The same problem that caused the difference of opinions at Enkomi and at the Heraion of Olympia arose at other excavated sites. To demonstrate this on another case of Greek archaeology, I chose Tiryns, south-east of Mycenae. Tiryns was excavated by Schliemann and Doerpfeld in 1884-85. Along with Mycenae, it was an important center of Mycenaean culture. On the acropolis, foundations of a palace were discovered. Together with Mycenaean ware, and mixed with it,1 geometric ware of the eighth century and archaic ware of the sixth century were found, among them many little flasks in which libations had been brought to the sacred place.2

According to Schliemann, Tiryns was destroyed simultaneously with Mycenae and the palace was burned down. But his collaborator Doerpfeld, who agreed with him as to the time the palace had been built, disagreed as to when it was destroyed, and their opinions differred by six hundred years.3

From Greek literature it is known that in early Greek times, in the eighth or seventh century and until the first part of the fifth century, there was a temple of Hera in Tiryns which was deserted when the Argives vanquished the city in -460. In later times Tiryns was occasionally visited by travelers coming to pay homage to the sacred place of bygone days.4

When the excavation of Tiryns was resumed in 1905 by a team headed by A. Frickenhaus and continued in the following years, special attention was paid to the question of the time in which the Mycenaean palace there was destroyed.

On the site of the palace and, in part, on its original foundations a smaller edifice was built, identified as the temple of Hera of Greek times. The excavators felt that many facts point to the conclusion that the Greek temple was built over the Mycenaean palace very shortly after the palace was destroyed by fire.5 The altar of the temple was an adaptation of the Mycenaean palace altar;6 the plan of the Mycenaean palace was familiar to the builders of the temple; the floor of the palace served as the floor of the temple.7

However, the Greek temple was built in the seventh century.8

After deliberating on the evidence, the excavators refused to accept the end of the Mycenaean Age in the second millennium as the time of the destruction of the palace, and decided that the palace had survived until the seventh century. In their opinion the Mycenaean pottery was the refuse of an early stage of the palace; the terracotta figures and flasks of archaic (seventh-century) type were offerings of the pilgrims to the Greek temple of Hera. A continuity of culture from Mycenaean to Greek times was claimed; even the worship of Hera, they felt, must have been inherited.9

Frickenhaus and his team realized that their explanation required some unusual assumptions: for instance, that the inhabitants of the palace did not undertake any alteration for the entire period of more than half a millennium,10 and that in one part of the palace the refuse of centuries was preserved, while in another part life went on.11

But the excavators knew no other explanation, because it was clear to them that “the fire of the palace was followed immediately by the erection of the temple.”12

A decade later, when the temple of Hera was found to be very similar in plan to a Mycenaean building excavated at Korakou, near Corinth, “grave doubts” were expressed about the correctness of the above interpretations of the excavators of Tiryns, who had been “involved in a number of difficulties, both architectural and chronological.”13

The critic (C. W. Blegen) agreed that the temple had been built immediately after the palace was destroyed, but he could not agree that the temple was a building of the seventh century.

How is it possible, if a Greek temple was established at the Mycenaean level in the megaron [the throne room] and if the open court before the megaron was used at its Mycenaean level from the seventh century B.C. onward,—how is it then possible that this same area was later covered over with almost purely Mycenaean debris?14
He therefore concluded that “the later building within the megaron at Tiryns is not a Greek temple” but “a reconstruction carried out toward the end of the Mycenaean Period after the destruction of the palace by fire.” He also denied the significance of the capital of a Doric column found during the excavation of the temple.

Although Blegen’s arguments seemed to carry weight when he denied that the Myceaean palace had survived the Mycenaean Age by almost five centuries, they appeared without force when he asserted that the building erected on the foundations of the palace was not a Greek temple.15 Blegen’s view was also questioned by an eminent classicist, M. P. Nilsson.16

Because it is as inconceivable that the Greek temple was built in the thirteenth century as it is that the Mycenaean palace stood until the seventh century without alterations, its floor not even showing signs of wear,17 Nilsson confessed his inability to draw a conclusion: “The time of the reconstruction being uncertain, the question whether or not the building is the temple of Hera remains unanswerable.”18

In a book on the architecture of the palace of Tiryns, another excavator of that city, K. Muller, arrived at the conclusion that the difference of opinions is irreconcilable, but he shared the view of the scholars who ascribe the palace fire to about -750 and consider the edifice a Greek temple.19

Most of the archaeologists agreed on the continuity of the culture and cult of both buildings,20 but each of the attempts to bridge the chasm of almost five hundred years met with insurmountable difficulties. The answer would not be difficult if the Mycenaean Age were not displaced by this interval of time, pushed back into history, before its proper place.


