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Amphipolis, located on a plain in northern Macedonia near Mt. Thucydides relates that the Athenian general Hagnon so named the town because the Strymon surrounds the site on three sides ("amphi" means "on both sides") and also relates that he built a fortification wall on its unprotected side. The city and its seaport, Eion, prospered due to its favourable geographic location and the proximity of abundant natural resources, especially gold, silver, and timber. In 2012 CE an impressive Hellenistic tomb was discovered, one of the most important archaeological finds of the last 40 years, which has, once more, put Amphipolis in the lime-light.

Historical Overview

The Spartan general Brasidas conquered the city in 424 BCE and defeated Cleon when Athens attempted to retake Amphipolis two years later. In the latter battle, Brasidas had brilliantly employed his peltasts to defeat the larger Athenian hoplite army, but the Spartan leader himself eventually succumbed to his wounds. The great military commander was buried in the city's agora and honoured with annual games. Amphipolis came back under Athenian control following the Peace of Nicias in 421 BCE; however, the Amphipolitans, in the event, opted to remain an independent polis (city-state) and in 367 CE made an alliance with the Chalcidian League. In 364 BCE the Athenians, still as eager as ever to guarantee their grain supply from the Black Sea, once more tried to make themselves masters of strategically important Amphipolis, this time led by the general Timotheos and with the initial encouragement of the Macedonian king Perdiccas III, who ruled Amphipolis at that time. Unwilling in the end to hand over the city, Perdiccas established a garrison there, and on his death, Macedonian control fell to his successor, Philip II.

Probably a Macedonian administrative capital, the city was also the site of the most important Macedonian mint.

Although now a Macedonian city, Amphipolis did retain some degree of independence and many of her political institutions such as a demos or popular assembly, remained intact. Over time, as more and more Macedonian colonists settled in the polis, Philip, and later his son Alexander the Great, used Amphipolis as a base from which to attack Thrace and Asia. Probably a Macedonian administrative capital, the city was also the site of the most important Macedonian mint where, amongst others, the famous gold staters were produced. The site has also been a source of documentation regarding Macedonian military regulations. We are informed that soldiers who displayed great courage on the battlefield should be given a double share of the booty, that a general should ensure his army does not devastate a defeated territory by burning grain or destroying vines, and that soldiers must have their equipment in order, not sleep on guard duty, and report such failures amongst their comrades to their superior. Transgressors could be fined and those who reported them received a bonus.

When Rome conquered Macedon in 168 BCE, Amphipolis retained some importance as one of the four regional capitals. The city was an important stopping point on the via Egnatia highway which connected Greece to Asia. The city acquired impressive fortifications, especially around the ancient acropolis, measuring over 7,000 metres long and over 7 metres high in places. Augustus conferred the status of civitas libera, making it a free city and the emperor was even given the title of Ktistes or founder. In later times, from c. 500 CE, Amphipolis became the seat of an episcopal see, and no fewer than four basilicas attest to the religious importance of the site in Late Antiquity. The site was abandoned in the 8th and 9th centuries CE following the Slavic invasions after which citizens of Amphipolis relocated to nearby Eion which survived into the Byzantine period. Amphipolis was again settled in the 13th to 14th centuries CE, from which period the remains of two towers survive.

Archaeological Remains

Excavations of Roman Amphipolis have revealed traces of all the impressive architecture one would expect from a thriving Roman city. A bridge, gymnasium, public and private monuments, sanctuaries, and cemeteries all attest to the city's prosperity. From the early Christian period (after 500 CE) there are traces of four basilicas, a large rectangular building which may have been a bishop's residence, and a church.

Basilica A was a three-aisled basilica with two floors and two rows of ten columns down its length. It was constructed on the site of a Roman bath. Parts of the marble flooring, some polychrome mosaics of wildlife, pieces of a hexagonal platform, and two rows of seats of the synthronon survive. Basilica B originally measured 16.45 x 41.6 metres, and it too had marble decoration and mosaics. Basilica C dates to the second half of the 5th century CE and had two interior colonnades of six columns, of which the bases survive, as do mosaics of various geometric and wildlife designs. Basilica D is contemporary with Basilica C and had a marble and brick flooring; 15 column bases and various mosaics also survive.

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The large rectangular structure which may have served as an episcopal palace measured over 48 metres wide and had walls 1.3 metres thick. Three cisterns in the southwest corner constructed using waterproof cement survive. Another building of interest is the early Christian church which included a large hexagonal chamber surrounded by a circular wall. The 6th-century CE church had two floors with colonnades and much of the interior was tiled with marble, including the mosaic-tile flooring. Finally, two Byzantine towers either side of the Strymon River survive. The best-preserved is the north tower which was built in 1367 CE and which stands 10 metres tall and originally had three stories. Both towers offered some protection to the nearby monastery on Mt. Athos.

The Amphipolis Tomb

The 4th-century BCE burial mound at Amphipolis was discovered in 2012 CE, and it is one of the most important archaeological finds of the last 40 years. It has a surrounding wall measuring almost 500 metres in circumference and constitutes the largest burial site ever found in Greece. The scale and impressive architecture of the tomb, which uses marble imported from Thassos, suggest the occupant was a person of great importance. An almost intact skeleton has been discovered within a wooden coffin placed in a limestone tomb in the third chamber of the complex. The chief archaeologist at the site, Katerina Peristeri, stated that the tomb dated to after the death of Alexander the Great (323 BCE) and, "in all probability belongs to a male and a general". Artefacts from the complex include a large stone lion (discovered in 1912 CE but now thought to have once stood atop the mound), two caryatids, two sphinxes, and a large pebble mosaic measuring 4.5 by 3 metres which depicts the god Hades abducting Persephone in a chariot led by Hermes. Historians and enthusiasts alike eagerly await the findings of the on-going research on the Amphipolis tomb and to discover just who was buried in such a splendid tomb.

Battle of Amphipolis, 422 B.C.

The battle of Amphipolis (422 BC) was a disastrous Athenian defeat in Thrace, inflicted on them by an army led by the Spartan Brasidas (Great Peloponnesian War). Both Brasidas and the Athenian commander Cleon were killed in the battle, and their deaths helped to pave the way to the short lived peace of Nicias (421 BC).

