Vergina

Vergina

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Vergina is a small town in northern Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, located in the peripheral unit of Imathia, Central Macedonia
Central Macedonia
Central Macedonia is one of the thirteen regions of Greece, consisting of the central part of the region of Macedonia. With a population of over 1.8 million, it is the second most populous in Greece after Attica.- Administration :...

. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Veroia, of which it is a municipal unit. The town became internationally famous in 1977, when the Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos
Manolis Andronikos
Manolis Andronikos was a Greek archaeologist and a professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He was born on October 23, 1919 at Bursa . Later, his family moved to Thessaloniki....

 unearthed what he claimed was the burial site of the kings of Macedon, including the tomb of Philip II
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

, father of Alexander the Great. The finds established the site as the ancient Aigai .

The modern town of Vergina is about 13 km south-east of the district centre of Veroia and about 80 km south-west of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

, the capital of Greek Macedonia
Macedonia (Greece)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of Greece in Southern Europe. Macedonia is the largest and second most populous Greek region...

. The town has a population of about two thousand people and stands on the foothills of Mount Pieria, at an elevation of 120 m (360 ft) above sea level.

History


During the 8th and 7th century BC the area was ruled by Illyrian
Illyrians
The Illyrians were a group of tribes who inhabited part of the western Balkans in antiquity and the south-eastern coasts of the Italian peninsula...

 tribes, which established a strategic base at the location of Aegae. When in the early 7th century BC local Thracian
Thracians
The ancient Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting areas including Thrace in Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family...

 and Paeonian tribes revolted, the Illyrians pulled out. In approximately 650 BC, the Argeads
Argead dynasty
The Argead dynasty was an ancient Greek royal house. They were the ruling dynasty of Macedonia from about 700 to 310 BC. Their tradition, as described in ancient Greek historiography, traced their origins to Argos, in southern Greece...

, an ancient Greek royal house led by Perdiccas I, fled from Argos
Argos
Argos is a city and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Argos-Mykines, of which it is a municipal unit. It is 11 kilometres from Nafplion, which was its historic harbour...

 and established their capital at Aegae, thereby also establishing the Kingdom of Macedon. Actually, the word Aigae is the plural of the ancient Greek word Aiga (Αίγα) which means goat. The capital city of the Mαcedon kings was called so after Perdikas I, had a dream in which he was asked to build the capital city of his kingdom where goats led him . From Aegae they spread to the central part of Macedonia and displaced the local population of Pierians. The area of modern Vergina, which has inhabited by Pierians, thus remained uninhabited until the middle of the 6th century BC. After 550 BC, a Macedonian population settled in the area. In the 5th century BC, King Archelaus I
Archelaus I of Macedon
Archelaus I was a king of Macedon from 413 to 399 BC. He was a capable and beneficent ruler, known for the sweeping changes he made in state administration, the military, and commerce. By the time that he died, Archelaus had succeeded in converting Macedon into a significantly stronger power...

 moved the Macedonian capital north to Pella
Pella
Pella , an ancient Greek city located in Pella Prefecture of Macedonia in Greece, was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia.-Etymology:...

 on the central Macedonian plain. Aegae remained an important ceremonial center but lost a festival in honor of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 to Dion. Aegae continued to flourish into the 3rd century BC until it was destroyed in the 1st century BC.

Modern Vergina was founded in 1922 near the site of the two small agricultural villages of Koutles and Barbes (Greek: Mπάρμπες) previously owned by the Turkish
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 bey
Bey
Bey is a title for chieftain, traditionally applied to the leaders of small tribal groups. Accoding to some sources, the word "Bey" is of Turkish language In historical accounts, many Turkish, other Turkic and Persian leaders are titled Bey, Beg, Bek, Bay, Baig or Beigh. They are all the same word...

 of Palatitsa and inhabited by 25 Greek serf families. After the Treaty of Lausanne
Treaty of Lausanne
The Treaty of Lausanne was a peace treaty signed in Lausanne, Switzerland on 24 July 1923, that settled the Anatolian and East Thracian parts of the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The treaty of Lausanne was ratified by the Greek government on 11 February 1924, by the Turkish government on 31...

 and the eviction of the Bey
Bey
Bey is a title for chieftain, traditionally applied to the leaders of small tribal groups. Accoding to some sources, the word "Bey" is of Turkish language In historical accounts, many Turkish, other Turkic and Persian leaders are titled Bey, Beg, Bek, Bay, Baig or Beigh. They are all the same word...

 landlords, the land was distributed in lots to the existing inhabitants, and to 121 other Greek families from Bulgaria
Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 and Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 after population exchange agreements between Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey. The name for the new town was suggested by the then Metropolitan
Metropolitan bishop
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.Before the establishment of...

 of Veria
Veria
Veria is a city built at the foot of Vermion Mountains in Greece. It is a commercial center of Macedonia, the capital of the prefecture of Imathia, the province of Imathia and the seat of a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church...

