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The Macedonian tomb of Philip II in Vergina


Home -> Europe -> Greece -> Travelogue Greece -> 18 June 2017

Sunday 18 June, the Macedonian tomb of Philip II in Vergina

Remains of a Byzantine church, Archaia PydnaToday we first drive a bit to the north to view more of the antiquities at Archaia Pydna. The terrain of a 13th century Byzantine basilica can be seen from the road but the other areas are unfortunately closed. Countless Macedonian tombs have been found here and with many skeletons there was found a coin in the skull. This was the so-called Charon obole, which was placed under the tongue of a deceased person and with which the deceased could pay the ferryman Charon to cross the river to the world of the dead (Hades).
The coast at Pydna The coast at PydnaAlong the coast we first look for a place for our morning coffee. The pine trees are almost up to the beach here and signs advise us to be very careful with fire. The trees are quite far apart but the ground is dotted with fine needles that can spread fire very quickly. We have not yet seen many forest fires in Greece and we can hardly imagine how bad it should be, but precisely these kinds of places where you think that a fire can barely spread because there is so much space between the trees, seem to be in a blaze very soon adn people can get trapped.
The DC3 cafe at MethoniAfter coffee we drive inland, on our way to Vergina to view the royal Macedonian tombs. Slightly north of Methoni we suddenly see an airplane on the roof of a building, a special sight. It is probably a Douglas DC3 because it is a café with the name DC3, another site says it is ana C-47 but I have no knowledge about planes. The café is closed and looks neglected but on the internet we found a crowdfunding action from the owner who wants to give it a new life.
Macedonian tomb, Vergina Macedonian tomb, VerginaIn Vergina we quickly find the place with the royal tombs that were found in 1977. Most archaeologists agree that Aigai was located here, the first capital of the Macedonian kingdom. In the tomb bones were found in a golden box so it was certainly a high-ranking person. An eye socket was damaged, just as Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, would have since he had lost that eye by an arrow. So there is a big chance that Alexander the Great stood on this spot during the funeral of his father, although the capital of the empire at that time was in Pella, about 70 kilometers to the north. From the outside you only see a number of hills and a simple entrance to the grave, but inside it is beautiful.
We are not allowed to take photos so unfortunately we can not show anything of it, but when we walk in, we come into a shadowy world. There is little lighting which evokes a special atmosphere but soon see that the € 12 entrance fee (per person) is worth it. You see, as it were, the excavation within the burial mound itself with a number of tombs. And the tomb where Philip II would be buried. He was murdered at the wedding of his daughter Cleopatra in 336 BC. Alexander the Great was proclaimed the successor to the throne the same day, but he later had his sister Cleopatra and his half-brother murdered for the sake of certainty, imagine that they wanted the throne for themselves.
Inside there are also many objects that have been found in the tombs with clear information, also in English. In addition, there are also guardians who are not only careful that people do not take pictures, but also occasionally explain about the excavation and the finds. I think it's a special place, one where you can really feel history and you can vividly imagine how the people of 2,300 years ago buried their king here at the time. The place is not very big and after about an hour we are back outside, in the bright light.
Engine for a chapel, Vergina Inside a chapel along the road, VerginaOn a terrace in the village we read something more about the Macedonian issue. On the golden box with the bones of (probably) Philippus II there was a Macedonian sun which symbolized Macedonia and which was used through the entire Macedonian empire. When the provence Macedonia of the former Yugoslavia declared itself independent, the Macedonian sun was placed on the national flag. The country once belonged to the ancient Macedonian empire, but the people who live there today are almost all from Slavic origin. We can now imagine a little better that the Greeks are not happy with their northern neighbors when they try to 'rob' the Macedonian identity. Under pressure from Greece the flag has already changed, the name of the state will probably be Northern Macedonia as a compromise so that the countries can somewhat normalize their relations.
But among the population the sentiments are a lot more explosive and there are extremely nationalist movements in both countries that are directly opposed to each other to who has the right to use the name Macedonia.
The landscape from Vergina The landscape at VerginaIn the neighborhood of Vergina more than 300 comparable burial mounds have been found, but it is a miracle that precisely that of Philip II was found intact. More excavations have been carried out in the area, but we can not find much about Aigai, which would have been the capital of the Macedonian Empire for at least 2 centuries. There must also be palaces and the like here. There is an amphitheater, somewhere far behind a fence, but we do not see much more. That is the place where Philip II was murdered and Alexander was proclaimed king. On the internet we read that some remains of a palace have been found, but we have no idea where and if we can get there.
Sanctuary of Eukleia at VerginaWhen we leave the village we see a sign to the sanctuary of Eukleia where once was also the agora, the market in the center of Aigai. In 2014 a grave was found nearby with a gilded oak wreath and is called the tomb of the prince. It is suspected that it belongs to Alexander IV, a son of Alexander the Great who was also murdered, together with his mother. To murder was a sport that appears throughout history in many kingdoms, apparently it is worthwhile to come to power and keep it. Ironic that Eukleia is the goddess of glory and a good reputation. The murderers had a lot to confess to her.
A colorful spider between the rocks A dead badger on the roadThrough a wooded hilly area we drive south again and at a parking lot we see a brightly colored spider of almost 2 centimeters. We had never seen anything like that, but when we look for it, it turns out to be a male autumn fire spider (Eresus kollari). His cousin, the spring fire spider, also seems to occur in the Netherlands, we didn't know that. A bit further we see a hit badger on the road. In general, we have seen few wild mammals in Greece, but many (living) birds and snakes. Most mammals we see are lying dead on the road.
The village of MakrigalosAt Makrigialos we come back to the coast but we cannot find the remains of a settlement from 5,000 BC. Later we discover that it is more inland and probably there was no money to put signs along the road or they have fallen over. The settlement is one of the oldest in Europe and was found during the construction of a railway line. Probably there is still a lot to discover by archaeologists in this country. Because of the climate and the soil, old remains are often better preserved than in, for example, the wet soil of the Netherlands.
View of the Olympus mountains Greek Orthodox Church in Olympiaki AktiWhen we drive back to Olympiaki Akti we see the majestic Olympus Mountains, the home of the gods, to our right. We will drive there tomorrow, now we walk from our hotel into the village where we look at the well-kept orthodox church. But we have seen so many of these churches over the last few years that we are no longer particularly impressed, no matter how beautiful the church is and the icons within. We walk to the beach where it is very busy.
The beach at Olympiaki Akti The boulevard of Olympiaki AktiWe still want to go to the beach and take the car to drive a few kilometers to the north. The beach runs for miles and although it is fairly busy in many places, we still find a place where we have some space for ourselves. After an hour we have rested enough and drive back to the village where we stroll along the boulevard and have something to eat. It was a beautiful day again and I am still impressed by the tomb we have seen. Too bad we could not take pictures!

 


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