A reconciliation stele from 2,400 years ago

THESSALONIKI – New finds in Thessaloniki and Pella, which bear witness to political disputes, also provide information about the warrior caste in ancient Macedonia. A marble stele with an incised inscription of a reconciliation oath between two warring camps 2,400 years ago (witnessed and guaranteed by Perdikas III of Macedonia, the elder brother of Philip II, who ruled from 365 to 359 BC) gives new information which locates Dikaia, a colony of Eretria, in Aghia Paraskevi, Thessaloniki. The inscription was found on a knoll known as Toumba Angeliki, as archaeologist Costas Simanidis of the first Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities told a symposium on «Macedonia from the Iron Age to the death of Philip II» on October 14. The 150- line text includes five resolutions by the assembly of the deme, the terms of the reconciliation agreement between the two parties, and describes the oath the citizens of Dikaia had to make at the city’s three most important temples. Weapons and gold Weaponry and gold indicate the wealth, power and social position of ancient Macedonian warriors before the dominance of Philip II and Alexander III. The high standard of living, social prestige, heroism, and the leading role of military officers in the ancient Macedonian aristocracy is apparent from the lavish tombs of dozens of warriors from 575-450 BC, which are still being uncovered by excavations in the urban center of Archontiko, Pella. Helmets, shields, swords, spears and dozens of individual funeral gifts, such as masks, breastplates, foil used for decorating clothes and footwear, jewelry, and even farm carts, which accompanied the dead to their simple, trench graves, indicate the social class and funeral ceremonies, as well as the beliefs and occupations of the soldiers in the other world. Pavlos Chrysostomos, head of the excavation team, analyzed the social and economic level of the fighters in Archontiko Pella, as well as the habit of bearing arms, which was the custom in Epirus, Thessaly and Macedonia. The three-year excavation of the western graveyard in the ancient settlement, which was the leading center of North Boeotia in prehistoric and historic times until the end of the fifth century BC, when Pella was chosen as the capital of the Macedonian kingdom, has brought to light 331 graves. The 177 with the most lavish funeral gifts date from the second quarter of the sixth century to the first quarter of the fifth century BC. Of these graves, 77 belong to men (44 percent) and 62 of them contained weapons; 84 belonged to women (47 percent), while there are doubts about the remaining 15 (9 percent). Judging by the number of weapons in each man’s grave, Chrysostomos determined the social pyramid of Archontiko Pella during the period it was the warriors’ urban center. Men’s graves At the top of the social scale belong two men’s graves with lavish military accouterments – a shield, helmet, lances and knives. Then come 11 graves (17 percent) which contain a helmet, sword, lances and knives; 28 graves with a sword, lances and small knives, while at the base of the pyramid are 21 graves (35 percent) with a lance and knives, which probably «met the need for defense in everyday life or were used for common hunting.» The warriors’ graves are impressive, with the abundance and technology of the weapons and the type and quality of the funeral gifts. Chrysostomos says the graves bear a strong resemblance to finds in the cemeteries of Aiane, Aegon, Sindos and Aghia Paraskevi in Thessaloniki. The jewelry was mainly made by Macedonian metalworkers, though some is from Egypt, Ionia, the eastern Aegean islands, Corinth, Attica and Euboea, providing evidence of trade links, a high living standard, and similarities with the graves of nobles in Geometric and Mycenean times – a sign of Macedonia’s different political and social development, and its conservatism in comparison with other Greek regions.