1902 Encyclopedia > Tiryns


TIRYNS, the _____ of Homer (II, ii. 559), was a small Peloponnesian city, in the prehistoric period of the Achaean race, long before the Dorian immigration. It stood on a small rock in the marshy plain of Argolis, about 3 miles from the sea, and was fabled to have

been founded by King Proetus, the brother of Acrisius, who was succeeded by the hero Perseus. It was the scene of the early life of Heracles, who is hence called Tiryn-thius. The massive walls were said to have been the work of Cyclopean masons. Its period of greatest splen-dour was during the 11th and 10th centuries B.C.; but the city continued to exist till about 468 B.C., when it was destroyed through the jealousy of the inhabitants of the neighbouring Argos, who had not assisted in the final de-feat of the Persians at Plataea.

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Excavations made in 1884-85 by Schliemann and Dorpf eld over part of the rock on which Tiryns stood have exposed a most interesting building, quite unique as an example of a Greek palace of the 11th or 10th century B.C, and of special interest from the way in which it closely illustrates the Homeric palaces of Alcinous and Odysseus, and throws a new light on scenes such as the slaughter of the suitors (Od., xxi. and xxii.).
FIG. 1.—Han of the palace in the upper part of Tiryns. 1. Main gate in the outer wall. 2. Inner gate, approached between massive walls. 3. Main propylseum. 4. Inner propylseum. 5. Court (ai\-fj) of the men, surrounded by a colonnade on three sides ; the altar to Zeus Hereeus is by the entrance. 6. Atdovaa, portico of the men's megaron. 7. Hpodoy.os, inner porch. 8. Men's megaron, with roof supported on four columns, and the circular hearth in the middle. 9. Bath-room and small 6a\d/i0l. 10, 10. Chambers round the great court. 11, 11. Guard chambers by the main propylseum. 12. Passage (\avpw) from the main propylseum to the women's part. 13, 13. Courts of the women. 14. Women's megaron. 15. Chambers (da\dy.oi) in the women's part. 16. Passage from women's part to the rock-out stairs. 17. Small postern door in the semicircular bastion, approached by flight of rock-cut steps. 18, 18. Massive outer wall of city. 19. Inner wall to guard the entrance passage. 20. Part of outer wall, with intermediate passage and rows of chambers, as shown in fig. 2.
mann (Tiryns, London, 1886) and Mahaffy (in Hermathena, Dublin), however, deny the truth of this statement, believing that Tiryns ceased to exist some centuries earlier, in spite of the strong evidence given by the inscription on the bronze column (now in Constantinople), formed by three twisted serpents, which once supported the golden tripod dedicated to Apollo out of the spoils from Platsea. Tiryns occurs in the list of allied states present at that battle; moreover, recent dis-coveries have brought to light remains of an important building of
The rock on which Tiryns is built is of an irregular oval shape, about 330 yards long by 112 at the widest part, and is surrounded
302) ; but in the palace of Odysseus the afflowra seems to have been the only vestibule to the megaron. In several respects the palace of Tiryns is more magnificent than that of Odysseus, whose hall was paved with clay, not concrete as at Tiryns ; see Od., xxi. 122, where Telemachus ayjpl Se yaiav iva^e, after cutting a trench to fix the row of axes.
I made as circuitous as possible, for the sake of privacy.
by a very massive wall, varying from 30 to 40 feet in thickness and averaging when complete about 50 feet in height, measuring from its base outside. Inside, the wall was probably not more than 10 or 12 feet high above the ground, so the masonry acts as a retaining wall to a considerable depth of earth which covers the rock (see fig. 2 below). The wall is built of very large hammer-dressed blocks, some as much as 10 feet long by 3 feet 3 inches or 3 feet 6 inches wide, with smaller ones to fill up the interstices. The whole was bedded, not in mortar, but in clay, which has mostly been washed out of the joints ; originally the surface was probably protected with a coating of stucco. The only important gateway, which was on the east side, away from the sea, probably resembled the "lion gate" at Mycenae. The other entrances are mere slits in the wall. One of these and the chief gate are shown in fig. 1. Internally the area of the city was divided by cross walls into three parts at successive levels. The lowest and middle divi-sions have not yet been excavated ; the upper part at the south end of the rock was completely exposed in 1884-85 by Schliemann and Dorpfeld, and the almost complete plan of the various struc-tures clearly made out. This division contains the palace of the ruler of Tiryns, a building which shows careful and skilful con-struction, elaborate decoration, and a well-arranged plan, suitable to the wants of a wealthy autocratic chief, who lived in a manner which partly recalls the luxury of an Oriental king, and also re-sembled the feudal state of a mediaeval baron, surrounded by a crowd of vassals. From the main gate, which was defended by a tower, a strong passage led between the outer wall and an inner one to an inner gate, thence to a propykeum or double porch, with two wooden columns on each side, adjoining which were chambers for guards. Then came another similar, but smaller propylseum, and opposite to that was the entrance to the great court (oiXi}), nearly 53 by 70 feet, in which stands the altar to Zeus Hereeus, with a circular pit beneath it to catch the victims' blood. This court was surrounded by wooden columns supporting a roof, like a mediaeval cloister; on the south side are chambers for attendants (BaXdy-oi). On the north side is the great hall (pAyapov ), with an outer portico supported by two columns (aWovaa) and an inner vesti-bule (irp65o/xos) with three doors. The hall is about 40 by 30 feet, with a cir-cular hearth-stone in' the centre (earla or eo-xdpa). Four col-umns supported the roof, the central part of which probably rose above the rest like a mediaeval '' lantern " ; and in this there was prob-ably a door leading-out to the flat roof round it—possibly the opaodupn of Homer (Od., xxii. 126), through which one of the suitors escaped and so got arms from the treasury or armoury, which was on an upper floor (see Od., xxii. 142 and xxi. 5). On the west side of the hall are a number of small chambers (0a\dy.oi) for the unmarried men, and a bath-room about 12 by 10 feet, with its floor formed of one great slab of stone, sloped so as to drain out at one side through a pipe which passes through the wall. The women's part of the house is of equal importance to that of the men, and has its hall and two open courts with pillars. It is approached in a very cir-cuitous way, either by a passage (\aupw) leading from a side

