The massive (Cyclopean) walls of Tiryns

Tiryns is a major Mycenaean citadel, located in Argolis, near Mycenae, already important by the Middle Helladic period. Being 1.5km from the sea, it controlled the trade routes between the mainland and the Aegean centers.

The area was inhabited before the Bronze age, and ancient Greeks believed that the citadel was built by Proitos, brother of the king of Argos, Akrisios, and grandfather of Perseus, the founder of Mycenae. "...Akrisios stayed in Argos, Proitos took the Heraion, and Mideia, Tiryns" (Pausanias, 166). Archaeological evidence supports Pausanias in the belief that Tiryns was fortified two generations before Mycenae (Iakovidis, 91).

There is no evidence of the relationship between Tiryns and Mycenae, so the general belief is that it ranged between friendly, cooperative, and adversarial through the centuries. It is also believed that Tiryns functioned as the port of Mycenae, mainly because it never reached the fame of the latter.

Earthquakes devastated the citadel by the end of the 13c BCE. but the site remained occupied for a long time after. It was active in the early Iron Age, and during Classical times when it sent a contingent of warriors to the battle of Plataia. It was destroyed by Argos around 470 BCE, and it became a stronghold during Hellenistic times, and a church was built on the citadel during the Byzantine period.

Today Tiryns is well-known but not often visited archaeological site near the modern city of Nafplion.

Photo Gallery

  • General view of the citadel's exterior, Cyclopean walls.
  • The Great Ramp, and the tower, comprise the impressive entrance to the citadel.
  • The main gate of the citadel.
  • "They say, this is the work of Kyklopes, who built the wall of TIRYNS for Proitos." (Pausanias, 167)
  • The best preserved gallery of the citadel is the south gallery(or galaria). It is 1.65m wide and cuts through the external wall that is 11m thick in that area. The side openings led to corbelled store rooms which served as cisterns.
  • The lower citadel dates to the 13th c. BCE

  • Views of the ruins of the lower citadel.
  • Room with corbelled arch cut on the inside of the east brunch of the wall of the upper citadel.
  • The Great Propylon leads from the lower citadel to the upper one.
  • View from the upper citadel with the Argolic Gulf visible in the near distance.
  • Several views of the palace and the great courtyard of the upper citadel.
  • View of the palace. The round marks on the ground are the original bases of the columns that supported the roof of an open Stoa.
  • The palace bathroom floor consisted of a massive limestone slab. A channel in the slab probably functioned as a conduit to channel water to the drainage hole in the adjacent room.
  • The middle citadel has never been adequately investigated, and it has been covered over to protect it for future excavations.
  • Two reconstructions of the citadel. One depicts the citadel in its ruinous form (left) at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. The one on the right depicts Tiryns as it would have appeared in the late Bronze Age era is on exhibit at the Nafplion Archaeological Museum.
  • Excavations outside the citadel.

Tiryns Tholos Tomb

  • A short drive (about 1km of a narrow paved road) east of the citadel one can visit the Mycenaean Tholos Tomb of Tiryns.
  • The entrance to the Tiryns Tholos Tomb.
  • Photo of the roof of the Tholos Tomb (standing it its center). It is well preserved and shows superb masonry skills on the part of the builders.
  • Two views of the tholos interior. Note the distortion of a wide-angle lens on the first photo which shows the top of the corbel arc to be "leaning" forward toward the entrance. In reality, the apex is above the photographer's head as he stands against the back wall of the Tomb to include as much of the interior as possible in the shot.