The city of Amphipolis was located in the north-east of Greece. It was built where the River Strymon emerged from Lake Cercinitis, and was about three miles from the sea. In 422 BC it was a new settlement. The area was contested with the Thracians, and two earlier attempts to create a city at the site had failed - the first in 497 BC and the first Athenian attempt in 465 BC. This second colony had been destroyed by the Thracians and the inhabitants massacred, but despite this setback the Athenians persevered, and the successful colony was founded in 437 BC.

The city had not been founded for long when the Great Peloponnesian War broke out. At first the fighting didn't directly affect the city, but this changed after the Spartan commander Brasidas led an army overland to Thrace. In the winter of the eighth year of the war (424-423 BC) Brasidas captured the city. A relief expedition led by the future historian Thucydides only just failed to arrive in time, although did prevent the fall of the port of Eion. Thucydides was exiled for his part in the fall of Amphipolis.

In the following spring the Athenians and Spartans agreed a one year truce, which was successfully observed, expiring in the summer of 422 BC. Brasidas remained in Thrace during this period, campaigning in areas not covered by the truce.

After the truce expired the Athenian politician Cleon lead an army of 1,200 hoplites and 300 cavalry supported by a larger contingent of allied troops into Thrace in an attempt to restore Athenian control of the area. After an early success at Torone, Cleon then sailed along the coast towards Amphipolis. He reached the port of Eion, three miles from the city, and then waited for reinforcements to arrive.

Brasidas also moved to the area, and took up a position on Cerdylium, on high ground close to Amphipolis and with a good view of the Athenian position. Brasidas expected Cleon to advance towards Amphipolis without waiting for reinforcements, and hoped to have a chance to attack the Athenians while they were still comparatively weak. Brasidas had 2,000 hoplites, 300 Greek cavalry, 1,000 local peltasts, the army of Edon and 1,500 Thracian mercenaries, so perhaps outnumbered Cleon although the quality of his troops wasn't as high.

Cleon wasn't a popular commander, and he didn't have the full support of his troops. He was unable to convince them of the wisdom of waiting for reinforcements, and was forced to make some sort of move to keep them content. He decided to march up the river to Amphipolis to examine the city and its defences. When Cleon made his move, Brasidas abandoned his watching position and moved into the city, but he kept his troops hidden.

Brasidas was aware of the inferior quality of his troops, and decided to try an unusual tactic. The Athenians were somewhat disorganised outside the city. Brasidas decided to lead 150 his best men in a surprise attack on the Athenian centre. Once this advance guard was fully engaged, his second in command Clearidas was to attack with the rest of the army. Brasidas hoped that the Athenians would be distracted by his own attack and demoralised when a second army appeared.

Outside the city the Athenians were increasingly aware of movement behind the gates. Cleon decided to order his army to withdraw back to the coast to wait for reinforcements before risking a battle. The left wing of the Athenian army moved first. The right wing, with Cleon in personal command, then began to wheel around towards the centre to join the retreat. During this movement their shields, which were held on the left, were thus facing away from the gates of Amphipolis.

Brasidas realised that this was the moment to attack. He led his 150 men out of city using a minor gate, and attacked the Athenian centre, which quickly collapsed. Brasidas then turned on the Athenian right, while Clearidas brought the rest of the army out of the city and joined the battle. Seeing the disaster that was befalling the rest of the army the Athenian left, which was already some way down the river, fled, leaving the right to fight alone.

The fighting on the Athenian right wing cost both commanders their lives. Brasidas was mortally wounded during his attack on the right wing. He was taken from the battlefield and survived for long enough to learn of his victory. He was later buried in Amphipolis, where he was later commemorated as the founder of the city. Thuycidides, who was always rather hostile to Cleon, records his death in less flattering terms. Seeing that the battle was lost, he fled from the battlefield and was killed by a Myrcinian peltast.

The Athenian right attempted to make a stand on a nearby hill. They were able to fight off two or three attacks by Clearidas and his hoplites. They were less successful when Clearidas surrounded them with light troops, cavalry and peltasts, who pelted them with missile weapons. Under this bombardment the Athenian right also broke and fled. The survivors of the disaster reached safety at Eion, but 600 Athenians had died during the battle. According to Thucydides the Spartans and their allies only lost seven men.

The most significant result of the battle of Amphipolis was the death of both Brasidas and Cleon, two of the more warlike leaders. With both men removed from the scene the peace negotiations that had been going on since the Spartan defeat at Sphacteria were successful, and in the following year the Peace of Nicias temporarily ended the fighting.

Athenian Hoplite vs Spartan Hoplite, Peloponnesian War 431-404 BC, Murray Dahm. Looks at three clashes that involved Spartan and Athenian hoplites during the Great Peloponnesian War, including an unusual battle on an island at Sphacteria, a surprise attack by a daring Spartan commander at Amphipolis and a standard hoplite battle at Mantinea, three of the relatively few direct clashes between Spartan and Athenian land forces. Good accounts of these three battles, combined with a clear understanding of the failings on both sides. (Read Full Review)


The museum is located about 600 meters north of the acropolis, right at the entrance to the modern village of Amfipoli.

The construction of the museum stretched between 1984 and 1995. It was built in two-storey construction and is divided into several areas. In addition to the exhibition rooms, there are offices, a conference room and a warehouse. On display are finds from the area of ancient Amphipolis and its surroundings The artefacts were found in sanctuaries, settlements and tombs. The museum contains many items related to the history and civilisation of Amphipolis dating from the Archaic into the Byzantine period. It is well laid out and with labels and information panels.

