Cistern of Ancient Mycenae - Mikinai - Mikines - Mykenai

Useful Information

at the entrance, the typical triangular shape.
the typical shape of the passage.
Location: Near Mykines village, north of Argos on road 7. At the road from Korinth to Argos, national road 86/7.
(37.730762 22.759225)
Open: JAN to MAR daily 8-15:30.
APR to AUG daily 8-20.
SEP to 14-SEP daily 8-19:30.
15-SEP to SEP daily 8-19.
OCT to 14-OCT daily 8-18:30.
15-OCT to OCT daily 8-18.
NOV to DEC daily 8-17.
Closed 01-JAN, 25-MAR, 01-MAY, 25-DEC, 26-DEC, Easter Sunday.
Fee: NOV to MAR:
Adults EUR 6, Children EUR 3, Seniors (65+) EUR 3, Students EUR 3.
Special ticket package: Adults EUR 12, Children EUR 6, Seniors (65+) EUR 6, Students EUR 6.
Adults EUR 12, Children EUR 6, Seniors (65+) EUR 6, Students EUR 6.
Classification: SubterraneaCistern
Light: bring torch
Dimension: St=99
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Elizabeth B. French (2002): Mycenae: Agamemnon's Capital, NPI Media Group, 01-MAR-2002, 176pp, ISBN-10 : 9780752419510, ISBN-13 : 978-0752419510.
Address: Mycenae, Τ.Κ. 21 200, Mykines, Argolida, Tel: +30-27510- 76585. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1700-1100 BC the center of the Mycanean culture.
1100 BC abandoned after being destroyed by fire.
1874 excavated by Heinrich Schliemann.


behind the entrance, the first turn.
approaching the cistern at the deepest point.
the cistern is a small rectangular place which is dry now.
view upwards to the lower turn.

Mycenae is a fortified palace complex which was uncovered by the famous archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in 1874. The "Cyclopean" Walls are up to 14 m wide, and are impregnable. Even today the Greeks believe that they had been built by giants. Mycenae was one of the earliest examples of sophisticated citadel architecture. The term "Mycanean" applies to an entire culture spanning the years 1700-1100 BC. Only the ruling class inhabited this hilltop palace, with artisans and merchants living just outside the city walls. It was abandoned in 1100 BC after being destroyed by fire.

Schliemann discovered a veritable treasure of gold weighing up to 14 kg. This together with other grave goods are exhibited in the National Archaeological Museum at Athens.

The Tomb of Klytemnestra is 37 m long and 6 m wide. The entrance to the tomb was once sealed by a double wooden door which was originally sheathed with bronze. The back of the opening is closed by a wall of rough construction. The circular chamber is 13.5 m in diameter and about 13 m high.

The Cistern is entered via a flight of 99 steps which leads down into a large chamber deep beneath the citadel. A continuos supply of water was obtained by a system of pipes connected the nearby Perseia Fountain.

Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.

The palace and city of Mycenae is located on a hilltop, overlooking the Argolis plains. A strategic place, and the home of the Mycenaean kings, the most famous of them probably Agamemnon, who led the Greeks in the Trojan War. The whole city is destroyed almost completely and only the foundation of the buildings remains.

Mycenae was a typical acropolis, a city on a hill top. It was continuously inhabited since the Early Neolithic (5,000 to 4,000 BC). During the second millennium BC, Mycenae was one of the major centres of Greek civilization. As a military stronghold it dominated much of southern Greece the islands between Greece and southwest Anatolia. The period from about 1,600 BC to about 1,100 BC is named Mycenaean in reference to Mycenae. During its heydays around 1,350 BC, the city had a population of 30,000 and covered an area of 32 ha.

The most famous remains of Mykenae are the Lions Gate, and the gold treasure of Agamemnon. The Lions Gate is a megalithic gate, built of enormous rocks and with a relief on top, showing two headless lions. The heads were probably made of wood or jewelry, so they may be destroyed or stolen. The gold treasure was found in the graves inside the city. It is on display at Athens National Museum today.

Not famous, but still very impressive is the underground of Mycenae. To the northeast of the city, close to the northern gate, is the location of the cistern. This is more or less a sort of passage leading down to a small rectangular basin, where the water was stored. The passage is about 1 m wide and 4 to 5 m high. Built of huge rocks, with a pointed arch, it looks pretty much like a gothic window. The pointed arch makes the whole construction very stable. The walls seem to be covered by a sort of plaster, but because of the irregular shape of the rocks, the walls look like a natural cave, a river passage with undulating walls.

The passage leads down a steep staircase of approximately 100 steps. Many description tell about 99 steps, but unfortunately some of this steps are very irregular and it is not possible to count them. And by the way, they are reconstructed, we actually do not know the original number. Probably the archaeologists made a mistake in the reconstruction. Also the steps are a little bit too small, so it is difficult to walk down the staircase. If the people at this time had the same shoe size as today, it was quite strenuous to retrieve water.

There are actually three sections of staircase. While the daylight reaches the first section, the next two are definitely pitch black, and there is no electric light. Visitors without lamps typically return to the surface. After the second bend in the staircase the plaster changes slightly. This whole section had a double layer of hydraulic plaster, in other words the level of the water must have reached the top of this section sometimes. The opening from the outside tank was in the top of the vault at the end of the passage. So its no problem to fill the passage to this level.

All descriptions tell that the water was collected at a nearby spring, and was conducted to the cistern through pipes which were covered by clay. After the restoration it is not possible to see any inflow to the cistern. But it is not big enough for a regular cistern, in the Mediterranean climate there are rains in winter and the water must be stored for the whole year. The spring is located some 300 m from the city walls and 13 m higher than the top of the Acropolis, the water of the spring is used as drinking water until today. The aqueduct transported the water in pipes to the foot of the citadel hill. Outside the wall a tank was built to store the water. From here the water was conducted through an opening in the rock into the citadel. This explains, why the staircase was built, the cistern at the end is at the same level as the water tank outside the citadel.

Such an outside well is definitely a great risk in times of war. The enemies can not only destroy the water supply, they can also poison the water. It seems that this cistern was primarily for use during times of peace. The akropolis has numerous circular cisterns which contained water collected from the roofs, which became essential in times of war.

And finally a practical advice: the tickets for the site are half price form November through March. This is winter and wet season, so there are very few visitors, and probably the weather is bad. A special combo ticket offered in this time is for all sites in the area: Archaeological Museum of Mycenae, Archaeological Museum of Nafplion, Archaeological site of Asine, Byzantine Museum of Argolis, Fortress of Palamidi, Mycenae, and Tiryns. So if you are not interested in the beach this is the best time for a cultural trip. Although its not really cold, pack warm clothes and an umbrella.