MYCENAE, one of the most ancient cities of Greece. The citadel on the summit is triangular with sides facing north, south east and south-west. Part of the south-eastern wall and the palace within have been undermined by the torrent which bounds the lower town on the east. For the artistic significance of the vari ous graves and building remains scattered among the groups of houses forming the lower town, see AEGEAN CIVILIZATION. My cenae is a natural rock citadel standing in the north corner of the Argive plain flanked to north and south by deep ravines. It watched the hills, controlled the plain, and was the key to the road from the Gulf of Argos to the Gulf of Corinth which afforded the shortest route from Crete to central Greece.
The hill is roughly triangular with the apex pointing south and is defended by massive cyclopean walls. At the northwest angle is the Lion Gate surmounted by the famous limestone relief of two confronted lions ten feet high. The gate itself is about ten feet square and with its approaches is built of ashlar masonry in hard conglomerate. In the north wall is a smaller but similar gate and near it lies a secret underground cistern fed by the Perseian spring and approached by a subterranean passage from inside the walls. The extreme northeast angle is a later addition to strengthen this important point and to provide a sally port. Within the Lion Gate lies the Grave Circle enclosing the Royal Graves found by Schliemann and by it are ruined houses and storehouses. From the gate an inclined roadway leads to the summit crowned by the palace. This was built at different periods, but the ruins now vis ible belong in the main to the last great age of Mycenae. At the northwest angle was a columned entrance porch, and a throne room, a shrine, a bathroom, and a room with store jars have been found. On the south a wide staircase with two flights ascends to a spacious court. To the east a porch and vestibule open into the great hall (megaron) in the centre of which is a large circular hearth covered with painted stucco and surrounded by four column bases. The walls and floors of the megaron, court
and vestibule were covered with painted stucco and there are plentiful remains of frescoes which adorned other rooms at dif ferent periods. West of the court a staircase led to the upper stories and to its north ran two parallel corridors giving access to other rooms at higher levels.
From the citadel a narrow ridge runs westwards so that its back bone forms the natural approach to the Lion Gate. Here are three of the beehive tombs (the Tomb of Aegisthus, the Lion Tomb, and the Tomb of Clytaemestra) and also the north wall of the Hellen istic lower town and the ruins of its gymnasium and theatre. At its west end a wider and longer ridge runs due south. Its northern end was included in the Hellenistic lower town and somewhere along it must have run the prehistoric road. On its east side stands the Treasury of Atreus, the largest beehive tomb, and on its west another, and all about are rock cut chamber tombs. Be low its southern extremity the ravine which runs from the south side of the citadel was spanned by a prehistoric bridge on the road leading southeast towards the Argive Heraeum and Tiryns. Sub sidiary ridges running westwards to the plain are also honey combed with tombs among which are four more beehive tombs. On one ridge, Kalkani, traces of early Bronze Age occupation have come to light, and in the hollows are two ancient wells. On the peak of Hagios Elias which overlooks Mycenae to the north stands a small fort of the later part of the Third Bronze Age which clearly served as a signal station, for thence the whole plain can be surveyed from Asine to Argos with the passes towards Arcadia, Nemea and Cleonae and the Acrocorinthus itself can be seen. A system of built roads radiates through the hills from Mycenae and they and the signal station emphasize its strategic and politi cal importance.