Basement Edit

  • Prehistoric era
  • Early historical period
  • Classical and Hellenistic time
  • The sanctuaries
  • Public and private life
  • tombs
  • The early Christian period
  • The Byzantine period
  • Temporary exhibitions

Upper floor Edit

  • The history of Amphipolis
  • The history of the colonization of the surroundings of Strymon river
  • The history of neighboring places like Argilos, Eion and Brea
  • The evolution of the Macedonian kingdom and some of its kings
  • Figures from prehistoric times
  • Gold jewelry from the Kasta tomb
  • A clay bust of a female deity, found in a tomb from the Hellenistic period
  • The stele into which the Ephebic law was carved
  • A silver vessel and a golden branch of olive leaves
  • A golden wreath (grave offering from the 4th century BC)
  • A head of Aphrodite (Roman replica)
  • Capital from the Basilica C of Amphipolis
  • A gold coin of Justinian (Byzantine epoch 527 to 565 AD)
  • Gold coin (stater) of Alexander the Great

Due to precious metal mines on the peninsula of Halkidiki and the Pangaion Mountains, enough raw materials were available for coinage. In the first half of the 5th century BC Alexander I introduced coinage in the Macedonian Kingdom. By extending his kingdom to the east, Alexander I brought more mines, located in the vicinity of Philippi, under his control. [1] The yield from these mines alone was estimated at one TalentSilver (about 26 kg) per day. Depending on the sufficient availability of the raw material silver, the coins were either made of pure silver or of a silver alloy mixed with other metals. From the 5th century BC BC, two currencies existed in parallel. Heavier and more valuable coins for foreign trade and smaller, lower value, for payments within Macedonia. Towards the end of the 5th century, the smaller pieces of silver were gradually replaced by bronze coins. Phillip II continued to expand the Macedonian state, gaining control over more mines. In addition to the mint in Pella another was built in Amphipolis. From this time, gold coins were also made to the Attic standard (see Attic talent), which was introduced by Philip II. [2] [3]

The new discovery of a grave made of limestone allegedly containing a wooden coffin with an integral human skeleton inside the Kasta Hill tomb in Amphipolis, brings archaeologists closer to solving the mystery of the person buried in the monument.

According to the Ministry of Culture, the Kasta hill burial monument is the biggest ever built in Macedonia, made of the largest quantity of marble ever used. It is an extremely expensive public work, impossible to have been funded by a civilian.
It is certain that the person buried inside the tomb was considered a hero at the time. He or she was a prominent member of Macedonian society of the time. This is the only explanation considering the tremendous cost of the monument

The 2-metre-tall door weighs about 1.5 tonne and was found in good condition

Another amazing discovery has surfaced in Amphipolis Greece. The missing head of the Sphinx “guarding” the tomb’s entrance was finally discovered inside the third chamber.

The Greek ministry of culture released today a set of pictures of the newly-excavated Amphipolis tomb mosaic. The mosaic is now fully uncovered, exposing a figure of a woman whom archaeologists have identified as Persephone.

Amphipolis tomb 3d presentation

These two marble sphinxes stand watch at the main entrance to the tomb and were uncovered in August by archeologists. They would’ve been over 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall with their heads and wings, pieces of which were found nearby. A wide path and 13 steps lead to the entrance of the tomb, which is the largest ever discovered in Greece. The burial mound alone measures 1,500 feet (457 meters).

Large blocks of white marble are surrounding the tomb of Amphipolis.

ancient amphipolis – amphipolis port

Representation of the Tomb in graphics


Archaeologists have unearthed two sculpted female figures, known as Caryatids, as they slowly make their way into an ancient tomb recently discovered in Greece’s northeast, the country’s culture ministry said on Sunday. They mark a significant new finding in the tomb on the Amphipolis site, which archaeologists have hailed as a major discovery from the era of Alexander the Great.

The face of one of the Caryatids is missing, while both figures have one hand outstretched in a symbolic move to push away anyone who would try to violate the tomb. Archaeologists have said that the Amphipolis site appeared to be the largest ancient tomb to have been discovered in Greece. It’s thought to have been the resting place of a general or high-ranking official from the reign of Alexander, who died in 323 B.C.

Two caryatids were discovered in Amphipolis, as officially announced by the Ministry of Culture,after the removal of sandy soil in the area in front of the second septal wall. There, beneath the marble architrave and between marble pilasters, two exceptional caryatids made of Thassian marble were discovered.

The face of the Caryatid in the west was salvaged almost intact, while the eastern is missing. The caryatids have rich curls that cover their shoulders, while they wear a sleeved tuned. Traces of blue and red colour found were found upon the marbles. Among the soil, fragments of sculptures were found, such as a palm portion and smaller finger fragments. All this suggests that this is a standing monument of particular importance.


The Caryatids of Amphipolis at light -2.27 m . Height, colors and art

After removing three rows of limestone which had been used to seal the wall, archaeologists were able to fully uncover the two caryatids reaching a height of 2.27 meters. They statues are dressed in long chitons and long fringed dresses with folds.

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13 Alexander-Era Figures Who May Be Buried in the Amphipolis Tomb

While evidence shows that archaeologists are one step away from uncovering the “big secret” of Amphipolis, Greece, people are speculating on who is buried under Casta hill. Archaeologists and other world experts have supported different theories on who is the important ‘tenant’ of the Casta Hill. See the most popular ones below:
Mother of Alexander the Great, wife of Philip II, king of Macedon, and daughter of King Neoptolemus of Epirus. Cassander had her murdered by stoning in 316 BC. (Read full story)
Androsthenes, Laomedon and Nearchus
Alexander the Great’s three admirals are closely connected to Amphipolis. Androsthenes and Laomedon were born there while Nearchus was either born or exiled in Amphipolis.
Son of Antipater, did not follow Alexander’s army in Asia. He stayed with his father in Macedonia and used to fight with Polyperchon but eventually allied with him, when he killed Alexander’s son, Heracles. In 311 BC, he killed Alexander’s second son and successor, Alexander IV, along with his mother Roxana. He died of edema in 279 BC.
He served under Philip and Alexander. He returned to Greece from Asia in 324 BC -after the death of Alexander- and was appointed regent of Macedon by Antipater in place of the latter’s son, Cassander.
Philip II of Macedon
Some do not believe that the tomb of king Philip was located in Vergina. Meanwhile, others claim that ancient Greeks might have built a second monument in Amphipolis to commemorate the king.
Son of Alexander who was murdered with his mother, Barsine.
Alexander IV
The twelve-year-old son of Alexander and Roxana who was murdered along with his mother by Cassander. If his grave is located in Vergina, then it is possible that someone buried him and disposed of his mother’s corpse.
Alexander the Great
Alexander sailed from Amphipolis to Asia. However, it is almost certain that his tomb is located in Alexandria, since people such as Julius Caesar have visited his burial site. Some, however, insist that his bones were moved to Amphipolis by Olympias, while others argue that it is a cenotaph “waiting” to receive him, or a second monument in his honor.
Cenotaph or Memorial
This view is supported by the various influences on the monument’s construction as well as its size.
General of Alexander’s army. Professor Theodoros Mavrogiannis believes that the Casta hill tomb belongs to Hephaestion and claims that the tomb was built in 325 BC by order of Alexander himself.
The wife of Alexander became the mother of his son in 323 BC after Alexander had died. Roxana fled to Epirus in order to be saved by his descendants, and later went to Amphipolis, where she was murdered by Cassander in 310 BC.
Antigonus Monophthalmus
General of Alexander’s army, was proclaimed king in 306 BC and demanded that Cassander gives him Macedon. He died eighty-one years old and was buried with royal honors.
Philip Arrhidaeus
Son of king Philip. After Alexander’s death, he was proclaimed king by the Macedonian army as Philip III of Macedon. He was killed by soldiers who defected against Olympias. His bones were transported by Cassander to Aegae.

Lingering Mysteries of the Amphipolis Tomb

By Andrew Chugg
Intriguing enigmas continue to envelop the story of the Amphipolis tomb, Greece . What was the gender of the occupant? When was the tomb sealed? Who was the architect of the monument? This article unravels them all.

What was the gender of the occupant?
There is an excellent chance that this question will be answered conclusively some time in the coming months through the promised laboratory investigation of the skeleton. However, Katerina Peristeri, head of the excavation, confirmed at the Ministry of Culture presentations on 29th November that nobody currently has any idea of the skeleton’s gender, because the bones were too fragmented for the archaeologists to be able to check the features that determine gender and because the remains were collected with the surrounding soil still partially encasing them in order best to preserve the evidence for the laboratory investigation. Nevertheless, she repeated her previous opinion that the occupant is most likely a male and one of Alexander’s generals based on the fact that the Amphipolis lion that once stood atop the mound is male and its base was decorated with shields.
Figure 1. A block with part of a shield from the lion monument that once crowned the Kasta Mound
This idea is not new, but has been the standard theory of scholars ever since the fragments of the lion monument were rediscovered more than a century ago. Parts of the shields can clearly be seen on some of the blocks now stored near the reconstructed lion monument near Amphipolis (Figure 1).
But is it true that a monument with a male lion and shields necessarily commemorates a man? In the period of the Amphipolis tomb it happened that two royal women took a leading role in warfare. Firstly, Adea-Eurydike, who was a granddaughter of Alexander’s father, Philip, became the queen in 321BC by marrying Philip- Arrhidaeus, the mentally retarded half-brother of Alexander, whom the troops had elected to the monarchy in Babylon on Alexander’s death. In 317BC Adea tried to win precedence for her husband over the official joint-king, Alexander IV, Alexander the Great’s 6-year-old son. This prompted Alexander IV’s grandmother, Olympias, to lead her nephew Aeacides’ army across the mountains from Epirus into Macedonia to defend her grandson’s rights. Athenaeus 560f describes the situation: “The first war waged between two women was that waged between Olympias and Adea-Eurydike, during which Olympias dressed rather like a Bacchant, to the accompaniment of tambourines, whereas Adea-Eurydike was armed from head to toe in Macedonian fashion, having been trained in military activities by Kynna, the princess from Illyria [and a wife of Philip II].” Olympias was victorious and received the epithet Stratonike, which mean’s “the army’s victory goddess”. A monument with shields would be entirely appropriate for either of these queens.
Olympias also had a claim to the lion as a personal badge as Plutarch, Life of Alexander 2.2 records: “After their marriage, Philip dreamt that he was putting a seal upon Olympias’s womb, and the device of the seal, as he imagined, was the figure of a lion. The other seers were led to suspect that Philip needed to keep a closer watch upon his marriage relations but Aristander of Telmessus said that the woman was pregnant, since a seal was not put on that which was empty, and pregnant with a son whose nature would be bold and lion-like.”
Figure 3. Warrior weapons in the antechamber of the tomb of Philip II presumed to be the property of the queen buried within the same room.
Furthermore, one of Philip’s wives, perhaps Meda, was buried in the antechamber of his tomb at Aegae-Vergina. Historians now believe that the arms found in the antechamber belonged to this queen rather than to Philip. They included a golden gorytus (arrow quiver) and greaves (lower leg armour) – see Figure 3.
It should also be emphasised that all the symbolic decorations within the actual tomb chambers at Amphipolis are unambiguously female in character: the sphinxes, the caryatids/klodones and the figure of Persephone in the mosaic.
For all these reasons, it would not be surprising for a Macedonian queen and Olympias in particular to be commemorated by the lion monument decorated with warrior shields atop the mound at Amphipolis. It is therefore especially interesting that we learnt from Katerina Peristeri at the presentations on Saturday 29th November that she had partly been inspired to dig the Kasta Mound by stories from the local people that it was the tomb of a famous queen. Sometimes such legends harbour a germ of truth.
Figure 4. An empty sarcophagus kept next to the stones salvaged from the lion monument at Amphipolis
There is also another tantalising possibility: that one of Alexander’s generals actually was entombed within the lion monument itself in addition to the tomb beneath the mound. There is one obvious candidate. One of Alexander’s eight somatophylakes, the king’s most senior staff officers, a Macedonian named Aristonous, who was the commander of Olympias’s army in her war with Cassander and was also the muchloved lord of Amphipolis. But Cassander arranged his murder at about the same time that he had Olympias killed. One intriguing observation is that a sarcophagus is kept amongst the group of stones salvaged from the lion monument stored next to the current partially reconstructed lion (Figure 4). I have no confirmation at present
whether it is indeed itself from the monument, but it certainly merits future investigation.
When was the tomb sealed?
Understanding the history of the tomb at Amphipolis depends critically on determining when and by whom the intensive sealing operation was conducted.
Sealing walls of massive, unmortared blocks seemingly taken from the peribolos wall were erected in front of both the caryatids and in front of the sphinxes and all three of the chambers within were sedulously filled with sand dredged from the bed of the nearby River Strymon. It was confirmed in the presentations of 29th November that the holes in the masonry near the level of the arched ceiling were used to carry sand into the interior after the sealing walls had been erected and were not made by looters.
However, the most intriguing statement made on 29th November was by architect Michael Lefantzis, who is reported to have said that the sealing walls were made and the backfilling was done in the Roman era, whilst also confirming that the sealing walls were manufactured from material removed from another part of the monument.
Figure 5. Ancient paint on the capital of a pilaster in the façade beneath the sphinxes
The archaeologists also said that the tomb was open to visitors for some time and a Roman sealing might be taken to imply that visits to the tomb took place for at least several centuries. However, the archaeologists and the Ministry of Culture have previously published some evidence, mainly photographic, that could suggest that the tomb was only open for a relatively short period before being closed up:
1) Ancient paint survives on the façade, for example on the capitals of the pilasters either side of the portal beneath the sphinxes (Figure 5). Preferential weathering of exterior paint should be expected and centuries of weathering would normally completely remove paint, but the paint on the façade is in no
worse condition than the paint within the first chamber.
Figure 6. Blocks in the sealing wall erected in front of the portal of the sphinxes during their removal showing that the blocks were not mortared together
2) The masonry in the sealing walls was not mortared, but the stones were merely stacked on top of one another (Figure 6). This was normal in the Hellenistic period, but the Romans nearly always used mortar between the stones in their walls.
3) There are ancient steps in a couple of the released photos (e.g. Figure 7): although there is some chipping to the edges of these steps, they are nevertheless still sharp, crisp and flat in some central parts of their edges. Over centuries a smooth pattern of wear should be expected.
Figure 7. Flooring of marble fragments in red cement without apparent wear and an ancient step with parts of its edge still sharp and unworn.
