The Mycenaean's

Initially thought to be mythical people invented by the poet Homer. Were in fact, the first Greeks.

Key Map

Current Location of the Cities

Please refer to the clip on the Mycenaean’s uploaded on Moodle, before starting this presentation.

Fantasy or Reality?
 Mycenae was immortalized by Homer in his two famous poems, the Illiad and the Odyssey.

 Till the 1800, it was widely believed that the city of Mycenae and Troy were mythical cities coined by Homer for his poems.
 Archeologist Hienrich Schliemann through his perseverance proved to the world, that the Mycenaean's truly did exist.

Mythical Identity
 An ancient Greek myth tells us, that Mycenae was founded by the hero Perseus.  Who had asked a trio of one-eyed Cyclops to build the cities fortified walls.  Cyclopean Masonry was a term coined for this very reason.  In fact, the size of some of these blocks is equal to that of a small truck. The use of large fortification walls goes accord to this fact and is another characteristic fact about the Mycenaean architecture.

The Mighty Kings
 Agamemnon was the most famous of them, for his win over the city of Troy.  He was also known for his vast Citadel in Mycenae, which a crowing glory of the civilization

 Nestor is another famous king of Mycenae, he was immortalized by the Mycenaean’s by naming the Palace at Pylos after him.

Chronology
    Early Mycaeaean Age (1600 B.C.) Construction of the Lion Gate (1250 B.C.) Construction of the Treasury of Atreus (1250 B.C.) Decline of the Mycenean’s (1200-1100 B.C.)

Developments in Architecture
• The style of architecture used by the Mycenaean's in their cities developed during the Early Mycenaean period.
As with the art of the Mycenaean's, their architecture owes a great deal to the influence of the Minoans of Crete. The plan and layout of the Bronze Age cities on the mainland resemble the “palaces” of Crete in many ways, however, the Mycenaean's did develop their own style over the following centuries.

Developments in Architecture
 The characteristic features of Mycenaean constructions include the megaron, the use of extremely large blocks of stone, large fortification walls built around the cities, and corbel vaulting.  The major classes of building projects among the Mycenaean's include the palace, the city planning and fortifications, and their immense tombs.  In addition to the great architectural feats, the Mycenaean's also produced great engineering works in their system of roadways and waterworks.

Citadel of Mycenae

#1 Megaron
 The Minoan palaces were built around a large open courtyard, whereas the Mycenaean's preferred an indoor hall known as a megaron as the centerpiece of their palatial constrictions.  The megaron was a unique feature of mainland architecture, and could be found in the royal palaces as well as in many of the larger private homes.  A megaron is essentially a freestanding unit composed of a more or less square room entered at one side through a porch with two columns, the principal room was dominated by a round fixed hearth.

#1 Megaron
• Smoke from the hearth was allowed to escape through an opening in the roof. The ceiling was held up by four columns evenly spaced in a square around the hearth. Against the wall opposite the entrance way a throne was situated on a raised platform. The central hearth and the presence of the royal in the room have suggested to some that the megaron was the location of Mycenaean cult ritual. It should also be mentioned that the megaron was an early step in the evolution of the Classical Greek temple.

Evolution of the Greek Temples

#2 Cyclopean Masonry
• Cyclopean masonry is a term used to describe a type of megalithic architecture entailing the working of unusually large blocks of stone, often for the construction of fortifications. The term was coined by Greeks in the Classical Age, reflecting the belief that only the Cyclops, gigantic, one-eyed creatures of myth, could have been strong enough to manipulate stones so immense.

#2 Cyclopean Masonry
 Cyclopean masonry, developed by the Mycenaean Civilization of Greece stands in stark contrast to the types of construction favored by earlier Greek civilizations.  The Minoans, for instance, known for their spectacular palace complexes on Crete, used post-and-lintel construction almost exclusively.  The residents of Mycenaean citadels, however, found it necessary to build far greater fortifications than yet excavated on Crete. This need for security led to the use of Cyclopean masonry when constructing the extensive citadel walls enclosing the territory around Mycenaean palaces.

#2 Cyclopean Masonry
 The construction of the Lion Gate of Mycenae demonstrates the way in which Cyclopean masonry interacted with other types of stonework.  At this gate, the cyclopean fortifications are broken by an insertion of blocks worked with the ashlar technique, which makes the blocks lie in straight horizontal lines. The elegance of ashlar work seems to be reserved for this area around the gate.

