The ancient city
Spread over 800,000 ha, the wall-surrounded ancient city (asty) was built in the centre of the Aigai land.
The asty (ancient city) was built on the meeting point of the old-age axis that crossing the mountains connected the Macedonian basin with Thessaly, and the road that led from the western coast of the Thermaic Gulf to the interior of the kingdom. Here, on the hillside between the modern villages of Vergina and Palatitsia, laid not only the fortified acropolis and the sanctuaries, but also the palaces and the tombs of the kings. The different city districts (Gr. komes), the number of which explains the plural suffix of its name (the diphthong “ai” in “Aigai”), start from the city walls and expand to the wider area, scattered on the low hills and on the plain, their presence marking the route of ancient roads. The ones that were the furthest away from the centre had their own small cemeteries.
The name “Aigai” is derived from the same root as the ancient Greek word aiga (goat) and means “the land with many goats”. As its name attests, the city’s economy was based on animal husbandry. A forest full of game and plenty of wood, which the king used as his main argument when exercising his foreign policy, but also the close-by river that was used as a water route for the transportation of wood and as a rich source of fish, added to the city’s wealth, thus ensuring its well-being. The uncontrollable expansion of the necropolis to the plain shows that agriculture was not a dominant economic activity, although it ensured a self-sufficient production together with viticulture and arboriculture, an activity for which this hilly land offers ideal conditions even today.
And, although the old Macedonian capital with its age-old economic structures mainly based on the possession of land, never managed to become a significant industrial and exporting centre, it was, until the Hellenistic times, a blooming market for goods and distinctive services thanks to the overall prosperity of its inhabitants and, mainly, thanks to the presence of a large royal court.
- Written by: Αγγελική Κοτταρίδη