Once upon a time, in 1876 in particular, was an archaeologist in Greece, an amateur archaeologist precisely, who believed that the Trojan War did happen and tried to find Agamemnon’s palace. That today sounds like someone believes that Zeus did exist and goes to Olympus to find his home. It makes sense then that his colleagues considered him as crazy.
One day, on 16 November 1876, this crazy archaeologist sent a telegram to King George I. <<I have seen the face of Agamemnon>> he wrote. And added :<< I found among the Tombs great treasures of ancient relics made of pure gold. These treasures are enough to fill a big museum which will be the most valued in the world. And throughout the centuries it will attract in Greece thousands of tourists from all around the world>>. He didn’t know yet, but he was referring to the Archaeological Museum of Athens. He signed as Henry Schliemann. And he was right- almost about everything.
We’re not completely certain that it is indeed of Agamemnon’s, so Mr. Schliemann wasn’t completely right about all that he said. The face he had seen, the famous golden mask with the somehow sticking out ears that we still call <<Agamemnon’s mask>>, belonged to a king that lived three hundred years before the sacrifice of Iphigenia and the events of the Trojan War. His mythical kingdom though, was utterly real- as real was the Troy of Priamos and his sons, which that “crazy” archaeologist also dug out.
Nowadays, Mycenae, 25 kilometers away from Nafplio, is one of the most ancient sights of Greece. Something important to remember as you’re going up the cobbled path to the Lion Gate: Anything you see here was build one thousand years before the Acropolis. And one thousand years are plenty, quite plenty. Why do we insist on that? Because we don’t want you to come here expecting to see another Olympia, or another version of Epidaurus. You will be disappointed.
Walking by the Lion Gate, there is a big plateau with exceptional view of the far away sea- on which you can easily imagine a particular Mycenaean King waiting for the right wind to blow so that his ships start sailing towards Troy. From now on you will have to use your imagination hard to understand what was where: The palace, the religious center of the citadel, the Cyclopean Walls and the house of the Oil Merchant that made perfumes and oils which were exported all over the known then world, all of which are quite marked but rather destroyed by the passage of time- that is why, after all, for thousands of years people believed they didn’t exist.
What you will actually see in front of you, imposing and lively, are the vaulted tombs, whose size and only could be enough to make them compelling, if we didn’t know they date back to 1600 B.C.: Their height reaches the 13.5 meters, while to walk all of the interior you will need to do a circle of almost 15 meters. The sight is referred on the brochure that you will buy from the ticket offices as <<Burial Cycle B>> but since the name is not user friendly, the two impressive tombs are called “Clytemnestra” and “Aigisthos” the wife of Agamemnon- the most misunderstood woman of History- and her lover, although we are not completely certain that they were actually buried there.
Perhaps, the most impressive monument of the Mycenae is the underground tank that provided water to the entire kingdom, three thousand years before every house of Europe acquired running water. You will need a torch, and extra attention to the steps (they are slippery) to explore the underground tank throughout its length- but it is going to be worth it, we promise. Its entrance is located close to the north part of the cyclopean wall, which is inside the ancient city, and its construction occurred in 1300 B.C. It is, so far, the only tank we have discovered from the prehistorical era that can <<compare itself to the modern water supply systems of cities, 33 centuries later>>, as it is described on the site of the Ministry of Culture.
Almost all of “the ancient relics made of pure gold” that Henry Schliemann found at the Mycenae, adorn today the most remarkable museum that attracts “many tourists from all over the world”, the Archaeological Museum of Athens. The Archaeological Museum of Mycenae has their copies and a very interesting timeline of the excavations (since where else could the story of a city’s discovery would be as interesting as the city itself?) as well as the models of the hill that will give a much clearer image of how the city looked during its peak. It is accommodated on a stone building very close to the tickets offices.
We left the best part for the end- and we recommend you do the same. Atreus treasure is 500 meters outside the main archaeological site of Mycenae, and even though we are not absolutely certain if he was the owner, it is certainly the biggest and most imposing of all the vaulted tombs. It dates back to 1350 and 1250 B.C. And if, despite the lack of sufficient scientific evidence and proof, you like to believe that it belonged to the father of Agamemnon, we are certain that the person, without whom you wouldn’t be there today, would appreciate it.