History and mythology are intertwined in Mykene, like nowhere else in Greece. According to Homeros (and Pausanias), the city of Mykene was founded by Perseus when he was back in Argos. Eventually the Perseus dynasty was overthrown by Pelops the son of Tantalos. The genus of Atreus, to which Agamemnon also belongs, is probably derived from the descendants of Pelops, although the details are obscure. In any case, at the time of the Trojan War, the house of Atreus was the most powerful in Greece.
Historically, the site of the later Mykene was already inhabited in the 6th millennium BC. Between 2100 and 1900 BC, a people of Indo-European origin entered Greece and brought to the local population a culturally advanced civilization that, after incorporation of the local culture, would flourish as the Mycenaean civilization named after its most powerful kingdom, Mykene. . Other kingdoms of this culture were Athens, Corinth, Argos, Thebes and Iolkos. The city of Mykene, and probably the other centers of this culture, consisted of a fortified citadel, a palace and a surrounding settlement. The walls were so huge (13 m. High, 7 m. Thick) that the later Greeks assumed that they could only have been built by the cyclopes, one-eyed giants as they are described in the Odyssey. Around 1200 BC, most of the Mycenaean centers were destroyed, presumably as a result of the same popular movements and violent raids that ended the kingdom of the Hittites and were known to the Egyptians as the attacks (and the displacements) of the Sea Peoples. Most of the Mycenaean palaces had in any case been destroyed some 150 years before the Dorians arrived, the work of invasions from outside, or of civil wars and robberies of the Mycenaean centers on each other.
Of the Mycenaean remains seen by Pausanias, the majority are still standing, from the famous lion’s gate to the at least as famous “treasure houses” as those of Atreus and his children, in fact not shaft trenches, but Tholos graves. The tombs mentioned by Pausanias within the walls are very likely to be identified with the royal tombs of tomb circle A directly behind the Lion’s Gate. Excavations since Heinrich Schliemann have uncovered more and more remains and works of art from the ancient Mycenaean civilization, most of which are preserved in the National Museum in Athens, but replicas of which can be seen in the new museum on site. The most famous works of art such as the so-called “mask of Agamemnon” come from the graves of both burial circles and are certainly 300 years older than Agamemnon.
The walls of Mykene, including the famous Lion’s Gate, date from the heyday of Mycenaean culture. Other important elements of the Mycenaean walls are the underground cistern, some 18 meters below the surface and 40 meters outside the walls. Although the passage has been well preserved, today it is not possible to descend into it, unlike a few years ago. The total length was 18 + 20 + 60 steps.