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Lion Gate Mycenae

February 2, 2014

Firstly I am sorry for such a long absence. Whilst working on my recent essay about Helen of Troy I hoped to write at least one post a week but unfortunately I was unable to. Having now submitted my essay I will be resuming my regular postings.

I thought for my first post of the new year I would write something related to what I have recently studied. Whilst looking through old photos I came across this one I had taken of the Lion Gate at Mycenae (a suitable link I think):

Lion Head Gate 001

The initial clearing of Mycenae commenced in 1840 but the gate itself was not uncovered until 1876. Pausanias (Description of Greece 2.16.5) writing in the 2nd century describes that the Lion Gate remains and is thought to ‘be the work of the Cyclopes’. In Greek myth the Cyclops’ were thought to have constructed many ancient monuments. The Lion Gate was built in the 13th century BC and was the main entrance to the city of Mycenae. The gate may be referred to as the Lion Gate but the animals are actually lionesses. Lions and lionesses are powerful creatures and it might be argued that they represent the strength of Mycenae and the royal family. Unfortunately the heads of the lionesses are missing, this is in part due to the way the sculpture was put together. The heads were carved separately to the main sculpture and then installed. It has been suggested by Younger (1978:297) that the heads likely faced forward towards visitors to the city. The monumental entrance to Mycenae with the lionesses looking down would have been awe inspiring. The lionesses are beautiful and one of the few remaining examples of bronze age sculpture.

It is thought that the pillar between the lionesses may represent an altar (Younger, 1978:298). The disks at the top of the pillar may have been a point where another piece of sculpture was installed.

Mycenae is a beautiful place to visit. I felt emerged within the place and could almost envisage the mythological return of Agamemnon. It is also a great place to explore as the site is huge; I managed to find myself on top of a wall near the Lion Gate and could see it at eye level.

Bibliography

Primary

Pausanias Description of Greece Translated by W.H.S. Jones and H.A. Ormerod, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918. Perseus Digital Library http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.01.0160 %5BAccessed: 2 February 2014]

Secondary

Younger, J. ‘The Mycenae-Vapheio Lion Group’ American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 82, No. 3, Summer, 1978, pp. 285-299. Available at:  http://www.jstor.org/stable/504459 [Accessed: 2 February 2014].

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