The final resting place of Philip of Macedon

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Only a Poor Old Man, Sep 13, 2021.

  1. Only a Poor Old Man

    Only a Poor Old Man Well-Known Member

    Finally after a couple of years of no travelling due to the pandemic, me and the family boarded a plane to a much sunnier destination. The added bureaucracy involved was ridiculous, but it was well worth it. I managed to get away from it all for a few weeks, and I also managed to do some sightseeing as well. A place of significant historical importance that I visited may be of interest to many here, so let me present a quick summary and some pics.


    At first glance this looks like a bunker of some sort, but in reality it is one of the most important and innovative museums in Europe. It is in Vergina, northern Greece, about 150 Km from Thessaloniki and it houses the actual Royal Macedonian tombs of Philip of Macedon and Alexander IV and the artefacts found in them. In a manner similar to Sutton Hoo in England, the area was always known for its great man-made tumulus that many archaeologists for many years suspected contained ancient tombs. In the late seventies a Greek archaeologist called Manolis Andronikos excavated the mount and discovered a cluster of Royal tombs. To everyone's surprise two of them had escaped from the greedy hands of looters and were still sealed with all their treasures intact. Eventually in order to protect the tombs and their frescoes they were carefully re-buried in an artificial shell to re-create the look of the original tumulus and the museum was formed around them by exhibiting underground the artefacts next to the tombs they were found in. It is a very impressive architectural achievement. Photography was allowed as long as no flash was used, so here is just a tiny sample of this very impressive spectacle.


    This is a part of the wall-painting decoration of one of the tombs that was unfortunately looted. It contained the remains of a 25 year old woman and an infant, probably one of Phillip's wives that died in during labour. It depicts the abduction of Persephone and it could be the work of the famous painter Nicomachos.


    The tomb of Philip. The painting on the frieze is of a royal hunt and it depicts both Philip and Alexander the Great. It is the only painting of the great man that we are sure was painted within Alexander's lifetime and was actually seen by his own eyes as we know he took an active part in the burial of his father.


    The artefacts that were discovered in the sealed tombs are very impressive, and very luxurious even by modern standards. I have never seen so much gold in one place. They are comparable to the finds of King Tut's tomb and one could say that the historical significance is even greater. The items in this photo are actually not even Philip's but one of his wives' that was buried with him. That golden arrow holder (gorytos) is an impressive sight. It is in the Scythian style, and this along with the uneven greaves indicate that the wife in question was the Scythian princess Meda, daughter of the King Kothelas. She was known to have a leg injury in her early youth that caused her legs to grow unevenly. She probably committed suicide after Philips's death in the Scythian tradition, which likely explains why she had such a lavish burial in her husband's tomb. Her bones was in golden larnax similar to the one of Philip's.


    The tombs were also full of bronze and silver utensils of great artistic merit. The item in the pic is a massive bronze lantern. Both sealed tombs contained full silver banqueting sets of impressive quality.


    Philip's breastplate and helmet. The helmet is probably the work of Theophilos, the same artist that made Alexander's helmet only a few years later.


    Philip's shield is indeed an impressive sight. The wood and leather has not survived, but the gold and ivory decoration was carefully reassembled back together.


    This is probably the most jaw-dropping find. The golden larnax that contained Philip's bones. Almost 9 kilos of pure 24-karat gold. The golden diadem that was placed on top of the bones was on Philip's head when he was cremated, as it is damaged by fire and parts of it was found in the remains of the funeral pyre that were also placed within the tomb.


    And here is Alexander IV's tomb. The bones found inside were of an 13-14 year old boy and the lack of funeral pyre artefacts indicated that he was cremated elsewhere and this was just a re-burial. These two clues made archaeologists speculate that it is probably the tomb of Alexander the Great's son that was murdered by Cassander. In the case of Philip, the evidence are even more solid. In 2015 a forensic research on the King's cremated bones confirmed that it was indeed Philip's as the arrow injury to the eye socket that was known to have blinded Philip was discovered.


    If you find yourselves in Greece, it is well worth a visit even though it is a bit off the beaten track (nearest beach is many miles away).
    moneditis, eparch, Scipio and 46 others like this.
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  3. Ron Johnson

    Ron Johnson New Member

    Thanks for the wonderful write-up. I have never visited Greece, but maybe someday...
    Only a Poor Old Man and ominus1 like this.
  4. Ignoramus Maximus

    Ignoramus Maximus Nomen non est omen.

    Wow! Some amazing artefacts! I've read about the find and have seen some of the uncovered busts, but I've never seen pics of the museum. Looks as if it's well worth a visit.
    Thanks for posting.
  5. kirispupis

    kirispupis Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the write-up and the photos. Recently, when my wife was mentioning a trip to Greece, I suggested to head up to Vergina to see this.

