In classical Greece, Lerna [Corinthian Lerna was a summer resort near
Corinth.] was a region of springs and a former lake near the east coast of the Peloponnesus, south of Argos. Its site near the village Mili at the Argolic Gulfis most famous as the lair of the Lernaean Hydra, the chthonicmany-headed water snake, a creature of great antiquity when Heracleskilled it, as . The strong Karstic springs remained; the lake, diuminished to a silt lagoon by the nineteenth century, has vanished.
The secret of the Lernaean spring was the gift of
Poseidonwhen he lay with the "blameless" daughter [For the ancient Greek use of "blameless" see note at Gorgythion.] of Danaus, Amymone.
Straboattests that the Lernaean waters were considered healing: :"Lake Lerna, the scene of the story of the Hydra, lies in Argeia and the Mycenaean territory; and on account of the cleansings that take place in it there arose a proverb, 'A Lerna of ills.' Now writers agree that the county has plenty of water, and that, although the city itself lies in a waterless district, it has an abundance of wells. These wells they ascribe to the daughters of Danaus, believing that they discovered them ... but they add that four of the wells not only were designated as sacred but are especially revered, thus introducing the false notion that there is a lack of water where there is an abundance of it." :::—Strabo, "Geography" 8.6.8.
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::"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." :::—Pausanias, 2.37.4.
At Lerna, Plutarch knew ("Isis and Osiris"), Dionysus was summoned as "Bugenes", "son of the Bull" with a strange archaic trumpet called a "salpinx," while a lamb was cast into the waters as an offering for the "Keeper of the Gate." The keeper of the gate to the
Underworldthat lay in the waters of Lerna was the Hydra.
The archaeology of Lerna
Excavations at the site were initiated under John L. Caskey in 1952, whose efforts initiated the series of publications of Bronze Age Lerna, "Lerna" I-V, inspiring many other publications. Lerna was occupied in Neolithic times, as early as the fifth millennium BCE, then was abandoned for a time before the sequence of occupation from the Early Bronze Age (
Helladicperiod through the Mycenaean). On-site techniques of flint-knappingwith imported obsidian and chert attest to cultural continuity over this long stretch of time, with reduction in the supply of obsidian from Melostestifying to reduced long-distance trade at the end of Early Helladic III, corresponding to Lerna IV. [Britt Hartenberger and Curtis Runnels, "The Organization of Flaked Stone Production at Bronze Age Lerna" "Hesperia" 70.3 (July 2001:255-283).]
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
Eutresisand Orchomenus [John L. Caskey, "The Early Helladic Period in the Argolid" "Hesperia' 29.3 (July 1960:285-303); Caskey, the excavator, offers an overview of Lerna.] — 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 [Its walls were just under a meter thick; the structure measured 12 m wide by 25 m long; only the great " tholos" at Tiryns. 28 m. in diameter, compares with its scale (Caskey 1960:288).] that is referred to as the " House of the Tiles", for the terracotta tiles that sheathed its roof (an early example of tile roofing). This strongly-fortified [A double ring of defensive walling, with towers, enclosed the site (Caskey 1960:289).] power center dates to the Early Bronze Ageculture called : Early Helladic", ca 2500 - 2200 BCE. Though five stages of occupation at Lerna have been identified, the site of the "House of Tiles", after it had been destroyed by fire, ["Violent destruction appears... to have occurred about the same time at Lerna, Tiryns, Asine, Zygouries, Aghias Kosmasand perhaps at Corinth. Stratigraphic evidence for this period is inadequate at Asea, Prosymneand Mycenae" (Caskey 1960:301] was not rebuilt upon, whether through respect [The "quite extraordinary respect paid to its ruins" is noted in Caskey 1960:301, who concludes "that a foreign invasion created widespread havoc in this region."] or fear, until, at the end of the Middle Helladic period, shaft graves were cut into the tumulus of the House of Tiles, indicating that the significance of that monument had been forgotten. Lerna was used as a cemetery during the Mycenaean age, but was abandoned about 1250 BCE.
Ceramics of Lerna III include the hallmark spouted vessels that archaeologists name "sauceboats", with rims that sweep upwards into a curved spout, as well as bowls with incurving rims, both flat-bottomed and with ring bases, and wide saucers, sometimes with glazed rims, more pleasant for the drinker's lips. Jars and
hydriahave swelling curves. Painted decoration is sparse; stamped sealing form decorative patterns on some pieces, or rolled scribed cylinders have been used to make banded patterns. Remarkably, banded patterns made with the self-same seal have been found at Lerna, Tirynsand Zygouries. [Caskey 1960:293.] The burning of the House of Tiles brought the Third Period at Lerna to a decisive close; a low round tumulus marked its undisturbed, apparently sacrosanct site.
