Brace Yourselves: News From Amphipolis is Coming …

There has been quite the buzz about ‘that tomb’ at Amphipolis over the past couple of days and what has made it to the press — both on the English side and the Greek — is somewhat confusing. To a very large extent, the coverage is much like that of last year’s (  Alexander the Great Tomb in Amphipolis? Yeah … about that), which I encourage everyone to read to get the full back story of this. The skinny, however, is that the tomb was found originally a year and a half ago and ongoing speculation (in the media, not from the archaeologists involved, it appeared) was tying the tomb possibly to Roxane and/or Alexander IV, and even Alexander the Great was mentioned. Yesterday, there were a flurry of reports, none of which added anything new (with one exception, which we will get to) but suggested ‘something’ was happening. Today, according to assorted news reports, Greek Prime Minister Samaras visited the site and was given a tour, but again, we don’t really hear much of use to us. Here are Samaras’ comments according to eKathimerini:

Archaeologists digging at Ancient Amphipolis in Central Macedonia, northern Greece, are poised to make an “exceptionally important find,” according to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who visited the site on Tuesday.

“It is certain that we are looking at an exceptionally important find,” he said after being guided around the Kasta Hill by archaeologist Katerina Peristeri.

“The land of Macedonia continues to move and surprise us, revealing from deep within its unique treasures, which combine to form the unique mosaic of Greek history of which all Greeks are very proud,” he added. […]

“The main question the excavation will answer is regarding the identity of who has been buried here,” said Samaras.[…]

Outside of that, nothing new. The AP coverage (via the Washington Post), however, includes this indirect statement:

Samaras said a broad road led to the tomb, while the entrance was flanked by two carved sphinxes — mythical creatures that blend human, bird and lion characteristics. It was unclear how far archaeologists have reached.

Not sure how the archaeologists feel about the Prime Minister announcing their find, if it was indeed found as stated. Whatever the case, it was this claim of an entrance with sphinxes which was giving me hesitations about the coverage and the indirect statement above doesn’t really help. That said, to its credit, Greek Reporter includes a Youtube video which is basically a slideshow that appears to show that an entrance has indeed been found:

If it is the entrance, it’s covered with tarps and we really can’t see any sphinxes (sphinges?).

Turning to the Greek (in Greek) coverage, the hints were there yesterday that there is a major find here. was one of the outlets which said that police/the army had been brought in to guard the site: Σπουδαία αρχαιολογική ανακάλυψη στην Αρχαία Αμφίπολη Σερρών … I wonder if they stayed after Samaras left.

In any event, I found it somewhat unusual that the Greek press was really being silent on this one (none were mentioning the sphinxes) and was suspicious, of course. Here’s a smattering of the coverage, most of which just repeats the same stuff as is found in Kathimerini‘s Greek (and English) coverage.

Then, in a very timely manner, @Tzzz21 on twitter (who gets many tips o’ the pileus for feeding me much of the coverage) just sent a link to an item in News 247 which included this picture (as well as the slideshow mentioned above):

via News 247

To which I can only say: WOW! We now anxiously await to hear from the archaeologists.


UPDATE (literally seconds later): @Tzzz21 sent in a link with a pile more photos:

… to which we can several more wows … we’ll obviously be monitoring this one


UPDATE II (a few hours later): definitely read Dorothy King’s post on this for additional details (including answers to some questions I had about the sphinxes!): Let’s Talk About Amphipolis …(Dorothy King’s PhDiva)

Guy MacLean Rogers on Learning from Alexander the Great

From a press release:

In 2009, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States compared President Barack Obama to Alexander the Great. At the time, Obama brushed the comparison off with a joke. Almost five years later, after healthcare fiascoes and NSA spying revelations, terrorist attacks and other issues, Obama’s problems have never looked more complex and entangled. As approval ratings plummet in Washington, perhaps it’s time Obama and other leaders in Washington give more thought to the parallel.

Wellesley College professor Guy MacLean Rogers studies the leadership of Alexander the Great, seeking what lessons can be learned from the enigmatic warrior. Rogers, a world-renowned classicist, researches the leadership of history’s greatest warrior, and sees many similarities for the struggles of national leaders today.

“All leaders experience periods of great popularity and criticism for their actions and policies,” said Rogers. “Alexander was no exception. Although Alexander had legendary triumphs, he also made mistakes, some of them terrible ones.”

The key, Rogers said, was that when Alexander made mistakes he took responsibility for them. “He never evaded responsibility and when there was opposition to his policies he adjusted his policies. Maybe that is why so many people were willing to risk their lives to carry out his goals and were willing to follow him nearly to the end of the world.”

Today’s politicians, who may think more about what they look like on television or the concerns of a few stakeholders rather than what’s best for the country, could certainly learn from this example. “What many modern leaders have forgot or never knew is that the essence of effective leadership is sacrifice on behalf of others,” Rogers said. “No one was willing to sacrifice more than Alexander. His people knew that. That is why so many of them admired and even loved him.”

Rogers will be teaching a course, “Was Alexander Great? The Life, Leadership, and Legacies of History’s Greatest Warrior,” on WellesleyX/edX this spring. Among the topics the course will explore, one of the areas Rogers will focus on will be Alexander’s leadership and the questions: What were the qualities of leadership that Alexander possessed that allowed him to conquer the largest and most successful empire in the history of the ancient world before the age of 30? How did he plan to unite former enemies together? Are the leadership qualities Alexander had genetic? Can they be taught or learned? The course begins on early 2014 and registration is open now. The course, like all WellesleyX offerings, is free and open to the public.

“Alexander certainly was a controversial figure in his own times, and remains so to this day,” said Rogers. “In many ways, although Alexander lived more than 2300 years ago his life resonates with us precisely because he raises issues with which we continue to be obsessed.”

