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New Video Shows Glory of Ancient Mycenae Palace

MycenaeThe ruins atop Mycenae have now been digitally recreated in all their splendor by the Mycenae Foundation and professors from the Democritus University of Thrace. Credit: David Monniaux/CC BY-SA 3.0

A new video shows in resplendent detail the recreated buildings and artwork of ancient Mycenae, from the throne room atop its highest hill to the lower town, including the interplay of dolphins on frescoes in one of the buildings.

Created by Professor Nikolaos Lianos, who teaches architecture at the Democritus University of Thrace, it is based on the findings of Professor Christos Maggidis, the director of the excavations of Mycenae’s Lower Town.

A piece of stone that was recovered in the excavations is part of the original throne on which the Mycenaean rulers sat, from which they would look down on a fire that was placed in the middle of the room.

Grecian Delight supports GreeceLion GateThe famed Lion Gate at Mycenae still stands despite the ravages of millennia. Its construction , with massive blocks, is part of what historians call “Cyclopean” construction, in which gigantic blocks weighing tons were used. Credit: Andy Hay/CC BY 2.0

Successive palaces built over the centuries

Ceramics spanning the entire Early Helladic age was discovered at Mycenae during 1877–78 by Panagiotis Stamatakis far down in the sixth shaft grave in Circle A. Later such material was found beneath the walls and floors of the palace, located on the summit of the acropolis, and outside the Lion Gate in the area of the ancient cemetery.

Mycenae developed into a formidable power from 1550 to 1450 BC, and is believed to have become the main center of all Aegean civilization through the fifteenth century. The Minoan hegemony of the area came to an end around 1450; there is evidence that Knossos, the site of the once magnificent palace, was occupied by Mycenaeans until it too was destroyed in approximately 1370 BC.

At a conventional date of 1350 BC, the fortifications on the acropolis of Mycenae were rebuilt in a style known as Cyclopean because the blocks of stone used were so massive that they were thought in later ages to be the work of the one-eyed giants known as the Cyclopes.

Successive monumental palaces were built inside these city walls — much of which can thankfully still be seen today. The final palace to be built, the remains of which are still visible on the acropolis, was constructed between 1400-1300 BC

Earlier palaces must certainly have existed, but they had been cleared away or built over. The construction of palaces at that time with a similar architecture was general throughout southern Greece. They all featured a megaron, or throne room, with a raised central hearth under an opening in the roof, which was supported by four columns in a square around the hearth.

A throne was placed against the center of a wall to the side of the hearth, allowing an unobstructed view of the ruler from the entrance. Frescos adorned the plaster walls and floor.

The room was accessed from a courtyard with a columned portico. A grand staircase led from a terrace below to the courtyard on the acropolis. The largest stones, including the lintels and gate jambs, weighed well over 20 tons; some may have been close to an astonishing 100 tons.

Mycenaean expansion throughout the Aegean continued until the massive disruption of society that occurred in the first half of the twelfth century, which brought about an end to Mycenaean civilization, culminating in the destruction of Mycenae itself around 1150 BC.

The eventual destruction of Mycenae formed part of the general Bronze Age collapse in the Greek mainland and beyond. Within a short time, by 1200 BC, all the palace complexes of southern Greece were burned, including the beautiful one at Mycenae.

This is thought to have been there result of a Dorian invasion of Greeks from the north, although many historians now doubt that this invasion caused the destruction of the Mycenaean civilization.

Displaced populations escaped to former colonies of the Mycenaeans in Anatolia and elsewhere after that cataclysmic event; all the Mycenaean centers throughout Greece were destroyed almost simultaneously.

Much later, in 468 BC, troops from Argos captured Mycenae, expelling what was left of the inhabitants and razing the ancient fortifications.

Revival — and abandonment once again

Mycenae was briefly reoccupied during the Hellenistic period, when it even boasted a new theater, which was located over the Tomb of Clytemnestra. The site was subsequently abandoned once again, however.

By the time of the Roman rule in Greece, its ancient ruins had become a tourist attraction. The ancient travel writer Pausanias visited the site and briefly described the prominent fortifications and the Lion Gate, still visible in his time, in the second century AD.

Pausanias also describes being led to the site by shepherds, showing that the surrounding area was never completely abandoned.

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