Greece in the bronze age, had several important centers, including Mycenae. Mycenae, city of Agamemnon, was one of several heavily fortified strongholds. The king lived in a place with many rooms which served as a military headquarters and a centre of administration for the surrounding countryside.Mycenae Tour Classical Tour Link to Top Destination in Greece
The Mycenaean's were warriors, and weapons and armor have been found in their graves. They were also great traders and sailed far and wide. Their civilization reached the height of its power in about 1600 b.c and eclipsed the Minoan civilization of Crete. All seemed secure and prosperous, but around 1300 bc. the Mycenaean's started to build huge defensive walls around all the major towns. The Mycenaean world was under threat from foreign invaders. By about 1200 b.c the cities began to be abandoned or destroyed.
"The lion's gate"
Mycenae is the region’s most famous site, its name linked with some of the most memorable myths of Greek epic poetry and tragedy. Of particular significance is its location–on a steep hill within sight of the fertile plain of Argos and the gulf of Nafplion, protected at the rear by two mountains and deep valleys. This is a typical choice for the settlement site of a wayfaring community. The main entrance to the citable of Mycenae was a monumental gateway in the walls, wide enough for carts to pass through.
The two lions decorating the famous gate to which they give their name
Encircling the acropolis are two rings of walls, the first built
in the 14th century B.C. using the cyclopean technique
of large, irregular blocks. The second, larger, ring of walls
of the 13th century was built of more regular blocks.
There were only two entry points:
The first was the Lion Gate (in fact they are probably two lionesses). The Lion Gate is now virtually a symbol of the land and its past and is one of many examples of the skills of Mycenaean architects. The second was the Postern Gate. This postern provided access along the northeast stretch of the walls, towards the mountain, it was clearly visible to the inhabitants but practically imperceptible to anyone approaching from outside.
Visitors to the site climb a ramp leading across the cemetery where huge mounds conceal “tholos” tombs (many of them still accessible), which have been attributed – with great leaps of the imagination – to figures from Homer’s epic tale: Atreus, Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.
The so-called “Treasury of Atreus” is a typical, imposing Mycenaean “tholos” tomb. Its approach is a "dromo" 36 m (118 ft ) long and 6 m (20 ft) wide, open to the sky and flanked by sloping walls of enormous blocks of stone arranged in regular rows. The interior of the Treasury of Atreus is built of beautifully regular courses of blocks, each projecting slightly beyond the one below to form the corbelled vault. From a technical and ideological point of view, the “tholos” tombs are one of the most interesting Mycenaean architectural developments. Stylistically, they can perhaps be seen as standing at an intersection between the long tradition of European (and Indo-European) megalithic structures and the tectonic gigantism of Near Eastern and Egyptian architecture.
According to the tradition Mycenae was founded by Perseus, the son of Zeus and Danae. Tradition relates that Perseus founded Mycenae and used the mythical giants, the Cyclops (giant builders who had but one eye in the middle of their forehead) to built its mighty walls, which are therefore called " cyclopean". The same giants had already built the walls of Tiryns (10 miles away). The last member of the Perseid dynasty was Eurystheus, the king who set his cousin Heracles the famous labors. After the death of Heracles, Eurystheus pursued his descendants into Attica, and there was killed by Lolaus. The Mycenaeans, obeying the Delphic Oracle, summoned Atreus and Theyestes, the two sons of Pelops, in order to choose one of them as king. Atreus won their favor and ascended the throne of Mycenae, however, he quarreled with his brother, who plotted against him with the help of Atreus' wife, Aerope, who was his lover. To avenge himself, Atreus invited him to dinner, where he offered the unsuspecting Thyestes the flesh of his sons"Thyestian Banquet". Thus he brought down on his own head the curse of the gods, thereby blighting his destiny and that of all his offspring Atreus' son.
The tragedy of the Atreids: After the Perseids came the Atreids whose complicated history its trail of vengeance and death has been told by Homer in the Iliad and by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides in their plays. The most well known of this accursed family are:
Atreus: son of
who killed the sons of his brother Thyestes
except the younger one and served them to him during
Menelaos: son of Atreus and king of Sparta, whose wife Helen was sedused by Paris, son of Priam, King of Troy, thus provoking the Trojan War.
Agamemnon: Menelaos brother,
King of Mycenae and husband of Clytemnestra,
Helen's sister; he was the leader of the Achaians in the expedition
against Troy, the King of Kings who ordered the sacrifice of
his daughter Iphigenia at Aulida (Evia) to obtain a favorable
Aigisthos: younger son of Thyestes who killed his uncle Atreus to avenge his father's death and became Clytemnestra's lover; she asked him to get rid of Agamemnon, just returned from Troy, and his captive Cassandra, Priam's daughter, known for her gloomy predictions which all refused to believe.
Orestes: son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, who was persuaded by his sister Electra to kill Clytemnestra and her lover Aigisthos; he was pursed by the Furies but acquitted on the Areopagos (Court) in Athens by a jury presided over by Athena and then purified by Apollo on the omphalos in Delphi before ascending the throne of Mycenae; he gave his sister Electra in marriage to his faithful friend.
For many years these people were thought to be legendary figures. As a result of Schliemann's discoveries, historians and archaeologists now think that they really existed but that their actions have been transported by the poets, above all by Homer. Mycenae was the richest and most powerful state in the Mediterranean world and had close relations with Crete and even Egypt.Link to Top Destinations in Greece Mycenae Tour
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