“And there they ring the walls, the young, the lithe. The handsome hold the graves they won in Troy; the enemy earth rides over those who conquered.”
– Aeschylus, Agamemnon
I had a vague knowledge that there had been ancient civilization called Mycenae, but I had never heard of Nauplion or Epidaurus. It turned out to be one of those serendipitous experiences…unexpected and memorable!
Nauplion (also spelled Nafplion) is located on the Peloponnese peninsula and, by land, is only about 50 miles from Athens. We arrive by way of the port Again, we had arranged a private taxi in order to see the major sites of the Citadel of Mycenae and the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus. No more taxi strike to foil our plans today, thank goodness!
The Citadel of Mycenae
In a nutshell, the Citadel of Mycenae was the center of the Mycenae civilization. Built in stages, which began in the mid-14th century B.C., over several centuries it took on mythical proportions. We are talking about the legendary Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, Troy..the stuff of Greek myths and tragedies.
Before entering the Citadel, we visit the tombs located outside its walls along with the residences and mercantile buildings. The tombs, for rulers and their kin are called tholos tombs. The most significant are the Tombs of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus . Shaped like huge beehives, the tombs date from 1500 B.C. and have huge vaulted chambers. The chambers once contained treasures, most of which are long lost.
We enter the Citadel through the famous and massive Lion Gate central entrance with the two impressive heraldic lions over 9 feet tall and follow the paths where inhabitants and visitors have tread for centuries. The location and scope of the Citadel are a striking testimony to their determination to fortify and protect their power.
Nearby is a small and quite wonderful museum with artifacts found during excavations. However, many of the significant pieces are housed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
The Sanctuary of Askiepios at Epidaurus
“When you enter the abode of the god which smells of incense, you must be pure and thought is pure when you think with piety…”
– Inscription on a stone plaque upon entering the Sanctuary
Pilgrims came to Epidaurus following the Sacred Way which lead to the temple of Asklepios, the god of medicine. They came to this famous healing center of the ancient world to be cured.
Offerings were made; prayers, sacrifices, purifications, and rites of which we know nothing. Souls tested, priests led the patients into a special building to sleep and awaken cured. Stories of healing and miracles are related in tablets and inscriptions.
The sanctuary eventually became a hospice, a hospital with a social center where guests and family could stay and enjoy social and cultural events as well as the magnificent theater where 12,000 spectators could enjoy performances.
Sadly, the sanctuary was destroyed by enemies in the 4th century A.D. and subsequent earthquakes. Today, at this UNESCO site, restoration and excavations continue. We can well imagine how pleasant it must have been to arrive and rest at this ancient sacred sanctuary.
Returning to Naufplion, we enjoy a ride up to the top of the Venetian Palmidhi Fortress. We could’ve walked, but 899 steps? Not today. The view is stunning and now we have just enough time to enjoy the quaint town itself and thank our marvelous driver.
Time for a snack…oh my, another Greek salad and Greek beer? You betcha! Followed by a leisurely stroll along the wide pedestrian shopping street withits array of high end, artsy shops as well as the nearby waterfront with numerous sidewalk cafes is a perfect way to end our visit.