Ancient Amphipolis: 5000 years of history

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Ancient Amphipolis: 5000 years of history

The Lion of Amphipolis, the gold of Pangaion Hills and the abundant timber

The global interest of the archaeological science turns in recent days around Amphipolis. Amphipolis was an ancient city built in eastern Macedonia, on the river Strymon, in the place of a city formerly known as "Enea Odoi" or very close to it. Amphipolis was founded by the Athenians in 437 BC to control the resource-rich region, and finally abandoned in the 8th century AD. Today in the region stands the modern namesake village, located about 60 km. southeast of Serres.

The archaeological research has uncovered remains of human habitation dating back to around 3000 BC. Because of its strategic location, the area was fortified from early years. In the 480 BC, Xerxes passing by the area, he buried nine young men and nine maidens alive as a sacrifice to river god. A year later, in Amphipolis, the King of Macedonia Alexander defeated the remnants of the army of Xerxes.

The Lion of Amphipolis
In the 5th century BC Athenians attempted to colonize the area that had direct access to key raw materials, such as gold and silver of Pangaion Hills and the dense forests of the region, which interested Athenians for their timber. The first attempt of Athens in 465 BC, to colonize the area failed. The Thracian peltasts won in Draviskos the hoplite phalanx of 2500-3000 Athenian settlers of the town of Enea Odoi, who went to the Thracian hinterland to takeover of the lucrative gold mines. Athens returned in the time of Pericles in 437 BC, and founded Amphipolis. According to Thucydides, the city was named so because the Strymon River flows around the city, but there also are other theories.

Then Amphipolis became the main base of the Athenians in Thrace and objective of the Spartans. During the Peloponnesian War, the Spartans captured the city. For the salvation of the city, send by the Athenians an expedition led by Thucydides (the later historian). The mission failed something which led Thucydides to the exile. Then Athens sent Cleon, who was killed at the battle of Amphipolis, a fierce conflict in which the Spartan general Brasidas, died. With the Peace of Nicias, or Nicias peace, Sparta was bound to return Amphipolis to Athens, something that never did and was the friction point and one of the reasons that violated the peace and resume the Peloponnesian War.

The Athenians failed to recapture the city again, despite the several attempts made in the coming years. The last one was in 358 BC, which had not a positive outcome for them and one year later the city was conquered by Philippos and became part of the Kingdom of Macedon. Philippos send in Amphipolis a large number of Macedonian citizens to change the composition of the population to his benefit. At the time of Alexander the Great, Amphipolis and its seaport in the Aegean had become a very important naval base of the Macedonians, and birthplace of three major admirals, Nearchos, Androsthenes and Laomedon. From there began the fleet of Alexander the Great in Asia. In the Hellenistic era, settlers from the city, -with the prompt of Selefkos-, founded a namesake city on the banks of the Euphrates, on the former Aramaic Thapsakos.

With the fall of the Macedonian Kingdom from the Romans, Amphipolis became part of the Roman Empire. The city was designated as the capital of one of the four administrative regions in which the Romans parted Macedonia. Amphipolis subsequently incorporated in the province of Thrace. The famous Via Egnatia was passing through the city.

In ancient years Amphipolis benefited from the economic development of Macedonia, which is testified by the many churches. In Amphipolis excavated impressive, in size and decoration, churches of the 5th and 6th century AD. After the invasions of the Slavs in the late 6th century AD Amphipolis gradually depopulated and was completely abandoned in the 8th century, when most of the inhabitants fled to the nearby seaside town Ioni, which had been renamed by the Byzantines, in Chrysopolis.

Many tombstones, votive reliefs and statues, as well as gold jewelry (in the graves), have been found in the area. Also found many vases that show intense commercial traffic. Apart from the earliest discoveries, ie parts of the ancient walls and the temple of the muse Clio, have been rescued also parts of houses of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Many findings are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Amphipolis.

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