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Ancient Mycenae


The acropolis

Eastern Peloponnese is dotted with ancient Greek sites. A lot of the stories you've read in your history books have taken place here. The landscape is largely unspoiled and if you pay close attention to the geographic morphology, a lot makes sense.

The site of Mycenaean acropolis for example, is set up on a small hill, slightly inland from the Argolikos Gulf - this part of the Peloponnese is called Argolis.
The first thing you spot when you stand on top of the acropolis is the surrounding landscape. Rolling green hills succeed each other, slightly turning bluish in the distance, finally meeting the Argolic Plains, cascading all the way to the sea. You soon realise why this would be a strategic spot to build this ancient city-state on.

The city of Mycenae was King Agamemnon's home.
This probably rings a bell because he was King Menelaos's brother and he commanded the Greek fleet to Troy, when Helene of Sparta was abducted by Paris of Troy.

In my mind, Agamemnon has always been a tragic figure, played out every summer in the ancient theatre of Epidavros, which is also in the area. One of my favourite places in this world - indulge me for a moment.
In Euripides's drama 'Ifigeneia en Avlis', Agamemnon is the tragic figure of the general leading the Greek army to Troy, only to be told that he has offended goddess Artemis, hence there is no wind to help the Greek fleet sail to Troy. He is the tragic father that has to sacrifice his older daughter to appease godless Artemis.
Then in Aeschylus's drama 'Oresteia', upon his return from Troy, he is killed by his wife's lover, in revenge for sacrificing his daughter.

I do admit that it all sounds rather sad and barbaric to our 2020 ears. But putting it in context, with a nod to accepting that as humans we have hopefully developed emotional intelligence since 4th century BC and with the memory of powerful actors' voices reciting in ancient Greek, echoing around the impressive, open-air, stone theatre, these were some of the best summer treats of my childhood.


Looking out from Mycenae's main entrance


There are two main sites included in the ticket: the main acropolis and Atreus's Treasure.

The main acropolis was the heart of the city-state.
The most famous, surviving feature is Lions' Gate. Two stone-carved lions feature above the city's main gate, making this one of the few surviving Bronze-age sculptures that have stood in open air since their construction. The city also features Cyclopean walls - a euphemism for the massive boulders used to erect the city walls.

A short walk from the acropolis is the second site, that of the 'Treasure of Atreus' or 'Agamemnon's  Tomb'.  Walking around a pine forest, you soon come across a man-made corridor structure, leading to a small opening on the side of the hill. No other sign points to this excellent example of archaic architecture. This chamber on the side of the hill, houses what used to be the tallest and widest beehive dome in antiquity.

35-metre entranceway to Atreus's Treasure {also known as Agamemnnon's Tomb}

Practicalities:
- 1.5hour drive from Athens, ideal for a day trip.
- Self-drive: Highway for most of the way, with tolls. Last 5 miles are on small regional roads.
- Opening hours here.
- My suggestion: base yourself in romantic Nafplio for the night and take your time exploring the area. (a guide to Nafplio)

Lions' Gate marked the entrance to the royal part of the Acropolis.
Winter sunshine peaking through the pine trees on the slopes of Atreus's Treasure.

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