Visiting the Ancient House of Pelops

Visiting the Ancient House of Pelops
The Lion Gate
Eleanor Platt

The Lion Gate stood ahead of us, and marked the entrance to the ancient citadel of Mycenae. The path up to this point has been unassuming, yet, when I reached the impressive gate, thoughts ran wild through my head.

I thought about the return of Agamemnon and about the day when Menelaus rides to ask his brother for help. I thought about the return of Thyetes from the wilderness, and his love for these walls dragging him helplessly to the tragedy of his brother Atreus' crime. I also felt like a stranger, and subconsciously eyed the tops of the walls as if an ancient Helladic archer would appear there ready to ask my purpose here. I could even imagine being a peasant from the fields below, walking up to see the King/Chief or to watch a procession on some important day. There is no doubting why these walls and this gate inspired the poets of antiquity with stories of gods and heroes.

The palace awaits you at the top of a steep winding path. While now in ruins, one can see how the citadel would once have loomed over the countryside. I looked out into the hills to see if I could spot the sacred, dark, and gory grove which in Seneca's fabulous Thyestes housed the memories of the House of Pelops' many crimes, and which bore witness to Atreus' ritualistic slaughter of his brother's children. After visiting the citadel, we walked down the road to the Treasury of Atreus, the largest Tholos tomb I have ever seen. When our group was in Canberra, Elizabeth Minchin had tried to prepare us for the size of this tomb, but I was awestruck nonetheless! Perfectly preserved, but of course empty, it rises above you as a perfect dome. I am sure it would take more than twenty people to stretch across the diameter, and I can well believe that the Cyclopes had a hand in its construction.  


Updated:  27 January 2016/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications