IT is impossible to approach Mycenae from any side without being struck with the picturesqueness of the site. If you come down over the mountains from Corinth, as soon as you reach the head of the valley of the Inachus, which is the plain of Argos, you turn aside to the left, or east, into a secluded corner” a recess of the horse-feeding Argos,’ as Homer calls it, and then you find on the edge of the valley, and where the hills begin to rise one behind the other, the village of Charvati. When you ascend from this place, you find that the lofty Mount Elias is separated from the plain by two nearly parallel waves of land, which are indeed joined at the northern end by a curving saddle, but elsewhere are divided by deep gorges. The loftier and shorter wave forms the rocky citadel of Mycenae the Argion, as it was once called. The lower and longer was part of the outer city, which occupied both this hill and the gorge under the Argion. As you walk along the lower hill, you find the Treasure-house of Atreus, as it is called, built into the side which faces the Acropolis. But there are other ruined treasuries on the outer slope, and one is just at the joining saddle, where the way winds round to lead you up the greater hill to the giant gate with the Lion portal. If we represent the high levels under the image of a fishing-hook, with the shank placed down-wards (south), and the point lying to the right (east), then the Great Treasury is at that spot in the shank which is exactly opposite the point, and faces it. The point and barb are the Acropolis. The New Treasury is just at the turn of the hook, facing inwards (to the south). This will give a rough idea of the site. It is not necessary to enter into details, when so many maps and plans are now in circulation. But I would especially refer to the admirable illustrations in Schliemann’s Mycenae, where all these matters are made perfectly plain and easy.
When we first visited the place, it was in the after-noon of a splendid summer’s day ; the fields were yellow and white with stubbles or with dust, and the deep grey shadow of a passing cloud was the only variety in the colour of the upper plain. For here there are now no trees, the corn had been reaped, and the land asserted its character as very thirsty Argos. But as we ascended to higher ground, the groves and plantations of the lower plain came in sight, the splendid blue of the bay began to frame the picture, and the setting sun cast deeper shadow and richer colour over all the view. Down at the river-bed great oleanders were spreading their sheets of bloom, like the rhododendrons in our climate, but they were too distant to form a feature in the prospect.
I saw the valley of Argos again in spring, in our ‘roaring moon of daffodil and crocus’ ; it was the time of growing corn, of scarlet anemone and purple cistus, but there too of high winds and glancing shadows. Then all the plain was either brilliant green with growing wheat, or ruddy brown with recent tillage ; there were clouds about the mountains, and changing colours in the sky, and a feeling of freshness and life, very different from the golden haze and dreamy calmness of a southern June.
I can hardly say which of these seasons was the more beautiful, but I shall always associate the summer scene with the charm of a first visit to this famous spot, and still more with the venerable and undisturbed aspect of the ruins before they had been profaned by modern research. It is, I suppose, ungrateful to complain of these things, and we must admit that great discoveries outbalance the aesthetic damage done to an ancient ruin by digging unsightly holes and piling mounds of earth about it ; but who can con-template without sorrow the covering of the finest piece of the Cyclopean wall at Mycenae with the rubbish taken away from over the tombs ? Who will not regret the fig-tree which spread its shade over the portal of the House of Atreus ? This fig-tree is still to be seen in the older’ photographs, and is in the woodcut of the entrance given in Dr. Schliemann’s book, but the visitor of to-day will look for it in vain. On the other hand, the opening at the top, which had been there since the beginning of last century, but which was closed when I first visited the chamber, had been again uncovered, and so it was much easier to examine the inner arrangement of the building.
I am not sure that this wonderful structure was visited or described by any traveller from the days of Pausanias till after the year 1800. At least I can find no description from any former traveller quoted in the many accurate accounts which the nineteenth century produced. Chandler, in 1776, intended to visit Mycenae, but accidentally missed the spot on his way from Argos to Corintha thing more likely to happen then, when there was a good deal of wooding in the upper part of the plain. But Clarke, Dodwell, and Gell all visited and described the place between 1800 and 1806, and the latter two published accurate drawings of both the portal and the inner view, which was possible, owing to the aperture made at the summit.
