Overview: Mycenae, this is an eerie place where a curse once lay -
tormenting a whole royal family with a cruel destiny. Mycenae is a
fascinating place, and walking through the Lions' Gate you become part
of the past, and it is not hard to imagine the drama that once took
place here. Myth and history intertwine, leaving only the ruins as a
Mythology: Mycenae was once a mighty kingdom
of Ancient Greece,
and its ruler,
Agamemnon, was considered
one of the greatest of them all. When his brother
Menelaos beautiful wife
Helen was abducted by the
Paris, the history of Greece was to come into one of its most famous phases: The Trojan War.
But there were many events preceding the above. The founder of the Mycenaean
kingdom was the hero
Perseus. When the last descendant of him, king Eurystheus - the one who had ordered the labours from
Heracles - died, the people voted for
Atreus to be their new king. When Atreus brother
Thyestes seduced his wife, he took his revenge by killing Thyestes two sons, and then serving them to their
father. Filled with rage and disgust, Thyestes cursed Atreus and his children,
and only unhappiness was to haunt them thereafter.
Atreus two sons were Agamemnon and Menelaus. Agamemnon, who was the oldest,
inherited the kingdom of Mycenae, and Menelaus became king of Sparta. They
married the two sisters
Clytemnestra and Helen
respectively, and were at first very happy. This was not to last, though.
When the Trojan prince Paris was called to decide who of the three goddesses
Hera, Athena and Aphrodite was the most beautiful, they each tried to bribe him.
Aphrodite had promised him the most beautiful woman in Greece, and when Paris
chose her, Helen was his prize. With the help of the goddess, Helen went to Troy
with Paris, leaving the outrages Menelaus to declare war on the Trojans. He
asked his brother for help, and together they raised an army of Greek kings and
When Agamemnon was about to leave, he had left Clytemnestra with a singer,
whose beautiful songs were to prevent her from falling in love with any
other man. She was already very upset with her husband, since he had
sacrificed their daughter
Iphigenia to the
Artemis. Then Aegisthus arrived.
Aegisthus was the result of Thyestes incestuous rape of his own daughter
Pelopia. He had killed Atreus and ruled Mycenae with Thyestes for some time,
but when Thyestes died, the throne was taken by Agamemnon. Filled with hate
against Agamemnon he decided to do everything in his power to seize the
throne, and when the king had to leave for the Trojan War, he saw his
At first, Clytemnestra resisted him, but when Aegisthus realized the reason
was the singer, he took him away from there. The couple then ruled Mycenae in
the king's absence, and as soon Agamemnon had returned, they murdered him.
Orestes was to revenge his
fathers' death by killing his mother and her lover, and after a long time of
persecution by the
Furies he was finally cleared of the crime.
Orestes then married Menelaus and Helen's daughter
Hermione, and so the
kingdom of Mycenae and Sparta were united. After some time Heracles' descendants
came and overthrew the king, and so, the cycle was complete.
History: The site of Mycenae was first excavated in
1874 by Heinrich Schliemann, the German amateur archaeologist
who had also discovered the ruins of Troy. There is evidence
that it was already inhabited in the 5th Millennium BC, but its
true greatness came during the Late Bronze Age (1400-1200) when
it was a strong military and economical power. Because of its'
outstanding position, it was to name the whole civilization in
Greece of this time.
It was now that the Lions' Gate was built, and in the whole area
new buildings were added or old ones repaired. A magnificent
palace was constructed, and the site was surrounded by great
walls. The Treasury of Atreus was also built, a grave chamber
shaped as a dome. The city was crowned with an acropolis even
before the Mycenaean civilization, and the location of the site
was very strategic.
In the surroundings there were many buildings from the ancient
city: houses, bakeries, workshops, a granary etc. There was also
an extensive plumbing system that provided Mycenae with fresh
Even though the archaeological evidence speaks against that the
famous golden mask of Agamemnon actually belonged to the famous
king, it is one of the most famous findings of the ancient
world. It is on display in the National Archaeological Museum of
Athens, along with several other objects from the excavations in
Mycenae. Several of the tombs in Mycenae have also been named
after the family of Atreus. There is Agamemnon's tomb, the tomb
of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus' tomb at the so called Grave Cycle
Mycenae was almost completely destroyed by a fire in the 12th
century. The Mycenaean civilization declined, but the area was
still inhabited. It is believed that it was abandoned in the 3rd
The Museum: The findings from Mycenae can be viewed in
the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, but all over
Greece there are also smaller museums that hold Mycenaean
Getting There :Mycenae is situated on the Peloponnese
in the prefecture of Argolis. There are several buses that go
there, and the best connections are from Athens. You can either
go on your own or on one of the many organised excursions that
are offered by travel agencies.