, who named it after a legendary queen of ancient Beroea (modern Veria
Veria
Veria is a city built at the foot of Vermion Mountains in Greece. It is a commercial center of Macedonia, the capital of the prefecture of Imathia, the province of Imathia and the seat of a bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church...

).

Archaeological finds


Archaeologists were interested in the hills around Vergina as early as the 1850s, supposing that the site of Aigai was in the vicinity and knowing that the hills were burial mounds. Excavations began in 1861 under the French archaeologist Leon Heuzey
Léon Heuzey
Léon Heuzey was a noted French archaeologist and historian.In 1855 Heuzey came to Greece as a member of the École française d'Athènes, and for the next two years traveled extensively in Macedonia and Akarnania. The record he kept of his journey, "Le Mont Olympe et l'Acarnanie", was published in...

, sponsored by the Emperor Napoleon III. Parts of a large building that was considered to be one of the palaces of Antigonus III Doson
Antigonus III Doson
Antigonus III Doson was king of Macedon from 229 BC to 221 BC. He belonged to the Antigonid dynasty.-Family Background:He was a grandson of Demetrius Poliorcetes and cousin of Demetrius II, who after the latter died in battle and rescued Macedonia and restored Antigonid control of Greece...

 (263–221), partly destroyed by fire, were discovered at Palatitsa, which preserved the memory of a palace in its modern name. However, the excavations had to be abandoned because of the risk of malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

. The excavator suggested that this was the site of the ancient city Valla, a view that prevailed until 1976.

In 1937, the University of Thessaloniki resumed the excavations. More ruins of the ancient palace were found, but the excavations were abandoned on the outbreak of war with Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in 1940. After the war the excavations were resumed, and during the 1950s and 1960s the rest of the royal capital was uncovered. The Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos
Manolis Andronikos
Manolis Andronikos was a Greek archaeologist and a professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He was born on October 23, 1919 at Bursa . Later, his family moved to Thessaloniki....

 became convinced that a hill called the "Great Tumulus
Tumulus
A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn...

" (in Greek, Μεγάλη Τούμπα) concealed the tombs of the Macedonian kings. In 1977, Andronikos undertook a six-week dig at the Great Tumulus and found four buried chambers, which he identified as hitherto undisturbed tombs. Three more were found in 1980. Excavations continued through the 1980s and 1990s. Andronikos claimed that these were the burial sites of the kings of Macedon, including the tomb of Philip II
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

, father of Alexander the Great. Andronikos maintained that another (Tomb III) was of Alexander IV of Macedon
Alexander IV of Macedon
Alexander IV Aegus was the son of Alexander the Great and Princess Roxana of Bactria.-Birth:...

, son of Alexander the Great and Roxana
Roxana
Roxana sometimes Roxane, was a Bactrian noble and a wife of Alexander the Great. She was born earlier than the year 343 BC, though the precise date remains uncertain....

, a view challenged by other archaeologists.

Recent papers (by Eugene N. Borza and his research partner Olga Palagia) utilizing the construction of Tomb II's ceilings, the incorporation of a weight measurement system introduced by Alexander the Great on golden objects in the tomb, Asian themes on the Tomb's friezes, and the discovery of a scepter similar to that found on coins minted under Alexander's reign suggest Tomb II likely belongs to Alexander's half-brother Philip III Arrhidaeus
Philip III of Macedon
Philip III Arrhidaeus was the king of Macedonia from after June 11, 323 BC until his death. He was a son of King Philip II of Macedonia by Philinna of Larissa, allegedly a Thessalian dancer, and a half-brother of Alexander the Great...

 and his wife, Adea Eurydice. Instead, according to Borza and Palagia, the simpler Tomb I may contain the remains of Phillip II and his family. If this theory is true, then the golden weaponry and royal objects found may have belonged to Alexander the Great.

