The most important monuments of the site of Aigai
Navigate to the different points on the map and learn more about the Aigai archaeological site.
The Aigai Acropolis
The wall surrounding the ancient city of Aigai was built in the time of Perdiccas II (454–413 BC) and of Archelaos (413–399 BC). In the beginning of the reign of Philip II (359-336 BC) the fortification was reconstructed, and a wall was built that encircled the slope, where the centre of the city was located, but also the two mounds in the south of the palace, where the acropolis was.
The palace of Aigai
Constructed during the reign of Philip II (359-336 π.Χ.), the palace of Aigai is not only the biggest but, together with the Parthenon, the most significant building of classical Greece.
The Aigai theatre
The theatre where Philip II was murdered was founded in the mid-4th century BC, on the large terrace where the Palace was built, and in organic unit with it. Moreover, the two buildings are the most ancient testimony of royal regime (basileia) that would prevail all over the ancient world during the Hellenistic and Roman times. The theatre has one earthen aisle (diazoma), while only the first row seats and the stage (skene) were made of stone. The orchestra, in the centre of which the stone foundation of the thymele, the altar of Dionysus, remains intact, has a diameter of 28.40m.
Directly beneath the monumental complex of the Aigai palace and theatre, the sanctuary of Eucleia (eu + cleos, good fame, posthumous fame) was founded in the 4th century BC.
The sanctuary complex comprises the foundations of two temples, one altar, one arcade (stoa) and one peripteral building. The archaeological excavations here unearthed royal dedications to the goddess, the most typical one being the dedication by the mother of Phillip II, Eurydice.
Metroon (Sanctuary of the Mother of the Gods) The most ancient phase of the Metroon of Aigai, dated to the second half of the 4th century BC.
The sanctuary was founded at the centre of the ancient city and had the form of a large building, in the model of the ancient houses, with spacious rooms arranged around a central court. The most common finds dating back to Hellenistic times, the main period during which the sanctuary was used, are the clay figurines depicting the enthroned Mother of Gods with the tympanum and the lions.
The Aigai wall was up to 3 m. thick and was reinforced with towers.
Stone-built up to a significant height, its upper part consisted of unbaked mud-bricks. A grand gate was constructed at the eastern part of the walls and a smaller one on the walls’ northwestern corner. Underneath this second gate the remains of another one were revealed that formed part of the older city-walls constructed by Perdiccas II.
The Cluster of the Queens
The cluster includes cist and pit tombs dating to the Greco-Persian Wars era, two of which probably belong to the mother and spouse of Alexandros I: the all golden “Lady of Aigai” and her female relative, in whose funeral at least twenty-six (26) small terracotta statues (xoana) with clay, demon-like and idolised heads were used, offering us an image of the local artistic production on the threshold of a new era, as well as of the religious beliefs accompanying and leading the distinguished Macedonian wife-mother-priestess to the Underworld. In the same cluster, Eurydice, mother of Philip II, was buried later.
The so-called «Ionian Tomb» or «Tomb of the Roman» is an elegant Macedonian tomb containing a throne, probably belonging to queen Thessalonice.
“Heuzey and Bella” clusters
Two adjacent clusters of tombs initially covered by two different tumuli, containing in total five monumental Macedonian tombs and three cist tombs.
In the space lying between them, stone circular enclosures (periboloi) mark the position of late Hellenistic burials. The burial clusters are found on the eastern edge of the “Cemetery of the Tumuli”, very close to the present-day village of Palatitsia. This burial complex most probably belonged to a prominent family of Aigai that chose to bury there its members from the late 4th century up to the 2nd century BC.
The Cemetery of the Tumuli
A complete view of an ancient Macedonian cemetery.
Between the modern-day villages Vergina and Palatitsia, over an area of almost 500 ha, 540 tombs form the heart of the archaeological site of Aigai and help visitors visualize, in a unique way, an authentic ancient Macedonian cemetery. The earliest tombs date back to the 11th century BC, although this part of the necropolis was mainly used in the Early Iron Age (10th – 7th century BC), a period that gave birth to the Homeric epics, and in the 4th and 3rd century BC. The structure of the area is marked by an ancient network of streets and paths that runs through low mounds (tumuli). These mounds often form small groups probably representing family or otherwise related burials. Certain tumuli were reused in the 4th century BC.
The cluster of the Temenids
The royal cluster of the Temenids, or cluster C, includes a Macedonian tomb as well as earlier tombs dating to the post-archaic and classical times, belonging to prominent members of the royal family, as the burial customs and offerings accompanying the dead reveal.
The royal burial cluster of Philip II
The eternal residence of King Philip II.
The funeral of Philip II in 336 BC was performed, as imposed by tradition, in Aigai. It was the most lavish funeral ceremony of the historic times held in Greece. In a monumental death chamber, laid on an elaborate gold and ivory deathbed wearing his precious golden oak wreath, the king was surrendered, like a new Hercules, to the funeral pyre. Alexander is now the king of Macedon. A “high priest” and a mystis (the initiated one), a hunter and a “symposiast”, an army leader and a legislator, Philip, the hero, descends to his eternal residence, which is reached by a ramp and has the form of an underground barrel-vaulted building with two chambers and a monumental façade. The concept of the “Macedonian tomb”, similar to the platonic concept of the leaders’ burial in an ideal state, interweaves a palace and a temple. The portraits of the two kings, father and son, are depicted in the hunting scene of the tomb’s façade, as well as on the gold and ivory deathbed in the chamber.
In the tomb’s antechamber, Philip’s Thracian wife, Meda, is buried with him.
Next to him, just a few years before, another distinctive member of his family, probably Nikissipoli, another wife of his, was buried in an, unfortunately plundered, cist grave. The only wall painting in the tomb pictures the Abduction of Persephone by the God of the Underworld, the silent Demeter and the three unprejudiced Fates with Hermes, the Guide of Souls, leading the way, and a scared nymph witnessing the horrifying event. This is a unique example of ancient painting, as well as one of the few surviving depictions of the ancient mystic views of afterlife.
25 years after Philip’s assassination, the son of Alexander and Roxane, Alexander IV, also assassinated by Cassander, finds his last residence next to his heroic grandfather.
Evidences of the destruction that suffered the necropolis of Aigai from the Gallic mercenaries of Epirotean Pyrrhus in the first decades of the 3rd century BC are the brutally looted heroon (over-ground building monumental sanctuary for a hero), once a building above ground, dedicated to the memory and worship of the glorious dead, the one-chamber Macedonian tomb of the free standing Doric column façade, as well as an abundance of broken funerary steles from the graves of common citizens bearing the names of Macedonians in the Classical times.
The imposing dark shell covering the royal burial cluster of Philip houses an exhibition of the artifacts touched by living kings and people that took part in the uppermost ritual of the royal heroic exit from the world of phenomena to eternity. At the same time, visitors have a unique chance to admire the whole spectrum of ancient Greek art in the late Classical times (architecture, painting, artistic metalwork, weaponry, jewelry) in its highest form.