Mycenae Lions Entrance

Mycenae, the Ancient city founded by Perseus


Mycenae was once a very powerful kingdom in ancient Greece. King Agamemnon was considered to be one of the greatest leaders of his era (not to be confused with the distorted, Hollywood portrayal of him in the film Troy).

Mycenae’s story goes back to the hero Perseus, who created the Mycenae Kingdom. Perseus was another demigod of ancient Greece, a son of Zeus and Danae. Perseus was aided by many gods, including Athena. Many mythical features are assigned to Perseus, like the famous winged shoes of Hermes which allowed him to fly, and the helmet of Ares (Mars) which could make him invisible. Perseus’s accomplishments included killing the sea monster sent by the god Poseidon to destroy Aethiopia, thus freeing Andromeda, and killing the mythical beast Medusa whose head could turn anyone looking at it to stone.

Mycenae was built almost 280 meters above sea level. The walls around the city are called Cyclopean Walls because Perseus brought the mythical beings Cyclopes—or one-eyed giants—from Asia to construct the large fortified walls. Tiryns, another city of the Mycenae civilization, has a similar story where King Proetus—another ‘mythical’ king—used the Cyclopes to build its fortified walls.

The description of Mycenae in ancient Greek mythology are accurate and today, you can still see the walls and be amazed by the huge stones—some weighing up to 120 tons—that comprise them.

The last from the lineage of Perseus was Eurystheus. The next king of Mycenae was Atreus, father of Agamemnon and Menelaus. Agamemnon, as the first born, then became king of Mycenae and Menelaus king of Sparta.

As for the intriguing story of Helen and the Trojan War, here is what happened according to Greek mythology: The prince of Troy was called to decide which of the three goddesses, Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, was the most beautiful. All of them tried to bribe him, but Paris chose Aphrodite because of her promise to give him the most beautiful woman of Greece, Helen of Sparta. Aphrodite helped Paris to abduct Helen to Troy, enraging Menelaus and causing him to wage war against the city. This was when Menelaus and Agamemnon built a large army of kings and heroes to march against Troy.

Mycenae was a strong military and financial power, especially in the Bronze Age around 1400-1200 BCE when the gate of Lions was built and new buildings were added in the area. The Lion Gate is one of the earliest examples of relief sculpture in ancient Greece, and is a large triangular stone on the top of the entrance to the citadel that depicts two lions.

In Mycenae you can also find the treasury of King Atreus, also known as the tomb of King Agamemnon, a large and glorious round tomb called tholos in Greek which is one out of nine ‘tholos’ in the area. The famous golden mask of Agamemnon, an artefact discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876, was found in one of these tombs and is one of the most famous artefacts all over the world. The purpose of the mask was to cover the face of the dead during burial, though not all archaeologists agree that the mask belonged to Agamemnon.

It is worth mentioning that Schliemann also discovered Troy and helped to realize that Troy was not a myth. Schliemann—even before his discoveries—was convinced that all the stories and legends were not myths but had to be partially true.

Is it possible that Perseus did exist? If yes, was he truly connected to gods, and did he have in his possession all those mythical weapons? Is it possible that indeed a race of giant beings (Cyclops) built the fortified walls of Mycenae, and did the interference of the gods lead to the great war of Troy?

By John Black

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History of Mycenae

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