#2 Cyclopean Masonry
• At Tiryns, Cyclopean masonry is used in an entirely revolutionary way. Although the fortress is enclosed with a wall apparently similar to that at Mycenae, the 10 meters or more thickness of the walls at Tiryns hide a secret. They are constructed in two parallel layers, leaving a hidden space in between, which would probably have been used for some sort of storage. On the outside, the walls would appear to be normal, Cyclopean fortifications.

#3 Fortification

The most striking examples of Cyclopean fortification from the Mycenaean period come from the citadels at Mycenae and Tiryns. Mycenae provides a perfect illustration of the typical use of Cyclopean fortification. The citadel walls are constructed of gigantic blocks of stone, some reaching eight meters in thickness. Mycenae is known for the three-stage construction of its walls. The cyclopean fortifications of Mycenae served to protect this precious resource.

#4 Corbel vaulting
• The other unique feature of Mycenaean architecture is corbel vaulting. This technique can be used to span arched corridors and circular domes in buildings and is often used to lighten the weight above doorways. The corbel vault is created by arranging courses of stones with each successive course projecting slightly more into the space, until a single stone can be placed over the top of the triangular arch. The tunnel at Mycenae leading to the “secret spring” and the tholos tombs of the Mycenaeans are the most recognizable uses of corbel vaulting.

#4 Corbel vaulting
 The tholos tomb became popular for the burials of entire royal families later in the Mycenaean period.  These tombs are known throughout Greece during the Bronze Age and are easily recognized by their bee-hive shape created by corbel vaulting of a round building.  This may have been the first of it’s kind.  The most famous of these tholos tombs by far is the so-called Treasury of Atreus discovered by Heinrich Schliemann.

#5 Palaces
 The palaces of the mainland Mycenaean's are sprawling buildings usually located at the center of the fortified citadel.  Within the palace complex residential space, storerooms and workshops were arranged around the central megaron, considered to function as the audience chamber for the royals. (E.g. Pylos)  Most were probably two-storied, but in all cases the second story has not survived and must be hypothesized from stairways.  The plan of the palace varies a great deal from site to site, but they all share the megaron as their central feature.  The construction of Mycenaean palaces was of rubble throughout, strengthened by a massive framework of horizontal and vertical timbers.  Outside, the principle walls were faced with fine limestone  The practice of using stone as a thin veneer of walls of inferior material was used, this may have been learnt from the Cretans, who used such techniques

#5 Palaces
 The palace at Mycenae was mostly destroyed by later construction on the site, so only small portions of the building are visible today.  The palatial complex at another major Mycenaean center, Tiryns, is slightly better preserved.  This plan features two megarons suggesting a public audience chamber as well as one reserved for more important visitors and family.

The Citadel of Mycenae
 The citadel of Mycenae was probably the greatest and the largest of all the Mycenaean cities.  Located on the top of a hill, the city was meant to take the fullest advantage of the natural defenses. The fortified wall surrounding the city was built up in progressive stages with the last section completed only a short time before the city was abandoned.  The city walls were immense, incredibly thick, and consisting of several ton boulders. The cyclopean walls of the city had thicknesses ranging from 6-7 meters.

The Citadel of Mycenae
 One of the most famous structures located within the citadels walls, is the Lion Gate.  Which is an architectural feat accomplished by the Mycenaean's, as they had mastered the corbelled arch by successfully erecting the arch.  Another structure located within the citadel is the Treasury of Atreus.  The most famous Tholos to be discovered, this structure is a testimony to the craftsmanship and engineering brilliance of the Mycenaean's.

Lion’s Gate Houses of Aristocracy

Courtyard Royal Palace Citadel of Mycenae

Lion Gate
 It is the entrance to the citadel at Mycenae, protected by a flanking bastion, it is located at the inner end of the citadel.  Great upright stones flanked 3.1m high support an immense lintel 4.9m long x 1.06m high x 2.4m deep, over an opening 3m wide.  Above is a triangular-shaped corbelled opening filled with a stone panel, bearing a carved relief depicting two lions facing a central column.

Lion Gate
 The central column is the sacred symbol of earth that is supposedly protected by Heraldic lions, indicating the power of the rulers of Mycenae.  The Lion Gate is representative of the world of the Mycenaean warlords and their semi-feudal society.
 The triangular arch above the lintel gave rise to the formation of sculptural pediment in classic Greek architecture.

Treasury of Atreus
 The Treasury of Atreus or Tomb of Agamemnon is an impressive "tholos" tomb on the Panagitsa Hill at Mycenae, Greece, constructed during the Bronze Age around 1250 BC.  These tombs were circular structures with corbelled domes of finely cut-stone and an approach causeway, or dromos.  The structures are called “tholoi” or bee-hive tombs.

