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Macedonian Tombs

Definition of the 'Macedonian Tombs'
Origins and Evolution in the form of 'Macedonian Tombs'
Decoration of 'Macedonian Tombs'
Burial customs and grave goods
Topograghy of 'Macedonian Tombs'

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The 'Tomb of the Prince'
The facade of the 'Tomb of the Prince' with the now lost frieze and the decorative shields, 310-300 BC, Vergina.

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Definition of the 'Macedonian Tombs'

The 'Tomb of the Prince'
310-300 BC

Plato in his "Laws" gives the earliest and possibly most exact description of what is called a 'Macedonian tomb'. He describes the tomb of the 'euthynai', that is of the divinely appointed masters of the leaders: "Their tomb will be constructed in the shape of an oblong subterranean chamber, of limestone blocks as durable as possible, with couches on which to place the dead set side by side. The tomb will be earthed in by a circular mound planted with a grove of trees on all sides except one, so that it may be extended with additional tombs."

Recent finds confirm this Platonic description. The 'Macedonian tombs', a particular category of underground chambered structures, are found chiefly in Macedonia. Their principal characteristic is a barrel-vaulted roof. They consist of a spacious burial chamber, square or rectangular in section. They often have an antechamber connecting with the main burial chamber by means of a door.

The entrance is in the facade, and is often framed by door posts and lintel. When there are leaves to the doors, they are wooden or of marble imitating wood. The facade is generally simple, although the larger tombs have architectural decoration. A circular mound nearly always covers 'Macedonian tombs', while a built 'dromos' , a passageway, leads to some of them.

The tombs were usually constructed of local limestone, and the walls were coated with stucco, which in some cases bore painted decoration. The first Macedonian tombs were built shortly after the mid-4th century BC, and the last date to the mid-2nd century AD.

Macedonian Heritage
Content courtesy Ekdotike Athenon S.A.