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AMPHIPOLIS Thrace, Greece.

City in the Edonian region, on the E bank of the river Strymon, about 4 km N of its estuary. The city was built on a level plateau dominating the surrounding country, on the SW slope of the Pangaium range and at the point where the Strymon makes a 180° curve before flowing into the Aegean. In 497 B.C. Histiaeus, the tyrant of Miletos, and his son-in-law Aristagoras attempted to colonize the site, but they were driven back by the Edonians (Hdt. 523124ff; 7114ff). A new attempt by the Athenians to colonize the area in 465 B.C. ended in failure (Hdt. 9.75, Thuc. 1.100, 4.102). In 437 B.C. Agnon, son of Nicias, succeeded in founding Amphipolis on the site of the Nine Roads, as the area was formerly called, using as a base the old Persian fortress at the mouth of the river Eïon, which became a trading port of the Athenians in 476 B.C., after its conquest by Kimon (Thuc. 4.102).

The Spartan general Brasidas, marching from Chalkidike in 424 B.C., easily conquered the city because of its mixed population and treason on the part of its Argilian colonists. The intervention of Thucydides, “general over Thrace,” with seven triremes, resulted in the rescue of only the Eïon. The expedition of the Athenian demagogue Kleon with strong forces in 422 B.C. did not succeed in breaking off Amphipolis from the Lakedemonians. In the battle that ensued in front of the walls, the generals Brasidas and Kleon were killed. Brasidas was buried within the city walls and honored as a hero and founder with annual games and sacrifices (Thuc. 5.6-11).

In spite of repeated efforts by the Athenians, Amphipolis remained autonomous until 357 B.C., when it was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon. During Alexander the Great's campaign to Asia in 334 B.C., the city was used as a naval base, and his fleet gathered in the waters of the Strymon from its estuary to Lake Cercinitis (Arr. Anab. 1, 2.3). Alexander the Great's three most celebrated admirals, Nearchos, Androsthenes, and Laomedon, were natives of Amphipolis. During the Hellenistic period it was a Macedonian city, a fortress, and one of the royal mints where Philip II's famous gold staters were coined.

After the battle of Pydna (168 B.C.) Emilius Paulus conquered the city. A council constituted of Romans and 10 select representatives of Hellenic cities met there to decide on the fate of areas of the Macedonian kingdom. Macedonia was divided into four districts, the merides, and Amphipolis was declared capital of the first district (Plin. HN 4.38). Coins minted here in the period 168-146 B.C. carry the inscription ΜΑΚΕΔΟΝΩΝ ΠΡΩΤΗΣ. The city's prosperity lasted through Roman times, and the great Roman Via Egnatia passes through Amphipolis. It is not known when the city was deserted, but it is probable that it was destroyed during the Slavic incursions of the early 9th c. During Byzantine times the area was known as Popolia.

During the Balkan wars of 1912-13 fragments of a large statue were uncovered on the W bank of the Strymon near the present-day bridge. Excavation of the site revealed foundations of a structure which carried a pyramid-shaped base for a lion. The statue was reconstructed and reerected in 1936 on a contemporary base built with ancient architectural material. The lion of Amphipolis belongs to a large funeral monument, influenced by the architecture of the Ionian tumuli, very probably that of Alexander the Great's admiral, Laomedon. It is dated from the last quarter of the 4th c. B.C.

A large necropolis of Hellenistic times was excavated systematically in the N of the city, as well as graves outside it, located singly and in groups. A total of about 440 graves of various types (pit-shaped, tile-roofed, box-shaped, sculptured underground) have been studied. Three “Macedonian” graves built with stone-plinths of limestone and with arched roofs, found N and E of the city, consist of an entrance, a death chamber, and often an antechamber. There are built-in beds for the deceased. The beds of Macedonian grave I, which dates from the second half of the 3d c. B.C., are decoratively painted with dionysiac forms, animals, utensils, etc. Another box-shaped grave of Hellenistic times is decorated with water birds flying among flower garlands.

The graves yielded terracotta figurines, pots, tombstones, and gold jewelry fashioned into wreaths of oak or olive leaves, diadems, earrings, rings, necklaces, and charms. The gravestones cover the period from the end of the 5th c. B.C. to Roman Imperial times. They picture isolated forms: older men, suppers for the dead, scenes of the reception of the dead, or scenes of everyday life.

Trial excavations have uncovered parts of habitations of the 4th c. of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. In a house of the Roman period a mosaic floor depicts the Rape of Europa. On the edge of a deep ravine in the hill of the present-day village, walls of a structure, in strict isodomic style, remain. A dedicatory inscription identifies the building as the Temple of Clio. Of the fortifications known from Thucydides' account (4.102, 103; 5.10), a large section of the wall was found in the part of the city farthest W. On the crest of a line of hills in the SE of the city, stone plinths of a long wall directed toward the river are preserved, as are small sections of wall in the E and N section.

On the site of “Bezesteni” in the center of the city, the stylobate of a large stoa of the Roman or Early Christian period was excavated for a length of 53.50 m. Its marble columns (five Ionic and one Doric) come from more ancient buildings. In the same region four Early Christian basilicas were uncovered. Two of these, which were excavated in large part, have very beautiful multicolored mosaic decorations. Mosaic floors depict rich geometric motifs, fountains, pots, and plants as well as a large number of fish and various birds and animals, both wild and tame. Neither the agora nor any of the large temples of the city known from ancient sources have been uncovered.


P. Perdrizet, “Un Tombeau du Type Macédonien au N. O. Du Pangée,” BCH (1898) 335ff; “Études Amphipolitaines,” BCH (1922) 36ff; J. Papstravru, “Amphipolis Geschichte und Prosopographie,” Klio Supplement 37, Vol. 24 (1936); O. Broneer, The Lion Monument at Amphipolis (1941); D. Lazarides, “Fouilles dans La Région du Pangée,” Huitiéme Congrés International d'Archeologie Classique (1963) 293ff; K. Pritchett, Studies in Ancient Topography (1965) 30-48.


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