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Ancient Macedonia

Aigai (Vergina)

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Plan of the gymnasium of Amphipolis
Plan of the complex of the Amphipolis gymnasium, 3rd century BC - 1st century AD.

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Plan of the gymnasium of Amphipolis

Amphipolis was founded in 437 BC by the Athenians. It was situated between the navigable Strymon River and Mount Pangaion -- rich in shipbuilding timber and precious metals -- not far from the sea, and at a crossroads of main land routes.

After its capture by Philip II in 357 BC, it became a Macedonian stronghold, and as the site of a royal mint it evolved into a powerful military and financial centre which contributed to the Hellenization of Thrace. In the Roman period, as capital of the First 'meris' (portion) it prospered thanks to its position on the Via Egnatia.

Its Hellenistic walls had an interesting system for the drainage of rainwater, while a wooden bridge connected one of its five gates to the opposite bank of the Strymon. Few of its Hellenistic and Roman sanctuaries survive today. Among the public buildings, the gymnasium (probably 3rd century BC-1st century AD) stands out, with its monumental staircase, courtyard surrounded by stoae, 'palaestra' (wrestling school), cisterns and water-supply system.

The city's social stratification (farmers, merchants, craftsmen, artisans) is apparent both in the private houses and the tombs in the cemeteries, which are situated beyond the city walls ('Macedonian tombs', cist and tile-roofed graves have been found). Outside the walls is also the well-known Lion of Amphipolis, perhaps a funerary monument to the admiral Nearchos. The finds of all periods attest a wealth of artistic and craft production.

See Also
Civilization - The Ionic presence
Sculpture in Antiquity
The royal mint
The mints of the autonomous cities (2nd c. BC)
The mints of the Roman period

Macedonian Heritage
Content courtesy Ekdotike Athenon S.A.