Sights in Mycenae

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Giant monuments in the 'Rich in Gold' Mycenae of Homer

For many centuries, this glorious land existed only in the imagination of poetry lovers. However, in 1876 Heinrich Schliemann having the epics of Homer as his “compass”, stepped on this historical earth and uncovered the palaces of Atreides and the glorious Mycenaean civilization in Greece during 1600 to 1100 BC. Today, the archaeological site hosts a number of impressive structures which are awe-inspiring with their size and elegance. Following the steps of Atreides, the visitors will admire the “Lion Gate” and a little bit further, outside the walls and west of the Lion Gate, the royal tombs.

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The Lion Gate of Mycenae

The Lion Gate of Mycenae was the entrance to the city. Atop the gate, two lions rampant are carved in stone relief. Similar bas-reliefs of two lions rampant facing each other are found in a number of places in Phrygia in Asia Minor. The resemblance in idea is complete,” wrote W. M. Ramsay in 1888. He considered the scheme “so peculiarly characteristic of Phrygia, that we can hardly admit it to have been borrowed from any other country.” He found himself “driven to the conclusion that the Mycenaean artists either are Phrygians or learned the idea from the Phrygians. It is not allowable to separate them [the Phrygian and Mycenaean monuments] in time by several centuries. The Phrygian monuments, in Ramsay’s view, belong to the ninth and eighth centuries. The end of the Phrygian kingdom is a fixed date, about 675 B.C.”6 when the invasion of Asia Minor by the Cimmerians put an end to the Phrygian culture and art. Ramsay went on: I do not think it is allowable to place the Mycenaean gateway earlier than the ninth, and it is more likely to belong to the eighth century.

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The Tholos tombs of Mycenae

Nine royal tholos tombs were built in the immediate vicinity of the Mycenaean citadel in the 15th and 14th centuries BC. The most monumental of these are the so-called ‘Treasury of Atreus’ and ‘Tomb of Clytaemnestra’, with imposing fagades, originally decorated with green serpentin and red marble. These tombs were named after members of the Atreides dynasty, known to us from Greek mythology and ancient tragedy. They were plundered in antiquity, but their characterization as ‘treasuries’ recalls the wealth of the grave gifts that they once contained.

The imposing and well-preserved Atreus tholos tomb is a stone-built, corbel-vaulted and pointed dome, 13.50 m. high with a diametre of 14.60 m. It has an adjacent rock-cut chamber, which measures 6.0×6.0x6.0 m. The tomb’s 10.50 m. high monumental facade has a 5.40 m. high and 2.70 m. wide entrance. Part of the facade’s architectural decoration is displayed in this room, while some fragments are kept in the British Museum.

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The Mycenaean Palace

A large palace complex has been found at most of the Mycenaean centres. These complexes, whilst displaying some site-unique developments, also display important architectural features in common. The complexes were built around a large rectangular central hall or Megaron.

The Mycenaean Megaron was the precursor for the later Archaic and Classical temples of the Greek world and consisted of an entrance porch, a vestibule and the hall itself. This was the heart of the palace and contained a large circular hearth (usually more than 3m in diameter) with four wooden columns supporting a holed ceiling or light-well. It was also the throne room of the ruler or wannax.

There is usually a second, smaller hall (Queen’s Megaron), many private apartments and areas set aside for administration, storage and manufacturing. Rooms were richly decorated with fresco paintings on the walls and plaster painted floors.

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Mycenae Museum

The Archaeological Museum of Mycenae is located at the entrance of the ancient site, close to the Lion Gate. It was completed in 2003 and it covers a spacious area that consists of three levels and only two rooms are used for the actual exhibition.

The collection includes ceramic, pottery, statues, wall frescoes and jewellery pieces of excellent designs. In one of the rooms you can see a copy of the Golden Mask of Agamemnon, found in the Treasury of Atreus whereas the original mask is held at the Archaeological Museum of Athens. The museum presents more than 2000 exhibits from the ancient site of Mycenae and its surroundings.

It is also worth mentioning that the museum is a perfect model of the ancient site of Mycenae and visitors can have a slight taste of its brilliant history or journey back in time. Source: www.greeka.com

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