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The Tomb of Agamemnon (Wonders of the World (Harvard University Press)) Hardcover – April 24, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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 Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Wonders of the World (Harvard University Press)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (April 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674021703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674021709
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By G. Poirier on July 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author of this fascinating book has produced a brief yet wide-ranging history of Mycenae. Throughout the ages, Homer's Iliad is shown to have had a tremendous influence on both ancient and more recent thought on the origin of the Mycenaean ruins and the legendary inhabitants. The influence of Heinrich Schliemann - his excavations, his findings and his interpretation of those findings - in more recent times plays an extremely important role in this story. But ultimately, with the advent of modern archaeological techniques, the mythical aura surrounding Mycenae was gradually laid to rest, as explained particularly in the last chapter - although there is still debate about the ways of interpreting some of the physical evidence. The book also includes a chapter on the effects that Mycenae has had on culture and on the literary and performing arts. There is even a section (at the end) devoted to those intending on visiting the site. Although the subject matter of this book is absolutely captivating for a history buff like me, I must admit that I found the writing style to be a bit awkward and not as easy-flowing as I would have liked. But despite that, I could not bring myself to give this book anything less than five stars, mainly because of the wealth of spellbinding information that it contains. The ancient history in this book is quite gripping and can be enjoyed by anyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Nordin on September 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Part of the Wonders of the World Series of small format books on famous sites.

"The Mask of Agamemnon is the Mona Lisa of prehistory." That is her beginning to an impressionistic essay about the site of Mycenae. So this is not a site guide, however, it is great background reading before you visit the site.

She describes the history of the site. But, she also describes the modern history of the site's recovery and how views of Mycenae have changed over time. And so her title, "Tomb of Agamemnon" is intentionally chosen. Of course, there is no tomb of Agamemnon, or so we now understand. But that was what launched a thousand fantasies including the reputation of the funeral mask mislabeled the "mask of Agamemnon."

So a good chunk of the book is about 19th and 20th centuries views of and uses of Mycenae. We get discussions of Schliemann (and his swastika adorned house in Athens), reactions of various other philhellenes, but also some Greek perspective. While this is not a picture book, it does reproduce some of the other grave masks found and provide a side profile shot of the Agamemnon mask - both things seldom seen. Nice bibliography.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By factoid junkie on May 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Other reviewers have explained the book's thesis and intent. I wanted to add how much I enjoyed the quality of writing. Most nonfiction seldom reaches Gere's level of prosody without crossing the line to fancy. As a nonfiction author myself, I tip my chapeau at Gere for both her scholarship and communication skills.
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