door in the main propylseum or by another long passage _which winds round the back of the men's hall, and so leads by a long flight of steps, cut in the rock, to the little postern door in the semicircular bastion. The many small rooms in this part of the palace were probably the bedrooms of the women and married couples of the chiefs family. A staircase at 16 led to an upper floor, like the K\ip.a£ v\prp\ri of Od. xxi. 5. The circuit wall round the palace is more strongly constructed than the rest. On the south side it is built in two offsets, forming a level platform for the garrison halfway up. In the upper and thinner part of the wall two narrow passages at different levels are formed in its thickness. They are roofed by projecting courses of stone in large blocks. The wall on the east side has a similar intermediate platform, on to which open a series of small chambers formed in the mass of the upper wall (see fig. 2). At the top level the wall was covered by a colonnade of wood pillars resting on circular stone blocks. This supported a flat roof and was open to the inside of the city. The back of the colonnade was built of brick, and is now missing, as are all the brick parts of the city, owing to the bricks having been only.sun-dried.
The methods of construction employed in the Tiryns palace are of the highest interest. The foundations and about 3 feet of the walls above the ground are made of large blocks of stone bedded in clay; above this the wall was of brick, sun-dried, and covered with stucco. The upper stoiy was probably of wood. Some of the thresholds of the doors were massive blocks of stone (\divos oidos); others were of wood (Spvivos ovSbs). Wood was also used for all the columns, doorposts, and ant«3 (irapao-T&Ses), and in some cases the walls of the rooms were lined with wood, carefully fixed by dowels, the holes for which still exist. The doors had pivots of bronze re-volving in well-fitted bronze cup-like sockets let into the thresholds. In the megaron and other rooms the floors are of good concrete, decorated with a simple series of incised lines, coloured blue and red. The stucco of the internal wall is decorated with bold and very effective patterns—birds and scroll-work of semi - Oriental style ; in many cases the motives are obviously taken from textile ornaments, as in the most archaic style of vase painting. One example of rich and costly decoration remains,—part of a frieze of white alabaster, sculptured in relief with rosettes and interlacing patterns, and studded with jewel-like pieces 'of blue glass or enamel, the SpiyKbs Kvavoio of Od. vii. 87. Further excavations in the lower parts of the city will probably bring to light the dwellings of the citizens who garrisoned the place. The great bulk of the Tirynthians must have lived in houses outside the citadel, but under the shelter of its protection, just as in mediaeval Italy villages grew up round the castles of any powerful lord. (J. H. M.)

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