4) Neither the paving in the first chamber (Figure 7) nor the mosaic in the second chamber (Figure 8) shows any sign of the differential wearing to the areas where visitors would predominantly have trodden (the damage to the centre of the mosaic must have been due to an event at the time of sealing or only just before, since it is reported that loose pieces were found still in place during the excavation.)
Figure 8. The section of the Persephone mosaic adjoining the entrance to the second chamber exhibits little sign of wear
There may be answers to some of these points: e.g. it has been suggested that the entrance might have had a roof over it (although that would have made the interior of chamber 2 very dark). However, collectively there is an implication from these points that the tomb chambers may not have been open to visitors for as long as centuries.
The other difficulty with a Roman era sealing is the question of motive. It will have been expensive and time-consuming to build the sealing walls and to dredge and transport thousands of tonnes of sand. Also, since there were no grave goods left, the only thing of possible value inside the tomb was the bones themselves. Yet these bones were left scattered about in and out of the grave slot. If the sealer was
concerned to protect the bones, why did he/she not tidy them up before sealing the tomb?
An easy way to remove doubt on the sealing date would be to announce Roman dating evidence found within the sealing wall erected in front of the sphinxes. In fact Katerina Peristeri said on November 29th that there were no potsherds or coins in the main chamber, but that the archaeologists found a lot in other areas: “In the main chamber we do not have any grave goods. They have been taken away or maybe they were somewhere else. The geo-survey that we are doing may give us more info about what there might be elsewhere, but in the other areas (χωροι) we have pottery and coins that are being cleaned and studied. We simply haven’t shown them to you. The dating is in the last quarter of the fourth century B.C in one phase and we have coins from the 2nd century B.C, which is the era of the last Macedonians to protect their
monument and from the Roman years from the 3rd century A.D.” Unfortunately, this remains ambiguous on the question of whether any of this evidence was found within the sealing wall erected in front of the sphinxes.
Consequently, the key question now is: what is the latest attributable date of anything datable found inside the sealing wall erected in front of the sphinxes? In general, the latest datable material is likely to be a good indication of when the tomb was finally sealed. If anything definitely Roman has been found inside that wall, then the final sealing was very probably Roman. In that case the parallel evidence that the tomb has
only been lightly visited may imply that the sealing history is fairly complex, perhaps involving an early sealing, a later opening and a final re-sealing.
Who was the architect of the monument?
The archaeological team at the Amphipolis tomb have previously speculated about the identity of its architect and in their presentations on Saturday 29th November they confirmed that the whole monument was the work of a single architect with the exception of the cist grave and its slot, which is now confirmed to pre-date the rest of the monument. I am confident that the archaeologists are right on these points.
Figure 9. The proposal of Deinocrates to Alexander to carve Mt Athos into his image
The most interesting name that the archaeologists have put forward in connection with the identity of the tomb’s designer is that of Alexander’s architect, Deinocrates (literally the “Master of Marvels”). He is widely referenced in the ancient sources and is also called Cheirocrates (“Hand Master”), Stasicrates, Deinochares and even Diocles. It has been suggested that Stasicrates was his real name and that Deinocrates was a nickname. He was the proposer of the project to sculpt Mount Athos into a giant statue of Alexander, although this was rejected by the king (see Figure 9). He is specified to have restored the temple of Artemis at Ephesus and Plutarch (Alexander 72.3) writes that Alexander “longed for Stasicrates” for the design and construction of Hephaistion’s pyre and monument. Most famously of all, Deinocrates was Alexander’s architect for Alexandria in Egypt. In my book, The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great, 2nd Edition, 2012, p.160, I made a link between the masonry of the most ancient fragments of the walls of Alexandria and the Lion Tomb at Amphipolis (i.e. the blocks from the structure that supported the lion, which was all
that was known at that time):
“The blocks of limestone in the oldest parts of this fragment [of the walls of ancient Alexandria, located in the modern Shallalat Gardens] are crammed with shell fossils and the largest stones are over a metre wide, although they vary in size and proportions. They have a distinctive band of drafting around their edges, but the remainder of the face of each was left rough-cut. The Tower of the Romans in Alexandria was faced with the same style of blocks, including the bands of drafting.
Such blocks are particularly to be found in the context of high status early-Hellenistic architecture. Pertinent examples elsewhere include the blocks lining the Lion Tomb at Knidos and the original base blocks of another Lion Tomb from Amphipolis in Macedonia. Both most probably date to around the end of the fourth century BC and are best associated with Alexander’s immediate Successors.”
Figure 10. Oldest remaining fragment of the walls of Alexandria (above) showing the same band of drafting around the edges of the blocks as the blocks in the peribolos wall of the Amphipolis mound (below).
The blocks from the oldest surviving part of the walls of Alexandria are also comparable with the blocks in the peribolos wall now uncovered at Amphipolis. Both have the distinctive band of drafting around the block edges with the stones being left rough-cut in their central reservations (Figure 10).
The archaeologists have put forward one slightly complicated argument in favour of Deinocrates having built the Amphipolis tomb based on a map of ancient Alexandria (Figure 11) drawn by Mahmoud Bey in 1866 following his extensive excavations across the site of the ancient city performed in 1865. Mahmoud reconstructed the street grid based on results at numerous dig sites. He inferred the size of a stade, the
standard Greek measure of large distances, to have been 165m in Alexandria by noting that the separations of the roads in the street grid were fixed numbers of stades.
Figure 11. The map of ancient Alexandria based on excavations in 1865 by Mahmoud Bey.
He also reconstructed the course of the ancient city walls on the basis of excavations on the eastern and southern sides, but in the west and to some extent on the northern side he had to guess their course in many places, due to modern developments having made the necessary excavation sites inaccessible. He came up with an overall perimeter for the walls of 96 Alexandrian stades or 15.84km (although Mahmoud himself actually wrote “around 15,800m” in his book.)
The Amphipolis archaeologists noticed that the Alexandrian wall circuit of Mahmoud Bey, which they supposed to have been planned by Deinocrates, is almost exactly one hundred times the diameter of the Kasta Mound as defined by its circular peribolos wall, which they have measured at 158.4m. They have suggested that this coincidence suggests that Deinocrates was the architect for the Amphipolis tomb as well as for Alexandria.
However, there are a few difficulties with this hypothesis:
1) There are three ancient writers that give the perimeter of Alexandria’s walls:
Curtius at 80 stades, Pliny at 15 miles and Stephanus Byzantinus at 110 stades. All of these are significantly different to the modern 15.84km value from Mahmoud Bey.
2) It is doubtful whether all of Mahmoud’s wall line, especially in the west, can be accurate, since he did not actually find any definite traces of the wall over large stretches of his reconstructed perimeter.
3) It is doubtful whether the outer wall mapped by Mahmoud Bey was part of Deinocrates’ original plan for Alexandria. It is essentially the wall line of the city at its zenith around the time of Augustus. It is unlikely that Alexander founded the town to be 5km wide, so that it would have needed half a million inhabitants to fill it. The only fragment surviving now of early Ptolemaic wall is in the line of a much smaller circuit, near the middle of Mahmoud’s city and encompassing its central crossroads. That is a better candidate for Deinocrates’ handiwork.
