After a slow start this morning, we traveled to Vergina to see the tombs of Phillip II and Euricide, Alexander the Great’s mother and father. The tombs, known as the Great Tumulus, were in the center of the ancient capital city of Macedon, Aigai. When the wealthy died they would be burned and then their bones would be cleaned with wine and placed in the elaborate tombs with all that they would need for the afterlife. For men, this included weapons; for women, all of their makeup and jewelry would accompany them. The tombs would then be covered over with mounds of dirt, reminiscent of Native American burial mounds that have been found.
The most amazing and disturbing notion of the tombs is that they were never meant to be seen after the mound was filled in. Yet, now there are countless visitors to see the grave sites every year. What would the ancient people have thought? Would they be angry at us for disturbing their eternal rest? Or would they be flattered that the world is taking such an avid interest in their lives?
Better us than the grave robbers that visited other sites previously. The robbers would find a way into a grave, and then often they would kill each other to increase their share of the profits of their marauding adventures. At least in the case of the archaeologists they left the splendors of the crypts in a reconstructed mound.
We returned to Thessoloniki to a free afternoon to spend discovering the city. Saturday shopping in Greece’s second largest city is a trial. Some of the stores were apparently having very good sales as people were pushing and jostling to get at the merchandise. The Greek sales associate were cordial; when they realized we did not speak Greek they were quick to switch to English and help find us dressing rooms. Some wonderful hospitality (in Greek the word is zania)!
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