Philip II at Amphipolis?

Firstly welcome to new Greek readers, but ...

I have not spoken to any Greek press and there seems to be a little confusion regarding my views.

Yes, I'm the "idiot" who has been saying for most of this year and a good chunk of last year that I thought the only person the tomb could have been built for is Alexander the Great. Obviously it is lovely that people are coming around to the idea and not covering silly nonsense from Palagia and Chubb.

There is no way that Alexander was actually buried in the tomb at Amphipolis ever.

With no mosaic I do not in any way disagree with the archaeologists working at Amphipolis.

The figure on the left is Hermes, 100% for sure.

This figure seems to be Hades, and the work of the archaeologists clearing the area to the right will clarify that.

I was merely adding to their press release, and pointing out that the figure had some unusual features which led me to wonder if the god was represented as a portrait of Phillip II.

The can never be 100% certain, but I believe it is good to explore theories.

The beard is unusual after Phillip II's death, and beard went out of fashion when Alexander chose to not have one. A beard was used on gods though.

We tend to think of Greeks as shown in profile because of coins and vase paintings, but the mosaicist was clearly very talented and could depict Hermes face on. He chose not to do so with the bearded man, and it struck me that Phillip II seemed to obscure his damaged eye. This is just a theory - I am not the all-knowing god, and can be as wrong as every other human.

This is a photograph of the skull from Tomb II at Vergina showing the damage sustained in life to the right eye, and why it is most likely that Phillip II was buried there:

Obviously on coins Phillip II, like most rulers, was shown in profile. Although his right eye was the damaged one, showing the right profile was standard. Here he is shown wearing a wreath, not unlike the one in the mosaic:

Phillip was proud of his Olympic victory, and emphasised this by wearing the crown wreath. Although Hades could wear a wreath, this was more unusual.

Profile plus beard plus wreath could all be coincidences, but ... it was the fashion at the time to give images of gods human portraits and to portray human rulers as living gods. For Alexander and his team to have a little joke at the expense of a hated father is not out of the question.

The archaeologists at Amphipolis are brilliant, and I am sure they would have noticed the similarities to Phillip of the Hades figures - for now the Ministry of Culture is controlling brief press releases, but when they are allowed to release and publish everything they will be able to explain all these sorts of points.

Katerina Peristeri and Michaelis Lefantzis are very very good, and they are doing all the work at the site.

What I blog is merely an explanation of the press releases, elaborating on points.


  1. Dorothy, you are a total professional and you are doing good work. You know it. You have good and interesting theories, and you are presenting them with the appropriate tentativeness. Don't listen to the blatherers.

  2. Nice point of view... News blogs around the country have been digging the internet to find something to write about the tomb and apparently someone came upon yours and rebloged mere parts of it ... silly nonsence . Great job. What i can believe is what i can understand as obvious and it is logical that an artist would use a model and then using a model of Philip seems pretty logical. Let me make one small comment though ... The artist is much more able to depict faces than profiles. His Hermes is almost full faced or 3/4 but his Hades is profiled and not so "nice"as his Hermes. He could have easilly made a 3/4 and have a really nice aesthetic result but he chose to go for a profile. It seems to me that there was a porpose for it. He had to hide the eye there fore it seems to me that he depicts Philip as Hades and Maybe young Alex as Hermes. One brief question though. Although the stealing of Persephone is a common subject and most probably this is Hades is there any possibility this to be Helios instead?

  3. The coin depicts Zeus who did not lose any eyes; it is left for the Germans to have cyclopean deities, I think, with Wotan the pattern for Odin. However, just as Wotan gave an eye for wisdom so Zeus is said to make his decisions in an oak-grove,which is why he is here depicted wearing an oak wreath not a laurel wreath; you can see the acorns quite clearly. Whether Philip is the model for Zeus and Alexander for his Herakles is certainly possible but not yet proven; the Zeus type is ab initio of Philip's reign when he had no divine pretensions and, as a bloke with a beard, I have to confess we all look quite alike, unlike many of the Herakleses on Alexander coinage, personally I think it a good possibility that Alexander was meglamaniacal enough to identify himself with Herakles from the start of his new coinage, but am less certain that was a trait of Philip's.

