From Publishers Weekly
When Heinrich Schliemann incorrectly identified in 1876 one of the shaft graves at Mycenae as the "tomb of Agamemnon," he revived a myth first created by the eighth-century B.C. inhabitants of the Argive plain who looked upon Mycenae's ruins as the place where Agamemnon gathered the Greek armies for an assault on Troy. It was not until the 20th century that archaeologists accurately dated the Mycenaean tombs to a period 300 to 400 years before any possible date of a Trojan War. This tangled history of remaking and unmaking the myths of Mycenae is the subject of Gere's fascinating book. It offers a compact and richly informative cultural history that ranges from Aeschylus's Oresteia and Pausanias's Description of Greece, a second-century A.D. travelogue, to the spectacular discoveries of Schliemann and the overturning of his conclusions by his more careful successors. Throughout, Mycenae emerges as a place "that seemed to belong to everyone except itself," serving the purposes of cultures far removed from its own. The arc is decidedly downward, as much of it involves the stripping away of Mycenae's affiliations with the Homeric epics. Gere concludes with an inspiring guide to the citadel of Mycenae and the Mycenaean treasures in Athens. Apart from an unnecessarily long detour into Schliemann's life, this book will be welcomed and consulted by all philhellenes. 24 halftones, 2 maps.
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Agamemnon was the king of Mycenae and leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War, who was killed by his wife upon his return from Troy. In the late nineteenth century, archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann opened his tomb, believed to be 3,000 years old. Schliemann identified the body of Agamemnon, whom he said was buried with 16 other victims. The Greek Archaeological Society and the British School of Archaeology carried on where Schliemann had left off, clearing the acropolis, excavating the town outside the citadel walls, and analyzing the artifacts. They found that most of what Schliemann had claimed was false. But one thing is certain, Gere writes: the mask of Agamemnon is made from a sheet of pure gold that attracts tourists to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Gere traces the history of this archaeological site and finds that "progressively a less and less heroic picture of Mycenae has emerged in the years since 1945." This meticulously researched book, with 24 halftones, is a comprehensive work of scholarship that nevertheless will have nonscholarly appeal as well. George CohenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved