Having only just joined the group am honoured to be asked to be guest blogger- of course have greased my way into their good graces by bringing 7 very large jars of soothing nappy cream with me , and industrial amounts of immodium.
Today we stayed in Vergina where in 1977 the tomb of Philip the 2nd of Macedonia was found. Philip was Alexander the Great’s dad, he had a gammy leg, one eye and 7 wives or so they say, around here. One wife conspired to have him killed in the local theatre by one of his guards. I think its the wife played by Angelina Jolie in the rather dreadful Alexander movie. Another wife probably committed suicide.on Philip’s death and is buried in the neighbouring tomb. Herodotus records apparantly that wives did have to follow their eminent husbands to Hades! Feminism not noted in ancient Greece, there was also a rather extraordinary statue in one tomb of a Greek soldier strangling an amazonian woman ! A local peninsula with many monastaries does not allow any women in the area, so fear of strong women may not be just an ancent Greek phenomenon.!
The third opened tomb is of a young royal male, possible Alexander the Great’s son.
As well as the tombs the museum displays many of the artefacts found. Nothing about
the rather plain exterior of the tumulus or village prepares you for the wonderful riches within. Many of the tombstones have paintings and sculptures,the names still clearly apparant and critically Greek! Philip and Alexander are claimed as defintely Greek and, as the guide said, not some pale wannabe macedonians of latter years.
One of the larger tombs has wall paintings of Persephone’s capture and decent into Hades. These date from the 4th century BC; the colours still vivid, with definite prespective,the depicted emotions complex and beguiling. The face of the grieving mother, Demeter, is especially touching with dignity and pathos. Within the royal tombs were found golden quivers and bronce armour and golden caskets for the bones of the dead. The funeral cloth of purple and gold in which the wife’s bones were wrapped is still sumptous. In contrast there are some simple but beautifully designed silver drinking tankards and wine glasses. Would not look out of place in a scandinavian design shop.
But there are some items that no pictures or descriptions that can do justice, you will just have to all come and see them for yourself!
There are several items of golden jewellery there is a larnyx , a diadem and several golden necklaces They are of exquisite craftmanship with oakleaves and flowers and even tiny bees The flowers are fixed on tiny springs so that when the wearer moved the whole Larynx would shimmer. Each individual piece is astonishing – nothing subtle about it though- couldn’t get away with it in inner city Bristol on a friday night or even at the Oscars.
The other items of extraordinay beauty and skill are the many small sculptures in ivory of peole animals gods and heroes- each face different, detailed folds of cloth hair and expression. so many thousands of years old and yet still so alive!
Many thanks to David Norgrove who told us to come here!!
Local waterfalls are full with snow-melt, the blossom is out, the vines are budding and poppies and dandelions grace the road sides but the villages look poor and unkemptwith many discarded buidlings and rubbish around, the poverty is not picturesque. The people however have been out of their way friendly. Off East towards the Turkish border tomorrow in the tracks of the Saracens, Basil the Bulgar slayer and other defeated hordes.