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TIRYNS Greece.

An age-old town in the SE part of the plain of Argos, a short distance from the sea. Its origins go back to legendary times, and it was from Tiryns that Herakles performed the twelve labors for King Eurystheus. The town was famed for its massive walls, thought to have been built by the Cyclopes and mentioned by Homer. The Tirynthians took part in the Trojan War under the leadership of Diomedes. Though only a small place in Classical times, it sent a contingent to fight at Plataia and was a thorn in the side of Argos until the Argives destroyed it, probably in the sixties of the 5th c. B.C. The exiled Tirynthians settled in Halieis in the S Argolid.

The remains, particularly the walls, have always been conspicuous. The first large-scale excavations of 1884 have been continued at intervals in the 20th c. The site is a low eminence ca. 300 m long and up to 100 m wide, rising only ca. 20 m above the surrounding plain. This forms the acropolis and was fortified with strong walls. The lower town lay in the flat surrounding area.

Potsherds indicate that the site has been inhabited since Late Neolithic times, though no walls of this period have been found. In the Early Bronze Age it was an important place, but the Late Bronze Age was the greatest period: the higher S part of the acropolis was occupied by an extensive palace, one of the best preserved on the Greek mainland. The principal unit was the megaron which opened off a large colonnaded court. The lower, N part of the acropolis was also enclosed within the walls but seems to have had no important buildings.

The palace was destroyed at the end of the Bronze Age, but the site continued to be occupied in Geometric and Archaic times. A Doric temple is attested by a column capital. Boustrophedon inscriptions of the 6th c. B.C., found in 1962 on the cover slabs of water tunnels passing under the walls should, when deciphered and published, give interesting information on the government and religion of the archaic town. The exile of the Tirynthians at Halieis (Porto Cheli) is confirmed by Tirynthian coins found in excavations there. The site was deserted in the time of Strabo and Pausanias. The movable finds from Tiryns are divided between the museums of Athens and Nauplia.


H. Schliemann, Tiryns (1886); D. Arch. Inst., Athens, Tiryns I-VI (1912-72, continuing)MPI; G. Karo, Fuehrer durch Tiryns2 (1934), a full authoritative guidePI; W. Voigtlaender, Tiryns, Eng. trans. S.C.D. Slenczka (1972), small but up-to-date site guidePI.


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