In the second millenium B.C., Mycenae was a great military stronghold that dominated a large part of the south of Greece. The highlight of the Mycenaean culture was between 1500 and 1200 B.C. and it was at this time that a large part of the acropolis of Mycenae was built. Today, this acropolis is a famous archeological site. The walls that are still standing, show us how great the building skills of the myceneans were and the many golden treasures found at the site tell us about the history of the kingdom where king Agamemnon once reigned, who led the Greek soldiers during the Trojan War.
Mycenae was discovered by Heinrich Schliemann. He was an autodidactic German archaeologist, who became a millionaire, so that he could finance his own archaeological excavations. After discovering Troy, he started excavating in Mycenae, in gravecircle A. He found a golden deathmask and claimed that he had “gazed upon the face of Agamemnon.” Archeologists later discovered that the mask was made 300 years before Agamemnon lived, but at least Schliemann confirmed that Mycenae had indeed been a beautifully built city, rich in gold, just like Homer described in his Iliad.
Looking back, it’s not strange that Schliemann thought he had discovered the grave of Agamemnon. The story goes that Agamemnon returned from the Trojan war to his wife Clytaemnestra, but both had an affair while the war was going on. Agamemnon returned home with his mistress and his newborn twin boys, but she murdered him, his mistress and his newborn children, together with her lover. Since Schliemann also found the body of a woman and of two little infants, both covered entirely in gold, he automatically assumed that this must have been the grave of Agamemnon. It’s still unknown where Agamemnon is really buried. Maybe he was buried in a great tholos grave outside of the city, called the Treasury of Atreus (named that way by Schliemann, but it’s actually a grave), but some local tales tell that he is resting in the mountains visible from the acropolis, since they have the shape of a sleeping person.
When visiting Mycenae, I was really amazed by the great architecture. The walls that are now about 3 metres high, used to be 6 metres high and the lion’s gate was beautiful. This acropolis must have been impenetrable. Because of the rocks underneath the walls, putting ladders up against the walls was impossible and so was digging a tunnel. The only way to attack the acropolis was to attack the lion gate with a maximum of three soldiers at a time, while you were being shot at by archers from everywhere. A little further from the acropolis also lies the Treasury of Atreus and the dome inside this grave was the greatest dome ever built until the Pantheon in Rome was built in the first century B.C.
Most of the treasures from Mycenae are on display in Athens, in the National Archeological Museum. It was a nice combination to see Mycenae and then see the treasures found on the site in Athens. Most of the objects are made of pure gold or precious stones, so the treasures were beautiful to see.
Hannibal’s hometown and what’s left of it – Carthage, Tunisia
One man’s ruin is another man’s treasure – Sidi Bou Said, TunisiaNo wonder the Italian king made this his holiday residence – Rhodes, Greece