to Illustrated Sites of Greece
Treasury of Atreus
The Treasury of Atreus - also called the Tomb of Agamemnon - shot from atop the
Cyclopean wall of the Mycenean citadel. Now known to be royal graves, post-Mycenaeans who
had forgotten the use of these tholoi named them treasuries for the treasures (really
grave goods) found within (and subsequently looted). Tholos tombs were the next step in
burial practices for the Mycenaeans (in the evolution from cist graves to shaft graves to
chamber tombs to tholoi).
view of the Treasury of Atreus as seen from Mycenae. The 14.5 meter wide tholos chamber
(the round portion) is constructed of 33 concentric circles of corbelled rock. The tholos
itself was designed to merge with the slope of the hill, and grass naturally camouflaged
it (although the peak of the mound rose above the top of the hill). This is the best
preserved of the 9 tholos tombs on this site.
dromos (access way) is 35 meters long and 6 meters wide. The funeral procession would have
enter through this door, the body would have been interred, and then the dromos would have
been completely filled in with earth and rocks, making the entire tomb utterly invisible.
When another funeral became necessary, the dromos was cleared and the process
repeated. The ancient visitor would have been reminded of the power of the Mycenean
king both dead and alive: the colored marble slabs from the facade of this tomb (on
display in the National Museum, illustration pending) is made of the same rock and marble
used for the Lion Gate.
illuminates the monumental doorway (the entrance is 5 meters thick) of the otherwise dark
tholos chamber. The relieving triangle is just visible and helps date the tomb to c. 1350
BC. One of the two lintel stones weighs 240,000 lbs and measures 8x5x1 meters. The height
of the roof is 13 meters and the round chamber is 14 1/2 meters in diameter. The doorway
is about the same width as the Lion Gate, but twice as high. Thus, the tomb entrance is in
some ways even more impressive than the citadel entrance!
interior of a small side chamber (8 1/4 meters square) appended to the tholos chamber of
the Treasury of Atreus. Its use is unknown (bring a flashlight!). Little is known about
Mycenean death rituals, but burial is certainly a different route than the Homeric funeral