Monday, September 03, 2007


After enjoying the delightful evening in Nauplio, it was all I could do to wait until the next morning to visit Mycenae. We backtracked past Tiryns, whose monstrous walls were calling out to us, and continued on the same road that brought us to Nauplio. Coming from that direction, we took a right onto a smaller road leading to the site, and went through the nearby town with no shortage of theme-based restaurants and gift shops.

The hilltop housing the citadel is visible as you ascend the only road and pass the Treasury of Atreus. As you walk up the path leading to the Lion's Gate entrance, you can see the results of excavation just outside of the walls (look for some great work soon on extra-palatial economics by Panagiota Pantou). The Lion's Gate itself was as impressive as I had imagined, although there were no herds of tourists filing through in my mental image. As you enter, on the right, is the famous Grave Circle A, from which we have many of the famous artifacts uncovered by Schliemann, and which must have been important to the inhabitants, as it was included within the city when the Cyclopean walls were assembled. Farther into the distance is the road and the Treasury of Atreus, and the lower landscape dotted with fields which must have sustained the citadel in ancient times. On the opposite side of the site is a dramatic downward drop, and then the quick, steep, rocky rise of the mountains.

The path winds upward to the site's very pinnacle, where the court and megaron were located. From this height there is an astounding view of the surrounding landscape that must have been a rewarding sight for a ruling king.

The path continues downhill to the rear of the site, with a smaller northern gate, and a subterranean stairway leading to a cistern. We walked curiously down the initial flight of stairs into the dark tunnel, and then paused for a bit, looking down into the complete darkness. There was no warning to stop, or of any danger, but it would have been impossible to continue without some kind of lighting. We decided to take a picture with the flash, which showed more stairs, with metal braces holding the ceiling up, continuing around the corner to the right.

Standing at the very top of the site I could not help but imagine Agamemnon, looking out proudly over the fields before his kingdom, like the king on the Shield of Achilles (Iliad 18.556): βασιλεὺς δ᾽ ἐν τοῖσι σιωπῇ | σκῆπτρον ἔχων ἑστήκει ἐπ᾽ ὄγμου γηθόσυνος κῆρ. The Treasury of Atreus, which sits several hundred meters from the citadel, deserves its own post, coming soon.


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