About the same time, Lord Elgin had turned his attention to the Treasury, and had made excavations about the place, finding several fragments of very old engraved basalt and limestone, which had been employed to ornament the entrance. Some of these fragments are now in the British Museum, and large pieces of the fluted pillars flanking the doorway have recently come there from the Marquis of Sligo’s seat near Westport, whither they had been brought in the Marquis’s yacht nearly one hundred years ago. Hence a fine restoration of the gate has become possible and is to be seen at the Museum. But, though both Clarke and Leake allude to `Lord Elgin’s excavations,’ they do not specify what was performed, or in what condition the place had been before their researches. There is no published account of this interesting point, which is probably to be solved by the still unpublished journals said to be in the possession of the present Earl. This much is, however, certain, that the chamber was not first entered at this time ; for Dr. Clarke speaks of its appearance as that of a place open for centuries. We know that systematic rifling of ancient tombs took place at the close of the classical epoch ; we can imagine it repeated in every age of disorder or barbarism ; and the accounts we hear of the Genoese plundering the great mounds of the Crimea show that even these civilised and artistic Italians thought it no desecration to obtain gold and jewels from unnamed, long-forgotten sepulchres. It seems, therefore, impossible to say at what epochprobably even before Pausaniasthis chamber was opened. The story in Dr. Schliemann’s book, which he quotes from a Greek newspaper, and which attributes the plundering of it to Veli Pashi, in 181o, is positively groundless, and in direct contradiction to the irrefragable evidence I have above adduced. The Pasha may have probed the now ruined chambers on the outer side of the hill ; but the account of what he found is so mythical that the whole story may be rejected as undeserving of credit.
I need not attempt a fresh description of the Great Tomb, in the face of such ample and accurate reports as those I have indicated. It is in no sense a rude building, or one of a helpless and barbarous age, but, on the contrary, the product of enormous appliances, and of a perfect knowledge of all the mechanical requirements for any building, if we except the application of the arch. The stones are hewn square, or curved to form the circular dome within, with admirable exactness. Above the enormous lintel-stone, nearly twenty-seven feet long, and which is doubly grooved, by way of ornament, all along its edge over the doorway, there is now a triangular window or relieving aperture, which was certainly filled with some artistic carving like the analogous space over the lintel in the gate of the Acropolis. Shortly after Lord Elgin had cleared the entrance, Gell and Dodwell found various pieces of green and red marble carved with geometrical patterns, some of which are reproduced in Dodwell’s book. Gell also found some fragments in a neighbouring chapel, and others are said to be built into a wall at Nauplia. There were thin columns standing on each side in front of the gate, with some ornament surmounting them. There is the strongest architectural reason for the triangular aperture over the door, as it diminishes the enormous weight to be borne by the lintel ; and here, no doubt, some ornament very like the lions on the citadel gate may have been applied.
The outer lintel-stone is not by any means the largest, but is far exceeded by the inner, which lies next to it, and which reaches on each side of the entrance a long way round the chamber, its inner surface being curved to suit the form of the wall. Along this curve it is twenty-nine feet long ; it is, moreover, seventeen feet broad, and nearly four feet thick, weighing about one hundred and twenty-four tons !
When we first entered by the light of torches, we found ourselves in the great cone-shaped chamber, which, strange to say, reminded me of the Pantheon at Rome more than any other building I know, and is, nevertheless, built on a very different principle? The stones are not, indeed, pushed forward one above the other, as in ruder stone roofs through Ireland ; but each of them, which is on the other surfaces cut perfectly square, has its inner face curved so that the upper end comes out several inches above the lower. So each stone carries on the conical plan, having its lower line fitting closely to the upper line of the one beneath, and the whole dome ends with a great flat stone laid on the top.
Dodwell still found copper nails of some inches in length, which he supposed to have been used to fasten on thin plates of shining metal ; but I was at first unable to see even the holes in the roof, which other travellers had believed to be the places where the nails were inserted. However, without being provided with magnesium wire, it was then impossible to light the chamber sufficiently for a positive decision on this point. A comparatively small side chamber is hollowed out in the rock and earth, without any stone casing or ornament whatever, but with a similar triangular aperture over its doorway. Schliemann tells us he dug two trenches in this chamber, and that, besides finding some hewn pieces of limestone, he found in the middle a circular depression (apparently of stone), twenty-one inches deep, and about one yard in diameter, which he compares to a large wash-bowl. Any one who has visited New Grange will be struck with the likeness of this description to the large stone saucers which are still to be seen there, and of which I shall speak presently.
There has been much controversy about the use to which this building was applied, and we cannot now attempt to change the name, even if we could prove its absurdity. Pausanias, who saw Mycena; in the second century A.D., found it in much the same state as we do, and was no better informed than we, though he tells us the popular belief that this and its fellows were treasure-houses like that of the Minyæ at Orchomenus, which was very much greater, and was, in his opinion, one of the most wonderful things in all Greece.
