For the past few months there’s been great excitement in Greece over the revealing of a huge tomb uncovered in Amphipolis, Greek Macedonia. This sparked a lot of interest for me as I’ve visited Amphipolis on a couple of occasions while doing research for SHADOW OF THE LION. This site, which at Alexander’s time was an army fortress, is one of the settings in my story: in the end of Volume One BLOOD ON THE MOON, and for almost the whole last half of Volume Two THE FIELDS OF HADES (to be published in 2016).
In September, as I was going to Macedonia to attend a friend’s book launch, I decided to venture to Amphipolis to see if I could view this remarkable archaeological find. I took a taxi from the seaside town of Asprovalta and was lucky enough to get a driver who knew the area well. On our way up to the location, we passed the famous Lion of Amphipolis by the roadside. The lion statue was dedicated to one of Alexander’s generals, Laomedon and it is now believed that it once stood atop the tomb and was taken away by the Romans who left it in its present location. The statue is 5.3 meters high with a base making it 15.84 meters. It resembles the stone lion statue that was erected on the field of Chaironea in Greece where King Philip II and his young son Alexander defeated the Athenians and annihilated the Theban Sacred Band.
I was only able to view the tomb digs from a distance, across the valley. The tomb is on a hillside inside a 500 meter long surrounding wall of marble and limestone. The wall is 3 meters high with a cornice of marble from the nearby Aegaen Island of Thassos. The entry has an arch containing two headless sphinxes and steps leading down into the tomb. It is believed the tomb could be the work of Deinokrates, who was the imperial architect during Alexander’s time, the same architect who Alexander had design the city of Alexandria in Egypt.
But whose tomb is it? There is so much speculation: Was Alexander buried here? Well, not likely as he was embalmed in Babylon where he died in 325 BC and a year later was taken to Alexandria where his body lay in state right up to the time of Cleopatra and the Romans. Was it Olympias, Alexander’s mother? Not likely either. She was an Epirote, not well liked, and stoned to death by Kassandros. While I visited Pydna, the site of her death, an archaeologist who was looking for a token tomb there told me she was likely buried in the royal tombs at Vergina where all the Macedonian royalty were laid to rest. Was it Alexander’s Soghdian wife and his son, both who were murdered on Kassandros’ orders at Amphipolis? Not a chance as she was hated by the Macedonians and the boy, Alexander IV is very likely the one occupying a tomb at Vergina that is the tomb of a young Macedonian prince about 14 yrs of age – just the age he was when he was murdered. (This tomb is next to the one where Philip II was found and an archaeologist at the site told me it was a good possibility the prince was Alexander’s son and only legal heir.)
My theory is that it may be the tomb of the Antipatrides family, the biggest clan in Macedonia. Antipater was Regent for both Philip and Alexander. His son, Kassandros was responsible for killing of all of Alexander’s dynasty and was in charge of Amphipolis’s army fortress. Perhaps it is their family, including Kassandros’ wife, Thessaloniki, who was Alexander’s half sister.
On the other hand, now that they have found a large wooden casket with a body inside, it is possible that this might be the tomb of one of the famous generals of the time. Although, it is strange they found a skeleton, as the Macedonians usually cremated their dead. The possibilities of who this might be are endless: Maybe it is really Laomedon whose burial place was marked by the stone lion; perhaps it is Niarchos, who came from Amphipolis and commanded Alexander’s navy. Or could it be General Antigonos the One-Eyed, who died at the age of 81 in the Battle of Ipsus in Phrygia (now Turkey) back in 301 when he was knocked off his horse by a spear. Antigonos was a powerful Successor of Alexander and eventually took control of most of the Empire, including Macedonia, after the downfall of the Antipatrides clan. He was succeeded by his son Demetrius who took control in 294 BC. This dynasty lasted until 1966 BC when they were defeated at the Battle of Pydna by the Romans.
These characters are all major players in SHADOW OF THE LION. So whoever it is buried in that massive tomb, it’s all relevant and has certainly help keep the interest in Alexander the Great and his place in history alive!
(NOTE: Closeup tomb photos courtesy of internet sources.)