Ancient World Now: Mycenae, Tiryns, and Epidaurus

Listen to my podcast on Mycenae: Episode #36: The Mycenaean World
MYCENAE
After all these years of reading Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and marveling at Heinrich Schliemann’s fabulous discoveries, I finally made it to the Lion Gate at Mycenae! This place holds special meaning for me because the story of the Trojan War is my life’s focus, and its richness and depth continue to lead me in new directions.

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The Lion Gate is the main entrance to the citadel of Mycenae, which is on the hilltop behind me in this photo. This is where Agamemnon, Menelaus, Achilles, Odysseus, Ajax, and the rest of the Greek warriors met to discuss their plan to get Helen back from the Trojans, and where Clytemnestra watched for the signal fires for her husband’s return from the war.
Agamemnon had no idea what awaited him, but Cassandra, princess of Troy and war prize to the king, wailed unabated as she was brought in to the palace.

Shown below is the Tomb of Agamemnon, or the Treasury of Atreus, a beehive tholos built around 1250 B.C.: a massive structure. Bees actually inhabit the tomb and you can hear their buzzing hum when you walk inside.  This land is layered in myth and metaphor; every hill and valley, stream and copse tells a story. I still can’t believe I am here.photo 1 (1)
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TIRYNS
Before our visit to Mycenae we stopped to tour the fortress ruins of Tiryns. This site is where the term “cyclopean walls” originated, and in Homer’s Iliad, its epithet was “mighty-walled Tiryns.” Legend claims Hercules ruled here and that the walls were built by the cyclopes. Mycenae controlled the mountain pass into the plain, while Tiryns controlled access by sea.
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photo (9)photo (7)EPIDAURUS
At the 4th century Theatre at Epidaurus, the first 2 scenes from my Iliad play were performed by some members of our tour group. Considered by scholars to be the best preserved theatre from the ancient world, it is a masterpiece of acoustical engineering and architectural proportions.  Erika, from the audience, receives a copy of the play.

Ancient World Now:Mycenaean World

Click here for direct link to audio podcast Episode #36.

Click here for previous episodes.

Once upon a time, Heinrich Schliemann married a girl named Sophia. For the rest of their lives they searched for Homer’s Troy and Agamemnon’s Mycenae. News that they had discovered both stunned the world. And they lived happily ever after! This image of Sophia draped in “Helen’s gold” set off a firestorm of excitement for ancient-style jewelry. Enrich your life by reading about Schliemann’s heroic search. And enjoy today’s podcast on the basic facts about the Mycenaean world.

Ancient World Now:Minoan Crete

Click here for direct link to audio Episode #35.

Click here for previous episodes.

Some tech difficulties after an “upgrade” made us miss last week! With this temporary fix we are back on track, and as promised, here is Minoan Crete.

Upon her discovery, this lovely lady was nicknamed “La Parisienne”, and she is a major icon of Minoan civilization.

Who were these amazingly artistic people? The jury is still out. Their civilization flourished between 2200 BC and 1450 BC, long before the Golden Age of Athens. In fact, that’s 1,000-2,000 years before Pericles and his fabulously enduring monument, the Parthenon. Consider the events and world changes that have happened within the past 2,000 years! The Knossos palace finds of Sir Arthur Evans in 1899 AD shook the archaeological world! This ancient Bronze Age civilization existed only in the dim distant memory of legends. They are referenced in Homer and the stories of the ancient heroes, but until Evans’ excavations between 1899 AD and 1935 AD, the magnitude of their power and prestige was unknown. This is the land of King Minos and the Labyrinth of Daedalus. Of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur. This is the land of the bull dancers and the snake goddesses. And their story is still unclear!

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford houses the Sir Arthur Evans finds. I was there in 2006 and remarked to myself how antiquated it looked for such an important collection. Lo & behold, the museum was renovated in 2009. I will definitely visit in the future.

Enjoy the podcast! Next week, the Mycenaeans. Bring it on, Clytemnestra!

Ancient World Now:Freya Stark

Click here for direct link to audio Episode #32.

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Freya Stark went boldly where no woman (& sometimes no man) had gone before. She is one of the most fascinating women of the 20th century. Born in 1893, she followed in T.E. Lawrence’s and Gertrude Bell’s footsteps across the Middle East. Like her predecessors, she learned Arabic and Persian, and lived the life of a nomad whenever she was able. She often traveled where no woman had gone before, and in some cases could claim to be the first Western explorer. She dressed as was the native custom in the lands she walked, and crossed deserts and mountains by camel. She wrote touchingly perceptive descriptions of what she saw, as with the scene in today’s podcast of young Turkish boys going off to war in the Black Sea town of Giresun. She knew her classics, knew her geography, and knew her “place” (on the road!). She wrote dozens of books and lived to be 100 years old, dying in our own lifetimes, in 1993.
Today I read from her book Rome on the Euphrates.