It is now accepted that it is a tomb. In the first place, there are three other similar buildings quite close to it, which Pausanias mentions as the treasure-houses of the sons of Atreus, but their number makes it most unlikely that any of them could be for treasure. In the next place, these buildings were all underground and dark, and exactly such as would be selected for tombs. Thirdly, they are not situated within the enclosure of the citadel of Mycenæ, but are outside it, and probably outside the original town altogethera thing quite inconceivable if they were meant for treasure, but most reasonable, and according to analogy, if they were used as tombs. This, too, would of course explain the plurality of themdifferent kings having built them, just like the pyramids of Chufu, Safra, and Menkerah, and many others, along the plain of Memphis in Egypt. It is even quite easy and natural to explain on this hypothesis how they came to be thought treasure – houses. It is known that the sepulchral tumuli of similar construction in other places, and possibly built by kindred people, contained much treasure, left there by way of honour to the deceased. Herodotus describes this in Scythian tombs, some of which have been opened of late, and have verified his assertions. The lavish expense at Patroclus’s funeral, in the Iliad, shows the prevalence of similar notions among early Greeks, who held, down to Aeschylus’s day, that the importance of a man among the dead was in proportion to the circumstance with which his tomb was treated by the living. It may, therefore, be assumed as certain that these strongholds of the dead were filled with many precious things in gold and other metals, intended as parting gifts in honour of the king who was laid to rest. Long after the devastation of Mycenæ, I sup-pose that these tombs were opened in search of treasure, and not in vain ; and so nothing was said about the skeleton tenant, while rumours went abroad of the rich treasure-trove within the giant portal. Thus, then, the tradition would spring up and grow, that the building was the treasure-house of some old legendary king.
These considerations have led us away from the actual survey of the old vault, for ruin it cannot be called. The simplicity and massiveness of its structure have defied age and violence, and, except for the shattered ornaments, and a few pieces over the inner side of the window, not a stone appears ever to have been moved from its place. Standing at the entrance, you look out upon the scattered masonry of the walls of Mycenæ, on the hillock over against you. Close beyond this is a dark and solemn chain of mountains. The view is narrow and confined, and faces the north, so that, for most of the day, the gate is dark and in shadow. We can conceive no fitter place for the burial of a king, within sight of his citadel, in the heart of a deep natural hillock, with a great solemn portal symbolising the resistless strength of the barrier which he had passed into an unknown land. But one more remark seems necessary. This treasure-house is by no means a Hellenic building in its features. It has the same perfection of construction which can be seen at Eleutherae, or any other Greek fort, but still the really analogous buildings are to be found in far distant landsin the raths of Ireland and the barrows of the Crimea.
I have had the opportunity of comparing the structure and effect of the great sepulchral monuments in the county of Meath, in Ireland. Two of these, Dowth and New Grange, are opened, and can be entered almost as easily as the treasury of Atreus. They lie close to the rich valley of the Boyne, in that part of the country which was pointed out by nature as the earliest seat of wealth and culture. Dowth is the ruder and less ornamented, and therefore not improbably the older, but is less suited for the present comparison than the greater and more ornate New Grange.
This splendid tomb is not a whit less remarkable, or less colossal in its construction, than those at Mycenæ, but differs in many details. It was not hollowed out in a hillside, but was built of great upright stones, with flat slabs laid over them, and then covered with a mountain of earth. An enormous circle of giant boulders stands round the foot of the mound. Instead of passing along an open dromos into a great vaulted chamber, there is a long narrow covered corridor, which leads to a much smaller, but still very lofty room, nearly twenty feet high. Three recesses in the walls of this latter each contain a large round saucer, so to speak, made of a single stone, in which the remains of the dead seem to have been laid. The saucer is very shallow, and not more than four feet in diameter. The great stones with which the chamber and passage are constructed are not hewn or shaped, and so far the building is rather comparable with that of Tiryns than of Mycenæ. But all over the faces of the stones are endless spiral and zigzag ornaments, even covering built-in surfaces, and thus invisible, so that this decoration must have been applied to the slabs prior to the building. On the outside stones, both under and over the entry, there is a well-executed carving of more finished geometrical designs.
Putting aside minor details, it may be said that while both monuments show an equal display of human strength, and an equal contempt for human toil, which were lavished upon them without stint, the Greek building shows far greater finish of design and neatness of execution, together with greater simplicity. The stones are all carefully hewn and fitted, but not carved or decorated. The triangular carved block over the lintel, and the supposed metal plates on the interior, were both foreign to the original structure. On the contrary, while the Irish tomb is a far greater feature in the landscapea land-mark in the districtthe great stones within are not fitted together, or hewn into shape, and yet they are covered with patterns and designs strangely similar to the carvings found by Dodwell and Dr. Schliemann at the Argive tombs. Thus the Irish builders, with far greater rudeness, show a greater taste for ornament. They care less for design and symmetrymore for beauty of detail. The Greek essay naturally culminates in the severe symmetry of the Doric Templethe Irish in the glorious intricacy of the Book of Kells.
