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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites

Tiryns

Tiryns. An age-old town in the SE part of the plain of Argos, a short distance from the sea. Its origins go back to legendary times, and it was from Tiryns that Herakles performed the twelve labors for King Eurystheus. The town was famed for its massive walls, thought to have been built by the Cyclopes and mentioned by Homer. The Tirynthians took part in the Trojan War under the leadership of Diomedes. Though only a small place in Classical times, it sent a contingent to fight at Plataia and was a thorn in the side of Argos until the Argives destroyed it, probably in the sixties of the 5th c. B.C. The exiled Tirynthians settled in Halieis in the S Argolid.
  The remains, particularly the walls, have always been conspicuous. The first large-scale excavations of 1884 have been continued at intervals in the 20th c. The site is a low eminence ca. 300 m long and up to 100 m wide, rising only ca. 20 m above the surrounding plain. This forms the acropolis and was fortified with strong walls. The lower town lay in the flat surrounding area.
  Potsherds indicate that the site has been inhabited since Late Neolithic times, though no walls of this period have been found. In the Early Bronze Age it was an important place, but the Late Bronze Age was the greatest period: the higher S part of the acropolis was occupied by an extensive palace, one of the best preserved on the Greek mainland. The principal unit was the megaron which opened off a large colonnaded court. The lower, N part of the acropolis was also enclosed within the walls but seems to have had no important buildings.
  The palace was destroyed at the end of the Bronze Age, but the site continued to be occupied in Geometric and Archaic times. A Doric temple is attested by a column capital. Boustrophedon inscriptions of the 6th c. B.C., found in 1962 on the cover slabs of water tunnels passing under the walls should, when deciphered and published, give interesting information on the government and religion of the archaic town. The exile of the Tirynthians at Halieis (Porto Cheli) is confirmed by Tirynthian coins found in excavations there. The site was deserted in the time of Strabo and Pausanias. The movable finds from Tiryns are divided between the museums of Athens and Nauplia.

E. Vanderpool, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains 25 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.


Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Tiryns

  A prehistoric citadel in the Argolic plain, about two and one-half miles north of Nauplia, and one mile from the sea. It occupies the summit of a low hill, about 980 feet long by 330 feet wide, and, in the southern half, 59 feet high above the surrounding plain, or 72 feet above sea level. Here, during a period probably not earlier than the fifteenth century B.C., nor later than the eleventh, was the stronghold of a powerful line of chieftains. Like Mycenae, Tiryns seems to have early fallen under the power of Argos, and in B.C. 468 it was annihilated by Argos, or at least reduced to absolute insignificance. Thorough excavations were carried on in the southern portion of the citadel by Dr. Schliemann and Dr. Dorpfeld in 1884 and 1885. The walls of fortification were cleared, and within them the remains of an extensive palace were revealed. The lower (northern) portion of the citadel remains unexcavated.
  The citadel-wall of Tiryns is the classic example of "Cyclopian" masonry of the most primitive type. It is built of huge, irregular blocks of lime stone, many of them eight to ten feet long, three feet thick, and three feet high. These blocks were not fitted to one another, but the interstices were filled with clay and with small stones. In places there is a distinct approach toward an arrangement in horizontal courses. The thickness of the wall at the bottom varies from 16 feet to 28 feet, except in two places, where it is greatly increased in order to receive a system of store-chambers. The height of the existing remains is in places upward of 25 feet. The original height can only be guessed; it has been estimated at 50 feet, on the average, measured outside. The citadel had one, and only one, great entrance. This was on the east side. A broad ramp, so placed that the unshielded side of an attacking force would be exposed to the missiles of the defenders above, led to an opening, without gates, in the wall. What defence existed within this opening to the north is not known. To the south the passage was barred by a strong gate, whose threshold and related posts are still in their places. On the opposite (western) side of the citadel was a postern gate, from which ascended a narrow, winding stairway to the back of the palace; there were also two small gate apertures in the northern part of the citadel. On the east side, at the south end, was a gallery in the wall which furnished the means of communication with a series of rectangular store-chambers. The method of roofing by pushing the successive courses of stones farther and farther inward till they meet, should be noted (compare the "Treasury of Atreus" at Mycenae). This system of chambers with communicating gallery is repeated in the south wall, and there are here remains of the stairway by which access was obtained from the summit of the citadel.
  The palace was contemporaneous with the fortification just described. Its walls, not needing especial strength, were built, in their lower portions, of moderate-sized stones laid in clay mixed with straw, with occasional beams of wood laid lengthwise. In many places the upper portions, beginning about three feet from the ground, consisted of unbaked bricks; in two places the bricks begin from the ground. These walls were protected by a plaster consisting of an undercoat of clay and an outer coat of pure lime. The latter was decorated with paintings, of which many fragmentary specimens have been found. Another sort of wall-decoration was found in the vestibule of a hall, extending across the western wall at the bottom. This was an alabaster frieze, sculptured with an elaborate pattern of palmettes, rosettes, etc., and studded with pieces of blue glass, supposed to be the kuanos of Homer. The floors throughout the palace were made of pure lime or of lime mixed with small pebbles. Thresholds were of wood or stone. Columns and antae were of wood. It is not certain whether there was a second story over any part of the building. The ground-plan was as follows: Through a large propylaeum, one passed into an irregular open court, and thence through a second and smaller propylaeum into a rectangular open court (aule) having a floor of lime and pebbles and enclosed on three sides by colonnades. North of this came what was obviously the most important part of the house, consisting of a vestibule, an antechamber, and a rectangular roofed hall (megaron). In the centre of this hall was a circular hearth, and around the hearth stood four wooden columns supporting the ceiling. As for the outlying rooms, most of them cannot be precisely designated. One, however, a square chamber approached by a passageway starting from the west side of the antechamber of the men's hall, was certainly a bathroom. Its floor was one gigantic stone, estimated to weigh over twenty tons. A fragment of a terracotta bath-tub was found here.
  The palace of Tiryns corresponds in many important respects with the type of house or palace presupposed in the Homeric poems. There are, however, some differences, of which the most important concerns the communication between the men's and the women's apartments. This, in the Homeric house, was direct and easy; at Tiryns it was long and circuitous. This and the other differences may be due to difference of locality and date. It must not be forgotten that the fortifications and palace of Tiryns are pre-Homeric.