Guy MacLean Rogers, classicist and historian of Greek and Roman history, is the author of Alexander: The Ambiguity of Greatness (Random House, 2004) and The Mysteries of Artemis of Ephesos: Cult, Polis and Change in the Graeco-Roman World (Yale, 2013).

Roxane’s Tomb Redux

In case you missed the Blogosphere post, there have been developments in the possible identification of Roxane’s tomb. Long time readers of rogueclassicism will recall that we first heard of this claim back in October (Roxane’s Tomb?) and a recent announcement is currently working its way through the various Greek newspapers — most seem based on/derive from an item in Proto Thema (Μέρος του τάφου της Ρωξάνης και του Αλέξανδρου Δ’ ο Λέων της Αμφίπολης ;) and several also include a video from back in November:

On this side of the continent, Dorothy King has broken the story very capably (The Tomb of Roxane, Amphipolis) and I urge folks to go read it and the associated clippings and photos from the City Paper). The skinny is that the famous Lion of Amphipolis once stood on a large mound marking the tomb of some female (since the lion is actually female) and the suggestion continues that this was Roxane’s tomb. An inscription referencing Deinocrates (an architect associated with Alexander the Great) lends some weight to this suggestion.

For my part, the current claim raises some more questions … the monument was trashed, apparently, in the second century A.D. and I’m continuing to search for some reason for this (perhaps we’ll be hearing more in the future on that score). The other issue I have is that the murder of Roxane and Alexander IV (according to Diodorus … quoted in DK’s post) resulted in the ‘concealment’ of the bodies … it doesn’t sound like they were given a royal burial at all and I can’t recall any mention of such in any other ancient source. On the other hand, if it *is* associated with Roxane, is it just hers or for both of them, and if the latter, the single lion seems somewhat incongruous. If not, there should be a similarly-large tomb nearby for Alexander IV, no? Dr King informs us that there will be more announcements in the coming months, and hopefully some of these questions will be cleared up.

UPDATE (a day or so later): See Dorothy King’s latest update; note that the inscriptional reference to Dinocrates apparently isn’t there ~ Roxanne Tomb, Amphipolis – more details

Studying Philip II’s Remains

Ages ago when I first started gathering news items and the like to share in various fora, I subscribed to the Athens News Agency feeds … as they were subscribed via a very old email address (which is basically a spamtrap now) I didn’t pay much attention to them any more but out of curiosity last week I was browsing through them and found this item, which does not seem to have made it into an English newspaper source:

A small portion of the skeleton of the ancient king Philip II of Macedon,
the father of Alexander the Great, is to be taken for testing to the
Demokritos National Centre for Scientific Research, Thessaloniki’s
Archaeological Museum announced on Wednesday.

The ancient king’s remains were found inside a golden larnax, or casket,
considered one of the most valuable objects of the ancient world, found
inside the main chamber of grave II at the Vergina archaeological site
in northern Greece.

The aim of the transfer is the microscopic examination, analysis and
photography of an unknown substance covering the bones, which has
also been found in other Macedonian tombs. This is the first time
this substance will be analysed to discover its chemical and mineral
composition, with the results are expected to yield valuable information
concerning the larnax corrosion processes and the ritual materials used
in that period.

A request for the transfer of the shards of bonds from the head of
the Vergina digs was approved by the Central Archaeological Council
on Tuesday.

… I guess I’ll have to monitor this source a bit more closely …

Dionysus in Australia

Some hype from the Sydney Morning Herald:

AS HEROIC gods go, Dionysus would fit right into Sydney: god of the grape harvest, bringer of culture and ritual ecstasy, he was the mythological inspiration for Alexander the Great, the 4th century BC Macedonian king and spreader of civilisations who is being honoured with his own blockbuster exhibition in our city on Saturday.

Dionysus, or at least his marble likeness cast in Rome in the second century AD based on the Greek BC original, arrived at the Australian Museum last week.

His tall, bespectacled courier, Andrey Nikolaev, looked a little weary after almost a week accompanying Dionysus over rail, sea and air only for museum staff to finally decide the two-metre tall, 1.5-tonne statue, which can only be moved by the base, was too fragile to part so soon from the wooden crate.

St Petersburg, home of the statue, has no cargo planes, so beginning on November 7, Nikolaev had chaperoned Dionysus by train to Helsinki, then ferry across the Baltic Sea to Travemunde, Germany; another train to Amsterdam; then a Boeing 747 to Frankfurt, Mumbai and Hong Kong; and finally a second Boeing 747, arriving in Sydney on November 13. Having sat in the crate for a day or two to acclimatise on the Australian Museum’s exhibition floor, Dionysus – joined on his plinth in the 18th century by a smaller marble statue bearing a dubious likeness of Persephone or Cora, wife of the ruler of the underworld – met with approval when workers drilled away the wooden crate screws and removed the door.

Why was this god of the grape so important to Alexander the Great? ”Because Dionysus is not just the god of wine, he also is a god of inspiration,” said Anna Trofimova, the head of classical antiquities at The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. ”He was the god, the Greeks believe, that brought culture to different peoples in a lot of countries.”

More to the point, Dionysus was the ”guiding star” for Alexander, who in turn brought civilisation, founded cities and spread Greek language and art from the Mediterranean to Central Asia and India. Alexander was the ”first political leader who thought on the scale of the planet”.

Whether Alexander’s death at the age of 32 was due to fever or poisoning is open to conjecture, but Dr Trofimova is certain of Alexander’s legacy.

”The dream of Alexander, and I believe in it, was unity of mankind between east and western people. His belief in civilisation, this is a great lesson for us; especially important in our days when west and east are very, very sensitive.”

… the original article has an interesting little video where you can watch the workers trying to figure out how best to unpack the thing …