The second treasury excavated by Mrs. Schliemann has been disappointing in its results. Though it seems not to have been disturbed for ages, it had evidently been once rifled, for nothing save a few fragments of pottery were found within. Its entrance is much loftier than that of the House of Atreus, but the general building is inferior, the stones are far smaller, and by no means so well fitted, and it produces altogether the impression of being either a much earlier and ruder attempt, or a poor and feeble imitation. Though Dr. Schliemann asserts the former, I am disposed to suspect the latter to be the case.
A great deal of what was said about the tomb of nemnon, as the common people, with truer instinct, call the supposed treasure-house, may be repeated about the fortifications of Mycenæ. It is the work of builders who know perfectly how to deal with their materialswho can hew and fit great blocks of stone with perfect ease ; nay, who prefer, for the sake of massive effect, to make their doorway with such enormous blocks as even modern science would find it difficult to handle. The sculpture over the gate fortunately remains almost entire. Two lions, standing up at a small pillar, were looking out fiercely at the stranger. The heads are gone, having probably, as Dr. Schliemann first observed, been made of bronze, and riveted to the stone. The rest of the sculpture is intact, and is of a strangely heraldic character.’ It is a piece of bluish limestone, which must have been brought from a long distance, quite different from the rough breccia of the rest of the gate. The lintel-stone is not nearly so vast as that of the treasure-house : it is only fifteen feet long, but is somewhat thicker, and also much deeper, going back the full depth of the gateway. Still, it must weigh a good many tons ; and it puzzles us to think how it can have been put into its place with the appliances then in vogue. The joint use of square and polygonal masonry is very curious. Standing within the gate, one side is of square-hewn stones, the other of irregular, though well-fitted, blocks. On the left side, looking into the gate, there is a gap of one block in the wall, which looks very like a window, as it is not probable that a single stone was taken, or fell out of its place afterwards, without disturbing the rest. What makes it, perhaps, more possible that this window is intentional, is the position of the gate, which is not in the middle of the walled causeway, as you enter, but to the right side.
When you go in, and climb up the hill of the Acropolis, you find various other portions of Cyclopean walls which belonged to the old palace, in plan very similar to that of Tiryns. But the outer wall goes all round the hill where it is steepest, sometimes right along a precipice, and everywhere offering an almost unsurmountable obstacle to an ancient assailant. On the east side, facing the steep mountain, which is separated from it by a deep gorge, is a postern gate, consisting merely of three stones, but these so massive, and so beautifully hewn and fitted, as to be a structure hardly less striking than the lion gate. At about half the depth of these huge blocks there is a regular groove cut down both sides and along the top, in order to hold the door.
The whole summit of the great rock is now stony and bare, but not so bare that I could not gather scarlet anemones, which found scanty sustenance here and there in tiny patches of grass, and gladdened the grey colour of the native rock and the primeval walls. The view from the summit, when first I saw it, was one of singular solitude and peace ; not a stone seemed to have been disturbed for ages ; not a human creature, or even a browsing goat, was visible, and the traveller might sketch or scrutinise any part of the fortress without fear of intrusion, far less of molestation. When I again reached the site a great change had taken place. Dr. Schliemann had attacked the ruins, and had made his world-renowned excavations inside and about the lion gate. To the gate itself this was a very great gain. All the encumbering earth and stones have been removed, so that we can now admire the full proportions of the mighty portal. He discovered a tiny porter’s lodge inside it. He denied the existence of the wheel-tracks which we and others fancied we had seen there on our former visit.
But proceeding from the gate to the other side, where the hill slopes down rapidly, and where the great irregular Cyclopean wall trends away to the right, Dr. Schliemann found a deep accumulation of soil. This was, of course, the chief place on an otherwise bare rock where excavations promised large results. And the result was beyond the wildest anticipations. The whole account of what he has done is long before the public in his very splendid book, of which the illustrations are quite an epoch in the history of ornament, and in spite of their great antiquity suggest to our modern jewellers many an exquisite pattern.
The sum of what he found is this He first found in this area a double circle of thin upright slabs, joined together closely, and joined across the top with flat slabs morticed into them, the whole circuit being like a covered way, about three feet high. Into the enclosed circle a way leads from the lion gate ; and what I noted particularly was this, that the whole circle, which was over thirty yards in diameter, was separated from the higher ground by a very miserable bounding wall, which, though quite concealed before the excavations, and therefore certainly very old, looked for all the world like some Turkish piece of masonry.