This text is cited Sep 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)

Tiryns

  Tiruns: Eth. Tirunthios. (The name is perhaps connected with turrhis, Lepsius, Tyrrh. Pelasger, p. 13). One of the most ancient cities of Greece, lay a short distance SE. of Argos, on the right of the road leading to Epidaurus (Paus. ii. 25. § 8), and at the distance of 12 stadia from Nauplia. (Strab. viii. p. 373.) Its massive walls, which have been regarded with wonder in all ages, are said to have been the work of the Cyclopes, and belong to the same age as those of Mycenae. (Paus. ii. 16. § 5, ii. 25, § 8, vii. 25. § 6, ix. 36. § 5; Strab. l. c.; Plin. vii. 56. s. 57.) Hence Homer calls the city Tiruns teichioessa. (Il. ii. 559.) Pindar speaks of the Kuklopia prothura of Tiryns (Fragm. 642, ed. Bockh), and Pausanias says that the walls are not less worthy of admiration than the pyramids of Egypt (ix. 36. § 5.) In another passage he describes the walls as consisting of wide masses of stone (argoi lithoi), of such a size, that a yoke of oxen could not stir the least of them, the interstices being filled in with smaller stones to make the whole more compact and solid. (Paus. ii. 25. § 8.) The foundation of Tiryns ascends to the earliest mythical legends of the Argeia. It was said to have derived its name from Tiryns, the son of Argus (Paus. ii. 25. § 8), and to have been founded by Proetus. (Strab. viii. p. 372; Paus. ii. 16. § 2.) According to the common tradition, Megapenthes, the son of Proetus, ceded Tiryns to Perseus, who transmitted it to his descendant Electryon. Alcmena, the daughter of Electryon, married Amphitryon, who would have succeeded to the crown, had he not been expelled by Sthenelus, king of Argos. Their son Hercules afterwards regained possession of Tiryns, where he lived for many years, and hence is frequently called Tirynthius by the poets. (Hes. Scut. 81; Pind. Ol. x. 37, Isthm. vi. 39; Virg. Aen. vii. 662; Ov. Met. vii. 410) Although Tiryns was thus closely connected with the Heraclidae, yet the city remained in the hands of the old Achaean population after the return of the Heraclidae and the conquest of Peloponnesus by the Dorians. The strong fortress of Tiryns was dangerous to the neighbouring Dorian colony of Argos. After the dreadful defeat of the Argives by Cleomenes, their slaves took possession of Tiryns and held it for many years, (Herod. vi. 83.) In the Persian War the Tirynthians sent some men to the battle of Plataea. (Herod. ix. 28.) Subsequently their city was taken by the Argives, probably about the same time as Mycenae, B.C. 468. The lower city was entirely destroyed; the citadel was dismantled; and the inhabitants fled to Epidaurus and Halieis, a town on the coast of Hermionis. (Strab. viii. p. 373; Ephorus, ap. Steph. B. s. v. Halieis; Eustath. ad Horn. Il. ii. 559, p. 286,) It was probably owing to this circumstance that Stephanus B. was led into the mistake of saying that Tiryns was formerly called Halieis. The Tirynthians, who did not succeed in effecting their escape, were removed to Argos. (Paus. ii. 25. § 8.) From this time Tiryns remained uninhabited; and when Pausanias visited the city in the second century of our era, he saw nothing but the remains of the walls of the citadel, and beneath them towards the sea the so-called chambers of the daughters of Proetus. No trace of the lower city appears to have been left. The citadel was named Licymna, after Licymnius, son of Electryon, who was slain at Tiryns by Tleptolemus, son of Hercules. (Strab. vii. p. 373; Pind. Ol. vii. 47.) Hence Statius calls the marshes in the neighbourhood of Tiryns stagna Licymnia. (Theb. iv. 734.) Theophrastus represents the Tirynthians as celebrated for their laughing propensities, which rendered them incapable of attention to serious business (ap. Athen. vi. p. 261, d.).
