Tiryns Archaeological Site



Location: 4 km (2 mi) Northwest of Nafplio, Peloponnese  Map

Open: 8:30am- 3pm daily

Tel. 27520 22657


Description of Tiryns Archeological Site

Service Unit:
Ephorate of Antiquities of Argolida

T.K. 21 100, Tiryns (Prefecture of Argolis)

Phone: +30 27520 - 22657
Fax: +30 27520 24690
Email: efaarg@culture.gr


Tiryns is an ancient Mycenaean and Greek archaeological site situated 4 km (2 mi) Northwest of Nafplio, Peloponnese peninsula in Greece. This strategic hill was inhabited since Neolithic period. Tiryns Archaeological Site reached its peak during Bronze Age between 1400 and 1200 BC. Around this time period the massive walls were constructed. Cyclopean boulders that make up the military defenses of the town are said to be brought here by Cyclops, mythical creatures of enormous size and only one eye. Other ancient legends claim that this was the work of legendary Heracles who was also born here. In the end of the Mycenaean period Tiryns went into decline. It was completely destroyed by the armies of Argos in 468 BC. By the time Roman traveler and geographer Pausanias visited the site in the 2nd century AD it was already in ruins. Archaeological excavations started in Tiryns in 1884 under supervision of Heinrich Schliemann.



Argive Heraion (Tiryns)

Location: 10 km (6 mi) North of Tiryns
Open: 8:30am- 3pm daily



The low hill of Tiryns, at the 8th kilometer of the Argos-Nafplio road, was inhabited continuously from the Neolithic era until late antiquity. In prehistoric times the area flourished mainly during the early and late Bronze Age. In the second phase of the Early Helladic era (2700-2200 BC) there must have been an important center with dense habitation and a uniquely constructed circular building, 27 m in diameter, at the top of the hill. During the Late Bronze Age, the hill was gradually fortified and surrounded within its "cyclopean" walls the palace complex as well as other buildings used mainly by the ruling class as places of worship, warehouses and workshops but also as residences. In historical times, Tiryns, although it must have taken the form of an organized political community, could not compete with Argos, which destroyed it in the first half of the 5th century by exiling its inhabitants.

The traveler Pausanias who visited it in the 2nd century AD. he found her in ruins. During the Byzantine era, a cemetery church was founded on the Upper Acropolis and probably a small settlement to the west of the Acropolis. The end of the now insignificant settlement must be connected with the conquest of Argos by the Turks in 1379 AD. In Venetian sources, Tiryns is referred to as Napoli vecchio, while the name Tiryns is given back to the area in modern times, replacing the usual name "Paleokastro". In 1828, a building for the operation of an agricultural school was founded by the governor Ioannis Kapodistrias in the area south of the Acropolis. Today it houses the rural prisons. After the 17th and 19th century travelers (Des Mouceaux, Dodwell, Leake), Tiryns was discovered in 1876 by Henry Schliemann, who with his extensive excavations in 1884/5 handed it over to archaeological research.

The legendary founder of Tiryns is handed over to the late Prince Proetus, who took refuge after the dispute with his brother Akrisios in Lycia. On his return he brought with him the Cyclops who built the majestic walls for his sake. The mythical heroes Bellerefontis and Perseus, as well as the demigod Hercules, are also associated with Tiryns.

The excavations of the German Archaeological Institute and the Hellenic Archaeological Service, from 1876 until today, brought to light one of the most important Mycenaean citadels and traced the stages of civilization of the prehistoric and historical periods of Argolis. After the pioneers Heinrich Schliemann and Wilhelm Dφrpfeld (1884-1885), Georg Karo and Kurt Mόller explored the area in the first half of the twentieth century. At the end of the 1950s, the Curator of Antiquities of Argolis, Nikolaos Verdelis, undertook the task of restoring the western side of the fortification, which had collapsed and was covered by the rubble of the old excavations. After 1967 the excavations were again entrusted to the German Archaeological Institute, which under the direction of Ulf Jantzen, Jφrg Schδfer, Klaus Kilian and Joseph Maran continues the excavations including the Lower Acropolis and the Lower Town. At the same time, excavations are carried out by the local Ephorate of Antiquities both in the archaeological site to be visited, and in the wider area.

