A trading hub by the Strymonas River

The «thesmoforio» – a temple dedicated to female fertility where the inhabitants of ancient Verghi used to perform their sacrifices in Archaic and Roman times – preserved the remains of those rites for centuries. In a large cylindrical pit (1.70 meters wide and 1.65 meters deep), preserved in a thick layer of ash and charcoal, were animal bones, mainly from swine, a figurine of a wild boar and potsherds dating from the end of the 6th to the early 5th centuries BC. Next to the thesmoforio, the Hellenistic and Roman buildings (3rd century BC to 1st century AD) with clay floors concealed a hoard of coins and an abundance of ceramics. Scores of black-figure and red-figure vases, unpainted and black painted pots, lamps and cooking vessels (some the Archaic pottery of far-off Thasos) indicate that the inhabitants were in direct contact with the Thasiotes at the end of the 6th century BC. «Ancient Verghi was probably an important trading post on the navigable Strymonas River on the banks of Lake Kerkinitis,» explains Katerina Peristeri, ephorate director. In the late 6th century BC, Thasiotes settled in the area and soon made it into a colony because of its location and agricultural and mineral resources. The city acquired a leading role since it facilitated the movement of goods from the Aegean and Thasos to the Thracian hinterland and the Balkans. Though its importance declined following the foundation of Amphipoli (437 BC), Verghi continued to be a self-sufficient city in Hellenistic and Roman times. This is demonstrated by the finds in the settlement and the cemetery, where the excavators uncovered 38 graves in two layers – Hellenistic (late 3rd – early 2nd century BC) and Roman (3rd century BC). Gold wreaths with oak leaves and gold strips with olive leaves in the men’s graves, gold and silver jewelry, clay pots, perfume jars, lamps, clay figurines, lead and clay caskets, metal spearheads, bronze mirrors and coins are some of the many Hellenistic funeral gifts that attest to the importance of this ancient commercial city.