Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XII, Hēraklēs at his station in Mycenaean Tiryns
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CitationNagy, Gregory. 2019.10.11. "Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XII, Hēraklēs at his station in Mycenaean Tiryns." Classical Inquiries. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.eresource:Classical_Inquiries.
AbstractThe glory days of Tiryns, a stronghold that once controlled access to Mycenae from the sea, came to an end toward the end of the second millennium BCE, that is, around the same time that marked the collapse of the Mycenaean Empire. But the splendidly massive stone walls of the “palace” at Tiryns endured well after that time, throughout the first millennium BCE and beyond, down into the historical era, and even down to our own present time. I am hardly the only person today who has entertained the thought that the very sight of these walls represents, at least on the surface, perhaps the most spectacular survival of material culture stemming from the prehistoric Greek world. In Iliad 2.559, such an impression is reaffirmed: here the stronghold of Tiryns in the heroic age is already being celebrated for its single most outstanding feature, which is, its imposing walls (teikhioessa ‘the walled [stronghold]’). The massive stones used for building the walls were known in the ancient world as ‘Cyclopean’, on the grounds that only such gigantic figures as the Cyclopes could possibly have ever lifted them. That is what we read, for example, in a source dating from the second century CE, in the writings of the traveler Pausanias (9.36.5). Having personally viewed the site, Pausanias adds (2.25.8) that a team of mules pulling together could not have budged even the smaller Cyclopean stones of these mighty walls. The stunning visual impact of the walls of Tiryns comes through even in photographs, as we can see from the illustrations that I show in my posting here. And, matching the grandness of this ancient site, there is the grandness of its heroic prestige. Myth tells us that the grandest of all Greek heroes, Hēraklēs, was stationed primarily at Tiryns.
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