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.
- Written by: Aggeliki Kottaridi