The site of so-called Treasury of Atreus is about 300 metres away from the Mycenae acropolis (main site), and has its own the entrance and car park.
This tholos tomb - Treasury of Atreus or Tomb of Agamemnon - is the largest and the best preserved of the nine tholos thomb found in Mycaenae. It is dated about 1350-1330 BC.
Ancient traveller Pausanias visited Mycenae in the second century and called it Tresuary of Atreus (II. xvi). However, the association with Agamemnon or Atreus (Atreus is a king of Mycene, son of Pelops and Hippodamia, and father of Agamemnon and Menelaus) is purely speculative and no archeological/epigraphical proof has been found.
In the photo right is a large stone block used in the dromos (the passage that leads to the entrance). The dromos is about 36 metre long, and 6 metre wide.
Inside the tholos. The name "tholos (beehive)" comes from this look.
What is tholos tomb? It is a monumental tomb consisting in a round chamber with domed ceiling and in a passage that leads to the chamber. In Mycenae, 9 tholos were found and in whole Greece, about one hundred. The Mycenaean tholos tombs are dated between 1520 BC and 1300 BC; and 9 out of 6 belong to a period between 1520 and 1450 BC. 'Treasury of Atreus' belongs to the relatively recent period.
The stone used as the lintel inside the tholos is 8 metre long, 5 metre wide, 1.2 metre thick, and its weight is estimated to be as much as 120 tonnes. The entrance was used to be shut with a pair of wooden door and the triangular void above was closed with a red marble slab as well. Outside the doors, the façe;ade was decorated by four columns, one of which is now in British Museum.
The spece inside the tholos is 14.5 metre in diametre, and the ceiling is 13 metre high. The way the ceiling dome was made reminds me of the inuits' ingloo.
The inner wall shows neil holes. The neils are thought to be used to fix decorations on the wall. It is as if the Mycenaeans believed the dead would have kept on living in this space. If so, they were different from the later Greeks who believed that the dead descended into the Underworld, Hades.
This tomb has a small chamber connected by a gate of the shape similar to the gate of the tholos itself. The small chamber has a square shape, 8.25 by 8.25 metres (it was fenced off when I visited in 2008). The 'Treasury of Atreus' is the only tholos tomb in Mycenae to have a side chamber, but there are parallel examples elsewhere in Greece, including the Treasury of Minyas in Orchomenos (Archadia).
All the tholos tombs in Mycenae were found robbed, including the 'Treasury', we don't know what kind of treasure was buried here.
I went up to the top of the tomb (it was not fenced). It was impressive to be stand up on an architecture built more than three thousand years ago, but was scary as well!
- Nicos Papahatzis, Mycenae, Epidaurus, Tiryns, Nauplion. Athens : Clio, 1978, pp. 56-85.
- Robin Barber, Greece (Blue Guide), London- N.Y. 2001 (Revised reprint of the 6th edition of 1995), pp. 221-232.
- Christopher Mee & Antony Spawforth, Greece. An Oxford Archaeological Guide. Oxford/ OUP, 2001, pp. 178-187.
- Elizabeth French, Mycenae : Agamemnon's capital : the site in its setting. Stround: Tempus, 2002.
Back to the Top