As soon as this stone circle was discovered, it was suggested that old Greek agoras were found, that they were often in the citadel at the king’s gate, and that people were sometimes buried in them. Dr. Schliemann at once baptized the place as the agora of Mycenae. It was a circle with only one free access, and that from the gate ; it had tombstones standing in the midst of it, and there were the charred remains of sacrifices about them. The number of bodies already exhumed beneath precluded their being all founders or heroes of the city. These and other indications were enough to disprove clearly that the circle was an agora, but that it was rather a place of sepulture, enclosed, as such places always were, with a fence, which seems made in imitation of a palisade of wood.
Inside this circuit of stone slabs were foundapparently at the same depth, but on this Dr. Schliemann is not explicitvery curious and very archaic carved slabs, with rude hunting scenes of warriors in very uncomfortable chariots, and varied spiral ornaments filling up the vacant spaces. These sculptures are unlike any Hellenic work, properly so called, and point back to a very remote period, and probably to the introduction of a foreign art among the rude in-habitants of early Greece. Deeper down were found more tombstones, all manner of archaic pottery, arrow-heads, and buttons of bone ; there were also found some rude construction of hewn stones, which may have served as an altar or a tomb.
Yet farther down, twenty-one feet deep, and close to the rock, were lying together a number of skeletons, which seemed to have been hastily or carelessly buried; but in the rock itself, in rudely hewn chambers, were found fifteen bodies buried with a splendour seldom equalled in the history of the world. These people were not buried like Greeks. They were not laid in rock chambers, like the Scythian kings. They were sunk in graves under the earth, which were large enough to receive them, had they not been filled up round the bottom with rudely built walls, or pieces of stone, so as to reduce the area, but to create perhaps some ventilation for the fire which had partly burnt the bodies where they were found. Thus the splendidly attired and jewelled corpses, some of them with masks and breastplates of gold, were, so to speak, jammed down by the earth and stones above them into a very narrow space ; but there appears to have been some arrangement for protecting them and their treasure from complete confusion with the soil which settled down over them. This, if the account of the excavation be accurate, seems the most peculiar feature in the burial of these great personages, but finds a parallel in the curious tombs of Hallstadt, which afford many analogies to Mycenae.
Dr. Schliemann boldly announced in the Times, and the public believed him, that he had found Agamemnon and his companions, who were murdered when they returned from the siege of Troy. The burial is indeed quite different from any such ceremony described in the Homeric poems. The number of fifteen is not to be accounted for by any of the legends. There is no reason to think all the tombs have been discovered ; one, or at least part of the treasure belonging to it, was since found outside the circle. Another was afterwards found by M. Stamatakes. Aeschylus, our oldest and best authority, places the tomb of Agamemnon, not at Mycenæ, but at Argos. They all agree that he was buried with contempt and dishonour. The result was that when the public came to hear the Agamemnon theory disproved, it was disposed to take another leap in the dark, and to look upon the whole discovery as suspicious, and as possibly something mediæval.
Such an inference would be as absurd as to accept the hypothesis of Dr. Schliemann. The tombs are undoubtedly very ancient, certainly far more ancient than the supposed date of Homer, or even of Agamemnon. The treasures which have been carried to Athens, and which I not only saw but handled, are really valuable masses of gold, with a good deal of beauty of workmanship, both in design and decoration. Though the masks are very ugly and barbarous, and though there is in general no power shown of moulding any animal figure, there are very beautiful cups and jugs, there are most elegant geometrical ornaments zigzags, spirals, and the likeand there are even imitations of animals of much artistic merit. The celebrated silver bull’s head, with golden horns, is a piece of work which would not disgrace a goldsmith of our own day ; and this may be said of many of the ornaments. Any one who knows the Irish gold ornaments of the Academy Museum in Dublin perceives a wonderful family likeness in the old Irish spirals and decorations, yet not more than might occur among kindred nations working with the same materials under similar conditions. But I feel convinced that the best things in the tombs at Mycenæ were not made by native artists, but imported, probably from Syria and Egypt. This seems proved even by the various materials which have been employedivory, alabaster, amber ; in one case even an ostrich egg. So we come back upon the despised legends of Cadmus and Danaus, and find that they told us truly of an old cultivated race coming from the South and the East to humanise the northern progenitors of the Greeks.
