Mycenae, a city of the first Greeks

Ron Current
Ron Current

We left ancient Olympia and traveled a little over a hundred miles to the eastern side of the Peloponnese to another of my must visit places, the citadel of Mycenae. Mycenae is both a part of Greek mythology and Greek history, and one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece. Greek mythology says that the first Greek hero Perseus founded Mycenae and that it was the home to the great king Agamemnon, who led the Greeks in the Trojan War. Before the Mycenaean civilization the area of the southern Greece was influenced by the Minoan’s from Crete. Many of the early Greek Mythology stories centered on the conflicts centered on the interactions between these two early civilizations.

 The citadel of Mycenae

The citadel of Mycenae

Historically Mycenae was the center of the late Bronze Age Mycenaean civilization (1600-1100 B.C.). The Mycenaean’s have been deemed the first true Greek culture. However archaeological finding have shown that the rocky hill on which the citadel sits had been inhabited since Neolithic times. What you first see when you arrive at the site is the remains of the massive citadel wrapping itself around and across the hill, which stands over the plan at a height of around 150 feet. The entire area of the city of Mycenae covered nearly 15 km around its center hill. At its peak, at around 1350 BC, the estimated population of Mycenae was around 30,000.

The Lions Gate of MycenaeIt was at this time the fortifications on the acropolis were rebuild in a style known as cyclopean. The meaning of the word was that the stones used were so massive that only the mythological one eyed giant Cyclops could have moved them. It was in this walled acropolis citadel that the palace of the king stood.
You enter the citadel through the famous Lion Gate, and once inside, on your right is the famous circle tomb, in which Heinrich Schliemann discovered the beaten gold death mask that he mistakenly said was that of the famous king Agamemnon. The circle grave of Mycenae

As for what could have been Agamemnon’s tomb, outside of the citadel is one of the Beehive tombs (they are called this by its construction which looks look the inside of a beehive) called The Treasury of Atreus.

The Treasury of Atreus. Agamemnon’s tomb?
The Treasury of Atreus.
Agamemnon’s tomb?

This tomb is deemed to better date to the time period attributed to that of the mythical Agamemnon. So the Treasury of Atreus could very well be Agamemnon’s tomb. So closely is king Agamemnon connected to this city and the area that a mountain to the southeast, which is clearly seen from the top of the citadel, is called the sleeping king. This mountain does look like a reclining man.

The mountain of the King
The mountain of the King

Mycenae and the Mycenaean civilization played an important part in development of the classical Greek culture, and also because of their link to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, have influenced European art and literature for more than three millennia.

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