The Mycenaean world covered a wide area, from Thessaly in the north to Crete in the south, and from Ithaca in the west to Rhodes and Cyprus in the east. The most familiar of all excavated Mycenaean sites, besides Mycenae, are Argos, Pylos, Tiryns, Athens, Eleusis, Orchomenus and Thebes (see map).
Mycenae was a fortress rather than a city. Within the citadel were the buildings which housed those essential to the functioning of the state. The bulk of the population lived in areas below the citadel wherever water and fertile land were available. The citadel was surrounded by walls fashioned from limestone. Although the original height of these walls is unknown, they are about twenty feet in thickness. The main entrance was the famous Lion's Gate, about ten feet wide and slightly higher. Above the lintel was the relief -- two lions (actually lionesses). This relief is perhaps one of the oldest examples of monumental sculpture found in Greece. The relief had a religious and heraldic significance -- the lions as attendants of the Mother Goddess guarding the entrance to the citadel and to the palace of the king.
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copyright © 2000 Steven Kreis