The Lions of Mycenae

Trip Start Sep 07, 2008
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Trip End Dec 09, 2008


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Flag of Greece  , Peloponnese,
Sunday, November 9, 2008

From Tyrins, we drove to Mycenae (my-SEE-knee), the ancient kingdom of Agamemnon and Menelaeus who fought the Trojan War. The stone blocks of these ruins are so huge that the later Greeks couldn't believe that mere humans could have built it, so they called it Cyclopean architecture because it must have been built by giants.

The most iconic image of the huge ruins at ancient Mycenae is the Lion's Gate. The lintel stone across the entrance gate is not very strong, so the triangle shape is meant to relieve pressure from the slab. Then the Mycenaeans added a lighter stone with a lion motif. The lions' front paws are resting on Minoan altars, and between them stands a Minoan pillar (which you will remember is thicker at the top than at the bottom), representative of the palace they protect. "Definitely a power statement," Indy said.

The artists who sculpted the Lion's Gate had actually seen real lion because the reliefs are anatomically correct down to the ropy artery running down the lions' legs. We have evidence that lions once roamed Greece. There were lion bones found on the ancient Tyrins site, and we know that once upon a time, Macedonian aristocrats could not recline with the older men at meals until they had killed a lion in single combat. But after so many young men came of age in this way, Greece was bereft of all its lions.

We all posed for a picture under the Lion's Gate. Sunshine first took the picture with Groom's big fancy camera, and then with my camera as a backup. We were glad she did, because Groom went to show the picture to a friend later, and accidentally deleted it from his digital memory! The picture was safe in my camera, though, and here it is.

Indy led us through the ruins, and we finished at the Treasury of Atreus, the famous tholos tomb. This tomb is built into the hillside with a triangle corbel over the doorway and a beehive roof beyond. It was gigantic inside. But it didn't really belong to a king of the House of Atreus, because archaeologists believe it was built too late for that.
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