Friday, October 15, 2004

Mycenae, Epidauros, and Corinth

On Thursday, we took the charter bus with Alexandros, our driver.  Anis was back as our tour guide.  We drove down into the Peloponnese first.  The are we went to was very rocky, with mountains and olive groves.  Our first stop was a beehive tomb.  It was very near--and part of--the ruins of Mycenae.  The tomb is empty now, but it was probably the burial place of some of the royals or very high-ranking officials of the city.  It was build into a hillside, with high retaining walls leading to the huge door.  There probably was a wooden door originally.  The lentil over the door weighs thousands of pounds; it's amazing that they were able to get it up there, without modern tools, more than three thousands years ago.  

The beehive tomb (properly called a Tholos) at Mycenae is called the Treasury of Atreus.  It's the best preserved of the Mycenaean tombs.  It was named after Atreus, the ancestor of Agamemnon, by archaeologists, although no one really knows who was buried there.  The tomb was probably constructed in about 1250 BC. Over the doorway, there is a triangular relief hole, which was typical of Mycenaean architectural style (we saw them repeated in most of the gates and buildings in the are that survives).  Inside is a large room with one small side room set back into the hill; it is from inside that the beehive name makes sense as the walls taper to a conical ceiling.  The walls of the tomb were built by laying row after row of stone blocks, each circle a little smaller; then, the overlapping stone on the inside was cut off to make a smooth dome wall. 

Next, we went just a little ways down the road to the ruins of the ancient city of Mycenae.   I was excited to see the famous lioness gate; we'd studied it in Western Heritage.  We were all disappointed to see that there was scaffolding around it.  The lionesses are carved facing each other as a triangular slab that fit into the traditional triangular hold in the main gate. 

Just inside the gate was a grave circle: nineteen bodies, I believe, were found in six graves, including two babies.  The grave was excavated in the 1800s.  The treasure found in the graves is now held in the National Museum in Athens.  It is really amazing and shows the great wealth and power Mycenae had at its zenith.  There were solid gold--so thin they looked like aluminum foil--face masks, and two outfits of pure gold for the two babies, as well as many other things buried with the dead. 

Mycenae is built on a hill.  The palace would have been on the top, surrounded by other homes and public buildings.  No buildings stand now, but part of the city wall (with the lioness gate) stands, and the foundations of many buildings are visible.  It was fascinating to walk around a place built 3500 years ago.  The Mycenaeans were the ancients to the ancient Greeks; the Iliad is probably about the beginning of the end for the Mycenaeans. 

One of our sights to see for our Western Heritage journal was the royal staircase, which received a lot of derision in the journal, since it is now little more than a particularly rocky hillside.  Robert and Joe used the rocky landscape to film a short reenactment of the scene from The Lord of the Rings, where Sam carried Frodo up the side of Mount Mordor.  Robert played Sam, and Joe played Frodo. 

After we left Mycenae, we went to Epidauros to see the best-preserved ancient Greek theater.  Several of us first were more interested in seeing the W.C.


Post a Comment