In ancient Amphipolis,near Serres (northern Greece, 370 miles (600km) north of Athens), archaeolgists unearthed an impressive burial mound the colossal size of which (497 meters long and three meters high-the biggest tomb found in Greece, it’s ten times larger than that of Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon.) suggests that the tomb was built for someone extremely important and could belong to the wife and son of Alexander the Great, Roxane and Alexander IV.
According to reports, excavations at the site began in the 1960′s by archaeologist Dimitris Lazaridis. In 1972 and 1985, the Greek Archaeological Society uncovered a necropolis, the rampart of the old town, the basilicas, and the acropolis. When the site was first excavated, experts enthused that the mount had yielded a remarkable marble-faced wall from the late 4th century B.C. that could contain the remains of a king or at least a very important royal Macedonian figure. This pyramid-shaped mound is ten times larger than that of Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon found in Vergina! In June, after the funding of € 100,000 from the Ministry of Culture, the excavations that were stopped due to winter season continued and Katerina Peristeri, the head of Ephorate of Antiquities, completed the excavation of the majestic marble-faced wall.
As Katerina Peristeri noted, “after the death of Alexander the Great till the end of the 4th century, major historical events took place in the area of Amphipolis.
Major generals and admirals of Alexandrer are related to the area. In this area the 12-year-old Alexander the IV and his mother, Alexander’s The Great legitimate wife Roxane, were ostracized and killed by Cassander at 311 B.C.”. Tradition has it that the two victims were buried in Amphipolis but no evidence so far has proved this. Roxana, born about 343 BC (the precise date remains uncertain), was a Bactrian princess . She was the daughter of a Bactrian baron named Oxyartes of Balkh in Bactria (then eastern Persia, now northern Afghanistan and Uzbekistan) and married Alexander at the age of 16 after he visited the fortress of Sogdian Rock. Her son Alexander IV never met his father as he was born after Alexander’s sudden death at Babylon in 323 BC. After Alexander’s death, Roxana murdered Alexander’s other widow, Stateira II, as well as either Stateira’s sister Drypteis or Parysatis II (Alexander’s third wife). Roxana and her son were protected by Alexander’s mother, Olympias, in Macedonia, but her assassination in 316 BC allowed Cassander to seek kingship. Since Alexander IV was the legitimate heir to the Alexandrian empire, Cassander ordered him and Roxana to be killed. Alexander the Great died in 323 BC in Babylon, modern-day Iraq, and was probably buried in Egypt. His empire stretched from modern Greece to India. Alexander’s mother, brother and sister-in-law were also murdered in separate attacks in the Amphipoli.
The mound dates back to 325-300 BC and has the signature of Dinocratis of Rhodes, Alexander’s technical adviser and favourite architect.
Built with Thassian marble brought to the area with special ships, while the marble domes from Aliki of Thassos were placed with special cranes, made of wood, iron and lead, whose traces were found during the excavation. According to archaeologists, part of the perimeter wall was removed since Roman times which resulted to many architectural parts to be missing. A more extensive search for the missing in Amphipolis area has led Katerina Peristeri and the architect Michalis Lefantzis to the Lion of Amphipolis, where the missing parts of the perimeter were found, either scattered or walled in the base of the Lion. It is due to this fact, that archaeologists believe that the remarkable structure is probably linked to the Amphipolis Lion which, as some of them believe, was placed at the highest point of the mound. Both perimeter and Lion date back to the end of the fourth century BC. “After the discovery of the funerary enclosure of the “Kasta” mound in ancient Amphipolis, according to the results of our research, the burial monument of the Lion is closely related to the grave marker of the burial mound, which is in fact its foundation and is placed in the central and highest point of the mound, also following the geometry of the enclosure” said Katerina Peristeri.
Archaeologists have found two headless, wingless sphinxes — mythical creatures that blend human, bird and lion characteristics, thought to have guarded its entrance, a 4.5-metre-(yard)-wide road leading into it, with walls on both sides covered by frescoes.
The missing head of the one of the two sphinxes was found months later on the third chamber. The 60cm head is largely intact and has slight damage on the nose. Archaeologists also found fragments of that sphinx’s wings at the same chamber.
How and why the head was moved to the third chamber still remains a mystery.
