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Site Plan: Palace Ancient Tiryns Greece

click to see largerThe Cyclopean citadel of Tiryns, which stands on a low hill, was built in the 13 century BC.

Reclaimed marshland covered with citrus trees is between the palace and the sea, though in ancient times the palace was close to the sea, adding to the impregnability of its massive walls.

The palace interior is more elaborate than those at Pylos and Mycenae, the citadel walls acclaimed as the supreme example of Mycenaean military architecture, loudly praised by Homer, Pindar, and Pausanius.

Made of red and grey limestone, they enclose the fortress, stretching for 700 meters.

The masonry blocks are of irregular sizes, weighing up to 15tons. The lower part of the walls are seven to eight meters thick, the upper reaches, their expanse broken by towers, vary between 5 and 11meters in thickness.

Their original height was around 20 meters. The steep entrance ramp , on the east side, was wide enough to accommodate chariots, angled in such as way as to leave approaching invaders unprotected on one side.

Attackers who managed to get through the gate were totally vulnerable to attack from every side by weapons hurled at them from above due to the added innovation of a passage that intervened between the outer rampart and inner castle wall.

The Outer Gateway of the lower citadel has a huge stone threshold with holes that were obviously used for hinges and a socket in one of the jambs for the wooden bar that held the doors shut. This gateway compares in size with the Lion Gateway at Mycenae.

Six chambers were found within the walls, probably used as barracks or storerooms. The site was likely inhabited during Neolithic times; remains of Early Helladic buildings have been discovered there. Dating to the 14th century BC, the palace was rebuilt after 1250 BC and again in 1200 BC, both times following upon natural disasters.

A cult room from 1200 BC was found with large numbers of terracotta figures, and also evidence of metal work. The base of the palace walls is of limestone, now only about a meter in height, higher up they were sun-dried brick covered with stucco, on which frescoes were painted. The enormous stone thresholds of the doorways remain; the floors are made of a mixture of lime and pebbles that resembles concrete. An outer chamber , entered by triple doors, leads into the throne room (Megaron), in the center of which is a round clay hearth, about 3-4meters in diameter.

Wooden columns supported the roof, the columns supported by stone pedestals. The painted floor remains somewhat intact; the base of the throne is well-preserved (housed in the Archaeological Museum in Athens, along with other items and frescoes from the site).

Frescoes on the walls depict a boar hunt and a frieze of women. Beneath the Megaron and court is concealed a round building 28meters in diameter, dating from the Early Helladic period. A square tower behind the rear court gives way to a Secret Stair which descends through a huge bastion to a corbelled Postern Gate, which constitutes the exit from the fortress. Another clever defensive feature of the palace, this flight of 80 steps, is yet another location where besiegers would have been made totally vulnerable. Two spring-fed Underground Cisterns are reached by steeply descending secret passages., discovered only in 1962, and quite inadvertently. Stones covering the cisterns revealed Archaic inscriptions dating to 600 BC.

Also see Tiryns in Mainland Greece section