Corinth and Mycenae
One of the day trips we made from Nafplion was to the ancient sites of Corinth and Mycenae.
Like Athens and Sparta, Corinth was one of
the great city states of ancient Greece. Unlike these other two,
Corinth continued to flourish in the Roman era, long after the others had diminished in importance.
The ruins of the agora or main square of
Roman Corinth show how big a city it was. It was dominated by
the large Temple to Apollo, the ancient Greek god of the sun, only a corner of which survives.
Throughout the ruins lie examples of the leaf-topped column capitals called Corinthian after the city.
The archeological museum of Corinth is small but has some interesting artifacts.
Among them are examples of Roman mosaics. Below left are some photos of them, with close-up details below right.
There were also some interesting examples
of ancient scultpture, including the sphinx (below left),
combat between a Greek and an Amazon (below middle), and--well, a groovy ancient guy (below right).
Without a doubt the most awe-inspiring of Corinth's sights was its acropolis, dating from before classical antiquity. It was so much more elevated than the acropolis of Athens, and certainly that of Sparta. It commanded views over what was called even in antiquity the Gulf of Corinth, and also the narrow isthmus that joins the Peloponnesos to the rest of mainland Greece (less than four miles wide). With its position, Corinth was able to control both the overland trade--that had to pass through the isthmus and thus next to Corinth--and also the maritime trade, since ships had to unload their cargo here to transport their goods across to the Aegean Sea.
The mountaintop is now dominated by the fort that was built here during the Middle Ages by the French dukes of Morea, then rebuilt by the Turks.
Even though it is in ruins, the fortifications remain impressive. (Below middle is a photo of the same gates as above, seen from a higher point.)
In the Turkish era there was a sizeable town on the mountaintop, and ruins of other buildings--including these mosques--can also be seen on the acropolis.
From Corinth it is not a far drive to Mycenae.
Mycenae is much older than Corinth --it was
built by the Myceneaeans, and was already a town about a thousand years before Corinth.
Another brief history lesson: Mycenae was discovered by Heinrich Schliemann, a nineteenth-century German amateur archeologist who also discovered the ruins of Troy. Since this civilization was far older than that of the ancient Greeks and not the same, they were named Mycenaeans after the ruins of Mycenae, which date to about 1600 B.C.
Mycenae is set on a hilltop (below and slightly to the right of the mountaintop in the photo below).
From its walls a clear view can be seen of the whole of the countryside around--called the Argolid Plain.
Mycenae is even today surrounded by its massive
walls--built of such huge blocks of stone fitted together that even
the classical Greeks marveled at them and considered them the work of giants. They date from sometime before 1000 B.C.
Mycenae is famous for its Lion Gate--the main entrance to the town. (The lintel below the sculpture weighs over 20 tons.)
At one end of the town is a deep shaft that
allowed the women of the town to walk down to the valley
below and to a spring to get water--all while remaining underground and protected from attackers.
Also at Mycenae are the famous Tholos tombs--where
the kings and queens were buried in
beehive-shaped tombs underground. This one, called the Tomb of Agamemnon, dates to about 1250 B.C.
The Mycenaeans created among the world's
first domes, by leaning rows of stone gradually inward. They also created
doorway in that way (and prevented too much weight from the stone above from collapsing the lintel above the doorway).
This is the ceiling inside the tomb. The uppermost sections have been restored, but it is still a remarkable sight, about 40 feet high and 40 feet in diameter.