The unveiling of a monument that was protected for many centuries under the soil of abandonment and its long-term exposure without maintenance to the weather conditions and the action of visitors, caused significant damage to the archaeological site. With the actions of the Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, the competent regional service of the Ministry of Culture and the direct support of the Peloponnese Region, the monument was included in the projects funded by the NW and the DG Community Support Framework. The participation of the German Archaeological Institute, which financed the studies of the German architect Jan Martin Klessing in Tiryns, was also decisive. During this time a large number of collaborators (archaeologists, designers, skilled and unskilled workers) participated in the program of upgrading one of the most important archaeological sites in Argolida, which has been included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In addition, under the responsibility of the Directorate for the Restoration of Ancient Monuments of the Ministry of Culture, landscaping works were carried out, which now includes organized routes, visitor service buildings, a new entrance and a parking lot.


Tiryns was first inhabited in the Neolithic era (7th-4th millennium BC), as evidenced by the few ceramic finds from the deeper archaeological layers, and remained uninterrupted in use until the time when its imposing fortification was founded.

The oldest architectural relics date to the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC). Large complexes of houses are adapted on the slopes of the hill and are organized around a huge circular building (diameter 27-28 m.) At the top of its southern outcrop, the Upper Acropolis. Despite the different views on its use (fortified palace, monumental burial building or sanctuary), the circular building can be interpreted in the context of the organization of the first urban system as a space that functioned as an administrative center and was morphologically adapted to the specific geological background.

During the Middle Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC) earthworks and constructions were carried out on the Upper Acropolis with the aim of shaping flat surfaces for the construction of buildings. Despite the difficulties in exploring the remains of this era due to the later construction activity, the habitation of the area is considered of course.

However, the great prosperity of Tiryns is associated with the Mycenaean era (1600-1050 BC). The fortification and the building complexes of the Acropolis, which is divided into three parts: the Upper, the Middle and the Lower Acropolis, were formed during the palace years (14th and 13th century BC). The "cyclops? walls were built in three construction phases dating to the beginning and end of the 14th century and the middle of the 13th century BC. and are a gradual extension of the fortification from the south and higher to the north and lower part of the hill.

The main entrance of the Acropolis was on the east side and led through a large ramp, 47 m long, to the Upper Acropolis. The large Gate, which has an identical construction to the Lions' Gate in Mycenae, marked the beginning of an impressive procession to the Palace. Passing through corridors that were interrupted by inner courtyards and two Propyla, the big and the small, one ended up in the central courtyard. This peristyle Courtyard with the Altar on its south side was a unit with the large Palace. In these places the greatness of the Mycenaean palace ideology peaks and is personified. Here the supreme authority, the wanaka of the signs of the Linear NW Scripture, receives the official foreigners and his subjects but also performs the most important worship rites, gathering in his face all the powers. The palace complex is framed by the east and west wings with top examples of Mycenaean architecture, the so-called small mansion and the bath respectively. The ornate frescoes that adorned the floors and walls not only of the great Palace but also of other buildings of the palace complex convey the echo of the grandeur of the Mycenaean era. But the main form of expression of the power of the palace system are the architectural achievements. Apart from the impressive fortification, these include the so-called Galleries. Built on the eastern and southern part of the wall of the Upper Acropolis, they consist of a long corridor, which is adjacent to a series of rooms, which probably served as storage spaces. The east and south galleries have been built according to the effluent system and end in pointed arches.

To the north of the Upper Acropolis and at a lower level is the Middle Acropolis, a place that hosted, among others, part of the palace workshops. It leads to a staircase protected by a curved Bastion and a Tower, a prime example of the defensive character of the Mycenaean fortification architecture.

The northern part of the fortification that was built at the beginning of the 13th century BC. is an almost self-existent part, the Lower Acropolis. Inside the wall, 28 rooms with pointed ends have been excluded as well as two masonry with the same exponential access to the underground water sources, the so-called Syringes. Dense building complexes used for housing, workshops and storage areas were organized along the axis of a main road that ended at the North Gate. Another monumental construction Gate to the west was the main access to the Lower Acropolis.


