Mycenae in Argolis, north-eastern Peloponnese in Greece—then and now.

How the ancient citadel of Mycenae may have appeared in the 13th century BC compared to now.

The road to Lion Gate (1.240 B.C.) Mycenae, Greece

Mycenae is one of the world-famous archaeological sites in Greece. You will find it in the region of Argolida, between Nafplio and Argos. Being an extremely prosperous town in the ancient years it gave its name to a whole civilization, the Mycenaean civilization which flourished around 1,600 to 1,000 B.C.

The north gate of the palace of Mycenae. Archaeological site of Mycenae in Peloponnese, Greece

The Tomb of Aegisthus outside the walls of the citadel

1) The north gate of the palace of Mycenae 2) The Tomb of Aegisthus outside the walls of the citadel in Mycenae

Where is Mycenae located in Greece?

Aerial view of iconic archaeological site of ancient citadel of Mycenae, Peloponnese, GreeceAerial view of iconic archaeological site of ancient citadel of Mycenae in Argolida Peloponnese

Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north. From the hill on which the palace was located one can see across the Argolid to the Saronic Gulf. You will find it a few kilometers from the modern village of Mikines.

Mycenae on a map of Argolida

Map of Argolida in Peloponnese GreeceMap of Argolida – Mycenae Coordinates: 37°43′51″N 22°45′22″E – Click to enlarge map

When was Mycenae important?

In the second millennium BC Mycenae was one of the major centres of Greek civilization, a military stronghold which dominated much of southern Greece. The period of Greek history from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean in reference to Mycenae.

Map of Mycenae in Ancient Greece

Homeric GreeceMap of Homeric Greece with names of cities and kings – Click to enlarge map

Why is Mycenae so famous?

Much of the Mycenaean religion survived into classical Greece in their pantheon of Greek deities, but it is not known to what extent Greek religious belief is Mycenean, nor how much is a product of the Greek Dark Ages or later. Through the oral tradition Homer transferred the beliefs during the Dark-Ages, but he kept in memory the confederacy of the Greeks under the powerful king of Mycenae, when gods walked along friendly with men, and the “heroic-age” when great heroes dominated the scene. The belief in gods as embodiments of power, the heroic outlook inherited from a distant past together with the local chthonic cults, were later fitted into the frame of the city-states and his demands into an elastic system.

1) The entrance of the “Treasury of Atreus” (also known as the “Tholos tomb of Atreus” or “Tholos tomb of Agamemnon”) 2) Ancient tomb at the archaeological site of Mycenae

Who founded Mycenae?

Classical Greek myths assert that Mycenae was founded by Perseus, grandson of king Acrisius of Argos, son of Acrisius’ daughter, Danaë. Having killed his grandfather by accident, Perseus could not, or would not, inherit the throne of Argos. Instead he arranged an exchange of realms with his cousin, Megapenthes, and became king of Tiryns, Megapenthes taking Argos. From there he founded Mycenae and ruled the kingdoms jointly from Mycenae.

Aerial view of Epidaurus theatre - Photo by Vergas

Ancient Mycenae gold mask of Agamemnon, Mycenae Argolis, Greece


Ancient Mycenae gold maskof Agamemnon, Mycenae Argolis, GreeceTomb of Clytemnestra

The first excavations at Mycenae were carried out by the Greek archaeologist Kyriakos Pittakis in 1841. He found and restored the Lion Gate. In 1874 Heinrich Schliemann arrived at the site and undertook a complete excavation. Schliemann believed in the historical truth of the Homeric stories and interpreted the site accordingly. He found the ancient shaft graves with their royal skeletons and spectacular grave goods. Upon discovering a human skull beneath a gold death mask in one of the tombs, he declared: “I have gazed upon the face of Agamemnon”.

Mycenae - Tomb of Clytemnestra

Since then scientific excavations have taken place at Mycenae, mainly by Greek archaeologists but also by the British School at Athens. The acropolis was excavated in 1902, and the surrounding hills have been methodically investigated by subsequent excavations.

Currently the Athens Archaeological Society is excavating the Mycenae Lower Town, with support from Dickinson College and the Institute for Aegean Prehistory.