Ancient Argolis (sometimes called 'the Argolid') occupied the eastern part of the Peloponnesus, primarily the Argolid peninsula, together with the coastal region to the east of Arcadia, and north of Laconia. To the north, the boundary with the territory of Corinth was rather more fluid, and these territories have sometimes been considered together. For instance, Pausanias discussed Argolis and Corinthia together in one book of his Description of Greece; similarly, in modern Greece, a prefecture of "Argolidocorinthia" has existed at various times. Argolis took its name from the principle city of the region during the Archaic and Classical periods, Argos.
Argolis is discussed in the "catalogue of ships" of the Iliad, without being given that explicit name, but the major cities of the region are listed together under the leadership of Diomedes. Today, Argolis occupies a smaller area than the ancient region.
Mycenae (Greek Μυκῆναι Mykēnai or Μυκήνη Mykēnē) is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north. From the hill on which the palace was located one can see across the Argolid to the Saronic Gulf.
In the second millennium BC Mycenae was one of the major centres of Greek civilization, a military stronghold which dominated much of southern Greece. The period of Greek history from about 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is called Mycenaean in reference to Mycenae.
Classical Greek myths assert that Mycenae was founded by Perseus, grandson of king Acrisius of Argos, son of Acrisius' daughter, Danaë. Having killed his grandfather by accident, Perseus could not, or would not, inherit the throne of Argos. Instead he arranged an exchange of realms with his cousin, Megapenthes, and became king of Tiryns, Megapenthes taking Argos. From there he founded Mycenae and ruled the kingdoms jointly from Mycenae.
Epidaurus was independent of Argos and not included in Argolis until the time of the Romans. With its supporting territory, it formed the small territory called Epidauria. Reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo's son Asclepius, the healer, Epidaurus was known for its sanctuary situated about five miles (8 km) from the town, as well as its theater, which is once again in use today. The cult of Asclepius at Epidaurus is attested in the 6th century BC, when the older hill-top sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas was no longer spacious enough.
The prosperity brought by the Asklepieion enabled Epidauros to construct civic monuments too: the huge theatre that delighted Pausanias for its symmetry and beauty, which is used once again for dramatic performances, the ceremonial Hestiatoreion (banqueting hall), baths and a palaestra. The theater was designed by Polykleitos the Younger in the 4th century BC
The asclepieion at Epidaurus was the most celebrated healing center of the Classical world, the place where ill people went in the hope of being cured. To find out the right cure for their ailments, they spent a night in the enkoimitiria, a big sleeping hall. In their dreams, the god himself would advise them what they had to do to regain their health. Found in the sanctuary, there was a guest house for 160 guestrooms. There are also mineral springs in the vicinity which may have been used in healing.
Epidaurus is southeast of Delphi, across the peninsula from Argos.
Asclepius, the most important healer god of antiquity, brought prosperity to the sanctuary, which in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC embarked on an ambitious building program for enlarging and reconstruction of monumental buildings. Fame and prosperity continued throughout the Hellenistic period. In 87 BC the sanctuary was looted by the Roman general Sulla, and in 67 BC, it was plundered by pirates. In the 2nd century AD, the sanctuary enjoyed a new upsurge under the Romans, but in AD 395 the Goths raided the sanctuary.
The secret of the Lernaean spring was the gift of Poseidon when he lay with the "blameless" daughter of Danaus, Amymone.
Lerna was one of the entrances to the Underworld, and the ancient Lernaean Mysteries, sacred to Demeter, were celebrated there. Pausanias (2.37.1) says that the mysteries were initiated by Philammon, the twin "other" of Autolycus. At the Alcyonian Lake, entry to the netherworld could be achieved by a hero who dared, such as Dionysus, who, guided by Prosymnus, went that way in search of his mother Semele. For mortals the lake was perilous; Pausanias writes:
There is no limit to the depth of the Alcyonian Lake, and I know of nobody who by any contrivance has been able to reach the bottom of it since not even Nero, who had ropes made several stades long and fastened them together, tying lead to them, and omitting nothing that might help his experiment, was able to discover any limit to its depth. This, too, I heard. The water of the lake is, to all appearance, calm and quiet but, although it is such to look at, every swimmer who ventures to cross it is dragged down, sucked into the depths, and swept away.
Lerna has one of the largest prehistoric tumuli of Greece, accumulated during a long Neolithic occupation; then its crest was levelled and extended - as at Early Helladic Eutresis and Orchomenus - in a new settlement: this stratum, called Lerna III in the site's stratigraphy, corresponds with Early Helladic II at other sites. Lerna III lacks signs of continuity with the previous occupation; it is the site of a two-storey palace or administrative center that is referred to as House of the Tiles.