Visit the Royal Macedonian Tombs in Vergina, Greece

Running away from the city during weekends has always been a necessity. Sometimes I am bored with the same places and the same people I usually love. Even if my hometown is the place I call my basis, it can be called that way only if you return to it after being away for a while. We have come to a decision with the crew that even if our free time is not enough, we’ll try to drive as far as possible.

Every first Sunday of each month the museums in Greece offer free entrance. That always creates good ideas for a museum lover like myself. And there we go! Sunday 2nd of February 2020!

I’ve been to Vergina in the 4th grade of elementary school for a trip with my teachers and the other students. A long while has passed so maybe I needed to refresh my memory. After all, the history of Macedonia, Philip the II, and Alexander the Great have always been fascinating. Moreover, so was the story of Manolis Andronikos.

When we arrived, I realized that the museum has changed a lot within the years and I found an improved version of it. A modern, a contemporaneous museum. And to my surprise, the Museum was full of visitors on a sunny Sunday morning. In addition, what made me really happy was that the museum does not stop evolving as well as the excavation surveys and maintenance keep going well with new findings!

Meet the Indiana Jones of Greece

Manolis Andronikos has been the real Indiana Jones of Greece and hero of every kid or adult lover of archaeology. He was my superhero too. As a kid after I

read his story, I wanted to be like him. I dreamt of a career in archaeology and great discoveries.

Mr. Andronikos was in charge of the excavations in Vergina, back in 1977 when the first undisturbed Macedonian tomb was discovered.

“Supported by strong archaeological evidence, I believe I have the right to say that the large Macedonian grave may have belonged to Phillip II.”

As a result, new chapters opened in the study of Greek history as well as Greek art. The journalists at that point named the discovery as “The finding of the century”.

In short, the city of Vergina was the ancient capital of Macedonia. In ancient times it was called Aigai. Therefore, since Andronikos’s initial discovery in 1977, the archaeological excavation and subsequent monument/museum at Vergina has become a world heritage UNESCO site.

By the way, did you know that Aigai in Greek means goats?

The end of the king

Philip II of Macedonia was the father of Alexander the Great and the ruler of the kingdom of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination by a disgruntled bodyguard, Pausanias, in 336 BC. He united Macedonia with the intent to invade Asia, but never achieved his goal because he was assassinated in 336 BCE in a public theater. However, his successor, Alexander III (Alexander the Great), made his dream come true!

The assassination of Philip II occurred at the marriage celebration between Philip’s daughter, Cleopatra (by his wife Olympias), and Cleopatra’s uncle, Alexander of Epirus. On the day after the marriage, athletic games were scheduled but were preceded by a sunrise procession. Statues of twelve Olympian Gods followed by a statue of Philip were carried in from a side entrance of the theater. This point is significant because Andronikos excavated not only a theater at Vergina but also a heroon, a shrine dedicated to the worship of the dead whether one or more persons. Andronikos concluded that the heroon was likely for King Philip.

Buried in the tomb I

Andronikos said that at the time

“I did not see such a beautiful dream myself but it seemed that I was waiting to see it in daylight.”

The king is buried in the first tomb. All findings are exquisite while Philip’s armor stays almost untouched, as well as his ivory-gold shield. Above all, one of the most beautiful findings is the golden oak wreath of Philip II. It consists of 313 leaves and 68 acorns, weighing 717 grams.

 

Meda of Odessos, daughter of the king Cothelas, of Thrace, was the wife of Philip and committed suicide to prove her faith to the king. She wanted to be buried with him according to her tribe’s customs. Philip’s Thracian wife is indeed accompanying her husband in the tomb’s antechamber. The most beautiful jewelry of ancient times according to Andronikos belongs to Meda. It was her golden diadem.

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The Prince’s tomb

After that, in the last section of the museum, we meet the Prince’s tomb. Alexander IV was the son of Alexander the Great and Alexander’s wife Roxana (a Sogdian). He was the lawful heir of the Macedonian kingdom created by his father. The grandson of Philip II of Macedon was buried also here 25 years after his grandfather’s death. The young boy was only 13 years old. Murdered along with his mother by the general Cassander who wanted to be the only successor of the throne and the Macedonian empire.

Why visit Vergina?

The museum includes the tombs in order to keep them safe from weather conditions. In addition, inside the museum is also the heroon and the exquisite frescoes of the “Abduction of Persephone” and the “Royal Hunt”.

Outside the museum, the whole palace and an entire city wait for you to discover them! I think it is just about the right time.

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