Tours in Greece



Greece in the bronze age, had several important centers, including Mycenae. Mycenae, city of Agamemnon, was one of several heavily fortified strongholds. The king lived in a place with many rooms which served as a military headquarters and a centre of administration for the surrounding countryside. The Mycenaean's were warriors, and weapons and armor have been found in their graves. They were also great traders and sailed far and wide. Their civilization reached the height of its power in about 1600 b.c and eclipsed the Minoan civilization of Crete. All seemed secure and prosperous, but around 1300 b.c the Mycenaean's started to build huge defensive walls around all the major towns.

The Mycenaean world was under threat from foreign invaders. By about 1100 b.c the cities began to be abandoned or destroyed. The two lions decorating the famous gate to which they give their name "The lion's gate" Mycenae is the region’s most famous site, its name linked with some of the most memorable myths of Greek epic poetry and tragedy.
 Of particular significance is its location on a steep hill within sight of the fertile plain of Argos and the gulf of Nafplion, protected at the rear by two mountains and deep valleys. This is a typical choice for the settlement site of a wayfaring community.

There were only two entry points: The first was the Lion Gate (in fact they are probably two lionesses). The Lion Gate is now virtually a symbol of the land and its past and is one of many examples of the skills of Mycenaean architects. Co to Top

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The second was the Postern Gate. This postern provided access along the northeast stretch of the walls, towards the mountain, it was clearly visible to the inhabitants but practically imperceptible to anyone approaching from outside. The main entrance to the citable of Mycenae was a monumental gateway in the walls, wide enough for carts to pass through.  Encircling the acropolis are two rings of walls, the first built in the 14th century B.C. using the cyclopean technique of large, irregular blocks. The second, larger, ring of walls of the 13th century was built of more regular blocks.

Visitors to the site climb a ramp leading across the cemetery where huge mounds conceal “tholos” tombs (many of them still accessible), which have been attributed – with great leaps of the imagination – to figures from Homer’s epic tale: Atreus,Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. The so-called “Treasury of Atreus ” is a typical, imposing Mycenaean tholos tomb.

 Its approach is a dromo 36 m (118 ft ) long and 6 m (20 ft) wide, open to the sky and flanked by sloping walls of enormous blocks of stone arranged in regular rows. The interior of the Treasury of Atreus is built of beautifully regular courses of blocks, each projecting slightly beyond the one below to form the corbelled vault. From a technical and ideological point of view, the tholos tombs are one of the most interesting Mycenaean architectural developments.  Stylistically, they can perhaps be seen as standing at an intersection between the long tradition of European (and Indo-European) megalithic structures and the tectonic gigantism of Near Eastern and Egyptian architecture.

Mycenaean Mythology:
According to the tradition Mycenae was founded by Perseus, the son of Zeus and Danae. Tradition relates that Perseus founded Mycenae and used the mythical giants, the Cyclops (giant builders who had but one eye in the middle of their forehead)  to built its mighty walls, which are therefore called "cyclopean". The same giants had already built the walls of Tiryns (10 miles away). The last member of the Perseid dynasty was Eurystheus, the king who set his cousin Heracles the famous labors. After the death of Heracles, Eurystheus pursued his descendants into Attica, and there was killed by Lolaus.

The Mycenaeans, obeying the Delphic Oracle, summoned Atreus and Theyestes, the two sons of Pelops, in order to choose one of them as king. Atreus won their favor and ascended the throne of Mycenae, however, he quarreled with his brother, who plotted against him with the help of Atreus' wife, Aerope, who was his lover. To avenge himself, Atreus invited him to dinner, where he offered the unsuspecting Thyestes the flesh of his sons  "Thyestian Banquet". Thus he brought down on his own head the curse of the gods, thereby blighting his destiny and that of all his offspring Atreus' sons. Co to Top

