The town of Lerna, near the current village of Myloi, lay between Mount Pontinos and the sea, and is nowadays known mainly for the excavations of the American school under J.L. Laskey (1952-1958), who describes the history of habitation from the 4th millennium BC. until the end of the Myke period. The so-called House with the Roof Tiles is one of the largest early Helladian buildings that are known, and is a palace-like building measuring 25×12 meters of at least two floors, now on display under a sturdy concrete canopy (photo). In ancient times the city was best known for the mysteries of Demeter and the legendary hydra of Lerna, which was killed by Heracles. On top of the remains of the house of Hippomedon and the temple of Athena Saïtis are the remains of a Frankish fort.

Pausanias 2.36.6-8:

Forty stades and no longer the sea of ​​Lerna is away from the city of the Argivers. When you go to Lerna, you first have the river Erasinos, which flows into the Phrixos, and the Phrixos in its turn into the sea between Temenion and Lerna. From the Erasinos you can turn left for about eight stages, and then you have a sanctuary for the Heren Dioskouren. Their wooden cult sculptures have the same appearance as those in the city. (7) Then return to the main road and cross the Erasinos, you will come to the Cheimarros river. Close by is a round stone court. Plouton, it is said, is said to have descended on that place after his robbery of Kore, the daughter of Demeter, to his kingdom that was seen as underground. Lerna is, as I said before, by the sea, and there they celebrate a mystery service, the Lernaia, in honor of Demeter.
(8) There is a sacred forest that starts from the mountain called Pontinos. That Pontinos mountain no longer allows rainwater to flow away, but absorbs the whole. From there runs a small river called Pontinos; and on the top of that mountain lies a sanctuary for Athena Saïtis, now only a ruin, and there are foundations of a house of Hippomedon, who went to Thebes to assist Polyneikes, the son of Oidipous

Right: concrete protection for the House with the Roof Tiles. Below that is the map (source: Buchholz-Karageorghis, Prehistoric Greece and Cyprus, p. 16) of the site that shows the House of the Roofing Tiles (a), the fortifications from the same period (b) and the Mykean graves that nearly 1000 years later were built right through the remains of this old palace. This palace, dating from the third millennium BC, is one of the earliest examples of the new economy, determined by trade, that flourished in Greece in the early Bronze Age. The main stimulus will have come here from the development of metallurgy. The excavations in Lerna have demonstrated trade and cultural contacts between Crete, the Cyclades Islands and the Argolis. The construction of this palace proves (as well as the heavy fortifications from the same period) the emergence of a layered society with powerful leaders and a tendency to wage war. The House with the Roof Tiles owes its name to the numerous roof tiles that were found during the excavation and which underline the monumental character of the building. Below: the walls of the House with the Roof Tiles are often preserved to a height of more than 0.5 m. The many wall remains that have remained outside the protection are partly protected with (modern) roof tiles to counteract the influence of the elements.
Below the bar: some prehistoric finds from Lerna
(source: Buchholz-Karageorghis, Prehistoric Greece and Cyprus).

Coin from Lerna with Heracles fighting the Hydra of Lerna. Photo Papachatzis. The scene appears regularly on Greek vases with Heracles and the Hydra in the same position.


The caves of Pan and Dionysos, where – according to Pausanias – the water of the river Erasinos reappears, after having flowed underground from Lake Stymfalos for a long time. The intended place is nowadays called Kefalári, just like the river. The source of Erasinos forms a small lake, above which are two caves dedicated to Pan and Dionysos. The large cave runs about 60 meters up the mountain, while the small one has been converted into a chapel dedicated to the Panagia Kefalariotisa (photo).

Above: Two kilometers away from Kefalári is the so-called pyramid of the Kenchreai; a reasonably well-preserved building, with a more or less pyramidal shape. Through an arch and short corridor you reach a rectangular, central room. The precise function of the building is unknown, but it is almost certainly not the common grave for the Argivers after the Battle of Hysiaï. The city of Kenchreai itself is not localized. Below: the Frankish fort at Lerna.