    The Hades of Tomb I at Vergina also resembles Philip II but it is likely that he was not even twelve when it was painted and 'Alexander as Herakles' appears on his uncle Perdikkas III's coinage before he was born, viz http://www.wildwinds.com/coins/greece/macedonia/kings/perdikkas_III/SNGANS_115ff.jpg.

    Despite the literary trope of Alexander hating his father, what I get is more an excess of self love than Oedipus. Despite a family fracas which saw Alexander flounce off to his Illyrian friends, at the biggest wedding of the reign Alexander was rehabilitated and front and centre in the celebrations, clearly designated as heir apparent.

    Also we are talking about Antipatrid Macedonia here not the remnants of Alexander's Asian Empire; Antipatros himself was Philip's man and Kassandros allegedly had little love for Alexander, most of the population would remember the rule of Philip and the Regency of Antipatros fondly (Olympias was as much the wife of Philip as the Mother of Alexander when gaining her short-lived grass roots' support). Sadly I think the covered section will reveal a Persephone, I was totally wrong in thinking that Hermes Psychopompos would be leading the departed rather than Hades, he is there as plain as day at Vergina! Doh!

    That there might be an element of message I cannot think that Philip as Hades would wash with any camp; after all it was Alexander who depopulated the kingdom, Philip had the good manners to hire mercenaries to do the greater part of his dying LOL.

  4. Ghemistry Dog, I don't think there is a connection between Hermes and Helios, as there is with Hades. If Hermes is Alexander and Hades Philip, it looks like this was a meeting hall for the Macedonian Peace Movement!

  5. To add to a comment though i have heard of alexander being used as a model but not his father. Hades and Hermes match more rather than with Helios and as far as i know Helios is depicted as a youbger man. Im not saying that it depicts them necesserily but their faces being used as models. If this is actually Philip then the crator mast be a man who lived way over 50 and thats rare... I dont what you mean about the Macedonian Peace Movement.

  6. It would be an anti-war statement to have Philip as the God of Death being led to Hell by his son, I think (the implication being that they led Macedon to the grave). My English sensibilities and sense of humour I am afraid.

    There would have been plenty of sculptures and paintings of Philip to provide models, the Hyde Park Achilles was based on Alexander 2300 years after his death.

  7. Hello, Dorothy. To add to what agesilaos3 wrote before me, if Hades has the characteristics of Philip, then all figures could have the characteristics of royal family members --a possible Persephone could have the characteristics of some queen.

  8. Is it possible that a dead person, for whom such a building was erected, to be packed at the far right end of the mosaic, where there is not enough room?

  9. agesilaos3: "Zeus is said to make his decisions in an oak-grove,which is why he is here depicted wearing an oak wreath not a laurel wreath; you can see the acorns quite clearly."

    With Philip II's bones they found a golden wreath of 313 oak leaves and 68 acorns. Who is really buried at Vergina, Zeus?

  10. Keep up the good work Dorothy!
    Always a pleasure to read your posts and answers to our questions!

  11. Ho ho, Art, not Zeus for sure, but if it is Philip III your point would be moot; similarly we are talking coins here, not court theatrics, the oak-wreath is an attribute of Zeus, the reverse will be the rider celebrating the Olympic victory but the obverse is Zeus and probably an older type than Philip's reign (cannot say at the moment as my books are elsewhere and wildwinds wont open. My point is that this Type is there at the beginning of his reign, if Philip II was parading himself as Zeus then it is a wonder that Demosthenes does not mention it, nor any of the surviving Theopompos, in fact the procession just before his death, where his statue is carried immediately after the Gods' 'almost as a thirteenth Olympian' is the first notice of such hubris. (Diod XVI 92 v) ' Philip included in the procession statues of the twelve gods wrought with great artistry and adorned with a dazzling show of wealth to strike awe in the beholder, and along with these was conducted a thirteenth statue, suitable for a god, that of Philip himself, so that the king exhibited himself enthroned among the twelve gods.'


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