After the Perseids came the Atreids whose complicated history its trail of vengeance and death has been told by Homer in the Iliad and by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides in their plays. The most well known of this accursed family are: Atreus: son of Pelops ( Olympia More...), who killed the sons of his brother Thyestes except the younger one and served them to him during a banquet. Menelaos: son of Atreus and king of Sparta (Sparta More...), whose wife was sedused by Paris, son of Priam, King of Troy, thus provoking the Trojan War. Agamemnon: Menelaos brother, King of Mycenae and husband of Clytemnestra, Helen's sister; he was the leader of the Achaians in the expedition against Troy, the King of Kings who ordered the sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia at Aulida (Evia) to obtain a favorable wind.
Aigisthos: younger son of Thyestes who killed his uncle Atreus to avenge his father's death and became Clytemnestra's lover; she asked him to get rid of Agamemnon, just returned from Troy, and his captive Cassandra, Priam's daughter, known for her gloomy predictions which all refused to believe. Orestes: son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, who was persuaded by his sister Electra to kill Clytemnestra and her lover Aigisthos; he was pursed by the Furies but acquitted on the Areopagos (Court) in Athens by a jury presided over by Athena and then purified by Apollo on the omphalos in Delphi before ascending the throne of Mycenae; he gave his sister Electra in marriage to his faithful friend Pylades.
For many years these people were thought to be legendary figures. As a result of Schliemann's discoveries, historians and archaeologists now think that they really existed but that their actions have been transported by the poets, above all by Homer. Mycenae was the richest and most powerful state in the Mediterranean world and had close relations with Crete and even Egypt.    Mycenae Tour More...

Ancient Acropolis of Tyrins

Set on a bluff in the centre of a plain, the fortress of Tiryns is a Cyclopean structure dating from the 18C BC, a well preserved masterpiece of ancient military architecture. According to legend Tiryns was founded before Mycenae by Proitos aided by Cyclops from Asia Minor. Co to Top

Acropolis: "Wall - girt Tiryns" as Homer described it, stands on a long and narrow rocky limestone bluff, only 20 m above the surrounding plain, but the sea came in closer in antiquity so that its isolated position and the strength of its walls made it almost impregnable. The ruins now visible, cover an area measuring 300x45- 100m and comprise the palace on the upper level and on the lower an elliptical precinct enclosing buildings for military, religious and economic use and to house the service quarters. Ramparts: 7-10m wide and about 1500m long, the walls reach 7.50m high in places. They were compared by Pausanias to the Pyramids and their Cyclopean structure using roughly shaped stones, up to 3.50x1.50m in size, is very impressive.

The ramp, which was broad enough for a chariot, leads up to the main entrance to the acropolis: an attacker advancing up the ramp would have been exposed on his right-hand side (unprotected by his shield)  to projectiles hurled by the defenders; the gateway, which was closed by wooden doors, was reinforced by two flanking towers. On passing through the gateway, turn left into the passage enclosed between the outer wall and the wall of the palace which is 11m high at this point, it was a real death trap, if the attackers managed to force the gate they could easily be annihilated at this point by projectiles hurled from every side

Like Mycenae it came under Perseus' rule, then it was governed by the son of Perseus and Andromeda, Alkaios, who was succeeded by Amphitryon. Amphitryon: king of Tiryns, had married his cousin Alkmene. Zeus who was captivated by Alkmene's beauty, took advantage of one of Amphitryon's absence to introduce himself to Alkmene disguised as her husband.

 Following her union with first a god and then a mortal Alkmene gave birth to two sons: the one, lacking in ability, was called Iphikles and took after Amphitryon while the other, brave and strong, was called Heracles (Hercules) and took after Zeus. As a demigod, although only 18 months old, Heracles was able to strangle the serpents sent to kill him by Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus. Later in life in a fit of madness Heracles killed his children, and the Pythia at Delphi ordered him to enter the service of Eurystheus, king of Argos, who set him the Twelve Labors to accomplish: to strangle the Nemean lion, to execute the many - headed hydra of Lerna, to run down the hind of Ceryneia, to capture the Erymanthian boar, to cleanse the Augean stables, to destroy the Stymphalian birds, to tame the Cretan bull, to capture the man - eating horses of King Diomedes, to obtain the girdle of the Amazon queen, to carry off the cattle of Geryon a three -headed monster, to fetch the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides and finally to bring back Cerberus from Hades.

In the Achaean period (13 C BC) Tiryns was subject to Mycenae and under Agamemnon took part in the Trojan war. During the Dorian invasion (12 C BC) it was an independent kingdom with about 15,000 inhabitants. The acme of Tiryntha had a rapid fall when Argives destroyed it at 468 bc because it did not declare subjugation to their kingdom. Mycenae Tour More...

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