At the end of the 13th century BC, a strong earthquake caused severe damage to the walls and buildings of the Acropolis, which were completely destroyed by the fire that followed. The enormous natural disaster acted as a catalyst for the dissolution of the palace system of government. Despite the damage suffered by the Acropolis, during the 12th century BC. A large settlement with an urban fabric was organized in the plain. Inside the Lower Acropolis, a large building functioned as a sanctuary. Decline, however, was inevitable.

By the beginning of historical times the fortified Acropolis must have been almost completely abandoned. The few inhabitants left in Tiryns lived in scattered farms surrounded by cemeteries. The impressive findings of a depositor in the Upper Acropolis, the so-called Vothros, but also the archaic inscriptions from the area of ​​Syringa confirm the existence of worship rituals, while the names of the Gods that are witnessed are those of Hera, Athena and Apollo.



The Monuments

Fortification of Tiryns

The walls bordering the citadel of Tiryns were built in three main construction phases and gradually fortified the entire hill from its south-highest to the north-lowest part. Red and gray limestone was used as a building material, which is found in abundance both on the hill itself and on the hill of Profitis Ilias east of the citadel. The size of the boulders that were used mainly for the walls of the third phase caused wonder and admiration already in antiquity, a fact that is directly reflected in the myth of the Cyclops. The boulders weigh many tons, which justifies the view of the traveler Pausanias (II, 25, 7-9) that not even a pair of semitones was able to move the smallest of them.

The first construction phase of the wall
The walls of the first phase dating to the beginning of the 14th century BC. (HR IIIA1) surrounded the southern and highest part of the hill, the area that covered the later palace and the two courtyards (4 and 2) south of it. The gate, found in the excavation of 1909, was located on the east side just in the area of ​​the later large propylon (1) but several meters deeper. The strong walls of this gate served as the foundation during the construction of the large prop. The course of the wall that adapts to the natural geological background of the hill is not perfectly straight but has a zigzag layout. The size of the boulders used is relatively small, their height ranges from 0.60-0.70 cm, so that many intermediate small stones are not required for their support. Boulders, which usually have a treated surface, are usually arranged in horizontal layers. Only gray limestone is used for this phase. Some parts of the wall of this phase are still visible in various places today. such as e.g. right and left of the gate and on the west side of the later corridor 53-55 to the NE corner of the space occupied by the later palace. At this point the wall bends to the west to the east wall of the later large mansion, where it bends again to the south, disappears under its foundations and reappears at the NW corner of the palace tower. From this point it heads south with a jagged arrangement and up to the point of the later tower 43-44, where it bends again to the east. In this course the wall is covered by the later phases and is not visible until its eastern side, south of the gate. The level of this phase inside the wall was 2-3 m deeper than today. The access to the gate was made through a hill in the area of ​​the later corridor 54 and the gate 53. The area north of the wall, the later Middle Acropolis, must have remained fortified at this stage.

The second construction phase of the wall
At the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 13th century (HR IIIB1) the wall of the acropolis was expanded. To the south, a bastion was built that extended the acropolis to the limits of the natural rock of the hill. Its outer side is the north side of the later gallery 59. At this point an entrance was formed, from which one could follow the staircase 58 to climb to the hill of the citadel. To the east a courtyard (56) was created, outside the gate of the first phase. The outer gate was moved to the northern end of the courtyard, where a small space (55) was proposed that closed on both sides with wooden doors. The access of the first phase continued to be used to access the new external gate. In addition, this side was protected by a new section of wall that framed the new outer courtyard (56) and the new gate on the south and east sides. In this phase the courtyard 56, the old gate and the inner courtyard 2 were excavated up to the current level. Perhaps in this phase the area of ​​the middle acropolis was fortified. Besides, for the same period, a first fortification of the Lower Acropolis was erected.


Probably in the middle of the 13th century the outer gate (53) which was to be the main gate of the final phase of the acropolis was moved to the north again. The new gate was now protected by two new sections of the wall created north and on either side of it by huge boulders. The similarity of this gate with the gate of the Lions in Mycenae, both in dimensions and in the construction material, a cobblestone was used, is characteristic. Also on the NW side of the middle citadel a tower (48) was built, to protect the west side of the wall and perhaps an access from this side. In addition to gray and red limestone is used for the construction of the wall of this phase. In important places, such as the corners, very large boulders are placed and although the surfaces are treated, the horizontal arrangement of the boulders is not always maintained. The sides of the wall, especially at the points of extension, do not bend so often, resulting in larger single surfaces.

