A Day at Mycenae and Epidaurus

By Lilly and Claire

We boarded the bus this morning to make our way to Mycenae. On the way, we stopped at an orange stand on the side of the road and bought a huge sack of oranges for just 3 euros! We snacked on the oranges later in the day, and they were some of the best oranges any of us have ever tasted.

Faith presented straight away at Mycenae on the Lion Gate, the entrance to the site which represents the power of the civilization. The gate was built around 1250 BCE, and the structure is still standing, making for a very impressive entrance even though the lions no longer have their heads.

The first thing we saw as we walked through the gate was Grave Circle A, which had 6 grave shafts. The wall of the civilization had been expanded to keep the grave circle within its walls, probably to protect the graves from being looted. Grave Circle A is also where the Mask of Agamemnon, which we saw in Athens, was found. Right near Grave Circle A, we saw the ruins of houses and of a cult center.

The only way archeologists distinguish between the houses and the cult center is by the objects that were found within. In the cult center, they found strange clay icons and coiled snakes, which indicated that it was indeed a cult center. We later saw these coiled snakes and clay icons in the museum.

We hiked up the hill to find the palace. We identified the foundation as the palace because we could identify the presence of a megaron and great court. This palace was destroyed by an earthquake.

Water at the bottom of the cistern

Behind the palace is a secret cistern, which was built in order to provide the site with a source of drinkable water in case they were invaded and an enemy took control over the spring. We hiked down the slippery stairs of the cistern, an archeologically enforced cave. We had to use the flashlights on our phone in order to see where we were going because it got so dark!

After we were all safely out of the cistern, we visited a tholos right near the museum. We then went to the museum, where we were able to see goods excavated from the site, as well as some replicas of artifacts that were taken to the Archeological Museum at Athens.

The group poses at the bottom of the Tholos near the museum.

Then we went to the Tholos of Atreus, the largest Tholos we had seen yet. This Tholos is the best preserve of its type, dating to round 1350 BCE. The size of this Tholos is also very impressive, with the top stone of the entrance weighing as much as a 747 plane!

On our way to lunch, we passed The Belle Helene, a historic hotel where Schliemann, the excavator of Mycenae, once stayed. The Belle Helene has also housed several famous people over the years, including Virginia Woolf, Willliam Faulkner, and JK Rowling. 

After lunch we went to Epidaurus, where we first visited the theatre and heard from Christine, who presented on ancient Greek Theatre. We learned that the theatre is perfectly symmetrical and designed for prime acoustics, so that all 14,000 people sitting in the theatre could hear the play. Christine ended her presentation with a performance of Medea’s monologue, a shocking piece where Medea reveals her plan to kill her ow children in an act of revenge.

As we walked to the site of the healing cult, we saw a beautiful rainbow over the remains. Elizabeth presented on the Healing Cult of Asklepios and the healing practices that took place on the site. She told us about the myth of Asklepios as well as some of the healing practices, which varied from dreams of snakes biting one’s shoulder to early surgeries. We actually got to see some ancient surgical tools at the museum on site, as well as marble votives and statues.

It was a beautiful and insightful day at these ancient sites, leaving us all ready for a nap on the busride back to Nafplion. 

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