10.12.2014

Alexander Was Here ....?

Kandahar? It's a contraction of Iskandahar, and was founded by Alexander the Great and named Alexandria after himself.

Alexandria Eschate or Alexandria the Farthest ... we're not sure where it is, but it's the city Alexander founded at the far end of his expedition in Central Asia, and named after himself. It's almost certainly in Tajikistan and finding proof of it would be valuable evidence of the final frontier of his conquests.

The location of Alexandria Bucephalus is also uncertain, but it was probably in modern day Pakistan and Alexander founded it and named it in honour of himself and his recently deceased horse.

Alexander founded a new city in Egypt, and named it Alexandria after himself.

Plutarch claimed that Alexander founded some seventy cities, which may be an exaggeration but is not outside the realm of possibilities. Many he named Alexandria after himself, whilst others - for example Alinda in Caria - he re-named after himself  (Alexandria under Latmos). A good list of the more obscure examples can be found here.

Alexander was no shrinking violet. He came, he saw, he named. Yes it can seem a little obsessive, but this is an important personality trait.

He did the same with buildings - putting his name on them, even when he hadn't built them.

Dedicatory inscriptions were rare in Classical Greece, but popularised by the Hecatomnids of Caria in the fourth century BC, and became almost de rigeur under the Romans.

Alexander the Great offered to fund the completion of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, if he could have his name carved on it. The Ephesians declined, but the people of Priene were happy to add this inscription to Pytheos' already completed temple: "King Alexander built the shrine of Athena Polias". The inscription is now in the British Museum (image from here).


People don't have to be trained archaeologists to see a pattern. Alexander put his name on everything he could in the form of official inscriptions. Don't even get me started on graffiti and what people scribbled everywhere in Antiquity just as they do now.

A brilliant archaeologist would be unlikely to be convinced that Amphipolis was built for Alexander without extremely convincing evidence.

I won't tell you what that evidence is because the Greek Ministry of Culture is not releasing evidence found before August.

It is bloody difficult to look for material from a building on the art market from a tomb that was dismantled in Antiquity and is all over the place if one is not allowed to tell people what they are looking for.

I am pretty sure that this post will piss people at the Ministry off, and I will have problems because of it, but:

The Greek people deserve to be told what was found, and why the archaeologists who have worked for years on Amphipolis are convinced that it dates to the time they say.

The archaeologists working at Amphipolis have done an amazing job, and the Ministry of Culture has done an exemplary job issuing press releases as new finds are made. Someone should do a televised press conference presenting the important finds from the beginning of the excavation so that the good people of Greece are spared the nonsense being spoken and written by various incompetent people.


Both the ND and PASOK governments have used archaeology for political reasons. This should not be the case with Amphipolis.

37 comments:

  1. On August the 12th, you said: "What I can tell you 100 % for sure is that Alexander the Great was not buried in the Lion Tomb at Amphipolis as every single ancient source says that Ptolemy hijacked the body on it's way back to Macedonia..."

    Do you still stand solid to that statement, today?

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  2. Yes of course - and unless you've found several hundred new ancient sources that's a bit of a stupid question. I'm not Olga.

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  3. Ok so from what I understand so far is that possibly an inscription or inscriptions have already been found since before August in Amphipolis, making it plausible that the tomb was built for Alexander(regardless of whether he currently is or isn't in the Amphipolis tomb) hence the overall secrecy before any official announcements are made.

    With regards to Alexander's horses' I suppose that the inscriptions have something to do with them.

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  4. I wish the Ministry of Culture were as logical.

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  5. @ DorothyKing Thanks for taking the time to answer. I am not an archeologist and I like to make clear, maybe sometimes stupid, questions and take some clear answers, too. I don't consider myself a History expert either (just a plain economist) - one reason why I read and ask you :)

    Please keep up with the hints...

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  6. @Dorothy thanks for answering too, and as Anders I'm not an archaelogist/historian either but rather a computer programmer.

    However I have to note that with regards to ancient sources (nice diagram at http://www.livius.org/a/2/alexander/alex_hist.gif), I also have to mention Pausanias(geographer/traveller) who mentions that Alexander was buried initially in Memphis for 40 years(which corresponds to the the end of life of Ptolemy I at 283 B.C.), which also agrees with what the Parian chronicle(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parian_Chronicle) supports too (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomb_of_Alexander_the_Great).

