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Greece: Wildfire blackens gate of ancient fortified city

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Monuments at the archaeological site of Mycenae have not been damaged by a wildfire that swept through the area, despite blackening the entrance to the ancient citadel, Greece's culture minister said Monday.

Four water-dropping planes and two helicopters helped dozens of firefighters contain the blaze Sunday after it reached one of Greece’s most important archaeological sites, some 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of Athens.

The Bronze Age fortified city flourished centuries before the major Acropolis monuments were built in Athens and was a major center of Mediterranean civilization.

Smoke from the flames blackened the 3,250-year-old stone-built Lion Gate, the entrance to the ancient city.

“The damage caused by yesterday’s fire was the least possible,” Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said during a visit to the site Monday, adding that none of the site's main monuments or the Mycenae museum had suffered any damage.

“The Fire Service acted swiftly ... and prevention measures worked: Dry vegetation had all been cleared away," Mendoni said. "That’s what saved the monuments.”

A spokesman for Greece's main political opposition, the left-wing Syriza party, questioned the speed of the response by the Fire Service, noting that the fire had entered the site.

The party said it was carrying out a separate inspection Monday, and called on the minister to issue a public apology for downplaying the damage.

Mycenae has been closed to visitors but the Culture Ministry said it will be reopened Tuesday.

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