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                                              The Tiryns Acropolis
Pylos reconstruction megaron  


Prehistoric town of Argolis, located in a valley between the hill in Nauplion and Mycenae. According to tradition, the city took its name from the hero named Tirynthos, son of Argos, grandson of Zeus, but was founded by Proetus, brother of the king of Argos Acrisius, who fortified Tiryns calling for this purpose, as Strabo refers, the seven Cyclops from Lycia. That's why Pindar calls the walls of the city "Cyclopean vestibules".

When Proetus died, his son Megapenthis became the king of Tiryns, Perseus followed after, and Electryon the son of Perseus next. Electryon had a son named Likymnios, who was killed in Tiryns by Tlepolemos, son of Heracles. Alcmene, Elektryons' daughter, married to Amphitryon, who would be the successor of his father-in-law in the throne, but he was banished by the king of Argos Sthenelaus. The son of Alcmene and Amphitryon, Hercules, reoccupied Tiryns and lived there for many years, so he was called and "Tirynthian Hercules" also. However, despite the close relationship that existed between Tiryns and Heraclides, the city remained in the hands of the original population of the Achaeans and in the period after the Heraclids invasion and the conquest of Peloponnesus by the Dorians. For this reason there was hostility against Argos and Tiryns in historic times.  The strong walls of Tiryns were still visible and provoked the attention of Pausanias in the 2nd century BC.

The Mycenaean citadel at Tiryns is conspicuous for its mighty Cyclopean walls that led Homer to call it 'well-walled' in the Iliad. Indeed the Cyclops, according to Greek myth, built these fortifications for Proitos, king of Argos, who had the giants brought from Lycia in Asia Minor. The strong walls of Tiryns were very dangerous for the Doric colony of Argos. When Kleomenis defeated the Argives, their slaves occupied Tiryns for many years, as Herodotus refers (Book 6, 83). Herodotus also mentions (Book 9, 28) that Tiryns with 400 hoplites took part in the battle of Plataea in 480 BC. Later, Tiryns was conquered by Argos, so the lower city was destroyed completely, the surrounded acropolis dissolved and the residents left, others in Epidaurus and others in the coastal city of Ermionid. Those who didn't leave the city were transferred to Argos. All these should have happened around 468 BC. Since then Tiryns remained uninhabited.

The citadel which covers an area of approximately 20,000 sq. m., is built on a low rocky knoll, which rises barely eighteen metres above the Argive plain, and in the Mycenaean period was near the sea. Heinrich Schliemann, the excavator of Mycenae, and his colleague, the architect Wilhelm Dorpfeld, excavated the acropolis in 1885 and 1886. Heinrich Schliemann, stressed the similarity of the throne room with that of Odysseus mansion described by Homer. Today, the Tiryns excavations continue under the direction of the German Archaeological Institute. According to the excavations that have been made, the hill of Tiryns must have been inhabited by the Early Helladic period at the 3rd millennium BC. At the top of the hill was built the palace of the king, a circular building that had a diameter of 28 m. At 2nd millennium BC the so-called Middle Helladic civilization was initiated by people who used wheel-maded brown-coloured pots (Minyan vases) and perhaps speaking a primary form of the Greek language. There is no indication in Tiryns about disasters and fires which put at an end to a various Early Helladic cities around Corinth. Thus, the Early Helladic period inhabitants of Tiryns seems that they accepted friendly the newcomers and the town became peacefully a center of the Mycenaean civilization.

The Tiryns citadel is the second most important prehistoric Argive acropolis after Mycenae. It was inhabited in the Neolithic period and had important settlements in the Early Helladic (3rd millennium BC), Middle Helladic (2000-1600 BC) and Early Mycenaean (16th-15th centuries BC) periods. The sturdy walls date to the 14th cent. BC for the Upper citadel and to the 13th cent. BC for the Middle citadel. Fortification work was completed at the end of the 13th cent. BC with the construction of the walls of the Lower citadel. The first walls were built perhaps at the 16th century BC on the south side of the citadel, with a strong gate that directly opened into the courtyard of an older palace. 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. The walls were built in the Cyclopean or Pelasgian way, with not symmetrical boulders for example. The gaps between the boulders were filled with small rocks and clay. The walls were thick of about 8-10 m and a height of 10 m, while the highest saved up to 7.50 m. The entrance of the citadel was a large gate on the east side of the wall, which leaded there by an uphill road starting from the plain.