The Lion of Amphipolis is 5.20 meters high
The Lion of Amphipolis
According to the study curried out by the architect Michael Lefantzis, the Lion of Amphipolis (sacred symbol of Macedonians) that had been excavated in 1934 by French archaeologists most likely stood at the top of the funeral mound. Legend says its sculptor (whose identity is unknown), after finishing his work, which was also the peak of his career, realized that the Lion missed its tongue. In desperation, the sculptor threw the Lion into the Strymonas river, so that no one would see it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX0U1ZGsZxA Since the day I have published the post, there have been more announcements. Now the archaeologists claim it’s probably the tomb of an important General or of Alexander’s admiral, Nearchos, who was a citizen of Amphipolis. Some others claim it’s the tomb of Olympias, Alexander’s mother. I have also read that the tomb of the son of Alexander the Great, Alexander IV, had already been discovered in 1977 in Vergina together with the tomb of Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. There are fears that the tomb may have been looted. This is evidenced by the headless sphinxes with broken wings. Moreover, six metres from the doorway the upper register of a dividing wall was discovered, with a 40x50cm missing part on the left. It’s a small hole but big enough for the looters to enter.
In front of the second septal wall inside the Amphipolis archaeological site are standing two caryatids, proving that this is an outstanding monument of particular importance . The right hand of one and the left of the other were “blocking” entrance to those who would enter the tomb.
The caryatids are made of Thassian marble, have rich curls that cover their shoulders, while they wear a chiton. The face of the Caryatid in the west survives almost intact, while the face of the eastern Caryatid was found in the ground during excavations and will be attributed to the statue. The full height of each caryatid is 2.27 metres.
An axonometric projection of the interior of the tomb designed by the architect Michalis Lefantzis.
The dimension of the mosaic floor is 4,5m width and 3,0m high
The Abduction of Persephone.
The Abduction of Persephone by Pluto In the second chamber of the tomb archaeologists discovered a stunning 4.5 metres wide mosaic floor. The colorful floor, laid with white, black, grey, blue, red and yellow pebbles depicts the abduction of Persephone by Pluto. The bearded man with a laurel wreath upon his head driving a chariot is Pluto. Running ahead of the Chariot, is Hermes, the Greek god of travel and guide to the underworld.
The limestone grave.
1.60 meters beneath the third chamber floor, archaeologists discovered a limestone grave containing a wooden coffin with an integral human skeleton inside. The almost intact skeleton will be transferred to a laboratory for a DNA test to determine the sex and age of the dead.
There are some interesting parallels between this pair of tombs in Vergina and the new finds at Amphipolis.
Firstly, elements of the painted decoration of the architectural elements at Amphipolis are a near exact match to such decoration in the tomb of Alexander IV at Aegae. Painted decoration in the tomb at Amphipolis (left) and the tomb of Alexander IV (right).
Secondly, a spaced line of 8-petal rosettes newly discovered in the Amphipolis tomb provide a close match for the similar lines of rosettes that decorate the edge bands of the gold larnax from Philip II’s tomb at Aegae
The line of 8-petal rosettes found at Amphipolis match the rosettes on the larnax of Alexander’s father.
Thirdly, the lion monument that once stood atop the great mound at Amphipolis was reconstructed on the basis of its fragments by Jacques Roger and his colleagues in an article published in 1939 (Le Monument au Lion d’Amphipolis, BCH 63, pp. 4-42). There are close parallels between the façade of this monument and the facades of the tombs of Philip II and Alexander IV .
Note also that the simulated roof edge at the top of the façade of the tomb of Alexander IV matches the simulated roof edge above the rosettes in the Amphipolis tomb .
Finally, it is interesting to note that the freshly revealed floor of white marble fragments fixed in a matrix of red cement in the vestibule of the tomb at Amphipolis has an exact match in a patch of flooring revealed in the late 4th century BC royal palace at Aegae. Floor section of marble fragments in a red cement matrix in the royal palace at Aegae (left) compared with the similar floor in the vestibule of the Amphipolis tomb (right). The mosaic floor at Amphipolis (left), like the mural from the Royal Tombs at Aigai (right), portrays the Abduction of Persephone by Pluto to the Underworld. Interestingly, the 300 people leaving in Mesolakia (the closest village to the site) have always had the knowledge of an important king being burried in the region. Maybe they are right. I secretly hope Alexander the Great himself lies in the tomb, I also hope Cassander is not there. I know that there will be more announcements (hope soon), but we’ll have to wait. At the moment you can have a virtual tour here via: stormfront, kostasvakouftsis, yppo, greekreporter.