Check out Moe’s Books in Berkeley for a top-notch selection  of Classical literature.

Thank you, Freya, for being bold and brave and living your life to the fullest!

Next week we continue with prehistoric times, focusing on the Neolithic period. When will it end???

Ancient World Now:Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy

Click here for direct link to audio Episode #20.

Click here for previous episodes.

So many of you have asked me: What do you think of Wolfgang Petersen’s film Troy?

Well, filmmakers always tamper with characters and situations from the original story, and Petersen is no exception. But I ask where,  in Homer’s name, is the real tale of the death of Ajax? And where, indeed, is Laocoon, the great seer, who with his sons was dragged to his watery death by a sea serpent when he tried to tell King Priam that the wooden horse would bring about the end of Troy?

The “greatness” of great story lies in the portrayal of the depth of human character. That a director has 180 minutes in which to show the scope of human triumph and tragedy is unrealistic. One must go to the source of these great stories in order to learn from them.

And how do we as humans display character? By the small things we do each day. In times of peace, it might be something as simple as nodding to the driver who yields their right of way. Or by patiently accepting the customer service routine from eager teen clerks because they are in training. And in times of crisis and war, we might reveal our character by resolving not to look at images of humiliation, or by remaining speechless in a time of sorrow and shame. These minor actions and inactions reveal the complexities of the human mind, heart, and spirit in ways, that in the rush of our lives, we often fail to see. It is precisely the lack of these simple human gestures that keeps modern film epics from attaining greatness. Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy is by its very nature crippled in its attempts. But, hey, using technology to create the image of the “launch of a thousand ships” was pretty cool! And then Brad Pitt as Achilles, well, what can I say?

Listen to this week’s podcast to find out how Petersen’s film differed from the original epic. Enjoy!

Ancient World Now….three days…..

Podcast launch date: Monday, June 14, 2010.

First episode: The Iliad 20-30 minute podcast.

From the time Heinrich Schliemann was a wee lad in Germany, he dreamed of finding the location of legendary Troy. He dedicated his entire life to this dream. He came to America and made a gold rush fortune out west. He did the mail-order bride thing and hooked up with a Greek girl named Sophia, who was also a big fan of all things Homeric. Together, they combed Greece and Turkey in the hopes of locating Ilium. While Heinrich has a bad rap in today’s world for his rough & tumble archaeological practices, you gotta hand it to him, the man was passionate!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about his young wife, Sophia, and show you how she influenced ladies accessories in the mid-nineteenth century.

Tune in to the maiden podcast of Ancient World Now to see what inspired these two characters!

Ancient World Now….four days…..

Podcast launch date: Monday, June 14, 2010.

First episode: The Iliad 20-30 minute podcast.

Who was Paris? And how did he get so lucky? Goddesses! Helen! Playing the lyre whenever he wanted! Hanging out in the palace while everybody and his brother fights his battles (literally)!

Little did you know that he was callously cast aside, nay, exposed on a mountaintop, soon after birth because his mom had a nightmare that he would bring down her family!

Some time later he was picked up by a shepherd who raised him to manhood. But discovering he was a hot young swashbuckling prince of Troy is another story.

This Judgment of Paris by Lucas Cranach the Elder is from around 1528.  If you want to see it “in person” you’ll have to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Find out how these three ladies tried to bribe Paris and what they used to entice him in the maiden podcast of Ancient World Now!

Ancient World Now….five days…..

Podcast launch date: Monday, June 14, 2010.

First episode: The Iliad 20-30 minute podcast.

Leading the Greek forces against Troy is Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae. The goddess Artemis demands that he sacrifice his daughter. This Roman fresco shows the Sacrifice of Iphigenia. This act sets off a chain of events chronicled in some of the most wrenching stories ever told….

…..but I get ahead of myself! Find out why the doomed king had to do such a dirty deed in the maiden podcast of Ancient World Now!

Ancient World Now….six days…..

Podcast launch date: Monday, June 14, 2010.

First episode: The Iliad 20-30 minute podcast.

Of course Aphrodite was deemed “the fairest”! And here she is with the golden apple.

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Here Aphrodite wears the fashion of the Hellenistic period (323-31 BC): platform sandals and a sheer cloak that reveals her undergarments and the contours of her body. In her outstretched hand she holds the apple that Paris, a Trojan prince, awarded her as a prize in a beauty contest with Hera and Athena. This contest eventually led to the most famed conflict in antiquity, the Trojan War.

Text from the Getty Villa museum label.

Ancient World Now….eight days…..

Podcast launch date: Monday, June 14, 2010.

First episode: The Iliad 20-30 minute podcast.

Three goddesses and a shepherd from Mt. Ida. Sounds interesting,
n’est pas? Who was deemed “the fairest”, Hera, Aphrodite, or  Athena? Find out next Monday in the first episode of The Iliad.

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