  1. [The late eighth-century pottery was found immediately above, or mixed with, Late Helladic IIIB/C wares on the citadel, in the lower town, on the plain and in a wall chamber: see W. Rudolph, “Tiryns 1968” in Tiryns ed. U. Jantzen (Maintz, 1971) p. 93. —EMS]

  2. H. Schliemann, Tiryns (London, 1886).

  3. See A. Frickenhaus, Tiryns vol. I, Die Hera von Tiryns (Athens, 1912), p. 34.

  4. Pausanias was one of those pilgrims in the year 170 of the present era.

  5. Frickenhaus, Tiryns, pp. 31-40. [K. Muller, Tiryns III Die Architektur der Burg und des Palastes (Augsburg, 1930), pp. 214ff., Per Alin Das Ende der mykenischen Fundstaetten auf dem griechischen Festland (Lund, 1962), p. 32. But see G. Mylonas, Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age (Princeton, 1966), pp. 48-52, who argues that the temple was built five centuries after the burning of the megaron. Cf. W. Voigt-Lander, Tiryns (Athens, 1972) p. 8; U. Jantzen, Fuehrer durch Tiryns (Athens, 1975) p. 333; H. Plommer in Journal of Hellenic Studies 97 (1977), pp. 81-82; J. W. Wright in American Journal of Archaeology 84 (1980), p. 242.].

  6. Alin, Das Ende der mykenischen Fundstaetten, p. 33; Jantzen, Fuehrer durch Tiryns, p. 33; Frickenhaus, Tiryns I pp. 5f.; Muller, Tiryns III, pp. 137ff.

  7. Frickenhaus, Tiryns I, p. ; [However, M. P. Nilsson (The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and Its Survival in Greek Religion [Lund, 1927] pp. 475-77) thought the floor of the later structure may have been at a higher level, a conclusion which has recently been argued by Mylonas (Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age, p. 51.)]

  8. Frickenhaus placed it in the middle of the seventh century (Tiryns I, pp. 31ff.)

  9. Frickenhaus, Tiryns I, 31.

  10. Ibid., p. 35.

  11. Ibid., p. 36.

  12. Ibid., p. 38. But see Notes for the contrary view of Mylonas and others.

  13. C. W. Blegen, Korakou, a Prehistoric Settlement near Corinth (American School of Classical Studies at Athens [Boston, 1921] p. 130.

  14. Ibid., p. 132. [At the same time, Blegen noted, “the debris and potsherds which we should expect from the seventh century and subsequently during the period when the temple was in use, have almost completely vanished.” Cf. Mylonas, Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age, p. 49. ].

  15. [Mylonas, (Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age, p. 52) and Jantzen, (Fuehrer durch Tiryns, p. 33) reaffirm Frickenhaus’ conclusion that the later building is a Greek temple. Per Alin (Das Ende der mykenischen Fundstaetten, p. 32) supports Blegen’s view].

  16. The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and Its Survival in Greek Religion

  17. Rodenwaldt, quoted by K. Muller in Tiryns III. [However, see above, footnote 213 about the floor level. Rodenwaldt himself agreed with Blegen in placing the destruction of what he considered a rebuilt megaron in Mycenaean time: Tiryns II, p. 235, n.2. Cf. idem, “Zur der monumentalen Architektur in Griechenland,” Athenische Mitteilungen 44 (1919), pp. 179-180; “Mykenische Studien I” in Jahrbuch des deutschen archaeologischen Instituts 34 (1919) p. 95 and n.2. But cf. above, n. 6 about the floor level].

  18. [Nevertheless, Nilsson inclined more to the view of Frickenhaus that the later building was indeed a Greek temple, and not a smaller megaron of Mycenaean time; he stressed the evidence for the cult of Hera: “the thousands of votive terracottas of a standing and seated goddess and others cannot be so lightly pushed aside as is done by Mr. Blegen” ; and he argued that “we know from votive deposits that there was a temple on the acropolis of Tiryns, if the building itself is not accepted as satisfactory evidence. . . Under these circumstances the doubt concerning the identity seems unreasonable.” Additional sacred objects were found by Muller in 1926 (Tiryns III, pp. 214ff.) in a refuse pit; they were assigned dates from the mid-eighth to the mid-seventh centuries. An attempt to explain them in the light of Blegen’s theory was made by Alin (Das Ende der mykenischen Fundstaetten p. 32)].

  19. Muller, Tiryns III, pp. 207ff. [Time did not help to reconcile the divergent views. H. Lorimer, writing in 1950 (Homer and the Monuments, p. 435) admitted that at “Tiryns the circumstances are obscure” yet opted for Frickenhaus’ and Muller’s conclusion. “It appears certain,” she wrote, “that . . . the megaron remained intact and uninhabited until it perished in a conflagration probably ca. 750. It is difficult to conceive what purpose it could have served through the long post-Mycenaean period if not that of continuing to house the ancient cult.” But it was against exactly such a possibility that Blegen had brought arguments a quarter of a century earlier. In the same year W. B. Dinsmoor published The Architecture of Ancient Greece (New York, 1950), in which he advocated Blegen’s solution (p. 21 and n.1). More recently Per Alin (see above, n. 14) brought additional arguments in support of Blegen].

  20. [However, G. Mylonas had argued that the later Greek temple was built long after the destruction of the Mycenaean megaron by new settlers who followed the plan of the by then five-hundred-years-old ruins. This view is also followed by U. Jantzen in his Führer durch Tiryns (Athens, 1975), who nevertheless sees a continuation of the religious cult from Mycenaean into archaic times (p. 33).— EMS]