tiryns

The Tiryns Signet Ring, Late Helladic period, c. 15th century BC

This is the the largest known Mycenaean ring. It was found in a robber’s cache at Tiryns, a Mycenaean city of Argolis in the Peloponnese and is kept at the National Museum of Athens. The ring is thought to have been made by a Cretan artist visiting Argolis and is a copy of a fresco at Tiryns.

It depicts a procession of lion-headed daemons holding libation jugs and moving towards an enthroned goddess. The goddess wears a long chiton and raises a ritual cup. Behind the throne is an eagle, a symbol of dominion. The sun and moon are shown in the sky above.

The Late Helladic period (c. 1500-1060 BC) is the time when Mycenaean Greece flourished under new influences from Minoan Crete and the Cyclades. Around 1400 BC, the Mycenaeans extended their control to Crete, the center of the Minoan civilization. Crete had  been crippled by the eruption of Thera (Santorini),  thus leaving it vulnerable.

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National Archaeological Museum / Archaeological Site of Tiryns:

Murals from both the later and earlier palace of Tiryns. Female figures in procession bringing offerings to a deity, women on charriots observing a hunt, while the hounds have already overpowered the boars and an attendant on foot.

The presence of women in religious processions as well as hunts is a sign of their elevated status in the Mycenaean world.

Did an Earthquake Destroy Ancient Greece?

The grand Mycenaens, the first Greeks, inspired the legends of the Trojan Wars, “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” Their culture abruptly declined around 1200 B.C., marking the start of a Dark Ages in Greece.

The disappearance of the Mycenaens is a Mediterranean mystery. Leading explanations include warfare with invaders or uprising by lower classes. Some scientists also think one of the country’s frequent earthquakes could have contributed to the culture’s collapse. At the ruins of Tiryns, a fortified palace, geologists hope to find evidence to confirm whether an earthquake was a likely culprit.

Tiryns was one of the great Mycenaean cities. Atop a limestone hill, the city-state’s king built a palace with walls so thick they were called Cyclopean, because only the one-eyed monster could have carried the massive limestone blocks. Read more.

Cyclopean Tiryns

The archaeological site of Tiryns is one of two great cities of the Mycenaean civilization, the other being Mycenae. They dominated the Mediterranean from the 15th to 12th century BC, playing a vital role in the development of classical Greek culture, architecture and urban design. These two cities are forever linked to the Homeric epics, the Iliad and The Odyssey which have influenced European art and literature for more than three millennia.

Tiryns had been inhabited as a hill fort since the Neolithic period. The oldest structure on the upper citadel is from the early Bronze age (c. 3000 BC). A new fortified palace complex was constructed in the 14th century BC and the defenses were extended in the early 13th century BC along with the Lower Citadel fortifications.

Tiryns reached its height between 1400 and 1200 BC.  Its most notable features were its palace, its cyclopean tunnels and especially its walls, which gave the city its Homeric epithet of “mighty walled Tiryns”. Tradition also associates the walls with Proetus, the sibling of Acrisius, king of Argos. According to the legend Proetus, pursued by his brother, fled to Lycia. With the help of the Lycians, he managed to return to Argolis. There, Proetus occupied Tiryns and fortified it with the assistance of the cyclops, because only giants of superhuman strength could have lifted the enormous stones. The city was also linked to the myths surrounding Heracles, as this is where he recieved his 12 labors with some sources citing it as his birthplace.

Tiryns went into decline at the end of the Mycenaean period (c. 1100 BC) and in 468 BC, Argos completely destroyed both Mycenae and Tiryns. When Pausanias the geographer visited in the 2nd century AD, the city was deserted. He made the remark that that two mules pulling together could not move even the smaller stones of the walls of Tiryns.

National Archaeological Museum / Archaeological Site of Tiryns:

Gold signet ring. The largest extant Mycenaean ring. It depicts a procession of lion-headed daemons. holding libation jugs and moving towards an enthroned goddess. The goddess wears a long chiton and raises a ritual vessel. Behind the throne there is the eagle-symbol of dominion. The sun’s wheel and crescent moon appear in the sky (15th century B.C)

A Japanese museum said it has confirmed 28 original drawings from German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann’s report on ancient Greek ruins that could shed light on the excavation of a fabled palace.

Schliemann (1822-1890), who won fame for his discovery of the legendary city of Troy in Greek mythology, is also known for his unearthing of the remains of a Greek palace named Tiryns. The Tenri University Sankokan Museum said Nov. 26 the original drawings contain notes handwritten by Schliemann. A report on the discovery of Tiryns featured drawings and other materials and was released in 1885. However, journals and other information describing the excavation of the ancient palace do not exist. Museum officials said the drawings they possess are precious primary historical materials that can explain what happened during the excavation process. “The drawings depict the remains and relics with extreme accuracy in terms of scale and other aspects. Their quality reaches the most advanced level in the 19th century, a developing era for archaeology,” said Yoshiyuki Suto, a professor of Greek archaeology at Nagoya University Graduate School. “Because they include detailed instructions for publishing the report, we can learn what processes the drawings underwent until the release of the report,” he added.

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This last week has been a journey of incredible historical interest. I have toured the Peloponnese and have visited the sites of Homeric, Archaic, and Classical Greece.

After four days of relaxation on Kalamata and Nauplio, I made my way to “mighty-walled Tiryns” and marvelled at the incredible Cyclopean walls and tunnels which have remained intact since at least 1500 B.C. Tiryns is well known for its large megaron which was the main throne room and political, economic, and cultural hub of Mycenaean-age Greece. Walking through the halls, I couldn’t help ponder that I was taking the same steps that a Mycenaean wanake (warlord) would have taken. In the megaron, the bases where four Minoan columns would have stood. As well as this, the outline of the hearth was still visible.

After this, I paid a visit to the Heraion (temple of Hera) which is situated on the plains of Inachos in Argos. The remains of a late Geometric Heraion survives on the top of the hill, but the Classical Heraion is better preserved; so much that meander patterns are still visible on some of the stone blocks that would have belonged to the temple. A bass relief depicting two peacocks (sacred birds to Hera) was still visible and incredible well-preserved. On the base of a stone was visible the marks where a statuette (possible dedicatory) would have stood. Below this, the faint scratchings of an inscription could be seen and I imagine the person who would have made the inscription. I walked through the remains of a Classical stoa (sheltered portico) where citizens would have gathered to discuss the news of the day.

I next travelled to the citadel of Mycenae, the legendary home of Atreus and his two sons Agamemnon and Meneláos. Defensive fortifications remained intact and the view from the megaron was incredible - I was instantly transported back to Mycenaean Greece. Above all, the Treasury of Atreus was the most interesting site at Mycenae. The gargantuan tomb would have once housed the bier of an important Mycenaean warlord elite, but it is interesting in that the tomb was reopened and another room was made, most likely for a relative.

Following these three sites, we drove to my hometown, Amaliada where I stayed for four days. The days were spent at the beach while the nights were filled with beer drinking and philosophical discussion attempting to come to a conclusion as to what the best Greek song is. I quickly realised that, in true Socratic manner, a conclusion was not supposed to be made and that this discussion could continue till our dying day.