Aigai in northern Greece was once the capital of the Macedonian kingdom and it was here in 336BC that Alexander the Great was proclaimed King of Macedon after the assassination of his father, Philip II.
Though evidence of human occupation of the site stretches back to the 3rd millennium BC, it is thought that it was not until around 1000BC – 700BC that it became an important regional centre. Aigai probably reached its height around 500 BC as the Macedonian capital, before being replaced by Pella around 100 years later.
After the death of Alexander, Aigai suffered during the Wars of Alexander’s Successors and the city was again damaged during the Roman conquest of the region in 168BC. Aigai survived into the Roman era but gradually declined during the latter Imperial period.
Today, Aigai can be found near the modern town of Vergina and there are a number of interesting sites to explore. Probably the most famous of Aigai’s sites are the royal burial tombs, which are believed to house the tombs of Phillip II and Alexander the Great’s son, Alexander IV. This being said, debate still rages regarding who the remains belong to, particularly in Tomb II. Other possible candidates include Alexander the Great’s elder half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus III and the warrior princess Cynane.
An impressive museum – the Royal Tombs of Vergina Museum – was built to enclose these tombs and visitors can explore this underground experience.
Along with these main tombs are as many as 300 other grave mounds, some dating back to the 11th century BC.
Other important remains at Aigai include the royal palace – which includes impressive mosaics – and the 4th century BC theatre, believed to be the exact site of Philip’s murder. There are also a number of temples near the theatre, including the temple of Eukleia.
Aigai was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.
Getting to Aigai
Aigai is roughly a one hour drive from Thessaloniki (70km distance). There are not any direct bus links between Thessaloniki and Aigai, although both the bus and the train can take you from Thessaloniki to the nearby city of Veroia.
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