"Vergina - Aigai" Veryina Travelogue by StefanosS

Veryina Travel Guide: 2 reviews and 58 photos

The capital of the ancient Macedonian kingdom

A map of Macedonia with the most important cities of the ancient Macedonian Kingdom: Aigai (Vergina), Pella, Dion, Pydna, Olynthos, Amfipolis, Philippi, Avdira. Latest findings add one more importand ancient city: Aiani (near Kozani).


General description.

12 km to the SE of the city of Veria, by the village of Vergina, once has been the capital of the Macedonian kingdom, named Aigai. Ruins of the ancient city, the palace and the theatre were found, as well as the royal tombs. Vergina became famous worldwide since 1977, after the glowing foundlings of professor Manuel Andronicos, the most important of them being

the tomb of king Philippos II,
father of Alexander the Great.

The ancient city, lying on the north slopes of the Pierian Mountains, is securely identified as Aigai, the capital of the kingdom of Macedonia. Archaeological evidence proofs that the site was continuously inhabited from the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC) while in the Early Iron Age (11th-8th centuries BC) it became an important centre, rich and densely inhabited. The city reached its highest point of prosperity in the Archaic (7th-6th centuries BC) and Classical periods (5th-4th centuries), when it was the most important urban centre of the area, the seat of the Macedonian kings and the place where many traditional sanctuaries were established. Moreover, it was already famous in antiquity for the wealth of the royal tombs, which were sited in its extensive necropolis.

The first excavations on the site were carried out in the 19th century by a French archaeological mission, while Macedonia was still under Turkish occupation. After the Second World War, in the 1950's and 1960's, the excavations were directed by M. Andronicos, who investigated the cemetery of the tumuli. At the same time, the University of Thessaloniki excavated the Palace and the State Archaeological Service excavated part of the necropolis. In 1977, M. Andronicos brought to light
the Royal Tombs in the Great Tumulus of Vergina
(Megali Toumba).


The Palace and the Theatre revealed were parts of the same complex, dated to the 4th century BC.

The Palace was built at a secure place with a fine view, and its dimensions were 104.5x88.5m. It was organised around a large, central peristyle court and comprises a circular shrine (Tholos) dedicated to Herakles Patroos, and luxurious banquet halls for the king and his officers. One of these rooms has a fine mosaic floor.


In a distance of only 60m to the north of the Palace, the Theatre was revealed. It was closely related to the palace, as clearly can be seen from the positions of the two buildings. Possibly there was a covered hallway joining the two buildings. From the terrace of the palace one would have a good view of the theatre stage.


Even northern, in a small distance, the archaeologists found a sanctuary, 8x5m, from which only the grounding was saved. It is the temple of Eukleia which includes two temples of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, a monumental peristyle and a series of offerings; two bases of votive statues dedicated by queen Eurydice (Evridiki), grandmother of Alexander The Great, are among them.

The Acropolis is located on a steep hill to the south of the settlement. The Fortification Wall extends to the east of the city. Excavations on the acropolis have revealed parts of the circuit wall and Hellenistic houses in the enclosed area. The fortification of Aigai dates to the early Hellenistic period (end of 4th or beginning of 3rd century BC).


The Cemetery of the Tumuli is spread out in the area between the villages of Vergina and Palatitsia. It is an imposing necropolis of the Iron Age (11th-8th centuries BC), which includes more than 300 small earthen tumuli, constructed over clusters of burials and containing rich offerings. Constructing tumuli was a good way to secure the tombs against grave robbers, as there were valuable objects by the deceased bodies.