4) To compare a perimeter with a diameter is not comparing like with like. It is the unit of large-scale measurement, the stade, which should really be compared between Alexandria and the Kasta Mound of the Amphipolis tomb.
Usually in Greek cities the stade was defined as measuring 600 feet. So for, example, in Athens a stade was 185m. However, Alexander the Great employed men called bematists (literally “pacers”) to measure the distances between the towns and cities that he passed through on his campaigns. We still have some of the lists of towns and the distances between them as measured by Alexander’s bematists (known as the stathmoi or “stages”). Since many of the places in these lists have known locations today it is possible to calculate from modern maps how long the stade used by Alexander’s bematists must have been and the answer is 157m (see Fred Hoyle, Astronomy, Rathbone Books Limited, London 1962.) That would require a foot of
only 26cm, which would be extraordinarily small and well below the normal range.
But it would of course have been impractical for the bematists to measure distances of hundreds of km between cities by putting their feet down heel to toe repeatedly, so they must have used paces instead of feet to define their stade. In fact we know that a Roman mile was defined as 1000 paces and that is 1481m, so it is likely that Alexander’s bematists were using a stade of 100 paces (of two steps per pace).
Anyway, it is clear that the diameter of the Kasta Mound at Amphipolis is actually remarkably close to the stade used by Alexander’s bematists. And actually the Alexandrian stade of 165m is closer to the bematists’ stade than to the 600-foot stade of other cities. The conclusion could be that the architect of Alexandria and the architect of the Amphipolis tomb both paced out their plans in a fashion similar to Alexander’s bematists. So there is a slight link after all between Deinocrates, the known architect of Alexandria, and the architect of the Amphipolis tomb.
Furthermore, Deinocrates is associated with projects that were intended to impress through extraordinary size, so that is another good reason to consider Deinocrates to be a candidate in the case of the Kasta Mound. We can certainly say that an illustrious Greek architect designed the Kasta Mound and its Lion Tomb with a 100 pace diameter in order deliberately to impress through size and through a planned size of exactly one of Alexander’s bematists’ stades.
Figure 12. A man and a woman wearing red belts dancing either side of a bull in a painting from the burial chamber of the Amphipolis tomb
Deinocrates therefore remains a good candidate for the identity of the architect of the Amphipolis lion tomb. However, the evidence is largely circumstantial and it relies in particular on the correctness of the dating of the tomb to the last quarter of the 4th century BC. I see no reason to doubt this dating and the archaeologists invoked the style and execution of the mosaic in their presentations on 29th November to bolster the case for their late 4th century BC date. However, we will need to see a bit more dating evidence to be absolutely confident in assigning the tomb to a narrow quarter century time slot.
What event do the paintings depict?
The Greek Ministry of Culture published photos of the paintings recently found decorating the architraves in the third (burial) chamber of the Amphipolis tomb on 3rd December 2014. They depict a man and a woman wearing red belts or sashes around their waists dancing either side of a bull (Figure 12) and a winged woman between a tall urn and a cauldron or brazier on a tripod (Figure 13). The press release also mentions that the marble roof beams in the chamber were painted with rosettes.
Figure 13. A winged woman between a large urn and a brazier on a tall tripod in a painting from the burial chamber of the Amphipolis tomb
These scenes appear to be associated with some kind of cult activity and I will show that there are significant parallels with what we know of the activities at one particular cult site: the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace, where the Mysteries of Samothrace were conducted. This island sanctuary was long patronised by the royal family of nearby Macedon and in the era of the Amphipolis tomb, the last quarter of
the 4th century BC, that patronage is particularly linked to Queen Olympias. Notably Plutarch, Alexander 2.1 writes: “We are told that Philip, after being initiated into the mysteries at Samothrace at the same time as Olympias, he himself still being a youth and she an orphan child, fell in love with her and betrothed himself to her at once with the consent of her brother, Arymbas.”
Figure 14. Frieze with garlanded bulls’ heads and a rosette from the Arsinoe Rotunda in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace.
The first connection with the mysteries of Samothrace is the combination of bull sacrifice with rosettes. There is a sculpted relief from the early 3rd century BC Arsinoe Rotunda at the sanctuary on Samothrace, which depicts two garlanded bulls’ heads either side of a large 8-petal rosette (Figure 14). It has been assumed that it alludes to bull sacrifices during the mysteries. In fact it is known that a section of the
ceremonies involved animal sacrifices and it is certain that this included bull sacrifices in the Roman period. It is therefore quite striking that the newly discovered paintings depict a possible bull sacrifice in the context of a chamber also decorated with similar rosettes.
Figure 15. The Victory of Samothrace from the Sanctuary of the Great Gods
The second connection derives from the very strong association of the Sanctuary on Samothrace with Nike, the winged goddess of victory. Most famously, the wonderful “Victory of Samothrace”, now in the Louvre (Figure 15), was discovered in pieces around one of the ruined temple buildings in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods by Charles Champoiseau in March 1863. Additionally there is a votive stele dedicated to the Great Gods of the Samothrace Sanctuary found at Larissa in Thessaly by the Heuzey and Daumet expedition (Figure 16) and that too depicts the goddess Nike as a central part of its composition. A winged woman in Greek art of the early Hellenistic period is usually a depiction of Nike, so we can reasonably assume that the winged
woman in the newly discovered paintings is also the goddess of victory.
It is known as well that some of the ceremonies for the mysteries of Samothrace took place at night. A foundation was recovered at the Hieron within the Samothrace Sanctuary, which could have supported a giant torch, but maybe something like the tall brazier in the newly discovered paintings could have fulfilled the function of illuminating nocturnal ceremonies. More generally, the discovery of numerous lamps and torch supports throughout the Sanctuary of the Great Gods confirms the nocturnal nature of the initiation rites. Furthermore, it is suspected that initiates at Samothrace were promised a happy afterlife, as was also the case in the mysteries conducted at Eleusis near Athens. This would make scenes from the mysteries of Samothrace an excellent subject for decoration of an initiate’s tomb.
Figure 16. A stele found at Larissa dedicated to the Great Gods of Samothrace including a central depiction of the winged goddess Nike
Finally, and perhaps most strikingly of all, we know from ancient reports (e.g. Varro’s Divine Antiquities) that a particular feature of the mysteries at Samothrace was that initiates wore red sashes around their waists. It is therefore rather noteworthy to see just such red sashes around the waists of the man and woman dancing either side of the bull in the newly discovered paintings from the burial chamber at Amphipolis.
If these associations between the burial chamber paintings and the mysteries at Samothrace are true, then this provides another strong indication that the occupant of the Amphipolis tomb could be Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great.
*Andrew Chugg is the author of The Quest for the Tomb of Alexander the Great and several academic papers on Alexander’s tomb.


