Mycenae

by Cristina on January 8, 2008

by Cristina | January 8th, 2008  

Mycenae circle tombMycenae, home to Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, is one of the must-see attractions of the Peloponnese peninsula. Once a thriving fortress, it launched the “Mycenean Period”, when the leaders dominated Crete and all the islands in the Aegean. Although its political influence in the region was immense, Mycenae is best known for its mythology.

Location

At about 2.5 hours away from Athens, in the North-East part of the Peloponnese peninsula, there stands the ancient town of Mycenae.

Origin of the Name

Antinous 2, one of Penelope’s suitors, remembered that the city was named after a beauty of ancient time, Mycene. She was the daughter of the river god Inachus.

Others suggest that the city was named after Myceneus, grandson of Phoroneus, who was the first man, king of the land later called Peloponnesus.

Some suggest that Perseus 1, arriving at the site where the ruins of Mycenae stand now, dropped the cap (myces) from his scabbard. He considered it a sign and decided to found the city on that location. Also, it’s said that once Perseus 1 was thirsty and picked up a mushroom (myces), drinking the water from it, hence naming the city Mycenae.

Evil Aura ?

Many visitors swear that there is sort of an evil aura around the site, mostly at noon when the sun hits the bare rocks. However, it’s most likely dehydration because on summer days the tourist facilities on site seem to run out of bottled water really fast.

But there is something mysterious about Mycenae. The circle graves seem to create dizziness as you walk around the narrow curving passageways.

Mythology

Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, married Clytemnestra, while his brother Menelaus, king of Sparta, married Helen (Clytemnestra’s sister). Helen, who was very beautiful, was offered by Aphrodite to Paris, a Trojan prince. Helen went willingly to Troy with Paris. This made the brothers angry and Agamemnon arranged to go to Troy and get Helen back. Artemis, the goddess of hunt and moon, stopped the winds from blowing, punishing Agamemnon for killing one of her deer. She made Agamemnon sacrifice his daughter to make peace with her and bring the wind back. He did as the goddess said and they could now leave for Troy. This started the Trojan war, as described by Homer in The Iliad.

During the war, Clytemnestra fell in love with Aigisthos. They ruled over Mycenae together after driving Agamemnon’s children –Orestes and Electra- into Exile. When Agamemnon returns from the war, the two killed him in his bath.

After ten more years, Orestes visited the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and the Oracle told him to slay his mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover in order to avenge his father’s death. And so he did. But because he killed his mother, The Furies chase Orestes to Delphi where he was told to go to Athens and ask forgiveness from Athena. He went to Athens and was put on a trial. Because the jury reported a six six tie, Athena had the final vote and declared Orestes not guilty. Also Athena asked The Furies to spare the city from destruction. The Furies became the Eumnides, blessing Mycenae with fertility.

What to See

Mycenae -Lion GateThe city of Mycenae is located on a hill, overlooking the Valley. On the hill there are the remains of the Acropolis and the city walls.

The site is particularly popular among tourists because of the royal tombs and the Lion Gate. It’s one of the most recognizable items of world architecture. Did you know that the lions are actually…lionesses?

The first circle of royal tombs was discovered before any of the tombs at Mycenae. The first circle comprises 6 toms and here archeologists found eight men, nine women and two children, as well as 30 pounds of gold.

The second circle of royal tombs –located outside the Acropolis – are much older than the ones in the first circle and offered archeologists a lot of useful information about the city.

Don’t miss visiting the Treasury of Atreus, where a large tomb is located: the Tomb of Agamemnon. The impressive monument was built in 1250 BC. The admission fee is included in the ticket bought to visit Mycenae.

Tips

Be careful what shoes you are wearing when visiting Mycenae. The ramp leading to the Lions Gate was meant to throw attackers off of their feet and it seems to do a great job at that with visitors as well. The site is pretty challenging if you are not used to hiking on rocky terrain and if you are unsure on your feet. Be careful if you use a camcorder and walk backwards to shoot…you may just land on your behind without even noticing on time!

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