To the west end of the cemetery of the tumuli, there was a huge tumulus, the Great Tumulus (Megali Toumba) with a diameter of 110m and a height of 12m, i.e. a size unusual for ancient Greek tombs. In the earth of the Great Tumulus excavations brought to light hundreds of broken burial stelae and broken pots. This was a sign that some important person was buried beneath. Finally, at the base of the Great Tumulus, three Macedonian tombs and one memorial monument were found. One of them was the tomb of king Philip II and another probably belonged to king Alexander IV. These two graves were found unplundered and are lavishly decorated with splendid wall paintings made by great and famous artists. The third one, a "family tomb", smaller than the others, was plundered, even from the ancient times, and some bones of three persons were found in there: a man, a young woman and a new-born child. But there were still excellent mural paintings in it.


Tomb of Philippos II.

The temple-like entrance of Philippos' tomb.

An artistic representation of the entrance of Philippos' tomb.

The statue of Philippos II, found in his tomb. Philippos' tomb contained many sculptures including heads of Philippos and Alexandros the Great, Muses, Dionyssos and Silenos.


The statue of his son, Alexandros III the Great, found also in Philippos' tomb.

This is the golden reliquary which contained the bones of Philippos II. In the main chamber of the tomb there exist a marble urn and inside it there was this golden reliquary together with a golden chaplet. The golden reliquary is made of 7,820gr of hammered pure gold. Its lid is decorated with a 16-rayed star symbol and two rosettes, the inner of which is filled with blue enamel. On the sides relief palmettes and lotus buds frame five enameled rosettes. The feet are decorated with rosettes and end in lion-paws.


The ornate golden chaplet of Philippos II. It is a high art imitation of oak sprig with leaves and acorns. This golden oak crown is the heaviest and most impressive wreath surviving from Greek antiquity. It has 313 leaves and 68 acorns and weighs 714gr.


Philippos' shield, with a surfice of gold and ivory. This is the only gold and ivory ceremonial shield to have survived from antiquity. At the ivory emblem is depicted a young woman who kneels in front of a naked young man wearing a tunic blowing.


A detail of Philippos' shield.

A circular silver gold-plated diadem. It was found by the helmet of Philippos.

Philippos' iron helmet.

Philippos' iron thorax with golden lions.

Corrosion destroyed the king's iron sword. Only some parts of the handle which were made of ivory were saved. Decoration of the handle was remarkable.


A good number of valuable symposium vessels were found near the bed of the deceased king: 20 silver, 6 earthen and 2 copper.


A silver amphora.

A silver wine-jug.

An earthen wine-jug.

The anteroom and the Royal Spouse

In the anteroom of Philippos' royal tomb, in a smaller urn, the burned bones of a woman of 23-25 years old were found; they were wraped in two pieces of brocade, equally ornated and having the same shape. A woman's golden crown was put by the valuable brocade with the bones. Another importand finding is a feminine golden chaplet of blooming myrtle, like the one of Philippos.

Some additional weapons and parts of the king's armour were also in the anteroom; among them a pair of gold-plated greaves, unequal regarding the length and the shape. This was a great confirmation of the identity of the dead: King Philippos II was really crippled, being wounded in a fight!


One of the two brocades found in the Royal Spouse's urn. Altough the first Philippos' wife was Olympiada, the mother of Alexandros the Great, Philippos had been married 7 times! Philippos was murdered in the theatre of Aigai, during the marriage of his daughter Kleopatra with the king of Epirus. It is supposed that his young spouse buried with him, was Kleopatra (she had the same name with Philippos' daughter), who was assassinated a little after Philippos' death.


The second of the two brocades.

Tomb of Alexandros IV, "the prince"

The entrance of the tomb, which probably belonged to Alexandros IV, the son of Alexandros the Great and Roxani. The boy was declared king of Macedonia by the Macedonian army in 323 BC, after the death of his father, but he was constantly in tutelage. He was murdered by Kassandros in 311 or 310 BC, together with his mother Roxani.


The moment of discovery, when the archaeologists got into the "prince's" tomb.

The bones in the reliquary are of a boy of 13-16 years old. The first name archaeologists gave to this tomb was "prince's tomb".


  • Page Updated Nov 13, 2004
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