It is not yet known who is buried in the tomb. Initial public speculation that it could be the tomb of Alexander the Great, due to its size and the estimated cost of construction, was dismissed by experts when commenting on the published findings, as the available historical records mention Alexandria in Egypt as the final resting place of Alexander's body it has been suggested instead that the occupant could either be a wealthy Macedonian noble or a late member of the Macedonian royal family. [2]

In November 2014, the skeletal remains of five people were unearthed inside a corresponding tomb located in the lower levels of the third chamber. The bodies interred within are those of a woman aged older than 60, two men aged between 35–45, a newborn infant, and a fifth person consisting of only a few cremated bone fragments. [7] Further examination is underway with regard to dating the bodies, while a DNA cross examination is being conducted in order to compare them with those buried in neighboring tombs in the area.

During a press conference at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, lead archaeologist Katerina Peristeri and head architect Michalis Lefantzis revealed the existence of three inscriptions which apparently link the tomb to Hephaestion, a Macedonian nobleman, general, and dearest friend of Alexander the Great. The ancient Greek word ΠΑΡΕΛΑΒΟΝ (meaning 'received') is written in the inscriptions, and next to it the monogram of Hephaestion. [5] [6]

In the 1970s a building of 10 m (33 ft) width was found on top of the centre of the mound, and is thought to have been a grave marker. This, together with other evidence, supported the likelihood of a large funerary complex within. The tumulus was also found to have covered earlier cemeteries with at least 70 graves from the nearby "Hill 133" settlement predating Amphipolis. [3]

Archaeologists have made a number of important discoveries on the site since August 2014. Apart from the sheer size of the monument, which experts say bears the handprint of Dinocrates of Rhodes, the chief architect of Alexander the Great. [4] Some of the findings have moved to the Archaeological Museum of Amphipolis. [8]

Archaeologists have so far unearthed:

