“Pylos, located in mainland Greece on the southwest coast of the Peloponesus, is the site of one of the most important Mycenaean settlements. It is considered one of the best preserved and best excavated of the major palaces. It dates back to the late Helladic period before 1200 BCE.”
Stuff of legend
Typical of Mycenaean palaces, the large palace of Pylos excites archaeologists and historians. “Pylos was excavated recently by Carl Blegen. The excavations revealed a large palace. This was given the name the Palace of Nestor becaus of its similarity in location to the palace of King Nestor named in the stories of Homer.”
Feasts at Pylos
Since ancient times, most kings or rulers with palaces held great banquets in them. These feasts were intended to both impress and entertain the populace. The Pylian rulers were no different. The palace of Pylos was big enough to entertain large numbers of guests, and the wine flowed freely. After sacrificing huge communal offerings to Poseidon, they enjoyed listening to lyre music and admiring the impressive frescoes on the walls and floors. The four groups there were called egkbeslavon, damos, lawagetas, and worgioneion. According to Linear B documents, each of these four groups would have been responsible to bring different items to the sacrificial burnt offering. The richest participants were expected to bring gifts proportional to their wealth, while the poorest brought only small gifts. However, all of them brought wine. “The only donation common to all four groups is wine.”
It has long been known that large-scale feasts were held at Pylos, both from Homer’s writings and the huge drinking vessels unearthed. But why were they held? To answer this question, researchers have looked to Linear B Greek records, reconstructed frescoes, pottery, and other evidence. “By examining the physical remains, specifically the pottery from the pantriesm the wine magazine, and the faunal evidence, along with the interpretive support found in the Linear B documents, and megoron frescoes, a hierarchical society that offered sacrifices to Poseidon shortly before its destruction is revealed.”
Incredibly revelatory for modern researchers, as they give insight into the life of Pylos, frescoes covered many subjects. They were originally created partly to cover up the rough surfaces made by crude materials. A number of frescoes depicted battle scenes. Is it possible that some of the scenes depicted took place as far away as Egypt? One preserved figure may indicate this. “The fresco in figure 6 shows Mycenaean warriors fighting against animal skin-clad enemies across a river, possibly the Nile.”
Women at Pylos
Women are featured on a few of the frescoes found. They sport fashions similar to the Minoans, including “multicolored tiered skirts and corset like tops that leave the breasts exposed”.
The palace of Pylos was rich in artwork. Unearthed remains and ancient records suggest a highly structured culture that liked to party and drink. Then as now, good food and drink brought people together and strengthed community bonds. Rulers at Pylos designed a beautiful palace well provisioned with plenty of vessels for drinking, and the people showed the king loyalty by contributing to the feast.