The third construction phase of the wall
Around the middle and especially in the second half of the 13th century, the wall acquired its final form that the visitor distinguishes today. The galleries were built in the south and in the east (59.57). Their construction in the "exponential way; which creates pointed arches is a great technical achievement of the time. These galleries were attached to the outside of the second phase of the wall. To the west, the western bastion (47) was built to protect the western stairway and the entrance from this side. A new tower (43.44) was built in the SW corner for the same reasons. As part of this extension of the wall, the outer gate (51) was moved once again, which was now placed between the legs of the wall on the east side. A ramp (52) led to this gate. Red and gray limestone was used to build the wall of this phase. The size of the boulders used exceeds the boulders of the previous phases, while much more intermediate small stones are used to support them. The surfaces are no longer so well treated. Apart from the impressive size of the boulders, the achievements of the time include the pointed arches and the construction of a fortification wall with a curved outline.

In the Lower Acropolis, the fortification of the beginning of the 13th century (YEIIIB1) was replaced by an almost self-existing strong wall that reaches 7 m. This wall rests directly on the natural rock and is in its lower layers jointed with white soil. The Syringes, built in the exponential way of accessing the underground springs, on its NW side have been built at the same time as this. Inside the wall, a total of 28 rooms with a square outline and a pointed end have been excluded. Some of the rooms also had a second floor. Most of them seem to have suffered significant damage during the earthquake of the late 13th century, because they were closed after that.



Lower Acropolis of Tiryns

The northern and lower part of the hill of Tiryns, the Lower Acropolis was fortified for the first time in the early 13th century BC. (HR IIIB1). This fortification was replaced during the third construction phase of the wall in the middle of the 13th century (HR IIIB2) by a strong wall up to 7 m thick that follows the natural contour of the hill and extends to the south until it meets the fortification of the Middle and Upper Acropolis.

Despite the experimental excavations carried out in this area by both Schliemann (1884) and Dragendorff (1913), in which traces of buildings and pottery of the Early Helladic and Mycenaean eras were found, the Lower Acropolis remained unexplored for many decades. Until the beginning of the 1960s, when the ground access to the groundwater, the so-called syringes and the excavations in the NW part came to light due to the restoration works on the west side of the wall, the prevailing opinion was that the entire area of ​​the Lower Acropolis was uninhabited in the Mycenaean years and was fortified to serve as a refuge for the inhabitants of the city of Tiryns in case of attack and siege. With the excavations first of the Hellenic Archaeological Service (N. Verdelis) and then of the German Archaeological Institute (P. Grossmann and J. Sch? Fer) came to light the remains of four Mycenaean buildings after the construction of the wall that had been destroyed at the end of HR IIIB and covered by a layer of HR IIIG.

These new data turned the scientific interest in the Lower Acropolis and made clear the need for systematic investigation of this area which, being untouched by the old excavators, offered the possibility of a modern excavation with the aim of drawing conclusions about the building development in prehistoric times. many questions that remained unanswered for decades. The systematic research was conducted in the years 1976 to 1986 by the leading prehistoric archaeologist Klaus Kilian, as a representative of the German Archaeological Institute. Kilian's research carried out with modern excavation methods and interdisciplinary collaboration was decisive for the course of archeology of the Mycenaean era. Not only was the sequence of the construction phases of use of the Lower Acropolis during the Early Helladic and Mycenaean eras clarified, but a binding dating system of the respective pottery was also created. In addition, it became clear that the decline of Tiryns and the collapse of the palace system of government was not due to the destructive action of invaders but was associated with intense seismic activity during the 12th century BC.

