Vergina – Pella
Excursion back in history to the Macedonian Kingdom of Alexander the Great and Philip II
- Museum ad Archaeological site of Pella
- Museum of the Royal Tombs of Aigai (Vergina museum)
STARTING POINTS AND DEPARTURE
- Starting point: White Tower(Entance) 08:00
- Stop 1: Makedonia Palace Hotel 08:05
- Stop 2: Aristotle’s Square & Egnatia Street (Venizelos Statue) 08:15
- Stop 3: Capsis Hotel 08:20
- Stop 4: The Met Hotel 08:25
Aigai was the name of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia. The city was founded by Perdiccas I, the first king of the Macedonians, in the 7th century BC and expanded substantially in the early 5th century BC, when Alexander I was the King of the Macedonian kingdom. At the end of the century, during the reign of Archelaus I, Aigai hosted famous artists and intellectuals of the time, who were inspired and embellished the city with their works. Among them, the painter Zeuxis decorated with beautiful frescoes the royal palace and the tragedian Euripides who composed at Aigai his last tragedies: the “Archelaus” and “Bacchae”.
Philip II, king of the Macedonians, and Aigai during the next century reached the peak of their heyday. The glorious king and father of Alexander the Great called in the palace courtyard intellectuals from all over Greece, and proceeded with the construction of brilliant new buildings that significantly upgraded the aesthetics of the city. Although Pella was proclaimed as the new capital of the Macedonians since the time of King Archelaus I and the great religious festival in honor of Zeus was moved to Dion, Aigai remained the burial place of kings and the place where sacred ceremonies and big celebrations of the Macedonian kingdom took place.
Alexander the Great started from Aigai his campaign in 334 BC to conquest almost all of the known world at the time. The multigold Aigai were also chosen by the great commander as burial place of his murdered father, Philip II, two years earlier, in 336 BC, in a grand funeral ceremony in his honor. Aigai continued to flourish for two more centuries, and continued to be inhabited until after their conquest by the Romans in 168 BC, until it finally falling into the oblivion of time.
The name Vergina was given to the area two millennia later, in 1923, in honor of the legendary Queen Vergina, the last Greek woman governor of the region and offspring of the family of Paleologus before Veria was finally conquested by the Ottomans in 1433. The modern town of Vergina was inhabited by locals and refugees from Asia Minor and Bulgaria, very close to the foundations of the ancient Macedonian kingdom. Under the feet of the new residents, unbeknownst to all, the tomb of one of the greatest kings of Macedonia and of the entire ancient world was hidden among other findings, waiting to come back to light after twenty three centuries.
The historic moment for the world cultural community came in 1977 and 1978 when, during the excavation directed by archeology Professor Manolis Andronikos, first the tomb of Philip II and then the tomb of grandson and his son Alexander the Great, Alexander IV were discovered undisturbed, untouched by any human greedy hands. Both the father and the son of Alexander the Great had a tragic end: Philip was stabbed and Alexander IV was poisoned by usurpers of the throne. Their tombs were left as a legacy in modern times, a sample of the splendor of the era in which they lived both Macedonian kings, rescuing and highlighting the erstwhile glory of the kingdom of ancient Macedonia.
The “Star of Vergina” – the sixteen radii sun and symbol of the Macedonian dynasty – is positioned on the urn containing the cremated remains of Philip II. This is the most exciting finding of the excavations, which continues to this day, and brought to the surface many offerings of gold. Along with the smallest urn the twelve radii star, and the wreaths of oak leaves and fruits. The museum in its current form presents a clever “trick”: the burial buildings are boxed for their protection while they are pointed out, and the hill – the “Great Tumulus” – has been filled with soil so that it looks as it was before the excavations.
The “tomb of Persephone” and a fourth grave that is believed to have belonged to King Antigonus Gonatas, with impressive Doric entrance, are the rest of the tombs in the hill that can be visited, except of Philip II and Alexander IV, which were however looted. The “tomb of Persephone” is decorated with a magnificent fresco on the abduction of Persephone, the goddess Demeter’s daughter, by Hades, the evil god of the Underworld.
UNESCO declared the museum and the archaeological site of Vergina as World Heritage Sites in 1996 including them on the list.
The ancient city of Pella “stole” the glory of the city Aigai at the end of the 5th century BC, when the Macedonian King Archelaos I had proclaimed it the new capital of his kingdom. In ancient times, Pella was seaside and was called the “Greatest of Macedonian cities” by the great historian of antiquity Xenophon. In the years of King Philip II, the city continued to flourish, reaching its peak in the years of Alexander the Great, who made the brilliant capital of his kingdom known through his conquests throughout the world known at that time.
Pella remained the capital of the Macedonian kingdom until it was destroyed by the Romans, and then the capital was looted and its treasures were transferred to Rome. In the modern museum of Pella, which was inaugurated in 2009, there are on display many objects from the private and public life of the people of ancient Pella, from their religious buildings and their burial sites, as well as exquisite floor mosaics.
The two most impressive of them, the mosaic of deer hunting and the mosaic with the kidnapping of Eleni by Theseus – the largest till today known mosaic depiction in Greece – are located in the archaeological site, at the spot where they were found, and are open to the public during the summer.