Erich Lessing

A social message in stone—that’s how the 13th-century B.C. Lion Gate at Mycenae, on mainland Greece, might be characterized (comapre with photo of stone seal). The monumental Mycenaean fortifications at such city-states as Mycenae, Pylos and Tiryns later came to be called “Cyclopean,” in the belief that they had been erected by a race of one-eyed giants. The sheer grandeur of the Lion Gate—the lions are 10 feet high—suggests that it was more than simply a defensive structure; it was also a symbolic projection of Mycenae’s power, especially the power of the king. In the eastern Mediterranean, lions represented royalty. The lions on this gate are separated by a column identical to columns in the palace’s megaron (central hall). Moreover, the column and the lions’ front paws rest on a cultic altar, indicating divine sanction of royal power.