    She just shook her head and remarked that she was thinking more of Santorini and other islands...
  6. J.T. Parker

    J.T. Parker Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Poor Man for a beautiful article!

    I visited Greece in 1972 and really loved both the country, it's history and the people.
    I didn't want to rush the visit so we took time (2 weeks) to visit Delphi, Olympia & Cornith while based in Athens...Unfortunately not Vergina.
    I did run the 'stad' at Olympia, also drank from the Castilian Spring & tasted juice from sweet mulberries at Delphi.
    3 trips to the Acropolis, one by moonlight.
    Spectacularly magic at Delphi & not an understatement,
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
  7. ominus1

    ominus1 LOOK OUT!!...HE'S GOT A GUN!! Supporter

    ...that's great OAPOM...glad ya got ta go... IMG_0471.JPG :) i could only upload one pic, but that's 99% better than it was the last couple of weeks...:)
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
  8. Numisnewbiest

    Numisnewbiest Well-Known Member

    Add another stop to the bucket list that I'll never finish - thanks for sharing the photos and description of your trip to an incredible site.
  9. scottishmoney

    scottishmoney Слава захисникам свободи

    In the early 1980s the relics from that excavation were sent to the USA on exposition and I got to see them. What I remember most was the gold diadem.
  10. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Hearty congratulations, @Only a Poor Old Man, on a fantastic vacation, and a fantastic write-up.
    Only a Poor Old Man likes this.
  11. Ryro

    Ryro Trying to remove supporter status Supporter

    Welp, I'm envious beyond words. I've seen some picks of the site but am simply blown away:woot:
    Though, at least I know @Alegandron is twice a jealous:p
    What an amazing adventure!
    2017359_1624822945.l-removebg-preview.png IMG_0437.PNG Screenshot_20210403-160500_PicCollage-removebg-preview.png IMG_0436.PNG
  12. ominus1

    ominus1 LOOK OUT!!...HE'S GOT A GUN!! Supporter i remember seeing a helmet that was supposed to be Phillip ll's from the tomb...i remember that distinctly cause it had an open face Edit: i now cannot find anything related to what i thought was his helmet, other than the one shown in the pics on this page...9_9
    ///ahahaa!~///no he ain't....^^(altho i'm purdy sure he wouldn't mind livin' there:))
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2021
  13. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Wow, @Only a Poor Old Man ! Nice trip and writeup!

    that is definitely on my target travels.

    I dug this up on-site in Vergina…

    (oh, wait… only in my dreams!)

    Kingdom of Macedon,
    Philip II
    AR Tetradrachm.
    Pella, lifetime issue, struck circa 353-349 BCE.
    Laureate head of Zeus right /
    ΦΙΛΙΠΠΟΥ, Philip on horseback left, wearing kausia and raising right hand; spearhead below, star below horse's raised foreleg.
    Le Rider 102 (D58/R82)
  14. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Ok, so @ominus1 and @Ryro has volunteered to put together a trip to Vergina with me ( they are paying).

  15. ominus1

    ominus1 LOOK OUT!!...HE'S GOT A GUN!! Supporter

    ...heck....i got ya movin' over there already start packin':smuggrin:
    Alegandron, Ryro and +VGO.DVCKS like this.
  16. Alegandron

    Alegandron "ΤΩΙ ΚΡΑΤΙΣΤΩΙ..." ΜΕΓΑΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΡΟΣ, June 323 BCE Supporter

    Yeah, Philip II is not de "Man"; He de "GOD"!
    +VGO.DVCKS and ominus1 like this.
  17. ominus1

    ominus1 LOOK OUT!!...HE'S GOT A GUN!! Supporter

    ....i think highly of'em meself :)
    Alegandron likes this.
  18. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Someplace on the internet there has got to be the image of Phillip made some years back of a skull from this tomb purportedly showing the damage done by a wound that cost him an eye. A forensic anthropologist, using methods now commonly used by police forces to help ID skeletal remains, recreated the image which is interesting to compare with his coins.
  19. +VGO.DVCKS

    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    Yes! That might have been in National Geographic, for one, maybe back to the '90's or even '80's. --Surely elsewhere, too, along more academic lines.
  20. Numisnewbiest

    Numisnewbiest Well-Known Member

    This article is from ResearchGate...


    ...and includes this picture of the Philip II facial reconstruction:


    EDIT: This is an interesting article describing the debilitating leg wound of Philip II, and also how it was determined who was in the tombs at Vergina:
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2021
  21. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry I don't have the skills to post images from other sites to here but if anyone wants to see the colorized, reconstructed images one can find them by Goggling, "Philip II of Macedon Skull" and using the "images" option. I used to use a couple of these when teaching some time back.
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