The extent of the citadel which surrounded by the wall, was divided into three levels (anderons): 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, which was similar to the gate of the Lions at Mycenae, as it has the same dimensions.

The palace, residence of the wanax (king) was erected on the Upper citadel. East of the road which leading to the palace, within the ramparts of the walls were built the famous tunnels, which in peacetime used as warehouses and in wartime as shelters. These tunnels are narrow lanes, where they communicated with small rooms with span roof. There are two great works of mycenaean fortification: the eastern and the southern tunnel. In a better situation is saved the eastern tunnel, with a length of 30 m, 1.90 m. width and a height of 4 meters, has a triangular roof or dome, and communicates with six doors and equal numbers of rectangular cells, which have width and depth of 3.30 m. At the end of the road that leads to the palace are the ruins of the Great Propylaea, with their monolithic doorstep a bluish stone, dimensions of 4 x 2 m.

The Propylaea has 11 m. width consisted of two anterooms with wooden columns. West and behind the Propylaea exists a big yard, of 25 meters width, surrounded from it's three sides by the wall, and on the north side by the royal palace. This palace is a complex from different buildings. The main palace has a length of 25.50 m. and consists of: 1) from the anteroom with two wooden columns on stone bases, and three doors to the inside, 2) the prodomos, with a side door which leads to the bathroom and 3) the megaron (hall). In the middle of the hall, on a stone base, are placed four wooden pillars supporting the roof of the hall, and in the center was a circular fireplace, where the food was baking and the king and the guests were eating around. Built during two major construction phases, the palace was decorated with remarkable wall-paintings. This Mycenaean palace, which kept archives in the first Greek script, Linear B, was the administrative, economic, artistic and military centre for a wide region. 

The inner surface of the walls of the various rooms was decorated with a frieze of alabaster panels and frescoes, while the floor was paved with clay-colored plaster. Frieze relics depicting a boar hunting and a mural of a woman, are being exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Athens. The area to the middle of the east side is richly decorated because there was the throne of the king. The megaron was surrounded by corridors and courtyards, to the east and west of them were placed those buildings that constituted the main palace. The most important of the other royal houses were the gynaeconitis (woman's area - zenana) and the laboratories.

In its final, 13th century BC form, 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 corbel-vaulted corridors, whose ceilings narrowed to a sharp angle at the top. A secondary entrance, protected by a strong curved bastion, opened to the west, towards the sea. In the Lower Acropolis, underground cisterns supplied water in times of need, while several small gates facilitated communication with the extramural settlement, which thrived around the acropolis. The settlement was located around the citadel, while the cemetery with its chamber tombs and single tholos tomb was located on the neighbouring Profitis Ilias hill.

The collapse of the Mycenaean palatial administrative system at the end of the thirteenth cent. BC and the destruction of the palaces in the Argive citadels did not bring an end to life on the acropolis and in the settlement of Tiryns. Excavations have shown that the Lower Acropolis was densely occupied in the 12th cent. BC, the last stage of the Mycenaean civilization, and uncovered shrines with large terracotta figures.

After the decline of the Mycenaean civilization, Tiryns became a small town during the geometrical period (1100-700 BC), and created a necropolis in the valley, with characteristic geometrical vases. During the archaic times historical buildings created upon the prehistoric ruins. The most important is the archaic Temple of Hera, built on the ruins of the palace. The temple maybe built around 750-700 BC, and appears to be destroyed in 468 BC, during the destruction of the acropolis by the Argives.






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