previous next


TIRYNS (Τίρυνς: Eth. Τιρύνθιος, Eth. Tirynthius: the name is perhaps connected with τύρρις, Lepsius, Tyrrh. Pelasger, p. 13), one of the most ancient cities of Greece, lay a short distance SE. of Argos, on the right of the road leading to Epidaurus (Paus. 2.25.8), and at the distance of 12 stadia from Nauplia. (Strab. viii. p.373.) Its massive walls, which have been regarded with wonder in all ages, are said to have been the work of the Cyclopes, and belong to the same age as those of Mycenae. (Paus. 2.16.5, 2.25.8, 7.25.6, 9.36.5; Strab. l.c.; Plin. Nat. 7.56. s. 57.) Hence Homer calls the city Τίρυνς τειχιόεσσα. (Il. 2.559.) Pindar speaks of the Κυκλώπια πρόθυρα of Tiryns (Fragm. 642, ed. Böckh), and Pausanias says that the walls are not less worthy of admiration than the pyramids of Egypt (9.36.5.) In another passage he describes the walls as consisting of wide masses of stone (ἀργοὶ λίθοι), of such a size, that a yoke of oxen could not stir the least of them, the interstices being filled in with smaller stones to make the whole more compact and solid. (Paus. 2.25.8.) The foundation of Tiryns ascends to the earliest mythical legends of the Argeia. It was said to have derived its name from Tiryns, the son of Argus (Paus. 2.25.8), and to have been founded by Proetus. (Strab. viii. p.372; Paus. 2.16.2.) According to the common tradition, Megapenthes, the son of Proetus, ceded Tiryns to Perseus, who transmitted it to his descendant Electryon. Alcmena, the daughter of Electryon, married Amphitryon, who would have succeeded to the crown, had he not been expelled by Sthenelus, king of Argos. Their son Hercules afterwards regained possession of Tiryns, where he lived for many years, and hence is frequently called Tirynthius by the poets. (Hes. Scut. 81; Pind. O. 10.37, Isthm. 6.39; Verg. A. 7.662; Ov. Met. 7.410) Although Tiryns was thus closely connected with the Heraclidae, yet the city remained in the hands of the old Achaean population after the return of the Heraclidae and the conquest of Peloponnesus by the [p. 2.1212]Dorians. The strong fortress of Tiryns was dangerous to the neighbouring Dorian colony of Argos. After the dreadful defeat of the Argives by Cleomenes, their slaves took possession of Tiryns and held it for many years, (Hdt. 6.83.) In the Persian War the Tirynthians sent some men to the battle of Plataea. (Hdt. 9.28.) Subsequently their city was taken by the Argives, probably about the same time as Mycenae, B.C. 468. The lower city was entirely destroyed; the citadel was dismantled; and the inhabitants fled to Epidaurus and Halieis, a town on the coast of Hermionis. (Strab. viii. p.373; Ephorus, ap. Steph. B. sub voce Ἁλιεῖς; Eustath. ad Hom. Il. 2.559, p. 286,) It was probably owing to this circumstance that Stephanus B. (s. v. Τίρυνς) was led into the mistake of saying that Tiryns was formerly called Halieis. The Tirynthians, who did not succeed in effecting their escape, were removed to Argos. (Paus. 2.25.8.) From this time Tiryns remained uninhabited; and when Pausanias visited the city in the second century of our era, he saw nothing but the remains of the walls of the citadel, and beneath them towards the sea the so-called chambers of the daughters of Proetus. No trace of the lower city appears to have been left. The citadel was named Licymna, after Licymnius, son of Electryon, who was slain at Tiryns by Tleptolemus, son of Hercules. (Strab. vii. p.373; Pind. O. 7.47.) Hence Statius calls the marshes in the neighbourhood of Tiryns “stagna Licymnia.” (Theb. 4.734.) Theophrastus represents the Tirynthians as celebrated for their laughing propensities, which rendered them incapable of attention to serious business (ap. Athen. 6.261d.).

The ruins of the citadel of Tiryns are now called Paleó Anápli. They occupy the lowest and flattest of several rocky hills, which rise like islands out of the plain. The impression which they produce upon the beholder is well described by Col. Mure: “This colossal fortress is certainly the greatest curiosity of the kind in existence. It occupies the table summit of an oblong hill, or rather knoll, of small extent or elevation, completely encased in masses of enormous stones, rudely piled in tiers one above another, into the form alternately of towers, curtain walls, abutments, gates, and covered ways. There is not a fragment in the neighbourhood indicating the existence of suburb or outer town at any period; and the whole, rising abruptly from the dead level of the surrounding plain, produces at a distance an effect very similar to that of the hulk of a man-of-war floating in a harbour.” The length of the summit of the rock, according to Col. Leake's measurement, is about 250 yards, the breadth from 40 to 80, the height above the plain from 20 to 50 feet, the direction nearly N. and S. The entire circuit of the walls still remains more or less preserved. They consist of huge masses of stone piled upon one another, as Pausanias describes. The Wall is from about 20 to 25 feet in thickness, and it had two entrances, one on the eastern, and the other on the southern side. “In its general design the fortress appears to have consisted of an upper and lower enclosure of nearly equal dimensions, with an intermediate platform, which may have served for the defence of the upper castle against an enemy in possession of the lower. The southern entrance led by an ascent to the left into the upper inclosure, and by a direct passage between the upper inclosure and the eastern wall of the fortress into the lowest inclosure, having also a branch to the left into the middle platform, the entrance into which last was nearly opposite to the eastern gate. Besides the two principal gates, there was a postern in the western side. On either side of the great southern entrance, that is to say, in the eastern as well as in the southern wall, there were galleries in the body of the wall of singular construction. In the eastern wall, where they are better preserved, there are two parallel passages, of which the outer has six recesses or niches in the exterior wall. These niches were probably intended to serve for the protracted defence of the gallery itself, and the galleries for covered communications leading to towers or places of arms at the extremity of them. The passage which led directly from the southern entrance, between the upper inclosure and the eastern Wall into the lower division of the fortress, was about 12 feet broad. About midway, there still exists an immense door-post, with a hole in it for a bolt, showing that the passage might be closed upon occasion. The lower inclosure of the fortress was of an oval shape, about 100 yards long and 40 broad; its walls formed an acute angle to the north, and several obtuse angles on the east and west. Of the upper inclosure of the fortress very little remains. There is some appearance of a wall of separation, dividing the highest part of all from that next to the southern entrance; thus forming four interior divisions besides the passages.” (Leake.) The general appearance of these covered galleries is shown in the accompanying drawing from Gell's Itinerary. (Leake, Morea, vol. ii. p. 350, seq.; Mure, Tour in Greece, vol. ii. p. 173, seq.; Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. ii. p. 388, seq.)


hide References (12 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (12):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.83
    • Herodotus, Histories, 9.28
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.16.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.16.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.25.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.36.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.25.6
    • Homer, Iliad, 2.559
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 7.410
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 7.662
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 7.56
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 6
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: