Travelling only a short distance southeast of Mycenae we arrive at another Late Helladic center, Tiryns.

Legend connected the Bronze Age hero Herakles with the site, while its fortifications, constructed of tremendous stones, were attributed to the mythical giants, the one-eyed Cyclopes. Tiryns, under the leadership of Odysseus’ friend Diomedes, sent a contingent of men and ships to help regain Helen from the Trojans.

Excavation of the site began in 1884, when Schliemann, the first to excavate at Mycenae, turned his attention to Tiryns. The German Archaeological Institute in a number of prolonged campaigns has laid bare much more of the site and continues the work even today.

Before reaching Tiryns’ palace, one must first pass through two monumental gate structures (propylaea) (Fig. below: 11 and 12), built in the Late Helladic period. They, along with the entire (?) citadel, were destroyed in a violent conflagration dated ca. 1200 B.C. For centuries thereafter there is no evidence for monumental architecture in Greece, and monumental propylaea were not to re-appear until the archaic period. When propylaea do “return,” however, at the Aphaia temple on the island of Aegina and on the Athenian acropolis, they are said to copy the plan of the Tiryns gates. Some scholars are quite struck by the re-emergence of a model extinct for 700 years.1 How could the later Greeks have discerned the plan of the Tiryns gates if they had been buried beneath rubble for those 700 years, in fact, until Schliemann’s excavations?

After passing through the second propylon at Tiryns, then crossing a courtyard (Fig. above: 13), one reaches the palace (Fig. above: 14). “Along one side of the porch of the large megaron [the throne room and perhaps cult center of the palace] at Tiryns was found a curious series of seven interlocking blocks of alabaster . . . inlaid with blue glass paste” forming “two elongated half-rosettes with inner patterns.” The blocks’ “resemblance to Doric triglyphs and metopes is very striking”.2 The bench formed by these blocks is “strikingly close to the triglyph and metope pattern of the later Doric order of architecture”.3

One source sees the Doric triglyph altars as “a direct descendant” of this ritual stone bench at Tiryns,4 while another author has the entire Doric order, including triglyph and metope friezes, “invented” “in about the middle of the seventh century” B.C.5

If the Doric altars are “a direct descendant,” “how is it that we have no trace of the motif during the Dark Ages?”.6 Were such bench-altars made continuously between 1200 and 600 but only in perishable material, or did people return to Tiryns 500-600 years after it was destroyed, see, use, and then decide to copy the stone bench of the palace?7

If there is no direct descent, no copying of an extinct model, if the idea was invented afresh in the 7th century, how does one explain the “very striking” similarity of 7th-century altars to a 13th-century bench? On the other hand, how does one explain a decorative device with no functional nature or origin,8 which, after its re-invention, “remained without variation for over four centuries” in altars and temple architecture? This fact, “it is argued, points to at least as long a period of development before its appearance in stone at the end of the seventh century”.9 Yet it is precisely the period before its appearance in stone, some 600 years, for which “there is at present no evidence to show that the Doric frieze was derived from this ancient scheme” as found at Tiryns.

“It is not impossible that the two forms have some real historical connexion”.10 While not impossible, if 600 years really separate the two forms, it is highly improbable. If 600 years did not transpire, as is the premise of the revised chronology, the similarity of the friezes is only natural and ceases to be “very striking.”

It has been claimed that the Tiryns bench served as the model for triglyph altars. For the use of the triglyph and metope scheme on temples, a number of Bronze Age buildings and depictions of buildings with the triglyph and rosette frieze higher up are cited as prototypes.11 Among these structures is the Treasury of Atreus at Mycenae. The position of the triglyph scheme above the columns (Fig. 4) is particularly notable, as this arrangement of Doric-like frieze surmounting Doric-like columns is set centuries before the Doric order was “invented” in the 7th century. While this might remind one somewhat of a Doric temple facade, the chronological gap is hard to explain.

We now come to a very thorny problem at Tiryns. The upper town was gutted by a fire dated ca. 1200 B.C. Did the palace on the citadel miraculously escape the conflagration?

Many archaeologists have noted and been struck by the fact that the ground plan of a Mycenaean palace (especially the throne room or “megaron” ) is essentially the same as that for 8th-century and later temples. “How, for example, are we to explain the typical plan of the classical temple-with the two columns of the porch in line with the end walls and with the main shrine, or naos, and its central statue base—except as a carryover of the plan of the Mycenaean megaron?”.12

This could be explained very easily if there was continuity between the buildings of the 13th century and those of the 8th or 7th, but by the accepted scheme there is none. Immediately after the expiration of the Mycenaean period the “new” architecture displays an “essential discontinuity with Mycenaean architecture”.13 The change was quite abrupt.14 Now, rather than monumental, rectilinear structures, we find oval-shaped huts and apsidal buildings (i.e., with one end rounded). The latter shape, however, is not new. Just as the 8th-century temple seems to be a 500-year throw-back to Mycenaean palaces, the “post-Mycenaean” apsidal house seems to be a 500-year throwback to Middle Helladic buildings.15

When the 8th-7th-century temples were built, the 13th-century palace plans must have been long forgotten,16 unless some Mycenaean palace managed to survive intact until that time, or unless a ruined palace was cleared and its ground plan was then studied and copied. It is in the context of these two possibilities that Tiryns’ palace becomes so important for those desiring to connect 13th-century palaces with 8th-7th-century temples.17

The palace of Tiryns has special significance for the Homericists as well. Now that Homer is assigned to the late 8th century while the destruction of the Mycenaean palaces is put in the late 13th, could Homer have been influenced by Bronze Age palaces when he describes them in his Odyssey .

Since Homer is removed by 500 years from the palaces he described, “Mycenaean monuments . . . will thus play no role” in any attempt to study the architecture that Homer actually knew.18 So says one archaeologist.

Other archaeologists and Homericists disagree. They believe that Homer must have been familiar with at least one Mycenaean palace.19 “No better succinct description could be given of the restored palace of Tiryns” than is found in Homer’s Odyssey. “Buildings combining these characteristics [enumerated by Homer] are known in Greece at one period and one only, that known as Late

Helladic III, and that is the period within which the action of the Odyssey is supposed to fall. Such a degree of coincidence can hardly be fortuitous, and it is now generally agreed that some connexion, however enigmatic, exists between the house of Odysseus and the Late Mycenaean palace.”

“The extent to which the action of the Odyssey can be adapted to the stage of Tiryns must not, however, blind us to the extreme difficulty of accounting for the knowledge which the poet apparently possessed of architecture of the LH III type”.20 “How was the knowledge of the LH III type of palace preserved?”.21

How can the palace at Tiryns help the Homeric archaeologists with their “extreme difficulty” of accounting for 13th-century details known so intimately by an 8th-century poet? How does it make the connection less “enigmatic”? How can it help the student of Greek architecture with his equally difficult problem of bridging the 500 years between Mycenaean Age palaces and 8th-century temples?

On the acropolis of Tiryns a large deposit of 8th-5th-century pottery and cult objects and 7th-century architectural fragments was unearthed.22 It was thus reasonable to assume that an 8th or 7th-century temple existed on the citadel. A suitable spot, in fact the only possible spot, was chosen.

Above the megaron of the Mycenaean palace lay the walls of a somewhat smaller and less well-built structure, identified as the Greek temple. Since the temple seemed to have been built almost immediately after the palace perished in flames, and the builders were familiar with the palatial ground plan, it was decided that the palace miraculously escaped the conflagration of 1200 B.C., and continued to stand until ca. 750 B.C. when it perished to a second fire on the citadel. Above its ruins the temple was then erected.

It was not only difficult for the excavators to imagine that the palace stood nearly half a millennium without alteration, but astonishing (“erstaunlich” ) to think that the Mycenaean elements of the palace (architectural, artistic, and stratigraphical) remained unchanged and visible to people 500 years later. Nevertheless, they felt compelled to accept this view, since the temple obviously followed immediately after the fire that razed the palace.23

If the palace of Tiryns stood 500 years longer than the other Bronze Age palaces, if it survived the fire of 1200 B.C. on the citadel and remained visible to 8th-century Greeks, then the architectural and Homeric problems are solved. The 8th-century temple builders and Homer were familiar with a 13th-century palace.

The conclusions of the excavators were challenged by Carl Blegen. He agreed that immediately after the palace burned down, the smaller structure was built by men intimately familiar with the palace when it stood;24 but there was only one fire, ca. 1200, and it destroyed the palace with the rest of the citadel. Thus, to him, the smaller megaron-structure represents the remains of a 12th-century building, not a 7th-century temple. In support of his contention was the vast quantity of Mycenaean pottery around the site. He too found it difficult and astonishing to believe that the palace survived intact an extra 500 years, so he rejected the notion. Others also reject it as impossible, since the wooden beams within the walls would have rotted away long before.25 While this interpretation explains away many 500-year difficulties, it leaves the problem of the 8th-7th-century votive deposits and 7th-century architectural fragments. If this building, which followed immediately after the fire that destroyed the palace, belonged to the 12th century, where was the 7th-century temple?

If the palace did not stand an extra 500 years, how can it help with the problem of the 8th-century temples copying Mycenaean palaces and with Homer’s knowledge?

A third solution is to have the palace destroyed in the great fire of 1200 B.C., have the site abandoned, then rediscovered and cleared in the 8th or 7th century. Those clearing the debris would see the ground plan of the destroyed palace, thus pleasing the Homericists and architecture students. A temple could then be erected on that spot after a lapse of ca. 500 years. While this view eliminates many problems and explains much of the evidence, it neglects one very important item. Both of the other schools of thought regarded it as a fact that the smaller structure was built immediately after the palace burned-500 years did not elapse between the destruction of the palace and the construction of its successor.

But these are stratigraphical problems. Perhaps the architectural form of the later structure will settle the dispute over its date—12th century or 7th. Here again we find a difficulty. Its ground plan, a rectangular building with a single row of interior columns, can be found in a few structures of the 14th-12th centuries or in a long list of 8th-6th-century buildings. No intermediate examples seem to exist to connect these two groups.26 To which group should we assign it?

What should one do? For the sake of helping the Homericists and students of architecture, does one presume that the palace stood intact an extra 500 years? Does one date the later structure to the 12th century, overlook the 8th-5th-cetury finds and see no temple here at all, thus destroying the one hope of the Homericists and architectural historians? As a compromise, does one have a 500-year-later rebuilding on an ancient site, partially pleasing, but partially displeasing both groups? This question has plagued Aegean scholars for over 50 years, has never been satisfactorily answered, and as long as 500 “ghost years” exist, it will remain “problematical”27 and defy explanation. 28

Even the objects from the temple cult, while of certain date, are “problematical.” Among these were terracotta figurines and grotesque masks of the 7th century B.C. Like so many other 7th-century votive terracottas, they were produced on the wheel “in the old technique” the Mycenaeans had used 500 years earlier.29 Such votives “kept reappearing spontaneously in widely separated parts of the country without any direct continuity that can be traced among the votive statuettes themselves. Something much more than an archaeological zeal on the part of the faithful needs to be invoked to explain this!” If we reject continuity, reject imitation of extinct models, and also reject the hypothesis that the type was preserved for centuries only in perishables now lost to us,30 what is left for us?

At Tiryns we have run into 500-700-year problems with triglyphs, with propylaea, with Homer and 8th-century temple plans, with the architecture and archaeology of the palace, and with the temple votives.

The fire that destroyed the acropolis of Tiryns is of approximately the same date as the great fire that destroyed much of Mycenae, including its palace. If we accept the hypothesis that Tiryns’ palace was destroyed then, not 500 years later (i.e., that the palaces of Mycenae and Tiryns burned down at about the same time), what was that time? We have seen arguments for making it the 8th or 7th century B.C. We have also seen problems that crop up if we refuse to bring down the date that far.

Now let us travel across the Aegean Sea, and, like the “13th-century” kings of Mycenae, Pylos, and Tiryns, we will arrive at Troy.


