vergina tombs

‘The Abduction of Persephone’ wall painting, in the royal Tomb of Persephone,  Vergina, Greece.

One of the most significantly surviving frescoes from the 4th century BC, found in one of the royal Verginian tombs of Philip II, The Tomb of Persephone. To consider its importance we can analyse its important contribution to the Greek myth, Greek art, and death of one of the most influential Greek rulers in history, whilst comparing its similarity to Ovid’s poem.

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Tomb of Thessalonike of Macedon

Vergina, Greece

300 BCE


Thessalonike (352 or 345 – 295 BC) was a Macedonian princess, the daughter of king Philip II of Macedon by his Thessalian wife or concubine, Nicesipolis, from Pherae. History links her to three of the most powerful men in Macedon—daughter of King Philip II, half sister of Alexander the Great and wife of Cassander.

Greek Bronze Phrygian Helmet, Late Classical to Early Hellenistic, c. 350-300 BC

The Phrygian helmet, also known as the Thracian helmet, was a type of helmet that originated in Classical Greece and was widely used in Thrace, Dacia, Magna Graecia and the Hellenistic world until well into the Roman Empire. The name given to this type of helmet are derived from its shape, in particular the high and forward inclined apex, in which it resembles the caps (usually of leather) habitually worn by Phrygian and Thracian peoples.

The Phrygian helmet was worn by Macedonian cavalry in King Philip’s day (r. 359-336 BC) but his son Alexander (the Great) is said to have preferred the open-faced Boeotian helmet for his cavalry, as recommended by Xenophon. The royal burial in the Vergina Tomb contained a helmet which was a variation on the Phrygian type, exceptionally made of iron, this would support its use by cavalry. The Phrygian helmet is prominently worn in representations of the infantry of Alexander the Great’s army, such on the contemporary Alexander sarcophagus The Phrygian helmet was in prominent use at the end of the Classical Era and into the Hellenistic period, replacing the earlier Corinthian type from the 5th century BC.

Diadem of Philip II of Macedonia’s wives.  This diadem was owned by one of the wives of Philip of Macedonia, father to Alexander the Great, in the fourth century B.C. The crown was uncovered in the Macedonian royal tombs in Vergina in Greece.

Διάδημα της συζύγου του Φιλίππου Β’ της Μακεδονίας. Αυτό το διάδημα ανήκε σε μία από τις συζύγους του Φιλίππου της Μακεδονίας, πατέρα του Μεγάλου Αλεξάνδρου, στον τέταρτο π.Χ. αιώνα Το στέμμα αποκαλύφθηκε στους Μακεδονικούς βασιλικούς τάφους της Βεργίνας στην Ελλάδα

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Eurydice’s tomb

Vergina, Greece

~369 BCE


The unusual Tomb of Eurydike lies slightly east of the Rhomaios Tomb. This double-chambered, barrel-vaulted structure, whose facade has yet to be revealed, is plastered with off-white mortar.

One of the short sides of the burial chamber is presented in trompe-l'oeil as a facade with a door and two windows framed by four Ionic half-columns, which support an Ionic three-tiered entablature and a frieze decorated with white palmettes.

A unique find is the marble throne with its richly carved and painted ornamentation; in particular, the back of the throne, which depicts Pluto and Persephone riding on a quadriga, is truly outstanding.

The wealth of this tomb, which had been plundered in antiquity, indicates a royal burial; on the basis of chronological data, it is attributed to Philip’s mother Eurydike, inscribed dedications of whom have been found in the temple of Eukleia at Aigai.

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Ancient Worlds - BBC Two 

Episode 4 “Return of the King”

The Royal Tombs of Aigai, the ancient first capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia, near Vergina.

Tomb II, “Tomb of Philip“ the tomb thought to have belonged to King Philip II of Macedonia contained a wealth of exquisite valuables and weapons including a gold wreath and a gold gorytos (quiver-and-bow-case) The relief decoration is a narrative of warriors fighting, as a female figure runs away in fright. The specific battle is the capture of a city.

Fourteen ivory portrait heads were also found in the main chamber; one of them was identified as Philip II.

PART II

Vergina, Macedonia, Greece

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Hellenistic Gold Oak Wreath, c. 4th-3rd Century BC

A Greek Hellenistic diadem wreath comprising numerous projecting sprays of sheet-gold oak leaves in two sizes with serrated edges and veins, a large central rosette with two smaller similar roundels flanking, laurel leaves to the rear with gold Heracles knot, the four intersections covered by miniature gold masks modeled in the round with varying expressions, and four more to the bands of the knot; each element affixed to a custom-designed display stand.

The most famous of such wreaths is the example from Vergina in the tomb of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Similar wreaths have been found all over the Hellenistic world in funerary contexts, as far apart as Asia Minor, the Black Sea coasts and Magna Graecia. The Greek writer Demosthenes (384-322 BC) noted that gold wreaths were worn for religious ceremonies, and the inventories of Greek temples and sanctuaries record that they were left as dedications by local men and women, foreign visitors, officials approaching the end of their career, as well as foreign powers seeking a favorable relationship. The oak leaves may symbolize the power of Zeus, who was often represented by the oak tree. This is a finely detailed example of the type executed with great skill.

HadesxPersephone inktober day 4 (weaving): Weaving was one of the most important tasks of women in Ancient Greece. They were in charge to make the chlothings for the whole household. Weaving was so important that it was recognized by law (for example de Gortyn code), we could say that women had a rigth to weave and they could keep half of the clothings woven in cases of widowhood or divorce. Weaving was an important part of Ancient Greek economy and daily life.
It saddens me that we don’t have any Ancient clothings left; unlike Egypt, Greece lacks the weather and conditions able to preserve fabrics. One of the few samples left was found inside a larnax in Philipp II’s tomb at Vergina. I find this fact very sad because, it’s like, women were a bit “invisible” back then, and the great work they did can’t be appreciated by us now either.

Hellenistic Greek Gold Oak Wreath, 4th-3rd Century BC

A diadem wreath comprising projecting sprays of sheet-gold oak leaves with serrated edges and veins, a large central rosette to the center

The most famous of such wreaths is the example from Vergina in the tomb of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. Similar wreaths have been found all over the Hellenistic world in funerary contexts, as far apart as Asia Minor, the Black Sea coasts and Magna Graecia. The Greek writer Demosthenes (384-322 BC) noted that gold wreaths were worn for religious ceremonies, and the inventories of Greek temples and sanctuaries record that they were left as dedications by local men and women, foreign visitors, officials approaching the end of their career, as well as foreign powers seeking a favorable relationship. The oak leaves may symbolize the power of Zeus, who was often represented by the oak tree. This is a finely detailed example of the type executed with great skill.

Another similar example

The Many Triumphs of Simonides

Anthologia Palatina 6.213 (attributed to Simonides, but probably late Hellenistic in date)

 Fifty-six bulls and tripods you won,
Simonides, before you set up this plaque.
Fifty-six times, too, you trained your own chorus-
A lovely chorus of men – and mounted
The splendid chariot of well-famed Nike.

 Ἓξ ἐπὶ πεντήκοντα, Σιμωνίδη, ἤραο ταύρους
    καὶ τρίποδας, πρὶν τόνδ’ ἀνθέμεναι πίνακα.
τοσσάκι δ’ ἱμερόεντα διδαξάμενος χορὸν ἀνδρῶν
    εὐδόξου Νίκας ἀγλαὸν ἅρμ’ ἐπέβης.

Fresco of a war-chariot from a Macedonian royal tomb at Vergina, possibly that of Philip II.