    At the time of Alexander's death Alexandria in Egypt was just a small village that was being heavily built on, and only became a proper city in the following decades. So Alexander's body was transferred to Alexandria not by Ptolemy Soter but under Ptolemy II Philadelphus who made it available for viewing by the common folk. So, within these 40 years anything could have happened..

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  7. Furthermore Pausanias mentions that Alexander's body was treated according to the Macedonian customs(i.e. burned), so if true the mummy visited by various personalities in the following centuries after his death would not be Alexander. It's a bit of a fetched theory perhaps, and if true it would be one of the biggest cons pulled in all time(under Ptolemy II).

    But anyhow, I'm just stating the above with regards to your comment about what the ancient sources mention.

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  8. Apologies for the repeated comments, just want to mention that the theory above originates from Empedotimos at http://empedotimos.blogspot.gr/ which I follow closely(in Greek only).

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  9. Apologies @anders - thought you were one of the people trolling on behalf of her, based on other comment. Very sorry!

    I'm not going to actually tell you guys what was found. I just want to push the MC into doing the right thing, but you're in the right ball park and there's a lot more.

    I think I covered the Egyptian burials in another post, but just to repeat - Alexander was never buried at Amphipolis, and there is good evidence for his body remaining at Alexandria until the end of the Byzantine period there.

    Pyres in antiquity did not burn as hot or as long as modern cremations - so the bones stayed whole, etc. see Vergina. Also some Macedonian customs might have been adhered to, but the body does seem to have been preserved.

    With ancient sources a good way to work is to assume that they are more likely to be right than a modern guess - but that ancient scholars were as fallible as modern ones, and made mistakes too!

    Alexandria was small when founded. But I've read others describe Avignon as 20,000 and small when the popes moved there. It sounds tiny ... except that Rome when they left it was 15,000. So yes Alexandria and Rome were both at times a million strong, but others were not.

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  10. @George Thanks for the summary of the historic resources, which I happened to get aware off and partially read due to this latest discovery at Amphipolis. My question though originated from my view that Archeology is a more objective (forensic) science in essence, than Historic sources per se. Or the other way around... ? But I guess that would be a another field of debate between Historians and Archaeologists :)

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  11. Archaeology is like a lot of fields .... some idiots think that if they shout loudest they're right. But the disconnect between archaeological evidence and historical evidence is an issue - a good scholar will look at both, a bad one (the majority) only one ...

    There are tests than can be run in archaeology of a 'science' nature but .... tests like carbon dating are calibrated based on 'set points' and sometimes those set points need to be moved.

    For example, the 22nd Dynasty in Egypt seems to have come before the 21st ... Manebo was our historical source, excavations have shown he was wrong. Whoops.

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  12. @Dorothy thank you for your posts, it would be great if the MC released more information, and the anticipation is building immensely especially if we're in the right ball park and there's lots more.

    And as to the hypothesis.. skeletal remains from pyre do not make a mummy, and historians can be fallible either way ;)

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  13. @ DorothyKing I appreciate the apology. Thank you. Please keep up (once more) with the "hints"... As for Historic resources and Archaeology, let the outcome of this discovery be, once more, a test for both Sciences.

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  14. Thank You Dorothy. I'm not trolling either. I love your posts. I read all the time, history, and religion. My youngest brother loves Alexander the Great so completely that he named his oldest after him. I agree. Why all this muddled mess? The translations from Greek to English are awkward.
    Keep up the hints, and updates. The Greeks should hire you.

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  15. Honestly the Greeks have more than enough good people at Amphipolis - they should decide what they want ... either to be clear to people about the tomb or to continue to play politics. I have no problem with keeping everything until a big presentation, but this is a strange way of doing things; some info, not key info.

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  16. Someone has an agenda. Or super control issues. Up high enough that no one is not leaking info out. "Fear is the mind killer", I always say.

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  17. Actually there are so many leaks I'm half surprised the site has not flooded ... ;-)

    Although interestingly the leaks only started badly in August - finds before when someone else was in charge are non-existent ...

