Faulkner, Hancock had the gigantic memorial finished by 1972.

The grandiose neoclassical character and the gigantic size of Mount Rushmore and similar projects call for comment about our seemingly irresistible need to enshrine ideals that are anything but inhuman through overwhelming and inhuman scale. Consider, for example, the 150-foot (45-meter) Statue of Liberty or the Cristo Redentore above Rio de Janeiro. On the other hand, colossi have been built for reasons of vainglory: the Colossus of Rhodes collapsed after one generation; the 120-foot (36-meter) statue of Nero (originally near the Roman Colosseum and providing its name) is long gone. One of the multitude of Egypt’s Ramessean statues is described by the poet Percy Shelley as a colossal wreck, “two vast and trunkless legs of stone.” Destroyed by nature or by conquerors, such works are at once monuments to our engineering ingenuity and our transience.

Further reading

Shaff, Howard, and Audrey Shaff. 1985. Six Wars at a Time: The Life and Times of Gutzon Borglum. Sioux Falls, SD: Permelia.

Smith, Rex Alan. 1985. The carving of Mount Rushmore. New York: Abbeville Press.

Zeitner, June, and Lincoln Borglum. 1976. Borglum’s Unfinished Dream: Mount Rushmore. Aberdeen, SD: North Plains Press.

Mycenae, Greece

Imposing even as a ruin, Agamemnon’s city Mycenae—Homer called it “Mycenae, rich in gold”—stands on a foothill of Mount Euboea between Hagios Elias and Mount Zara near the modern village that still bears its name: Mikínai. Seat of the semilegendary Atreus, it is also rich in tragic myth. Atreus’s dynasty was cursed because he fed his brother Thyestes with his own children. His son Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter to gain fair winds to take his war fleet to Troy. When he returned, his wife Clytemnestra killed him; she in turn was killed by her son, Orestes. Except on the southeast, where a steep ravine provided natural fortification, the citadel or acropolis (high city) of Mycenae was surrounded by massive and daunting walls. Parts were of polygonal masonry, with shaped stones fitted together, and the gates were built of finely dressed ashlar. But most of the defenses were built of “cyclopean” masonry, so named because the later Greeks, unable to accept that humans could have moved such huge blocks, attributed them to the mythical giant Cyclops. The true purpose of such gigantic walls is still debated by scholars: they were certainly defensive, but some suggest they may have been employed more as a show of strength. Whatever the case, for engineering audacity and skill they challenge even our modern imaginations.

The generic term “Mycenaean” is used for the Late Bronze Age (Helladic) culture that arose on the Greek mainland around 1650 b.c. and whose powerful, militaristic city-states dominated the region from 1400 until 1100 b.c. Mycenaean navies controlled the Aegean and colonized Crete, Cyprus, the Dodecanese, northern Greece, Macedonia, Asia Minor, Sicily, and parts of Italy. Then they seem to have outgrown their resources, and despite an attempt to secure the Black Sea grain routes by annexing Troy (sometime between 1250 and 1180 b.c.), the Mycenaean culture suffered such attrition that it was easily subsumed by the migrating Dorians a century later.

From its hilltop at an elevation of about 900 feet (270 meters), the citadel of Mycenae commanded a large, fertile hinterland and the Plain of Argos extended before it; the major route between the Bay of Argos and Corinth, Thebes, and Athens to the north passed under its ramparts. There had been neolithic and early Helladic use of the site between 3000 and 2800 b.c., but the earliest significant developments took place in the seventeenth century. Indeed, most of the surviving defenses date from after 1380 b.c., built in three major stages—ca. 1350, 1250, and 1225.

The walls of Mycenae were generally between 15 and 35 feet (4.7 and 10.7 meters) high, rising in places to 56 feet (17 meters); parts of them were as much as 46 feet (14 meters) thick. The earliest circuit (ca. 1350) enclosed the megaron (palace) precinct with all its ancillary buildings. About 100 years later the walls were extended to include the main western gate and an older grave pit close to it. Another gate, much smaller but just as cunningly designed