  1. H. Schliemann, Tiryns (New York: 1885), pp. 194, 197; Tsountas and Manatt, The Mycenaean Age, pp. 45, 322; Schuchardt, Schliemann’s Excavations, p. 105; W. A. McDonald, Progress into the Past (New York: 1967), p. 45; Robertson, Greek and Roman Architecture, p. 29; Dinsmoor, The Architecture of Ancient Greece, p. 18; W. Voigtländer, Tiryns (Athens: 1972), p. 10. See E. R. Fiechter, “Die mit dem Tempel gleichzeitig oder später entstandenen Bauten” in A. Furtwängler, et al., Aegina: Das Heiligtum der Aphaia (Munich: 1906), pp. 67, 83 for the date of the Aegina propylon, and p. 84 for its close similarity to those at Tiryns; J. A. Bundgaard, Mnesicles (Copenhagen: 1957), p. 191, n. 39 for lack of propylaea between those of Tiryns and those of late archaic date. Beneath the Mnesiclean Propylaea of Athens, traces of an earlier Propylon have been found. This building is variously dated between 520 and 480 B.C.. (See J. S. Boersma, Athenian Building Policy from 561/0 to 405/4 B.C. (Groningen: 1970, pp. 19, 21, 109, n. 232, 202.)

  2. Robertson, Greek and Roman Architecture, p. 30.

  3. McDonald, Progress into the Past, p. 424.

  4. M. L. Bowen, “Some Observations on the Origin of Triglyphs,” ABSA 45 (1950); 124.

  5. R. M. Cook, “The Archetypal Doric Temple,” p. 17. See also p. 19 and Cook’s earlier article, “A Note on the Origin of the Triglyphs,”ABSA 56(1951): 52.

  6. M. L. Bowen, “Origin of Triglyphs,” p. 124.

  7. Ibid., pp. 124-25.

  8. The Roman author Vitruvius (De Architectura, Book IV. 2-3) postulated that the stone frieze represented original wooden members. D. S. Robertson, Greek and Roman Architecture, p. 32, also believed in an early constructional origin. Both Bowen, “Origin of Triglyphs,” pp. 113-14, and Cook, “Origin of Triglyphs,” pp. 50-52, give good reasons for rejecting this notion.

  9. M. L. Bowen, “Origin of Triglyphs,” p. 113. 94. Robertson, Greek and Roman Architecture, p. 32.

  10. Ibid. If the bench was used until the 8th century, both similarities to and differences with 7th-century friezes are easy to explain.

  11. Bowen, “Origin of Triglyphs,” pp. 121-22.

  12. McDonald, Progress into the Past, pp. 423-24. See also Dinsmoor, The Architecture of Ancient Greece, p. 21: Bowen, “Origin of Triglyphs,” p. 123; Tsountas and Manatt, The Mycenaean Age. p. 322: B. Schweitzer, Greek Geometric Art, trans. by P. and C. Usborne (New York: 1971, published posthumously), pp. 223-24.

  13. A. M. Snodgrass, The Dark Age of Greece, p. 369. See also H. Drerup, Griechische Baukunst in geomelrisciter Zeit (Archaeologia Homerica II, 0, Göttingen: 1969), p. 77.

  14. Drerup. Griechische Baukunst, p. 77.

  15. Ibid., p. 82: A. M. Snodgrass, The Dark Age of Greece, p. 369; Dinsmoor, The Architecture of Ancient Greece, p. 58; D. M. Robinson, “Hails” in Pauly-Wissowa’s Real-Encyclopädie, Supplement 7 (1940), 235. (S. Sinos, however, in Die vorklassischen Hausformen in der Ägäis [Mainz: 1971], pp. 75-84, 87-90. 109-16, cites some examples of the co-existence of rectilinear, apsidal, and oval structures in the Middle, Late Bronze, and Dark Ages. He admits, p. 114, that there is no example of a megaron between Mycenaean times and the later temples.) A few apsidal houses do seem to have been built during the Late Helladic period but they were in vogue only during the Middle Helladic and “post-Mycenaean” times, were alypical in the Late Helladic period, and do not seem plentiful enough to span the time to connect the two peak periods. The most often-cited example is that at Thermon where the date is in dispute. As is so often the case, about 500 years are at stake. Elsewhere I will treat this case, and intend to show that essential discontinuity, and an abrupt change with a 500-year throw-back is not only true of “post-Mycenaean” architecture, but is also the case with the contemporary graves and the pottery.