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  18. So it is a control issue.

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  19. It doesn't take a detective to understand from your hints that an inscription of some sort was found about Alexander or his horses and that's what made the archeologists be so firm about when te tomb was built. Without trying to play devil's advocate, i can see why the goverment could play political agenda behind this finding. It's the first time that an actual inscription written in Greek was found in a macedonian tomb (if what you imply is true) and with the whole political conflict with the neighboring F.Y.R.O.M, it's a pretty strong card to hold in your hands about the name dispute...

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  20. Why didn't I think of SKOPJE?!?!? But yes that makes perfect sense to use it against them calling themselves Macedonia ... honestly they have as little to do with ancient Macedonia and Romania does with the land of the Romans.

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  21. An "Ace in the Hole" as they say.

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  22. They surely wouldn't withhold archaeological evidence to stop SKOJE would they? Releasing it would make the point better? If their basis for calling themselves the Republic of Macedonia is because Alexander of Macedon owned it ... then Iran could make the same argument?!?!?

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  23. My comment had to do about the timing of the announcement of such a finding. You imply that they have found something this big of importance and they will not announce it? It would be the crime of the century...

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  24. the left eye of the horse is blue (did Voukefalas have a blue eye?)

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  25. He died in Asia so doubt it was his tomb, whatever his eye colour. But my eyes are blue, although again it is not my tomb ... ;-)

    Seriously the mosaic shows either P II's horses or Hades' ...

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  26. Doesn't the missing piece look "bizzarely" circular? I read somewhere that it got damaged from gathering water and that they found the missing pieces and plan on trying to reconstract it. Also in your first arcticle today you spoke of "Alexander's horses".The missing piece happens to be the one which depicts parts ofthe horses's bodies. Any chance you were referring to this?

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  27. Mrs King, when you speak about non published foundings, do you refer to the students law (efivarhikos nomos) that found in the gymnasium of ancient amphipolis by Lazarides in 1984?

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  29. @Lad14 - no, nothing to do with these horses, and doesn't look like water damaged but who knows ...

    @evangelos - no. Although they are working on the gymnasium and hopefully will have time to continue.

    Honestly both Hades and Phillip II could have one or two pairs of horses - I found the wreath and the profile interesting. Maybe Hades with the face of Phillip? Honestly depends on what's to the right ... but just because Alexander hated his father doesn't mean he wasn't shown ....

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  31. Philipp II is illustrated on coins with two horses
    Pluton is illustrated with four horses
    Voukefalas has one blue and one brown eye
    Maybe V and PII are escorting somebody to Hades.

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  32. @DorothyKing ...and if I follow this logic well, why this Alexander's cenotaph (or intended resting place) was decided to be built in Amphipolis and not in Aiges? How such an important monument, by size, if was built to be seen and admired, managed to escape the written sources (e.g. Parian Chronicle - the closest written source to Alexander's death, if my very limited Historic knowledge does not deceive me!)?

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  33. Dorothy, thanks for all your posts, and piecing together the story of Amphipolis, for us people not heavily involved in archaeology. Finally something scientific in the sea of cheap news and speculations.

    It will be sad if indeed MC and government would consider using finds in Amphipolis as stance against Rep. of Macedonia, for a conflict that has its roots in 18-20 century. But its nothing new, that is politics on the Balkan.

    Nothing will change in MK, even if Alexandar body was found in the tomb. It will just increase the hot debate between even more hot-tempered people on both sides. And nothing will be solved... Sometimes I wish Balkan people were more pragmatic as the Scandinavians, British, Germans, USA..... Emotions should never interfere in the way of science!

    Keep up the great post-work :)

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  36. @mPedia
    May be you did not realize but here is a scientific site and not exactly the right place for pathetic slaves who are trying steal a history and origin of other people because they feel shame for their own one...
    You are not Macedonians (Greeks) and you never will be... as a point of starting understand your ancestry start listen what your founder and your Godfather Kiro said about who you are in 1992...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy9TjSiYo-o
    I believe you will understand what he says in your language..
    You have always our deep sympathy for your drama..

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