The empire that launched a thousand ships

The Greek archaeological site at Mycenae was once the centre of power for the Mycenaeans, who in legend set sail a thousands ships to attack Troy.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Archaeological Site of Mycenae

While it’s the Acropolis in Athens which gets all the attention when people think of Ancient Greece, another one, further south in the Peloponnese, has a much more romantic history.

On the site known as Mycenae, the Mycenaean culture built their citadel. For about four hundred years between the 16th and 12th century BC, their civilisation spread to all known areas in the Mediterranean basin. And all of it was controlled from this hill.

Visiting Archaeological Site of Mycenae, Greece

It was the royal house, the centre of communication routes, and the most fiercely defended community of the Mycenaeans. But, as far as legend is concerned, it is best known as the heart of the empire which launched the attack and siege on Troy.

Ancient poets such as Homer told stories of the Mycenaean era and its role in the tale of a face that launched a thousand ships.

Visiting Archaeological Site of Mycenae, Greece
Visiting Archaeological Site of Mycenae, Greece

More than three thousand years have passed since those days and the citadel on the mountaintop lies in ruin today. Visiting it, you can still appreciate how impressive the construction and the people were, though.

You can see why it was added as one of the Greek World Heritage Sites.

Ingenious inventions to control water and light at the site were ahead of their times; structures of buildings would influence civilisations to come; decorative features that still exist in parts of the ruins have been proven to be the first of their type in the world (such as the Lion Gate, shown below).

Visiting Archaeological Site of Mycenae, Greece

Mycenae is not the most popular site in the country but there’s quite a lot to see and I think it’s definitely worth the trip, especially when you combine it with a visit to Epidaurus.

You can visit Mycenae as a day trip from Athens – and I would recommend either this private tour or this small group tour.

Visiting Archaeological Site of Mycenae, Greece

Aside from the site itself – which is large enough to take an hour or more to explore – the museum has a great collection of artifacts found during the archaeological digs of the ruins.

It also does a good job of telling the tale of the battle of Troy and the subsequent Homeric poems.

Visiting Archaeological Site of Mycenae, Greece
Visiting Archaeological Site of Mycenae, Greece

Exactly what in those stories is true is still debated to this day. There is no question, though, about the importance of the Mycenaean empire and the evidence of it that remains.

Getting to Mycenae with public transport can be a little tricky and you’ll save a lot of time visiting as part of a tour – especially one that also includes Epidaurus

If there are a few of you, the best option might be this private tour from Athens.

Otherwise, there are some other good options here:

Of course, there are lots of things to see in Athens itself, but I really think it’s worth getting out for the day to see some of these other nearby archaeological sites.


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

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