Mycenae is an archaeological site near Mykines in Argolis, north-eastern Peloponnese, Greece. In the second millennium BC, Mycenae was one of the major centers of Greek civilization, a military stronghold which dominated much of southern Greece, Crete, the Cyclades and parts of southwest Anatolia. The period of Greek history from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean in reference to Mycenae. At its peak in 1350 BC, the citadel and lower town had a population of 30,000 and an area of 32 hectares.
Mycenae, an acropolis site, was built on a hill 900 feet above sea level, some 19 kilometres (12 miles) inland from the Gulf of Argolis. Situated in the north-east corner of the Argive plain, it easily overlooked the whole area and was ideally positioned to be a centre of power, especially as it commanded all easy routes to the Isthmus of Corinth. Besides its strong defensive and strategic position, it had good farmland and an adequate water supply.
The charming and peaceful land of Argolida holds, within the bowels of its earth, one of the most important civilisations ever to see the light of day: the Mycenaean civilisation. It is difficult today to imagine the excitement of Schliemann and Dörpfeld, who with Homer as their guide, revealed one of the greatest cradles of humankind before the eyes of the whole world. The Mycenaean civilisation held dominion over this land, which was inhabited continuously since the dawn of history, and it became the leading light of the ancient known world.
Homer and other writers of ancient Greek tragedy committed their names to memories which have passed into the collective unconscious of humanity. Agamemnon and Menelaus, Danaë and Perseus, Pelops and Atreus are the apparent forefathers of all of Europe, and the birthplace of all of these historical figures, is golden Mycenae.
The apogee of the Mycenaeans, with their majestic architecture, inscribed monuments and sophisticated civilisation, occurred in the Late Bronze Age, between 1350 and 1200 BC. The first hegemonic factions appeared as early as 1700 BC, that is, in an historical period for which is difficult to determine exact details. But around this same period construction began on the first monumental tombs. After this, expansion developed at a dizzying speed. Palatial complexes, Cyclopean masonry which is awe-inspiring even today, the famous “Tomb of Agamemnon” (also known as the “Treasury of Atreus”), huge arches, fountains and ramparts comprise one of the greatest architectural complexes known to the ancient world. The decline of Mycenae occurred around 1100 BC, possibly due to repeated damage from earthquakes and fires. They had managed, however, to have once been a truly great empire, which has indelibly stamped its reputation on the history not only of Greece, but the entire world.
The archaeological site of Mycenae is 140km from Athens and 24km from Nafplio.