BCE and played a vital role in the cultural development of Classical Greece. The citadel is indissolubly linked with the Homeric epics, the Illiad and the Odyssey, that affected the European art and literature for more than three millennia.

The Lions' Gate, the Treasury of Atreus, and the walls of Tiryns are among the impressive architectural marvels that can be observed in Mycenae and Tiryns. The Mycenaean civilization has had a significant impact on Greek architecture and urban planning. Mycenae and Tiryns are considered to be the most notable examples of the early stages of Greek civilization, and they offer a valuable glimpse into the political, social, and economic development that occurred during the Mycenaean era.

Notable Structures

circa 1450 BCE

Tomb of Aegisthus
The beehive or the tholos tomb is conventionally named after Aegisthus. The structure, form, and size put its date of construction as the earliest (circa fifteenth century BCE) tombs at Mycenae. It was dug out of the natural hillside, west of the Lion Gate and its basic structural feature is the use of small stones. Both sides of the dromos (passage) are lined with stone masonry set in yellow clay mortar. The chamber is constructed of successive courses of blocks in the corbelled system.

circa 1350 BCE

Citadel
The acropolis or the Citadel of Mycenae is the most typical and impressive example of the Mycenaean architecture. It served as the seat of the administration of the realm and of its various activities, while the subjects dwelt outside the walls, in small settlements. The strong ramparts were built in three different phases (circa 1350, 1250 and 1225 BCE). The fortified area was almost triangular in shape and occupied a surface of approximately 30,000 square meters.

circa 1300 BCE

"Treasury of Atreus"
The tholos or the "beehive" tomb dubbed as the "Treasury of Atreus" or the "Tomb of Agamemnon" is one of the most splendid monuments of Mycenaean architecture. Built between 1350 and 1250 BCE, it consists of a dromos (passage), stamion (entrance), tholos (vaulted chamber) and a small side chamber. Distinctive features of its construction are the use of magalithic elements in the entrance (jambs and lintel) and its carefully dressed masonry.

The monumental facade was decorated with a variety of materials. Parts of the sculpted decoration are today housed in the British Museum, London, and the National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

The tomb was found robbed, like all the tholos tombs, and there is no information on either the grave goods or the burials it once housed. It was never buried by earth and has always remained visible, attracting the attention of ancient and later travellers.

circa 1260 BCE

Tholos Tomb of Clytemnestra
The tholos or the "beehive tomb" ascribed conventionally to Clytemnestra is the latest of the funerary monuments at Mycenae, constructed circa 1300-1220 BCE. It was discovered by chance by local villagers. The dromos (passage) was blocked at the south end by a low wall of poros. The stamion (entrance) was closed by a doubledoor. The facade of the tomb was decorated with two engaged gypsum half-columns, which have not survived, as well as with sculpted ornaments. The area was buried in Hellenistic era and a theatre constructed, on top of it stone seats of which can be seen above the dromos of the tomb.

circa 650 BCE

Agamemnoneion
The Agamemnoneion was one of the most important shrines of ancient times in the vicinity of Mycenae. It was located approximately one kilometers south-west of the Acropolis. Excavations in the area brought to light the architectural remains of a rectangular building.

Stratigraphical information revealed from these excavations showed clear use of the area from the late geometric (circa 700 BCE) to the Hellenistic period (circa 200 BCE). The earliest form and plan of the shrine remains unclear. However, during the Hellenistic period, the shrine was repaired and transformed into a temenos. Most of the artefacts found here come from an archaic depost that contained among other items geometric and archaic argive pottery and archaic figurines, all of which appear to be offerings to male gods or heroes. Inscribed shards referring to Agamemnon, have led to the identification of this small sanctuary as a shrone of the local hero and protagonist of the Homer's Epics; Iliad and Odyssey.

Notes

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See Also

References

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