The fortified citadel of Mycenae is 90km south-west of Athens and just 21km south of Corinth. Mycenae is one of the most important archeological sites in Greece, giving its name to a whole civilization, the Greek bronze age between 1700BC and 1100BC and according to mythology it was the home of Agammemnon and Menelaus.
The archeological site is about 1km up the hill from the modern village of Mykines and up until the site was excavated in 1874 by Heinrich Schliemann (he also excavated Troy) the Mycenaean civilization was thought just to be myths and stories. Even in classical times the town of Mycenae/Mykines had little power and influence, for the Romans who were interested in books like the Iliad and the Greek myths it was just a tourist attraction. But this all changed when digging in Grave circle A Schliemann discovered a skull with a golden funeral mask and said "I have gazed upon the face of Agammenon".
The Lion Gate is probably the most striking thing that people remember about Mycenae. This emblem of two lions above the main gate of Mycenae was built in the 13th century BC when the walls were aligned to enclose the Grave circle A. The two lion emblem is probably the first emblem in European history.
The Cyclopean walls were built out of huge stones and boulders and were up to 14m (46ft) wide in some places, this type of walls are common among all Mycenaean citadels; Tiryns, Orchomenos, Glas etc. The masonry is so big that the classical Greeks believed that they were built by Cyclops (one eyed giants) as normal humans could never have built walls with such huge rocks.
Grave Circle A
Grave circle A is to the right of the path as you enter Mycenae through the Lion Gate. This circle shaped area contained six royal family shaft graves and when excavated 19 bodies and about 4kg of funeral goods including the mask of Agammemnon were found. Just up from the the circle graves are the remains of houses, it was here that the linear B tablets were found and deciphered in 1952.
The Royal Palace is on the summit of Mycenae and was the home of the Royal families, all that remains now are the floors. Even today you can see the burn marks on the floor where the palace was destroyed at about 1200BC.
The Megaron is joined to the back of the Royal Palace and was the hub of social and political life in Mycenae.
At the very back of the citadel is a secret stairway with 99 steps leading down to a sister which is connected to a spring by pipes. This was to make sure they had a water supply even in times of siege.
Tholos Tombs of unique to the Mycenaean civilization, unlike the Greeks of Classical times who cremated their dead, the Mycenaean buried their dead. Tholos Tombs were huge bee-hive like tombs built in to the landscape using successive circles of masonry closed by just two single stones and covered with earth with an open air corridor (Dromos) leading to the entrance of the tomb. Ten of these Tombs have been discovered just outside the walls of Mycenae, so far. The two most famous Tholos tombs are the Treasury of Atreus and the Tomb of Clytemnestra which is just west of the Lion Gate.
Treasury of Atreus
The Treasury of Atreus is at the southern end of the site on the road in. It is the best preserved tomb at Mycenae and was built in the 14th century BC. It is one of only two tombs in Greece to have a double chamber, the ossuary, this was a small room next to the main to keep the remains of previous burials.
The huge tholos where the body of the king was put also contained weapons food and drink to help the deceased on his journey to the afterlife. The Treasury of Atreus had a 36m (120ft) dromos leading to the tomb, at the entrance of the tomb is 9m (30ft) long lintel stone stands weighing 120 tonnes, it is still a mystery today how this huge stone was hoisted into position 3400 years ago. The Treasury of Atreus is also known as The Tomb of Agammemnon.
Mycenae (Mykines) - Information
Mycenae is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, giving its name to whole civilization (Mycenaeans). Mycenae was the home of Aggammemnon, leader of the Greeks at Troy.
Location - Mycenae is in the North-East of the Peloponnese just off the main road between Corinth and Nafplio.
Getting to Mycenae: Mycenae is about an hour and a half drive from Athens. There are also many organized day trips to the site from Athens, alot of these also include seeing other sites near Mycenae like Epidaurus, Corinth and Nafplio.
Entrance fee: The entrance fee to Mycenae is 8 Euros, this includes the museum and the Treasury of Atreus which isn't in the main site.
Opening hours: (summer)Daily 08:00 - 19:00. (Winter)Daily 08:00 - 15:00. Closed on all public holidays.
Tips: Try and make the day of it as there are other places to visit near Mycenae, such as Nafplio, Epidaurus, Corinth and Nemea.