Northern Greece, the birthplace of the bloodline of Alexander the Great and the Macedonians, offers many interesting archaeological sites. I have been reading about them ever since I was in elementary and my passion for Greek mythology sprung from those readings. For non-mythological characters, my most favorite of all is Alexander the Great. Set aside the movie, which was made horribly in my honest opinion, his life and success were best read as written by historians. I wanted to see his birthplace in person but wasn’t able to do so, instead I visited the tomb of his father – one of the great Macedonian Kings, King Philip II.
Vergina (Βεργίνα) is a village in Imatha Prefecture, Central Macedonia and 75 km away from Thessaloniki. What lies there was the ancient civilization of Macedonians , the city of Aigai , founded by Perdiccas I and it was the capital of Lower Macedonia. The city was an administrative center of the Macedonian era until it transferred to Pella in 4th century BC. (UNESCO Profile)
It’s city area was first excavated by French archaeologist, L. Heuzey in the middle of 19th century where the first tomb was found in Palatitsia. Later, the Archaeological Department of the University of Thessaloniki, with the supervision of Prof. Konstantinos Romaios, made a long-term excavation, with short breaks only, during WWII (1938). In 1976 Prof. Manolis Andronikos made a breakthrough. During his supervision, he found the Royal Tomb of King Philip II (359-336 BC) along with his other relatives and wives. Royal Tombs are called “Megali Toumba” in Greek.
SPRING TRIP TO VERGINA, CENTRAL MACEDONIA, NORTHERN GREECE
It was May 2009. It felt like Summer already. We took a trip to Vergina to see the Royal Tomb Museum. I was the most excited one because it will be my first Greek museum visit. I just arrived in the country 2 weeks ago and husband knows my passion for ancient civilization.
We were inside the museum for almost an hour; yet it wasn’t enough for me! As I said, it was my first museum (and Archaeological too!) visit. We wanted to visit the next area because it will be an open museum of the excavated palace of the Macedonians. But it was under reconstruction & modification at that time. So there’s something for me to return to in Vergina. 🙂
Inside the Royal Tomb Museum, I remember seeing jewelries; from high grade gold to ivory; some were metal but specifically designed for royalty. Although certainly the gold wreaths were breathtaking to look at. The intricate design was something that could rival that of our generation. The quantity of ancient accessories overwhelmed me that I started imagining what these royal highness’s were thinking. They were always in war, yet they still manage to produce advanced artistry. Their turbulent era didn’t stop them from loving art. The other highly interesting things to see at the museum were the things found at the tomb of King Philip II. His tomb was well-intact so you can see how a royalty’s burial was treated. Definitely though, just like almost everyone else, his body was burned along with his casket. His tomb were showered with intricate jewelries and artifacts made that time. You can see that the King was endowed with gifts. I saw his weapons and armor and I think they’re not as heavy as I thought they would be! One thing, it proved that the King had a physical problem on his lower right leg, inflicted by an Ardian enemy. But he was truly showered with expensive gifts only for royalties. An interesting accessory that I saw was an ivory carving – decoration of his chair (or bed.) It was small, something like a quarter coin and it had the head of Alexander the Great. The artists during that time were geniuses. And so on and so forth, many things to look at that will make your eyes bigger than Nemo. The ancients also believe that these gifts will help him get through in the afterlife. Among the artifacts were 2 golden larnakes that contained the bones of the king and his wife.
Aside from King Philip’s tomb, there were other Royal tombs. That of a female and another of the son of Alexander the Great, Prince Alexander IV. The female tomb was believed to be the tomb of one of the King’s wife, the mother of Thessalonike (stepsister of Alexander the Great.) It was looted during the Gaul’s invasion in 3rd century BC, so the artifacts found there were not as much as those found at King Philip’s. It was decorated with fresco of the Rape of Persephone, its main attraction. The Prince’s tomb, Alexander IV, was near King Philip’s tomb. It was said to have been built 30 years later after his death. All these tombs were decorated with Doric columns. Seemed to be that era’s striking architecture.
It was unfortunate that we couldn’t see the excavated area of the Royal Palace. But when I get another chance to go there, I will certainly share its story, too.
The scorching Spring heat made us all hungry. So we stopped by at a nearby restaurant to staff our stomachs and replenish the strength from the long walk.
Whenever you are in Northern Greece, do not forget to stop by at Vergina village. It is 12km from Veria (Veroia). Veria is also an important place to visit along your journey.
Do you still remember your first Museum visit? Where was it?