The Lower Acropolis is connected through the northern extension of the corridor (50) with the Upper Acropolis, but it also has two accesses of its own. A small entrance at the turn of the west side of the wall between the middle and the lower citadel that closed with a door as evidenced by the traces of its taps on the monolithic threshold, and an opening at the northern top of the wall without traces of a door. This opening, which is protected by an outpost on the east side of the wall, was located much higher than the external level and access to it had to be made with a portable wooden ladder. Opposite the entrance on the west side leads an open stone staircase.

In the second half of the 13th century BC, (HR IIIB2), after the completion of the fortification, a huge building activity develops, which destroys with its interventions the relics of the earlier Mycenaean periods and the Middle Helladic era. The Lower Acropolis is formed on a terrace and is built with a single plan. The buildings are lined up along the walls and are separated by open corridors in a north-south direction. A main road led from the north gate to the south of the Lower Acropolis and was connected to the corridor (50) that led to the Upper Acropolis.

A total of ten building complexes (buildings I-X) were surveyed, which served as homes but also as laboratory spaces for the processing of metals and precious materials. Similar uses are witnessed for the rooms inside the wall. Room 123 of Building VI, named by the Kilian "priestess' house", was used purely for worship purposes. The buildings of this period were leveled by a catastrophic earthquake at the end of YEIIIB2 (1200 BC). After the disaster, the area was cleaned and rebuilt. On the level layer of the ruins of the previous phase, ground floor houses were built in a sparse layout and without any specific plan.


Large free spaces are now left between the houses, while half of the rooms in the wall are closed and no longer used. HR IIIIG period, which according to the excavation of the Lower Acropolis lasts longer than previously thought (1200-1050 BC), is a period of constant destruction by individual fires of buildings inside the Lower Acropolis, while in the plain outside a settlement with an urban area of ​​25 hectares is organized on the walls. Despite the generosity of the settlement of the Lower Acropolis, the use of a large building as a sanctuary (room 117-110a) is testified, which gave important cult objects, including the impressively large figurines on display in the Museum of Nafplio.

During the last phase of the YEII period (1070-1050 BC) there is a gradual tendency to abandon the habitation of the Lower Acropolis. A few years later at the beginning of the Iron Age very few activities can be attested in this area.



Geometric Temple of Tiryns

To the east of the door that connects the courtyard 30 with the courtyard of the building 29 of the east wing of the palace, a pit-deposit was excavated in 1926, the so-called cesspool, which contained mainly ceramics and a few metal objects. The oldest finds date to the late geometric period and the newest to around 650 BC, however the majority of the tributes belong chronologically to the end of the geometric and hypogeometric period. The quality of the finds, including the clay shields and masks on display at the Nafplio Museum, and their preservation, most of the finds are broken before being discarded and bear traces of secondary combustion, supporting their characterization as tributes. It is very possible that some of them were hung in a sacred place while others were used for rituals probably in the place of an altar. The find of the pit was connected for these reasons with the reconstruction of the altar in the area of ​​the large courtyard and with the elongated building that covers the eastern part of the large mansion of the Mycenaean era.

Thus it was considered that this building is a temple of geometric times, founded in the area of ​​the Mycenaean Palace and in which the goddess Hera must have been worshiped. Unfortunately, the complete unveiling of this building since Schliemann's time has deprived the research of valuable excavations that could provide a definitive answer to the still unanswered question about the use and dating of the building. It can be considered certain, however, that some cultic activities took place in the area of ​​the Mycenaean palace, as evidenced by the dedications of the pit.

In addition to these important finds, a geometric layer was also found in corridor 50 at the height of the niche, north of the entrance, above boulders that had fallen from the wall. Moreover, in the Lower Acropolis, although no architectural finds have been found, ceramic finds are found mainly near the rooms of the wall.

In the city outside the walls, the evidence is better since in various places, mainly west and northwest, mattresses, wells, fragmentary parts of houses and a large number of tombs have been explored. As can be seen from the findings, habitation continues in Tiryns throughout the geometric era. Due to the simple form of the houses of this time and the activity in the area in later times up to the harmful cultivation activity of our days, well-preserved remains of the settlement have not been saved. of the side. This settlement must also have been in the form of small farms with a sparse layout, a fact which is confirmed by the lack of one or more organized cemeteries beyond the boundaries of the settlement. And in the geometric era the tombs are organized in small groups that are adjacent to the residential relics.