  • Two marblesphinxes approximately 2 m (7 ft) tall that guard the main entrance to the tomb [1] (one head and wing fragments later found in third chamber).
  • A fresco, paint still visible, that mimics an Ionianperistyle, on top of which the sphinxes sit. [9][10]
  • Two female statues of the Caryatid type in the antechamber, which support the entrance to the second compartment of the tomb. [11] The height of each Caryatid is 2.27 m (7.4 ft). [12] The Caryatids are on a pedestal 1.40 m (4.6 ft) tall, making the total height of the statues 3.67 m (12.0 ft). [13]
  • A marble door, typical of Macedonian tomb doors, broken into pieces in front of the doorway to the third chamber. [14]
  • A mosaic—3 m (9.8 ft) wide and 4.5 m (15 ft) long—in the second chamber, which seems to depict Persephone abducted by the god Pluto (Greek: Πλούτων , Ploutōn), ruler of the underworld, wearing a laurel wreath and driving a chariot drawn by horses led by the god Hermes, the conductor of souls to the afterlife. [15][16] The depiction of the abduction of Persephone in the mosaic floor implies links with the cluster of royal tombs in Vergina (Aigai), as a mural representing the same scene decorates one of the tombs where King Philip II, Alexander the Great's father, is buried. [17]
  • The head of the eastern sphinx in the third and last chamber. [18][19]
  • Fragments of the wings of the sphinxes in the third chamber. [20]
  • An eight square metre vault and a marble door in the third chamber. [21]
  • Seven architraves were found in the 2nd Chamber, and restoration is under development. [22]

The skeletal remains of five individuals were found:

  • a woman over 60 years of age
  • two adult men, an elder and younger, between 35 and 45 years of age
  • a newborn infant
  • fragments of a cremated adult

The younger man showed signs of unhealed, possibly fatal wounds. Analysis of the skeletal remains is ongoing. [23]

In response to the magnitude of the finds, the authorities of Central Macedonia have requested and were granted a heavy 24-hour police guard of the dig site, and have also begun procedures to have the Kasta Tomb included in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites as a "top priority". [24]

In November 2017, the Greek Minister of Culture, Lydia Koniordou, announced that the grave should be accessible to the public in about three years. The financing for the necessary construction project should amount to around €2.8 million. €1.5 million is to be spent by the Region of Central Macedonia, €1.3 million is to be taken from the INTERREG Fund of the European Union. In the course of this measure, building materials of the grave site, which were later used by the Romans elsewhere, will be rebuilt in their original location. The work should begin in 2018 or 2019 and last for around one year. [25]

The board game Amphipolis, designed by Reiner Knizia, was published in 2015 and it is based on the location and findings of the Kasta Tomb. [26] [27]

Apollonia, Greece

After preaching in Philippi, Paul and Silas "passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia" and finally arrived at "Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews" (Acts 17:1).

Appolonia was a Macedonian town located south of Lake Bolbe. Thessalonica was just over 35 miles to the east, and Amphipolis was about 30 miles to the west. The Via Egnatia passed through the town and connected these cities.

Neither Amphipolis nor Apollonia had a Jewish synagogue. In all likelihood, Paul spent the night at Appolonia on his journey to Thessalonica. While there is no record of Paul having preached in this city, a modern monument, written in both Greek and English, says, "Here Took Place St. Paul's Speech." The inscription also includes the text of Acts 17:1. The plaque is located on the side of a very small hill (on the left side of the photo above), less than a mile from the modern Via Egnatia.

Amphipolis - History

Athenian colony of strategic importance, near the fruitful Strymon vale and the Pangaion gold mines. Amphipolis was founded in 438/ 437 BC, though the region had been inhabited in the prehistoric period.

The numerous finds from the excavations are housed in the Archaeological Museum of Amphipolis and in the Archaeological Museum of Kavala.

Archaeological finds from the mouth of the Strymon estuary show the presence of man from as early as the Neolithic period on both banks of the river, and continuous habitation into the Bronze Age period. The nearest Neolithic settlement to Amphipolis was discovered on a hill adjacent to the ancient city known as Hill 133, where rich finds from its cemetery show that a considerable settlement also existed in the Early Iron Age.

With the foundation of the Greek cities at the mouth of the Strymon from the middle of the 7th c. BC, Greek culture started progressively to penetrate into the interior. The graves in the cemetery of the settlement on Hill 133 change their form, and the grave goods are now dominated by cultural elements of the Greek world: figurines, coins, and above all vases imported from the cities of southern Greece (Corinth, Athens) and the Ionian cities of the north Aegean. The presence of the Ionian world is also apparent in the sculptures of the late Archaic and early Classical periods found in the neighbourhood of Hill 133 and on the site of ancient Amphipolis. Local tradition survives in the metal working, especially the bronze and gold ornaments.

After they established themselves at Eion, at the mouth of the Strymon, in 476 BC, the Athenians made their first abortive attempt at colonising in the Amphipolis area with their short-lived settlement at the site of Ennea Hodoi, which was quickly wiped out (464BC). It remains an open question whether Ennea Hodoi is to be identified with the settlement on Hill 133, where the destruction level dates to the mid-5th century BC, or with Amphipolis itself, where in the vicinity of the north wall excavation has uncovered an establishment prior to the 5th century BC wall.

The foundation of Amphipolis finally in 438/ 437 BC, in the time of Pericles, by the general Hagnon was a great success for the Athenians, whose chief purpose was to ensure control of the rich Strymon hinterland and the Pangaion mines. Their success, however, was again short- lived, because at the end of the first decade of the Peloponnesian War (442 BC) Amphipolis broke away from its mother city, Athens, and remained independent until its incorporation into the kingdom of Macedonia by Philip II (357 BC).

Under the Macedonians Amphipolis remained a strong city within the Macedonian kingdom, with its own domestic autonomy and having considerable economic and cultural prosperity. Excavation has revealed a large part of the walls and some of the sanctuaries and public and private buildings of the city.

The bigger and better protected gate of the city (gate C) lies at the norhtern part of the walls. The brigde over the Strymon river was made of wooden beams.

After the Roman conquest of Macedonia (168 BC) Amphipolis was made the capital of Macedonia Prima, one of the four divisions into which Macedonia was divided. The Roman period was a time of prosperity within the bounds of Roman world dominion. As a station on the Via Egnatia and the capital of a rich hinterland, the city grew economically and culturally. It did indeed experience devastations and sackings, but with the support of the Roman emperors, particularly Augustus and Hadrian, it remained one of the most important urban centres in Macedonia until late antiquity. The city's prosperity is reflected in its monumental buildings with mosaic floors and mural paintings as well as the archaeological finds brought to light in the excavations.

Watch the video: The Guardian of Amphipolis - Full Documentary (July 2022).


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