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    Ancient Mycenae Greece

    North of Nafplio (Peloponnese) lies the ancient fortified city of Mycenae. From the village of Phichtia, which is located on the main road between Corinth and Argos at a approximately 8 kilometres outside Argos, an asphalt road runs through the contemporary village of Mycenae (former Charvati). There is an road which leads uphill towards ancient Mycenae Greece.

    Lion gate - Mycenae

    Where is Mycenae Greece

    To the left of this road, the openings of small chamber tombs (a few of the many that have been excavated in this area) are quite visible. The rock, or chamber tombs, which are carved out of the stony slopes, usually consist of one “four-sided chamber,” or upon rare occasions, a circular one, which could be approached through a “dromos” (in other words, a ditch which sloped downward towards the opening of the chamber).

    The fortress is entered through the Lion Gate, named after the two magnificent lions (now unfortunately headless) carved into the rock above the doorway. Within the walls, excavations have uncovered the palace complex, while close by on the hill of Panagitsa, the Treasury of Atreus (an underground tomb, 36m (118ft) long and 6m (20ft) wide) is considered the most impressive example of Mycenaean architecture.

    Agamemon maskThe tombs of Mycenae

    Entrance to Agamemnon tomb Map of Ancient Mycenae Mycenae Lions gate Mycenae museum - Greece Mycenae fortrees - Greece Where is ancient Mycenae on map The main monuments outside which was the prindcipal inhabited part, the Acropolis of Mycenae, are tombs. The so-called Treasury of Atreus, is located closer to the road. It is the larges and most impressive of all tombs that have been discovered in Mycenae. Its »dromos« is 36 metres long, 6 metres wide, and its side walls are lined with largew solid ashlar breccia masonry, fitted in horizontal courses.

    It was the terrible legends which sprang from the dramatic adventures of the Royal House of Mycenae which inspired poets and dramatists.Agamemnon, the principal Monarch of the Dynasty, strongest King in Greece at this period, King of Kings, was chosen as military leader of the Greeks in the great expedition against Troy (Trojan war: 1180 B.C.). After the Troyan War was over, Agamemnon returned home victorious, bringing with him as his mistress Kassandra, daughter of the King of Troy.

    Tombs at Mycenae prior to the 14th Century B.C. were in the form of deep flat pits. After the 14th Century, they were built on enbtirely different lines. Apparently the Atreidae wished to emulate the grandeur of the Egyptian Pharaohs tombs and constructed great domed sepulchral chambers, which even today are most impressive.

    Ancient MycenaeNine tholos tombs of ancient Mycenae

    Of the nine t h o I o s tombs which are known in Mycenae, the seven are located in the hills to the left of the road, at a shorter or longer distance from it . Only two have been located to the right, the so-called tombs of Clytemestra and Aigisthos, which were built in the area of the “middle helladic cemetery”, in the immediate vicinity of the Lion Gate.
    The so-called Treasury of Atreus , is located closer to the road (to the left, as one ascends towards the acropolis). It is the largest and most impressive of all the tombs that have been discovered in Mycenae. Its “dromos” is 36 metres long, 6 metres wide, and its side walls are lined with large solid ash lar breccia masonry, fitted in horizontal courses. Its doorway, “stomion”, measures 5,40 metres high, 2,66 metres wide, at the lower, and 2,46 metres at the upper level.

    A double door used to close the opening, this being quite evident from the pivot-holes on the threshold and lintels. The façade of the entrance was framed on either side, by engaged columns of green alabaster, each with sculptured decorations on the surface. Similar relief-decorations had been carved on the stone slab which covered the triangular relieving opening. The lintel consisted of two blocks of stone, the innermost of the two being the largest, with a length of 8 metres, a width of 5 and breadth of 1.20 metres. Its weight has been calculated at 120,000 kilos. This block had been pulled up a dirt ramp which was then cleared away, after the stone had been placed in position.

    Lion gate MycenaeIt had, then, been carved to follow the concave inner surface of the tholos . The “Treasury of Atreus” has a diameter of 14,5 metres, and a height of 13.2 metres. The tholos had been constructed in the corbelled manner, with dressed ashlar blocks, in 34 horizontal courses (the dome is not constructed on the vault principle: the courses simply project one over another, uncemented. by decreasing the diameter of the concentric circles. The top was covered by a single stone, hollowed on the underside to continue the curve of the tholos. This stone is the “key” of the tholos. The embedded bronze pins apparently fastened rosettes of bronze, or other decorative motifs of the interior surface of the tholos. A smaller irregularfour-sided chamber adjoins the tholos on its northern part. Its opening is 2,5 metres high and 1,5 metres wide. The triangular relieving opening above the lintel, as well as the pivot holes on the threshold, prove the existence of a double door. The remaining tholos tombs of Mycenae do not have this adjoining chamber. The imposing “Treasury of Minyas” at Orchomenos has such a chamber, as well as other smaller tholos tombs in other parts of Greece.