I can now add important corroborations of these general conclusions from the researches made since the appearance of my earlier editions. I then said that the discoveries were too fresh and dazzling to admit of safe theories concerning their origin. By way of illustration I need only allude to those savants (they will hereafter be obliged to me for omitting their names) who imagined that all the Mycenaean tombs were not archaic at all, but the work of some northern barbarians who occupied Greece during the disasters of the later Roman Empire ! Serious researches, however, have at last brought us considerable light. In the first place, Helbig, in an important work, comparing the treasures of Mycenæ with the allusions to art, arms, and manufactures in the Homeric poems, came to the negative conclusion that these two civilisations were distinctthat the Homeric poets cannot have had before them the palace of Mycenæ which owned the Schliemann treasures. As there is no room in Greek history for such a civilisation posterior to the Homeric poems, it follows that the latter must describe a civilisation considerably later than that we have found at Mycenae. Placing the Homeric poems in the eighth century B.C., we shall be led to about 1000 B.C. as the latest possible date for the splendours of Mycenæ. This negative conclusion has been well-nigh demonstrated by the positive results of the various recent researches in Egypt. Not only has the Egypt Exploration Society examined carefully the sites of Naucratis and Daphne, thus disclosing to us what Greek art and manufacture could produce in the sixth and seventh centuries B.C. (665-565 B.C.), but Dr. Flinders Petrie has enriched our knowledge by his wonderful discoveries of Egyptian art on several sites, and of many epochs, fairly determinable by the reigning dynasties. He has also examined the Mycenæan and other prehistoric treasures collected at Athens by the light of his rich Egyptian experience, and has given a summary of the results in two short articles in the journal of Hellenic Studies.
He finds that the materials and their treatment, such as blue glass (even in its decomposition), alabaster, rock-crystal, hollowed and painted within, dome-head rivets attaching handles of gold cups, ostrich eggs with handles attached, ties made for ornament in porcelain, are all to be found in Egyptian tombs varying from 1400 to 1100 in date. His analysis leads him to give the dates for the tombs I.-IV. at Mycenæ as 1200-1100 B.C. That an earlier date is improbable is shown by the negative evidence that none of the purely geometrical false-necked vases occur, such as are the general product of 1400-1200 in Egyptian deposits. But as several isolated articles are of older types, as in particular the lions over the gate are quite similar to a gilt wooden lion he found of about 1450 B.C. in date, the Mycenaean civilisation probably extended over a considerable period. He even finds proof of decadence in grave IV. as compared with the rest, and so comes to the conclusion, which I am disposed to question, that the tombs within the circle at Mycena; (shaft-tombs) are later and worse interments made by the same people who had already built the more majestic and costly bee-hive tombs. Instead, therefore, of upholding a Phrygian origin, Dr. Petrie asserts an Egyptian origin for both Mycenaean and parallel Phrygian designs. The spiral pattern in its various forms, the rosettes, the keyfret, the palmetto, are all used in very early Egyptian decoration. The inlaid daggers of Mycenae have long been recognised as inspired by Egypt ; ‘ but we must note that it is native work and not merely an imported article. The attitude of the figures and of the lions, and the form of the cat, are such as no Egyptian would have executed. To make such things in Greece implies a far higher culture than merely to import them. The same remark applies to the glazed pottery ; the style of some is not Egyptian, so that here the Mycenaean were capable of elaborate technical work, and imitated rather than imported from Egypt. . . . The familiarity with Egypt is further proved by the lotus pattern on the dagger blade, by the cat on the dagger, and the cats on the gold-foil ornaments, since the cat was then unknown in Greece. That the general range of the civilisation was that of Africa is indicated by the frequent use of the palm (not then known in Greece) as a decoration, and by the very scanty clothing of the male figures, indicating that dress was not a necessity of climate. On the other hand this culture reached out to the north of Europe. The silver-headed rein-deer or elk, found in grave IV., can only be the result of northern intercourse. The amber so commonly used comes from the Baltic. And we see in Celtic ornament the obvious reproduction of the decorations of Mycenae, as Mr. Arthur Evans has shown. Not only is the spiral decoration indistinguishable, but also the taste for elaborately embossed diadems and breastplates of gold is peculiar to the Mycenaean and Celtic cultures. The great period of Mycenae seems therefore to date 1300-1100 B.C., with occasional traditional links with Egypt as far back as 1500 or 1600 B.C..
Such is an abstract of Dr. Petrie’s estimate.
I will only here point out, in addition, the remarkable unity of style between the ornaments found at a depth of twenty-five feet in the tombs, the sculptured tombstones twelve or fourteen feet over them, and the lions on the gate of the citadel. It is indeed only a general uniformity, but it corroborates Dr. Petrie’s inference that there was more than mere importing, there was home manufacture. It seems, then, that the art of Mycenae had not changed when its early history came to a close, and its inhabitants were forced to abandon the fortress and submit to the now Doric Argos.
