South East Quarter, Mycenae

View of oleander and Mt. Ayios Ilias, Mycenae

Tomb seen from citadel, above, Mycenae

Stepped street S of Tsountas' House, Mycenae

Image access restricted
Grave circle A. Mycenae.

Summary: Center of the Mycenaean Empire and traditional palace of Agamemnon.
Type: Fortified city
Region: Argolid



Early Bronze Age

Middle Bronze Age

Late Bronze Age






Located ca. half-way between Corinth and Argos and controlling the natural pass from the Isthmus to the Peloponnese, Mycenae was a citadel palace that included extensive fortifications, granaries, guardrooms, shrines and a few private dwellings situated around the palace complex. The palace consisted of a central megaron meeting hall, throne room and courtyard with adjacent private quarters, storerooms, guard stations and administrative rooms. Outside the Lion Gate and massive walls of the citadel are found the private houses, workshops, public works and other features of the dispersed settlement and the tholos tombs of the ruling clans.


Mycenae, on a naturally defensible hill with a commanding view and plentiful nearby fresh water, was first occupied in the Neolithic period. Habitation continued throughout the Early and Middle Helladic periods and the first palace complex was probably built at the beginning of the Late Helladic period.

In the Late Helladic IIIA period the fortifications probably followed the natural boundary of the hilltop. In Late Helladic IIIB the circuit was enlarged to the S and W, and toward the end of Late Helladic IIIB an E extension to the citadel was added with a sally port and access to an underground water supply. It was at this time that the great Lion Gate was also constructed. The citadel and palace of Mycenae were destroyed at the end of the Late Helladic IIIB, although some occupation continued at the site during the Late Helladic IIIC period.

In the Geometric period only a few small houses occupied the summit of the hill. In the Archaic period a temple was built on the summit. During the Persian Wars Mycenae sent a small force to fight at Thermopylae and Plataea. In 468 B.C. Argos destroyed the acropolis at Mycenae and the city later came under direct Argive control. As a deme of Argos the acropolis was rebuilt and fortification walls were built around the lower town. The site continued to be inhabited until the end of the 3rd century A.D.


Lord Elgin explored the Treasury of Atreus in 1802 and Lord Sligo took the columns from it to London in 1910. Excavations: 1874-76, H. Schliemann; 1876-77, P. Stamatakis; 1884-1902, C. Tsountas; 1920-23, 1939, and 1950-57, A. Wace, British School of Archaeology; 1950s to present, J. Papadimitriou, G. Mylonas, D. Theocharis, N. Verdelis, A. Orlandos, E. Stikas, A. Keramopoullos, S. Marinatos, and S. Iakovidis of the Greek Archaeological Society and the Greek Archaeological Service and E. French and W. Taylour of the British School of Archaeology.

Sources Used:

Rossiter 1977, 259-269; Leekley and Noyes 1976, 66; G. Mylonas 1983

Other Bibliography:

A.J.B. Wace and C.A. Boethius, BSA 25 (1921-23). A.J.B. Wace, M. Holland and M.S. Hood, BSA 48 (1953). G.E. Mylonas, Ancient Mycenae Capital City of Agamemnon (1957). G.E. Mylonas, Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age (1966). G. Karo, Die Schachtgräber von Mykenai (1930). K. Pittakis, Prakt (1840-41) 136ff. H. Schliemann, Mycenae: A Narrative of Researches and Discoveries at Mycenae and Tiryns (1880). C. Schuchhardt, Schliemann's Excavations (1891). P. Stamatakis, Prakt (1876) 12ff; (1877) 24ff; (1887) 16f. C. Tsountas, Prakt 1886, 1888, 1890, 1892, 1893: ArchEph 1887, 1888, 1891, 1897, 1902. C. Tsountas, The Mycenaean Age (1897 London). G.E. Mylonas, Mycenae (1981 [guide]). G.E. Mylonas, Mycenae, Rich in Gold (1983 Athens). W. Taylor (ed), Mycenaean Excavations 1959-69. (1981).Frazer, Pausanias' Description of Greece, 3 (1898 London) 94ff (on all of the 19th c. excavations). D. Evangelidis, ArchEph (1912) 127ff. BSA 24 (1919/21) 185ff; 25 (1921/23) 1ff. A.J.B. Wace, "Chamber Tombs at Mycenae," Archaeologia 82 (1932) 1ff. BSA 48 (1953) 3ff; 49 (1954) 231ff; 50 (1955) 173ff; 51 (1956) 103ff; 52 (1957) 193ff. Prakt 1950-1954. G.E. Mylonas, Grave Circle B of Mycenae (SIMA no. 7) (1964 Lund). ArchDelt, 17 (1961/62) Chr, 64ff. Prakt 1957-1962. ArchEph (1958) 153ff; (1962) 1ff. ArchDelt 20 (1965) Chr.1, 160ff. Hesperia 35 (1966) 419ff. Antiquity 35 (1961) 57f; 43 (1969) 91ff; 44 (1970) 270ff. ILN Jan. 4, (1969) Dec.27; Jan. 10, (1970). BSA, 68 (1973) 87ff. ArchDelt 16 (1960) Chr. 89ff; 18 (1963) Chr.1, 82ff; 20 (1965): (1963) Chr.1, 164ff. AR (1960) 30ff; (1962/63) 13ff; (1964/65) 11ff; (1966/67) 8f; (1968/69) 11ff; (1969/70) 11ff; (1965/66) 7; (1966/67) 8. Wace and Williams, Guide to Mycenae (4th ed) (1966).