However, a subsequent (2010) research publication supports that tomb II cannot belong to Philip III Arrhidaus and his wife. This research, based on detailed study of the skeletons, sustains the facial asymmetry caused by a possible trauma of the cranium of the male, an evidence that is consistent with the history of Philip II.


The museum and the artifacts


The museum, which was inaugurated in 1993, was built in a way to protect the tombs, exhibit the artifacts and show the tumulus as it was before the excavations. Inside the museum there are four tombs and one small temple, the heroon
Heroon
A heroon , also called heroum, was a shrine dedicated to an ancient Greek or Roman hero and used for the commemoration or cult worship of the hero. It was often erected over his supposed tomb or cenotaph....

built as the temple of the great tomb of Philip II of Macedon. The two most important graves were not sacked and contained the main treasures of the museum. The tomb of Philip II
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

, the father of Alexander was discovered in 1977 and was separated in two rooms. The main room included a marble sarcophagus, and in it was the larnax made of 24 carat gold and weighing 11 kilograms. Inside the golden larnax the bones of the dead were found and a golden wreath of 313 oak leaves and 68 acorns, weighing 717 grams. In the room were also found the golden and ivory
Chryselephantine
Chryselephantine is a term that refers to the sculptural medium of gold and ivory...

 panoply of the dead, the richly-carved burial bed on which he was laid and later burned and silver utensils for the funeral feast. In the antechamber, there was another sarcophagus with another smaller golden larnax containing the bones of a woman wrapped in a golden-purple cloth with a golden diadem decorated with flowers and enamel. There was one more partially destroyed by the fire burial bed and on it a golden wreath representing leaves and flowers of myrtle. Above the Doric order
Doric order
The Doric order was one of the three orders or organizational systems of ancient Greek or classical architecture; the other two canonical orders were the Ionic and the Corinthian.-History:...

 entrance of the tomb there is a wall painting measuring 5.60 metres which represents a hunting scene.

In 1978 another burial site was also discovered near the tomb of Philip, which belongs to Alexander IV of Macedon
Alexander IV of Macedon
Alexander IV Aegus was the son of Alexander the Great and Princess Roxana of Bactria.-Birth:...

 son of Alexander the Great. It was slightly smaller than the previous and was also not sacked. It was also arranged in two parts, but only the main room contained a cremated body this time. On a stone pedestal was found a silver hydria
Hydria
A hydria is a type of Greek pottery used for carrying water. The hydria has three handles. Two horizontal handles on either side of the body of the pot were used for lifting and carrying the pot. The third handle, a vertical one, located in the center of the other two handles, was used when...

 which contained the bones and on it a golden oak wreath. There were also utensils and weaponry. A narrow frieze with a chariot race decorated the walls of the tomb.

The other two tombs were found to have been sacked. The "tomb of Persephone" was discovered in 1977 and although it contained no valuable things found, on its walls was found a marvellous wall painting showing the abduction of Persephone
Persephone
In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....

 by Pluto
Pluto
Pluto, formal designation 134340 Pluto, is the second-most-massive known dwarf planet in the Solar System and the tenth-most-massive body observed directly orbiting the Sun...

. The other tomb, discovered in 1980, is heavily damaged and may have contained valuable treasures while it had an impressive entrance with four Doric columns. It was built in the 4th century BC and the archaeologists believe that the tomb belonged to Antigonus II Gonatas
Antigonus II Gonatas
Antigonus II Gonatas was a powerful ruler who firmly established the Antigonid dynasty in Macedonia and acquired fame for his victory over the Gauls who had invaded the Balkans.-Birth and family:...

.


Vergina Sun



On the lid of the larnax
Larnax (Archaeology)
A larnax is a type of small closed coffin, box or "ash-chest" often used as a container for human remains in ancient Greece, either a body or cremated ashes....

of Philip II there is a symbol of a sun or star and this Vergina Sun has been adopted as a symbol of Greek Macedonia. It became the subject of international controversy in 1991 when the newly independent Republic of Macedonia
Republic of Macedonia
Macedonia , officially the Republic of Macedonia , is a country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. It is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991...

 used the symbol on its flag
Flag of the Republic of Macedonia
The national flag of the Republic of Macedonia depicts a stylised yellow sun on a red field, with eight broadening rays extending from the centre to the edge of the field. It was created by Pr...

. This outraged Greek public opinion, which saw the use of the symbol as an appropriation of Greece's historical heritage and as implying a territorial claim on Greece. In 1995 the Republic of Macedonia was forced to change its flag.

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