We are, indeed, told expressly by Pausanias and Diodorus that this event did not take place till after the Persian wars, when old Hellenic art was already well defined, and was beginning to make rapid progress. But this express statement, which I saw reason to question since my former remarks on the subject in this book, I am now determined to reject, in the face of the inconsistencies of these historians, the silence of all the contemporaries of the alleged conquest, and the exclusively archaic remains which Dr. Schliemann has unearthed. Mycenae, along with Tiryns, Midea, and the other towns of the plain, was incorporated into Argos at a far earlier date, and not posterior to the brilliant rule of Pheidon. So it comes that historical Greece is silent about the ancient capital of the Pelopids, and the poets transfer all its glories to Argos. Once, indeed, the name did appear on the national records. The offerings to the gods at Olympia, and at Delphi, after the victory over the Persians, recorded that a few patriots460 in allfrom Mycenae and from Tiryns had joined the Greeks at Plataea, while the remainder of the Argives preserved a base and cowardly neutrality. The Mycenaeans were very few in number ; sixty are mentioned in connection with Thermopylae by Herodotus. They were probably exiles through Greece, who had preserved their traditions and their descent, and gloried in exposing and insulting Argive Medism. How completely Mycenae had then disappeared appears clearly from the fact that the patriotic Aeschylus, the fellow-soldier of these exiles in the Persian War, never mentions Mycenae in connection with Agamemnon ! The Tirynthian 400 may even have been the remnant of the slave population, which Herodotus tells us seized the citadel of Tiryns, when driven out from Argos twenty years before, and who lived there for some years. In the crisis of Plataea the Greeks were not dainty or critical, and they may have readily conceded the title of Tirynthian to these doubtful citizens, out of hatred and disgust at the neutrality of Argos. However these things may be, the mention of Mycenaeans and Tirynthians on this solitary occasion afforded an obvious warrant to Diodorus for his date (466 B.C.) of the destruction of Mycenae. But I am convinced that his authority, and that of Pausanias, who follows him, must be deliberately rejected.
On the other hand, the origin of Mycenae, and its greatness as a royal residence, must be thrown back into a far deeper antiquity than any one had yet imagined. If Agamemnon and his house represent Hellenic princes, of the type of Homer’s knowledge and acquaintance, they must have arisen after some older, and apparently different dynasties had ruled and had buried their dead at Mycenæ.’ But it is also possible that the Homeric bards, describing professedly the acts of a past age, imposed their new manners and their own culture upon the Pelopids, whom they only knew by vague tradition, and that thus their drawing is false ; while the chiefs they glorify were the ancient pre-Hellenic rulers of the country. This latter supposition is so shocking a heresy against ‘Homer,’ that I will not venture to expand it, and will leave the reader to add any conjectures he chooses to those which I have already hazarded in too great number.
The further investigation of the remains of Mycenæ, with the additional evidence derived from the ruins of Tiryns, have led Dr. Adler to explain Mycenæ as the record of a double foundation, first by a race who built rubble masonry, and buried their dead in narrow rock-tombs or graves, piling on the bodies their arms and ornaments ; secondly, after some considerable interval, by a race who built splendid ashlar masonry, with well-cut blocks, and who constructed great bee-hive tombs, where the dead could lie with ample room in royal state. The second race enlarged, rebuilt, and refaced the old fortifications, added the present lion gate, and built the so-called treasure-houses. For convenience’ sake he calls them, according to the old legends, Perseids and Pelopids respectively. Hence the tombs which Dr. Schliemann found were really far older than any one had at first supposed, and if the record of Homer points distinctly to the Pelopids, then the gold and jewels of a far earlier people were hidden deep underground in the foundation of Agamemnon’s fortress, merely marked by a sacred circle of stones and some archaic grave-stones.
To which of these stages of building do the ruins of Tiryns belong ? Apparently to the earlier, though here, again, the size of. the stones used is far greater than those in the first Mycenæ, and it is now certain that the beginnings of artificial shaping are discernible in them. The walls were uncovered and examined by Dr. Schliemann, with the valuable advice and assistance of Dr. Dorpfeld. I conclude this chapter with a brief summary of the results they have attained.
