Mycenae, the fabled city of Homer’s King Agamemnon, still stands in a remote corner of mainland Greece. Revered in antiquity as the pagan world’s most tangible connection to the heroes of the Trojan War, Mycenae leapt into the headlines in the late nineteenth century when Heinrich Schliemann announced that he had opened the Tomb of Agamemnon and found the body of the hero smothered in gold treasure. Now Mycenae is one of the most haunting and impressive archaeological sites in Europe, visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
From Homer to Himmler, from Thucydides to Freud, Mycenae has occupied a singular place in the western imagination. As the backdrop to one of the most famous military campaigns of all time, Agamemnon’s city has served for generation after generation as a symbol of the human appetite for war. As an archaeological site, it has given its name to the splendors of one of Europe’s earliest civilizations: the Mycenaean Age. In this book, historian of science Cathy Gere tells the story of these extraordinary ruins—from the Cult of the Hero that sprung up in the shadow of the great burned walls in the eighth century BC, to the time after Schliemann’s excavations when the Homeric warriors were resurrected to play their part in the political tragedies of the twentieth century.
Archaeologist Cathy Gere’s wonderful little history/guidebook, The Tomb of Agamemnon, is about a lot of things. It’s about how each new era bends the past to its own needs. It’s about what’s gained—and lost—when scientists displace passionate amateurs. It’s about the human desire to impose narrative, false if need be, on the mute relics of history. What Gere’s book isn’t about, strictly speaking, is the tomb of Agamemnon, because that doesn’t exist… Still, lots of historical icons are fictional…and Gere spends a hundred or so lively, thought-provoking pages describing the ‘highly productive career’ of this one… [A] real page-turner.
[The] tangled history of remaking and unmaking the myths of Mycenae is the subject of Gere’s fascinating book… [A] compact and richly informative cultural history.
For a history of both ancient Mycenae and its rediscovery and significance, read The Tomb of Agamemnon, by Cathy Gere.
[An] elegantly succinct and enlightening book… Gere reconstructs the history and significance of Mycenae in the literary and archaeological records and astutely examines why the place and its denizens have so gripped the collective consciousness of the West through the centuries… Gere concludes by asking ‘can we finally acknowledge the battle-scarred heroes of Mycenae without recruiting them to fight?’ This delightful book goes far to answer that question in the affirmative by combining a crisp, yet nuanced portrayal of the ‘tomb of Agamemnon’ and associated artifacts with an absorbing history of their reception through the ages.
A wonderfully lively tale of Mycenae, its mythic king Agamemnon, and the popular and academic understanding of the site down through the ages.
- 208 pages
- 4-1/2 x 7-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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