The Tyrant King – Mycenae

15th June 2006

Our next stop was going to be Mycenae, the city of Agamemnon. This was one places that I had been specifically interested in visiting and was one of three Bronze Age sites that I had structured my trip around, the other two being Knossos in Crete and Troy in Turkey. Mycenae was quite a long drive from Epidaurus and the scenery was amazing. Giant, rocky mountains rose from the most clear aqua green water I had ever seen; there were olive trees everywhere and small shrines by the side of the winding road. Antones told us that these shrines were where a car accident had been. Not necessarily a fatal accident, some were offering prayers to the dead others, thanks to God, because people survived. We drove past another steep ravine with the crystal blue sea meeting into it at the bottom and in the water were large rings which Antones told us were for oyster culture.

On the way to Mycenae, Antones asked us if we would like to make an unscheduled stop at a small Greek Orthodox Church. We all agreed we would do this, so we stopped at the small, beautiful church of Ayios Ioannes Eleimon. Antones told us that according to the Greek Orthodox religion churches were not allowed to be big, this made them humble and more approachable to the people, a notion which I thought made sense. The building was over 1200 years old with a stork and its nest perched on top of it. Antones said that this was a very common sight in Greece and also told us that this bird also only seems to perch on the roof of churches.

We entered the small church and there were paintings everywhere, Antones told us that these were icons and in the Greek Orthodox religion, the making of idols and three-dimensional images was forbidden. There were two rooms, one which we could go into and light candles and another in which only the priests were allowed. Beautiful gold decorations and incense burners hung from the ceiling and everywhere there were wonderful icons some inlaid with gold.

After the church we continued on to Mycenae and had lunch at a restaurant called Menelaus. The food was very nice, and I had authentic Greek Moussaka, which I thoroughly enjoyed, even if I did have to sit at a table by myself.

Before we moved on to the site, I had a wander around the area and found that every shop was named after one of the Greek characters in the Iliad. When I saw the Achilles parking lot, I thought to myself with a laugh, I’m not sure that’s what Achilles meant when he said he wanted his name to last through the ages.

We got back on the bus and headed for Mycenae, on the way we passed Tiryns another bronze age site I had wanted to see and gazed longingly out the window of the bus at its magnificent ruin. We arrived at Mycenae and were given our tickets and then walked up towards the famous lion gate.

Greek Orthodox Church near Mycenae
Inside the church of Ayios Ioannes Eleimon
Orthodox Church near Mycenae

The blocks making up the giant citadel were huge, almost as big as those used to build the pyramids of Giza. Antones told us that the people in the classical period thought that Mycenae had been built by giants. I approached the lion gate and could not believe that I was actually passing through the gates of Mycenae. We walked along a little further and came to what is known as grave circle A, where Heinrich Schliemann found the golden treasure, including the supposed gold mask of Agamemnon. Antones said we could have forty minutes free time, which I was horrified at, I thought I would need a whole day here, but then again, I would have stayed an eternity if I could have. I managed to find the Megaron, the main audience room in the palace and as I looked down into it, I thought, this is it, this is where the decision would have been made to start the Trojan War.

I reached the top of the citadel and looked out at the magnificent view of the plain of Argos, which had sustained the ancient city, the ruins of which could still be seen outside the citadel. I walked around the back of the citadel to the artisans’ quarters, there was no one else here and I enjoyed walking around on my own. We left Mycenae, again I bought some post cards and then headed for the Treasury of Atreus on foot.

The treasury of Atreus is supposed to be the tomb of Agamemnon’s father, but there is no evidence to suggest this is the case, it is however a spectacular example of a Mycenaean Tholos tomb. Tholos in ancient Greek means beehive and the tops of these tombs are built in a dome shape just like a beehive. The tomb was much bigger and imposing from the outside than I had imagined, you really do not get an accurate idea about these things from books I thought. We entered the tomb, which was empty of course and I looked up at the ceiling, which was quite epic and seemed to go on and on and whose bricks seemed to go around and around forever, it was a long way up and it was blackened by fire indicating people had once camped in here. There was a side room which was pitch black, which we all tried to peer into using the flashes from our cameras. I left the tomb and had a wonderful picture taken of me sitting outside of it.

We left Mycenae and were taken to a very expensive souvenir shop, which I bought nothing from, which I thought was very unlike me. We then drove on to our next stop, Olympia, home of the first Olympic Games. On the way we stopped at Megapolis Big City which was designed for the workers of nearby industrial plants and was now almost deserted. I again attempted to get myself a power adaptor so I could charge my video camera, but it was siesta time and as I wandered alone through the deserted streets, I realised again I was out of luck.

I went back to the group, who were all sitting at a coffee shop in the middle of the otherwise deserted square. There was one other person on the tour who was travelling alone, a young guy called Bruce. Bruce asked me where I had wandered off to and if I had found anything exciting, I told him about my power adaptor predicament, and he said that I could borrow his if I wanted. Fantastic I thought, now I can just enjoy myself. We got back on the bus and were taken to our hotel, the Amalia, which was very nice, I had again been given a double room. I went down to the lobby after getting my suitcases up to my room, to find that there were a few shops down there.

There was a vase shop in which I bought two beautiful Greek vases. A jug in the Archaic Style and a Vase in Geometric (my favourite) style. I spent a few minutes chatting to the friendly old shop keeper about how I could read Greek but not understand it and he said, “Next time I see you, I want to hear you speaking to me in Greek!” I then proceeded to the jewellery store where I was surprised to find the price of silver quite reasonable. I bought a pair of ear rings and a bracelet in the Greek key style. I immediately put the bracelet on and put the earrings away to give my Mum. That was her thing, I was collecting animals from everywhere I went, and she was collecting earrings, the last ones she had got were a pair of small gold masks from Venice.

Sitting outside the ‘Tomb of Atreus’ – a Mycenaean ‘tholos’ tomb

I took my purchases back to my room and then went down to the pool, where I sat with my feet in for a while, the water was lovely and cool after the hot, exhausting day I had just had. I then went off to dinner and actually sat with a very nice couple instead of on my own. Dinner was lovely and afterwards I went straight to bed exhausted from the day.

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