Lerna IV (Early Helladic III) marked a fresh start, not as a fortified seat of central authority this time, but as a small town, with houses of two and three rooms with walls of crude brick set upon stone foundations; several had central circular hearths. Narrow lanes separated houses. A great profusion of unlined pits ("bothroi") was characteristic of this phase: eventually they became filled with waste matter, bones, potsherds, even whole pots. The pottery, markedly discontinuous with Lerna III, shows a range of new forms, and the first signs— regular spiral grooves in bases and parallel incised lines— marking the increasing use of the
potter's wheel. Painted linear decoration in dark glaze on the pale body is characteristic of Lerna IV. Caskey identified [Caskey 1960:297.] early examples of the ware that in Middle Helladic contexts would be recognized as Minyan ware, and, among the few examples of imported pottery, a winged jar characteristic of Troy, perhaps Troy IV.
Lerna V is continuous with the preceding phase, distinguished largely by new styles in pottery with the sudden, peaceful introduction of matte-painted ware, the thick-slipped Argive version of gray Minyan ware, and a vigorous increase in the kinds of imported wares, coming from the
Cycladesand Crete (Middle Minoan IA). A new custom of burying the dead in excavations within the houses or between them is universal at the period. Modern geological techniques such as core drilling have identified the site of the vanished sacred Lake Lerna, which was a freshwater lagoon, separated by barrier dunes from the Aegean. In the Early Bronze Age Lake Lerna had an estimated diameter of 4.7 km. Deforestation increased the rate of silt deposits and the lake became a malarial marsh, of which the last remnants were drained in the nineteenth century.
Carl Kerenyi, "The Heroes of the Greeks".
* [http://homepage.mac.com/cparada/GML/Lerna.html Carlos Parada, "Greek Mythology link":] Lerna
* [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/siteindex?entry=Lerna Perseus Site:] Lerna
* [http://www.culture.gr/2/21/211/21104a/e211da13.html Hellenic Ministry of Culture:] Lerna
* [http://www.bu.edu/jfa/Abstracts/Z/ZanggerE_18_1.html Eberhard Zangger, "Prehistoric Coastal Environments in Greece: The Vanished Landscapes of Dimini Bay and Lake Lerna"] : (Abstract)
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Lerna — Lerna, IL U.S. village in Illinois Population (2000): 322 Housing Units (2000): 131 Land area (2000): 0.116619 sq. miles (0.302041 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.116619 sq. miles (0.302041 sq … StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places
Lerna, IL — U.S. village in Illinois Population (2000): 322 Housing Units (2000): 131 Land area (2000): 0.116619 sq. miles (0.302041 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.116619 sq. miles (0.302041 sq. km) FIPS… … StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places
Lerna — (a. Geogr.), See, nahe der Westküste des Argolischen Meerbusens; jetzt Molini. An demselben lag die Stadt L. u. in demselben hauste die Lernäische Schlange (L. Hydra), welche Hercules (s.d. b) tödtete … Pierer's Universal-Lexikon
Lerna — Lerna, im Altertum ein Sumpf an der Küste südlich von Argos, in dem die lernäische Schlange hauste, die Herakles tötete; vgl. Herakles, S. 184 … Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon
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lerna — |é| s. f. 1. Abismo. 2. Grande porção … Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa
Lerna — En la Antigua Grecia, Lerna era una región de manantiales y un antiguo lago cerca de la costa oriental del Peloponeso, al sur de Argos. Era conocida principalmente como guarida de la Hidra de Lerna, la serpiente acuática ctónica de múltiples… … Wikipedia Español
Lerna — Reste der Treppe im Haus der Ziegel Lerna war ein antiker Ort in der Argolis, etwa 7 km südlich von Argos, in dem sich ein heiliger Hain mit zahlreichen Quellen befand. Mindestens seit dem Neolithikum war Lerna besiedelt, aus dem… … Deutsch Wikipedia
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Lerna — Lernaean, Lernean /leuhr nee euhn/, adj. /lerr neuh/, n. a marshy region near Argos, Greece: the legendary abode of the Hydra slain by Hercules. Also, Lerne /lerr nee/. * * * … Universalium