  16. Dinsmoor, The Architecture of Ancient Greece, p. 58; G. Rodenwaldt. “Zur Entstehung der Monumentalen Architektur in Griechenland,” Ath. Mitt. 44 (1919): 179-180; G. Rodenwaldt, “Mykenische Studien I,” Jahrhuch (of the German Archaeological Institute) 34 (1919): 95 and n. 2.

  17. Robertson, Greek and Roman Architecture, p. 36: Schweitzer. Greek Geometric 224; G. Rodenwaldt, “Mykenische I,” p. 95, n. 2.

  18. H. Drerup, “Griechische Architektur zur Zeit Homers,” Archäologischer Anzeiger (1964): 180: “Mykenische Denkmaler werden also irn Gegensatz zur Homerinterpretation keine Rolle spielen. ”

  19. H. L. Lorimer, ibid., p. 407.

  20. Ibid., pp. 408-10.

  21. For a brief list of finds see G. Karo, Führer durch Tiryns, 2nd ed. (Athens: 1934), pp. 47-49.

  22. A. Frickenhaus, “Die Hera von Tiryns,” Tiryns I (Athens: 1912), pp. 35 f.

  23. C. Blegen, “The So-called Temple of Hera at Tiryns,” an appendix to Korakou (New York: 1921), p. 132.

  24. Ibid., 132-33; G. Mylonas, Mycenae and the Mycenaean Age, p. 49.

  25. Bowen, “Origin of Triglyphs,” pp. 122-23. He incorrectly dates the Korakou example to Middle Helladic times (see Blegen, Korakou, pp. 80-83, 133). The only other Bronze Age examples he gives are a house from the Vlth level at Troy, the archaeology of which we will soon examine, and the structure at Tiryns. (To this one should add an LH III example from Attica. See G. Mylonas, Aghios Kosmas [Princeton: 1959], “House T,” p. 55 and fig. 15.) Bowen rightly suspects the 9th-century date assigned to the Artemis Orthia temple at Sparta (see Snodgrass, The Dark Age of Greece, p. 277); more recently see H. Drerup, Griechische Baukunst, p. 89

  26. Drerup, Griechische Baukunst, p. 89.

  27. Snodgrass, The Dark Age of Greece, p. 398.

  28. Since Velikovsky has released his chapter on Tiryns (Pensée [Winter, 1973-74], pp. 45-46), I have left out much detail in order not to repeat his points. In addition to Velikovsky’s article, the reader is referred to H. Drerup, Griechische Baukunst, pp. 17-18, 89 for a succinct statement of the case and the opposing views. Drerup himself pointedly abstained from giving his own opinion. His bibliography is quite extensive, but by no means exhaustive.
    A similar situation exists with two Mycenaean edifices on the island of Delos. The excavator claims that both of these—one, a sanctuary—stood until ca. 700 B.C., and that the sanctuary was then converted into a Greek temple. Snodgrass (The Dark Age of Greece, pp. 395-96) and others (ibid., p. 439, n. 36) reject this 400-year-long continuity.

  29. R. V. Nicholls, “Greek Votive Statuettes,” p. 17.

  30. Ibid., p. 21. Nicholls seeks perishable (i.e., wooden) models to fill the gap here, as did Bowen for similarities of Doric triglyphs to Mycenaean friezes, as did some for connecting Linear B and the Phoenician alphabet. Likewise it had been proposed, and rightly rejected, that the connection between Mycenaean palatial architecture and 8th-century temples was to be found in monumental megaron-shaped wooden temples (G. Rodenwaldt, “Zur Entstehung,” p. 179 f.). Why the Greeks should have used perishables exclusively during the Dark Age to connect similar non-perishable items separated by 500 years, when we know that they still fired clay, made metal objects, and used stone during that period is not adequately explained. Since they continued to make pottery on the wheel, they could quite easily fashion figurines in that way, rather than carving them from wood. The lack of wheel-made terracotta votives to span those 500 years requires another explanation.