Long before the ancient Greek philosophers and the battles of Athens and Sparta ever took place, more than a thousand years before these events, there was another powerful and intriguing civilization of Greece belonging to the Mycenaeans.
In the late Bronze age, Mycenae and its royal families represented the center of power in the Peloponnese. It had its own art, legends and culture, reaching its height between 1300 BC and 1100 BC. This civilization was the birthplace of many legends that fed Greek myth and history over the centuries, including the stories of the Trojan wars, Agamemnon’s travails and the great Hercules.
Today, an impressive site of Mycenaean culture can be seen in the archaeological site of Mycenae in the area of Argolida at the northeast part of the Peloponnese barely a couple of hours away from Athens.
Enter the Lion’s Gates, arguably the first piece of monumental sculpture in Europe, to the centre of the Mycenaean Acropolis. Wander through ancient walls of once-magnificent buildings and take in the powerful energy of the place. This is where Agamemnon, who had just returned victorious from the Trojan wars, was murdered by his wife Klytemenestra and her lover. Over the centuries, the walls and buildings have lost much of their detail, but the power of the place can still be sensed. Impregnable cyclopean walls, impressive grave sites and strange ruins will welcome you here. Beyond the Lion’s Gates lies the Grave Circle with six royal shaft graves where many objects (Kterismata) were buried with the dead. Today some of these have been miraculously recovered and are displayed at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
That said, the Archaeological Museum of Mycenae on the site itself also boasts a venerable collection. It has a miniature model of the site that helps visitors relate to what they see. There are over 2000 objects in the museum, with many reproductions of important objects that were whisked away to the Athens museum. Winter opening hours of the museum change, so check ahead.