Treasury of Atreus
 The tombs were subterranean.  First the dromos, inclined uncovered hall, was cut through a hill-slope. This was 36 meters long and built with drystone walls.  Retaining walls were built to secure the two-sides of the open passage.  Next, a circular area was dug out and the tomb chamber is built inside.  The dome which rose above the ground, was covered with earth.  The mound being supported by a circular buttress wall in line with the haunch of the dome.  A short passage led from the tholos chamber to the actual burial chamber, which was dug out in a nearly cubical shape.

Treasury of Atreus

Treasury of Atreus
 It is formed of a semi-subterranean room of circular plan, with a corbel arch covering that is ogival in section.  With an interior height of 13.5m and a diameter of 14.5m,it was the tallest and widest dome in the world for over a thousand years .  Great care was taken in the positioning of the enormous stones, to guarantee the vault's stability over time in bearing the force of compression from its own weight.  This obtained a perfectly smoothed internal surface, onto which could be placed gold, silver and bronze decoration.

Treasury of Atreus
 The entrance portal to the tomb was richly decorated: half-columns in green limestone with zig-zag motifs on the shaft, a frieze with rosettes above the architrave of the door, and spiral decoration in bands of red marble that closed the triangular aperture above an architrave.
 The capitals are influenced by ancient Egyptian examples.

 Other decorative elements were inlaid with red porphyry and green alabaster, a surprising luxury for the Bronze Age.

Pylos
 Is one of the main Mycenaean cities, which was famous for the Palace of Nestor, who was an elderly king well respected by the people.  The palace is a perfect example of the articulation and the artistic brilliance of the Mycenaean's.  The characteristic feature of this Palace is the huge megaron which is entered after crossing the courtyard.  The palace is not heavily fortified, this is an unique feature of this palace.  The old palace, the megaron and the queen’s apartment are different spaces located in the palace.  Two courts also existed in the palace.

Citadel of Tiryns
 The citadel which covers an area of approximately 20,000 sq.m, is built on a low rocky knoll, which rises barely eighteen meters above the Argive plain, and in the Mycenaean period was near the sea.  The Tiryns citadel is the second most important prehistoric Argive acropolis after Mycenae.  After 1400 BC, when the empire of Mycenae reached its peak, the fortified area of Tiryns was doubled, the whole hill was fortified with huge walls, with underground tunnels and corridors, and within that area was built and fortified the last (about 1200 BC) Mycenaean palace.

Citadel of Tiryns
 The extent of the citadel which surrounded by the wall, was divided into three levels: the maximum (24-26 m. height) to the south, where stands the Royal Palace, fortified in a separate wall, the middle level (24 m height), which served as the courtyard of the royal level in which were built the rooms of the other lords, and the lower level (16 m height) in the north, where the guards were stationed and where the rural population of the unfortified region around Tiryns forgathered, in case of invasion.  From the great gate of the wall performed the ascent to the upper level, and the entrance to the royal area was made through the main gate of the inner wall.

Citadel of Tiryns
 The citadel was a labyrinth of a structure. With provisions made during times of a siege.  Secret spring chambers located further north could be accessed during such times through two tunnel like passages, located in the west wall of the close.  The acropolis had a fortified main gate, which led to the palace with its large and small megarons (residential apartments), its courtyards and utility rooms.  The extensive storage rooms, built in the great girth of the fortification walls, were accessible through cramped corbelvaulted corridors, whose ceilings narrowed to a sharp angle at the top.

Into the dark ages
 Archeologists have shown that in the 13th century BC, the fortifications surrounding many Mycenaean cities were strengthened, and that sometime after 1250 BC, a number of sites were damaged by fire.  Mycenae, itself was dealt a series of savage blows from which they could never fully recover.
 Invasion of the Peloponnese by Dorian people from the north may have been a cause of the downfall of the Mycenaean's, but no such dramatic proof exists to support this statement.

Into the dark ages
 Thus, some historians believe that Mycenae’s downfall was caused from within-bought about by the chaos of internal strife and rebellion.  Another theory for the downfall of the civilization is that of Sea Peoples-bands of raiders who are referred to in Egyptian records as menaces.  They could have been responsible for unease among the Mycenaean’s, as a series of tablets found in Pylos record information about stationing troops along the coastline to guard against raids.

Into the dark ages
 When the Mycenaean civilization finally died, the Greek world went into hibernation.  When it awoke three centuries later, it scaled new heights of artistic and political achievement founded of the memories of the Mycenaean Age, from the Greek language to the Pantheon of the Greek gods.  Last but not the least of these survivals are the Homerian epics.  These kept the names of Agamemnon and Mycenae alive beyond the emergence of classical Greece to this day.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful