07 July 2011

Tiryns, 1834

 From Schliemann's 1885 book, the plateau of Tiryns and the Argolic Gulf,
with Nauplion's Bourtzi in the distance.

Here is Brigitte Eckert's translation of Bettina Schinas'  visit to Tiryns in 1834.  Notice how, like so many artists of the period, she completely omits mention of constructions more recent than antiquity, such as the small Byzantine church Schliemann demolished.

* * * * *

I owe you a report about it a long time, I think we were there at the beginning of December, I told you before. Tiryns lies immediately beside the road to Argos, about half way between Argos and Nauplia in quite a distance to the sea, which makes the road to Argos longer than necessary. We went on foot, and not exceptionally fast because it was very hot in the sun. From the town gate to the ruins we went from 1-2 o'clock.  We climbed around there one hour, back from 3-4 o'clock.  I am speaking for the moment only about the ruins. 

The hill on which old Tiryns has been built is one of a few completely isolated rocks in the wide plain of Argos. One walks around it: at all sides the mass rises steeply like the rocks in the Salzburg region. We needed more than a quarter of an hour to walk around it. The ruins consist of cyclopean walls which surround the hill's irregular curves, always leaning toward it and bending in- and outwards. The whole thing is oval, but the difference between width and length is not significant. Like all walls of this kind it consists of  irregularly big rocks put together without lime or another binder, the outside worked roughly square stone blocks, all other lines uneven as I told you. 

At the side of the road one sees a narrow pointed arch like a gate, the lower part buried by fallen rock pieces and rolling clods of earth. The height of the wall changes, at many parts pieces have come down, as pieces were taken away for construction, but maybe the wall may not have been of regular height from the beginning. The inner hill forms in a way two plateaus one of which is significantly lower, both are cultivated on the thin cover of earth (enclosed leaves are from the cotton plants there).  Where the lower plateau meets the higher there are at the side not away from the road two square towers, but only parts of them: one can see that they must have been higher, connected to each other with double walls, the distance between them  the width of the towers. Not far of these towers the wall ends, the hill gets is low one can climb up. A walk running parallel in about half height to the surrounding walls is entirely preserved. Both side walls are built the same way -- 4 steps apart, 4-6 layers of big rocks -- then on them large stones supporting each other to make a pointed ceiling which covers completely the walk 50 steps long.

There is another walk at the side where the surrounding wall starts again at the lowered part of the hill, but only a small part is still visible, maybe parts of it are buried. Thiersch and S. visited together and took a close look.  S. found on the highest plateau square bases of hard reddish stone, porphyry or not I don’t know -- it doesn't look like marble to me,  at regular distances apart in a straight line; these bases rest on steps. Closer investigation showed a white stone floor under the bases and two feet of ground, made of small broken pieces of stone in a formerly soft and then hardened mass. It has not been examined further so far. Obviously the bases carried pillars which ran along the facade because they stand aligned with the road and the coast, at the side above the remains of the gate I mentioned above.

The view from here to Nauplia is magnificent, Itsh Kale [Acro-Nauplion] in the background of the town closing up to the mountains beyond the gulf making it look like a huge lake. Far behind Itsh Kale the sea is visible again. In Kapodistrias'  time large plots of lands around the ruin were bought for the ferme modèle (about which Thiersch writes in his book) which was established a few hundred steps from ancient Tyrins and given the old name.  The whole is now state property. Katakazi had the permission to equip and use the house and garden as a summer residence but had to move to Athens now after the works were finished. At the moment it is inhabited by a Bavarian captain ,von Weeg: under his management it became a separate royal estate which has to exist on its own income.

Previous letters from Bettina Schinas:

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