The site, open Tues-Sun, 8:30am-3pm; 2 euros.
Lerna is 10km south of Argos and 12km from Nafplio by the lesser road via Nea Kios; and is near the village of Myli (below right), on a narrow strip of land between the road and the sea on which are found the Hydra Springs and the Lerna Marshes.
The site is surrounded by orange trees is a rather idyllic spot. A warden is posted there, his reverie interrupted by few visitors, though he might show you around if you ask.
According to ancient myth, the second labor of Iraklis (Hercules) was slaying the nine-headed Hydra, a water snake that lived in the marshes near Lerna, whose heads kept growing back as soon as they were cut off. Curiously, there are marshes near this ancient site replete with huge eels, and it has been suggested by some that this myth could symbolize an unsuccessful attempt to drain the marsh.
The ancient Greeks believed the Lerna marshes bottomless and that they were an entrance to the underworld. The Danaids, after killing their husbands, threw their heads in the marsh. Certainly the common element of beheading in both the Hercules myth and that of the Danaids (especially in relation to these marshes) is interesting.
Lerna is one of Greece's most important Bronze Age sites, and also where ruins of a Neolithic house and very intact fortification walls were found during during excavations carried out by Americans during the 1950s.
Inhabited from as early as 5500 BC (according to some, though others put the dates in the fourth or third millennium) it is also one of the Greece's most ancient settlements.
A second large house on the north end of the site is thought to have been a palace, but the much larger House of Tiles seems to have superceded it (circled in site plan left).