King’s Megaron

The stone ramp leading up to the megaron. The use of this part of the citadel dates back to Neolithic times (3000 BC); in 1350 BC the first walls of this citadel went up. By 1100 BC, it was all gone in the aftermath of the Dorian invasion. But at its heyday in the centuries surrounding the time of the Trojan War, Mycenae was the most powerful of Aegean citadels, giving its name to the entire Age and Culture.

The ascent to the Megaron continues. It is hard not to think of some of the scenes in Aeschylus’ Oresteia during this hike…

The megaron has a tripartite arrangement, in some ways reminiscent of Minoan palatial structures on Crete. The first two rooms serve as anterooms to the domos, or throne room. Here is a shot of the threshold block at the entry of the system of rooms constituting the royal quarters. Bronze fittings would have been set in the square holes hewn in the stone threshold.

The domos marks the Mycenean departure from the Minoan model: it isn’t cold enough on Crete to need a hearth, the central fixture of every Mycenaean place. Note the bases of the four columns (one of which is restored) which surrounded this hearth. Also note the threshold block in the foreground cut with holes to support posts. The throne would most probably have been against the right wall, just like at Pylos and Tiryns.

Overview of the megaron. You can almost visualize the grandeur of this room when it was complete: the floor decorated with flames and spirals, the walls covered with frescoes, and certainly a window or balcony from which the king could admire the whole of the Argolid plain, king of all he surveyed!

Yes, this palace is a statement of power and prestige, but also impressive is its more functional aspect. We are reminded that Mycenean fortresses are designed to be just that: unassailable fortresses. Between the Cyclopean walls in the front (whose layout forced attacking armies to expose their unshielded right sides to the slings and arrows of their outraged enemies) and this unforbidding backdrop of mountainous terrain, it would have been tough to take this citadel!

 

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