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Open letter to science editors

The Lion Gate at Mycenae

Immanuel Velikovsky
Copyright 1973 by Immanuel Velikovsky

The following is taken from an unpublished sequel to Velikovsky's Ages in Chaos. "The Lion Gate of Mycenae" was originally set in type in 1952, as part of Ages in Chaos, Volume II.  The version printed below is virtually identical to the 1952 text.

The Lion Gate of Mycenae was the city gate, built one or two centuries later than the tombs discovered in this place.  Two lions rampant are carved in stone relief on the gate.  There was a time when historians and archaeologists were in disagreement as to its age and that of the fortification on Mycenae in general.  Similar bas-reliefs of two lions rampant facing each other are found in a number of places in Phrygia in Asia Minor.  "The resemblance in idea is complete," wrote W.M. Ramsay in 1881(1).  "The schema is so peculiarly characteristic of Phrygia, that we can hardly admit it to have been borrowed from any other country.  We are therefore driven to the conclusion that the Mycenaean artists either are Phrygians, or learned the idea from Phrygians." "It is not allowable to separate them [the Phrygian and the Mycenaean monuments] in time by several centuries.  The end of the Phrygian kingdom is a fixed date, about 675 B.C."(2).  The invasion of Asia Minor by the Cimmerians put an end to the Phrygian culture and art.  "I do not think it is allowable to place the Mycenaean gateway earlier than the ninth, and it is more likely to belong to the eighth, century.  The view to which I find myself forced is as follows.  There was in the eighth century lively intercourse between Argos and Asia Minor: in this intercourse the Argives learned ... to fortify their city in the Phrygian style with lions over the gate.  Historically there is certainly good reason to assign at least part of the fortifications of Mycenae to the time when the Argive kings [the tyrants of the eighth century] were the greatest power in Greece [here follow the names of several authorities among the historians who hold the same view].  On the other hand, the almost universal opinion of archaeologists rejects this hypothesis"(3).

 "Moreover there remains a difficulty which no one has even attempted to dispose of.  It is a historical fact that Argos was the greatest power in Greece and supreme in the Peloponnesos during the eighth century:  Greek tradition assigns to the Argive kings several developments of civilization .... Yet the majority of archaeologists assign all the early remains in this district to a period centuries earlier.  Is it probable that all traces of the greatest period in Argive history have altogether disappeared, while numerous remains exist of Argive glory during the unknown period 1500-1000 B.C. and again of Argive bronze work of the sixth century B.C.?  I find myself unable to face this difficulty: the presumption is that very early remains of art and wealth in the Argive valley belong to the period of Argive greatness, and those who refer them to a remoter period must begin to face and explain away this antecedent probability against them"(4).   Carian, Phrygian, Assyrian, Egyptian, and Hellenic style influences found in the remains of Mycenae are "precisely what we should expect in a kingdom like the Argos of the eighth century," when this kingdom had intercourse with Asia Minor, Phoenicia, and Egypt.  "I wish however to express no opinion here about the date of the Mycenaean tombs and about Mycenaean pottery, but only to argue that the fortifications of the Lion Gate belong to the period 800-700 B.C."(5).

I quote this opinion of Ramsay with the special intention of showing how this viewpoint was invalidated.  The Egyptologist, Flinders Petrie, made the following reply:

"[A] matter which demands notice is Professor Ramsay's conclusion that the lion gateway is of as late a date as the eighth century B.C. This results from assuming it to be derived from the Phrygian lions groups, on the ground of not knowing of any other prototype.  As however we now have a wooden lion, in exactly the same attitude, dated to 1450 in Egypt ... it seems that the Phrygian designs are not the only source of this motive for Mycenae"(6).

In Egypt of the later part of the Eighteenth Dynasty a single instance of a rampant lion (not two rampant lions facing each other as in Mycenae and in Phrygia) made Petrie claim Egypt as the place of origin of this image.  He discovered heaps of Mycenaean ware in Egypt of the time of Amenhotep III and Akhnaton.  He could not but conclude that these heaps coming from Mycenae must be dated in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries; even more impressive was the find of a signet of Queen Tiy in one of the Mycenaean Royal graves opened by Schliemann.  Therefore Petrie decidedly opposed Ramsay in his estimate of eighth century for the Lion Gate and the fortification wall of Mycenae.

Here is a case where the internal evidence points to the eighth century; but the Egyptologist demands of the classical scholar that he disregard the internal evidence in favor of the time scale of Egypt.

The debate between Ramsay and Petrie took place before Evans' archaeological work in Crete: there, too, rampant stone lions have been found and conveyed the idea that Mycenae must have borrowed the image from there and from a period well preceding the Phrygian models(7).  Yet one should not lose sight of the fact that Crete's chronology was built upon relations with Egypt.  In the section "Scandal of Enkomi" we shall read how Evans objected to chronological implications of the Cyprian archaeology on the basis of relations between the Minoan (Cretan) and Egyptian chronologies on one hand and Minoan and Cyprian, on the other.

In Ages in Chaos, vol.  I, it was shown in great detail why the end of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt must be placed in the later part of the ninth century.  If this is so then Ramsay's view should be contemplated anew: the Phrygian models could have found imitators on Crete, not only in Mycenae.  But even if Crete was the original place of the model, the dependence of the Cretan chronology on that of Egypt constitutes the crux of the problem.  But Ramsay raised also another question of great import— namely, where are the ruins of the palaces of the eighth century Tyrants of Argos, the age which in Greek history immediately preceded the so-called Ionian time—the seventh century?  Was not an error committed and the tyrants endowed with two existences?  We shall discuss the problem when considering the finds at Argos.  Let us keep in mind that in the 1880s and 1890s classical scholars of the stature of W.M. Ramsay (1851-1939) questioned the inclusion of the Dark Ages of five or six hundred years' duration between the Mycenaean past and the Greek Age in Greece.  And let us not overlook what was the supposedly crushing argument for wedging more than half of a millennium into the history of Ancient Greece.


(1)      W. M. Ramsay, "A Study of Phrygian Art," Journal of Hellenic Studies, IX (1888), 350ff.

(2)      Ibid., p. 351.

(3)      Ibid., p. 370.

(4)      Ibid., pp. 370-71.

(5)      Ibid., p. 371.

(6)      Sir W. M. Flinders Petrie, "Notes on the Antiquities of Mycenae," Journal of Hellenic Studies, XII (1891).

(7)      Cf. J. W. Graham, The Palaces of Crete, figs. 133, 135, 136.

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