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. 


From Chalcis to Delphi

By Claire and Amanda

Our morning view as we left Chalcis

Today we checked out of our hotel in Chalcis bright and early to catch the bus to Eretria, a town sacred sacred Apollo Daphnephoros, a version of Apollo associated with the laurel trees. Our first stop in Eretria was the Archeological Museum where we saw one of the earliest representations of the centaur, a sculpture from the geometric period. In the museum, we also saw prizes that victors of the Panathenaic games won, large vases painted with the event the victor won. They would have been filled with olive oil-yum!

The group standing onto of housing ruins

Then we walked right across the street to visit the ruins of housing and a theatre. We got to explore the ruins, seeing where drainage channels and a gateway would have stood. We also could see the remains of a wall that went all the way up the acropolis of Eretria. 

After this quick visit in Eretria, we took a ferry across the Evian Gulf to Oropos. Braving the cold winds, we all came up to the deck to enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful views.

We then took a quick bus ride to the Amphiareieon, where Christina presented on the Myth of Amphiraus, a seer who was favored by Zeus and granted immortality after he and his chariot were swallowed by the earth.

The Amphiareieon was a sanctuary where the sick came for healing. They would buy a ticket, purchase a ram’s skin, and then fall asleep in the stoa where they would dream. Priests at the site would help them interpret their dreams to discover the medical cure they required. The site continues to have great biodiversity. The plain is filled with healing herbs and plants. We were thankful to visit a healing site since some of our group is recovering from being sick in Athens. Some even laid down on the ancient benches for a minute, like they were taking part in the ancient healing ritual. Others picked anemones and wild geraniums. 

Wildflowers at The Amphiareieon

A larnax for a child, in The Archeological Museum of Thebes

After a quick lunch on the road, we stopped in Thebes, the city where Dionysus and Herakles were born and where Oedipus had to solve the Sphinx’s riddle. The entire city was built on Mycenaean ruins that have yet to be excavated as they sit under homes and businesses.  In Thebes, we quickly toured the Archeological Museum. Some of the most notable exhibits were the larnakes, the Christian floor mosaic that depicted the seasons, and the lapis lazuli- a gem that was imported from Afghanistan, giving a perfect example of how Greece is a cultural crossroads between East and West. 

View from the highway

Once we were done touring the museum, we rode the bus to Delphi. We stopped at a vista to admire the amazing views of the valley and the snowcapped mountains. At sunset, we checked into the Hotel Acropole, ready to settle in for the night after a busy day.