Archaeological Sites and Museums in Northern Greece


Vergina about 85 km from Thessaloniki was not very significant until 1977 and 1978, when three very important royal tombs were discovered. The most important tomb is believed to be that of Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great; this tends to confirm the hypothesis that Vergina is the ancient Aigai, the first capital of Macedonia. Among the richest finds are two solid gold urns. Other finds represent the best of their kinds, such as golden wreaths and silver vessels.

The frescoes on the walls of the tombs are a valuable contribution to art. The fresco depicting the abduction of Persephone by Pluto on the walls of the small tomb, and the hunting scene on the facade of the large tomb are outstanding creations.

The ivory reliefs that adorned the wooden beds of the tombs are masterpieces. Outstanding among them are two portraits--one believed to be that of Philip and the other of Alexander. A group of three reliefs from the third tomb surpasses in beauty and sculptured perfection any other work of the ancient world. The finds from this exhibit are on display at the P.archeological Museum at Thessaloniki.


Ancient Pella was founded in the 4th century B.C. and became the capital of the Macedonian State. The city was laid out in the familiar “Hippodameian” pattern of regular, rectangular building blocks with impressive broad streets and a first class water supply network. The houses were of the typical Creek style of dwelling with a central courtyard surrounded by a colonnade and open galleries. On the hill to the west stand the remains of the citadel of the Hellenistic period.

The Museum is on the site of the excavations. It displays sculptures and reliefs of Classical and Hellenistic times, figurines, pottery, ornaments, etc. The more interesting items are seven mosaic floors found in three building blocks which belong approximately to the year 300 B.C. They have been laid with pebbles in their natural colors and depict Dionysus riding a panther or a leopard, a hunting scene with a lion, another hunting scene with a stag, the abduction of Helen, sister of the Dioskouri, with Theseus, a battle with Amazons, etc. The museum also shows some roof tiles with the name of the city or the landlord incised upon them. There is, in addition, a fine marble dog of the 5th century B.C. and a bronze statue of Poseidon which is a copy made in the Hellenistic period of a Classical period marble sculpture.

Philippi (Filipi)

In the center of the site lie the ruins of the city's Agora, typical of the Greek-Roman style town. It was built after the victory of Octavius over the assassins of Julius Caesar in 42 B.C. at Philippi. The Agora was lined on three sides by arcades and includes fountains, a rostrum, temples and a library. There are also the ruins of two important early Christian basilicas (Philippi was the first city on European soil in which Saint Paul, as an Apostle, preached the Gospel in 49 A.D.). South of the Agora are the ruins of Basilica “B” (6th century A.D.) which marked an unsuccessful attempt to evolve from the basilica to the cruciform style of church with dome. To accomplish this, a market place was razed flat and the Palaestra was largely demolished. Noteworthy, is the city's public latrine at the S.E. corner with most of its 50 marble seats in situ. At the northern end of the Creek-Roman Agora there is a terraced level with a portico and an impressive stairway. On this site a vast basilica was built in about 500 A.D., known as Basilica “A”, and collapsed a few years later in an earthquake. It was a basilica with nave and two aisles, a transept and semi-circular apse. On the western side there is a narthex to the north of which a baptismal font was discovered and an atrium. A crypt dating from the Roman period was found in the vicinity and is thought to have served as a prison for Saint Paul.

The Museum contains finds from the Dikili-Tach settlement and from Sitagri. There are also finds from the general area of Philippi dating from Hellenistic, Roman and Early Christian times. The Kikili-Tach exhibits are Neolithic.

Situated on the slope of the hill to the N.E., it dates from the 4th century B.C. It was remodeled in Roman times and, in the 3rd century A.D. was converted into an arena. The theater, now restored, is used for performances of ancient drama.


The sacred city of the Macedonians at the foot of Mount Olympus was founded by the kings of Macedonia as a place to worship Olympian Zeus. Its ruins span Greek history from the Archaic through the Classical and Hellenistic periods. Relies in the museum include a remarkable cult statue of Aphrodite.