The upper part of the rock of Tiryns, which consisted of two plateaus or levels, was known to contain remains of building by the shafts which Dr. Schliemann had already sunk there in former years. But now a very different method of excavating was adoptedthat of uncovering the surface in layers, so that successive strata of debris might be clearly distinguished. This exceedingly slow and laborious process, which I saw going on for days at Tiryns with very little result, brought out in the end the whole plan of a palace, with its gates, floors, parting walls, and pillar bases, so that in the admirable drawing to be seen in the book called Tiryns, Dr. Dorpfeld has given us the first clear view of an old Greek, or perhaps even pre-Hellenic palace. The partial agreement with the plan of the palaces of Troy and of Mycenæ, since discovered, and the adoption in Hellenic temples of the plan of entrance, here several times repeatedtwo pillars between squared pilasters (antæ)show that the palace at Tiryns was not exceptional, but typical.
All the gates leading up into this palace are still distinctly marked by the threshold or door-sill, a great stone, lying in its place, with grooves inserted for the pivots of the doors, which were of wood, but had their pivots shod with bronze, as was proved by the actual remains. These doors divided a double porch, entered either way between two pillars of wood, standing upon stone bases still in their place, and flanked by antae, which were below of stone and above of wood dowelled into the stone piers. All the upper structure of the gates, and indeed of all the palace, seems to have been of wood. There are clear signs of a great conflagration, in which the palace perished. This implies the existence of ample fuel, and while the ashes, mud-bricks, etc., remain, no trace of architrave, or pillar, or roof has been found. There are gates of similar design leading into the courts and principal chamber of the palace, the floors of which are covered with a careful lime concrete marked with line patterns, and so sloped as to afford easy drainage into a vent leading to pipes of terra-cotta, which carried off water. The same careful arrangements are observed in the bath-room, with a floor of one great stone, twelve feet by nine, which is likewise pierced to carry off water. The remains of a terra-cotta tub were found there, and the walls of the room were panelled with wood, set into the raised edge of the floor-stone by dowels sunk in the stone. No recent discovery is more interesting than this.
Of the walls little remains but the foundations, and here and there a couple of feet of mud-bricks, with signs of beams let into them, which added to the conflagration. But enough remains to show that the walls of the better rooms were richly covered with ornament. There is a fresco of a bull still preserved, and reproduced in Dr. Schliemann’s book ; and there was also found a very remarkable frieze ornament in rosettes and brooch patterns, made of blue glass paste (supposed to be Homer’s) and alabaster. This valuable relic shows remarkable analogies in design to other prehistoric ornaments found in Greece.
The size of the main hall, or men’s apartment, is very large, the floor covering about 120 square yards, and the parallel room in the palace at Troy was consequently taken to be the cella of a temple. But there seems no doubt that the great room at Tiryns, with a hearth in the middle and four pillar bases near it, supporting, perhaps, a higher roof, with a clerestory, was the main reception-room of the palace ; a smaller room of similar construction, not connected with the former, save by a circuitous route through passages, seems to have been the ladies’ drawing-room.
If I were to attempt any full description of this wonderful place I should be obliged to copy out a great part of the fifth chapter in Dr. Schliemann’s book, in which Dr. Dorpfeld has set down very modestly, but very completely, the results of his own acuteness and research. Many things which are now plain enough were perfect riddles till he found the true solution, and the acuteness with which he has utilised the smallest hints, as well as the caution of his conclusions, make this work of his a very model of scientific induction.
He says, rightly enough, that a minute description is necessary, because a very few years will cover up much of the evidence which he had plainly before him. The concrete floors, the remains of mud-brick walls, the plan of the various rooms, will be choked with grass and weeds, unless they are kept covered and cleared. The rain, which has long since washed all traces of mortar out of the walls, will wash away far more, now that the site is opened, and so the future archaeologist will find that the book Tiryns will tell him much that the actual Tiryns cannot show.
The lower platform on the rock is not yet touched, and here perhaps digging will discover to us the remains of a temple, from which one very archaic Doric capital and an antefix have found their way to the higher rock. There are traces, too, of the great fort being the second building on the site, over an older and not yet clearly determined palace.
Two things are plain from these discoveries, and I dwell on them with satisfaction, because they corroborate old opinions of mine, put forth long before the principal evidence was forthcoming. First, the general use of wood for pillars and architraves, so showing how naturally the stone temple imitated the older wooden buildings. Secondly, the archaic or ante-Hellenic character of all that was found at Tiryns, with the solitary exception of the architectural fragments, which certainly have no building to correspond to them where they were found. Thus my hypothesis, which holds that Tiryns, as well as Mycena:, was destroyed at least as early as Pheidon’s time (66o B.C.) and not after the Persian wars, receives corroboration which will amount to positive proof in any mind open to evidence on the point.