  The ruins of the citadel of Tiryns are now called Paleo Anapli. They occupy the lowest and flattest of several rocky hills, which rise like islands out of the plain. The impression which they produce upon the beholder is well described by Col. Mure: This colossal fortress is certainly the greatest curiosity of the kind in existence. It occupies the table summit of an oblong hill, or rather knoll, of small extent or elevation, completely encased in masses of enormous stones, rudely piled in tiers one above another, into the form alternately of towers, curtain walls, abutments, gates, and covered ways. There is not a fragment in the neighbourhood indicating the existence of suburb or outer town at any period; and the whole, rising abruptly from the dead level of the surrounding plain, produces at a distance an effect very similar to that of the hulk of a man-of-war floating in a harbour. The length of the summit of the rock, according to Col. Leake's measurement, is about 250 yards, the breadth from 40 to 80, the height above the plain from 20 to 50 feet, the direction nearly N. and S. The entire circuit of the walls still remains more or less preserved. They consist of huge masses of stone piled upon one another, as Pausanias describes. The Wall is from about 20 to 25 feet in thickness, and it had two entrances, one on the eastern, and the other on the southern side. In its general design the fortress appears to have consisted of an upper and lower enclosure of nearly equal dimensions, with an intermediate platform, which may have served for the defence of the upper castle against an enemy in possession of the lower. The southern entrance led by an ascent to the left into the upper inclosure, and by a direct passage between the upper inclosure and the eastern wall of the fortress into the lowest inclosure, having also a branch to the left into the middle platform, the entrance into which last was nearly opposite to the eastern gate. Besides the two principal gates, there was a postern in the western side. On either side of the great southern entrance, that is to say, in the eastern as well as in the southern wall, there were galleries in the body of the wall of singular construction. In the eastern wall, where they are better preserved, there are two parallel passages, of which the outer has six recesses or niches in the exterior wall. These niches were probably intended to serve for the protracted defence of the gallery itself, and the galleries for covered communications leading to towers or places of arms at the extremity of them. The passage which led directly from the southern entrance, between the upper inclosure and the eastern Wall into the lower division of the fortress, was about 12 feet broad. About midway, there still exists an immense door-post, with a hole in it for a bolt, showing that the passage might be closed upon occasion. The lower inclosure of the fortress was of an oval shape, about 100 yards long and 40 broad; its walls formed an acute angle to the north, and several obtuse angles on the east and west. Of the upper inclosure of the fortress very little remains. There is some appearance of a wall of separation, dividing the highest part of all from that next to the southern entrance; thus forming four interior divisions besides the passages. (Leake.) The general appearance of these covered galleries is shown in the accompanying drawing from Gell's Itinerary.

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


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