The Modernly Relevant Tumulus

We went to the Royal Tumulus in Vergina (formerly Aigai) today; the discovery there of the tombs of Philip II, Philip III Arrhideus, and Alexander IV along with their respective child, wives and mother was a catalyst for the integration of Macedonia into Greece in the 1970s. You have to remember that, in the ancient times—which is what Greece seems to be trying to return to—the Macedonians were considered barbarians, uncouth peoples who barely spoke Greek (except for the rulers, who claimed Argive descent and, as the Argaeads, participated in the Olympic Games); even their grave goods were decisively non-Greek—a quiver with a king?! Unimaginable! And there’s the added dimension of controversy in the fact that the graves are probably mislabeled, so that all the impressive stuff actually would be of Alexander III’s half brother (yes, for some reason they always call him III instead of ‘the Great’; what’s more fun is the Greek lettering, so Philip II becomes Philip B’).

But anyway. The museum was actually really cool because it was built within the tumulus, so right next to the treasures, you could see where they’d come from. The entire thing was dim…which made all the shinies so much shinier. Unfortunately they don’t let you take pictures in there.

It seems unfair to leave it out, so I’ll mention that we went to Pella, the newer capital of Macedonia, as well and glanced briefly at the massive agora and some large courtyard houses (of the ‘complex’ style, I hear) and some impressive pebble mosaics.

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