Amphipolis History

Amphipolis History

Ancient Amphipolis – What it looked like 2.300 years ago

Ancient Amphipolis



Amphipolis (Ennea Hodoi)

Amphipolis: Greek town in Thrace, colony of Athens, of great strategic importance.
Human occupation of the area of Amphipolis dates back to prehistoric times. In the sixth century BCE, it was a settlement of the Thracian tribe of the Edones, favorably situated on a hilltop (“hill 133”) on the east bank of the river Strymon.
In those days, it was called Ennea Hodoi, “nine roads”. The inhabitants controlled the valley of the Strymon, strategically important forests with tall trees (necessary for anyone who wanted to build a ship), and the route from Macedonia to Thrace that was later known as Via Egnatia. The road crossed the river near Ennea Hodoi; in fact, it was the last place where one could cross the Strymon before it reached the Aegean Sea at Eion, 4 km below Ennea Hodoi. The most important asset of the town, however, was the presence of gold mines in the nearby Pangaion mountains.
When the Persian king Darius I the Great invaded Europe in c.513, he sent his general Megabazus to the west, to subdue the Paeonians in the valley of the Upper Strymon. Eion was made the capital of the European possessions of the Achaemenid Empire, and it is likely that the Edonians in Ennea Hodoi benefited economically from the demand of the nearby Persian garrison. Herodotus of Halicarnassus records a tradition that the Milesian leas Histiaeus received land in this area, where in c.512 they founded a colony; its name was Myrcinus Diodorus of Sicily records an alternative tradition that it was Aristagoras who founded Amphipolis, also saying that this colony was not long-lived.
When king Xerxes invaded Greece in 480, there was a (temporary?) bridge at Ennea Hodoi, where the Persian king sacrificed nine boys and nine girls – at least, according to the Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who may be wrong, because human sacrifice is not known as a Persian custom.
Because Eion and Ennea Hodoi were of the greatest strategic importance, the Athenians attempted to conquer these towns. Their first attempt was in 497, when the Persians were occupied with the Ionian Revolt. This first attempt met with ill-success, because when the revolt was over, the Persian general Mardonius restored order in Thrace. He even added Macedonia to the Achaemenid Empire (492), so that the twin towns were now on all sides surrounded by Persian territory.
After Xerxes had recalled most Persian troops in the winter of 480/479, the Athenians for the second time tried to reconquer the area. In the winter of 476/475, their general Cimon laid siege to Eion and captured it; its last Persian commander, Boges, committed suicide. Ten years after, the Athenians tried to capture Ennea Hodoi as well, but this time, they were defeated. The leader of the expeditionary force, a man named Sophanes, was killed in action (465).

Thirty years later, the Athenian commander Hagnon was more successful. In 437/436, he captured Ennea Hodoi, and settled many Athenians and other Greeks in a new town in a bend of the river Strymon, which surrounded the town on three sides. The town was called Amphipolis.
As might be expected, there were Thracians living in the new town as well, but it is not clear to what extent they were Edones or belonged to another tribe. However this may be, the town became populous and soon eclipsed Eion. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of the piers of the bridge that was (re)built by Hagnon.

Athenian success, however, was short-lived. In 431, the Archidamian War between Sparta and Athens broke out, and the Spartan commander Brasidas was able to invade the Athenian possessions in the far north, capturing (among other towns) Amphipolis. The Athenian commander Thucydides arrived too late to save the city, although he was able to prevent the fall of Eion. Thucydides was sent into exile and became a famous historian, and Amphipolis became a main problem when the Spartans and Athenians later concluded an armistice. The latter refused to sign a peace treaty until they had recovered their colony, but their commander, the statesman Cleon, was killed in action when he tried to get back the lost city.

After this second catastrophe, the Athenians were willing to come to terms, and because Sparta promised to give back the city, the Peace of Nicias could be signed in 421. Unfortunately, the Amphipolitans, among whom the Athenian settlers were a minority, refused to return to their Athenian alliance, and the peace turned out to be an uneasy one. In 413, war was renewed (the Decelean or Ionian War) and after the final defeat of Athens in 404, regaining Amphipolis was further away than ever.
In the first half of the fourth century, Athenian diplomats did everything they could to get back their colony, but their chances became smaller and smaller, not in the least because Amphipolis grew larger and larger, and could muster more and more soldiers. In 365, however, an opportunity offered itself. In Macedonia, the young king Perdiccas III needed Athenian help and was forced to cooperate with the Athenian commander Timotheus to reconquer Amphipolis. Once Amphipolis had been captured, however, the Macedonian king kept it for himself and broke off the collaboration. Few Athenians will have wept whenPerdiccas was defeated and killed by the Illyrians in 360.
The new Macedonian ruler was Philip II. Athens opened secret negotiations, offered to support him, and asked for Amphipolis. The Macedonian replied to this overture by removing the garrison from Amphipolis, which was now independent again. Briefly, the Athenians believed that they could finally attack an isolated town without allies, but in 357, the Persian satrap of Caria, Maussolus, provoked a revolt among the Athenian allies and Amphipolis was saved from an attack. At least, from an attack by the Athenians, because it was now Philip’s turn to proceed against the city, which was forced to surrender. The Amphipolitans were treated kindly, although the Macedonian ruler ordered several people to be exiled and placed a garrison in the city

From now on, Amphipolis was part of Macedonia, and several important officers of Philip’s son Alexander the Great came from the town (e.g., Erigyius and Nearchus). Alexander seems to have liked Amphipolis, because one of his last plans was to spend no less than 315 ton silver for a splendid new temple in the city that was to be dedicated to Artemis Tauropolus. It was never built, but after Alexander’s death on 11 June 323 in Babylon, his wife queen Roxane settled in Amphipolis, which appears to have become one of the residences of the Macedonian royals. In 179, king Philip V died in the town.

By now, Macedonia was in decline. In fact, it had never recovered from the exploits of Alexander, who had taken away more soldiers than the country could afford to miss. Although the Macedonian unity that had been created by Philip remained intact, the kingdom never regained its former strength. It was defeated by the Romans in the Second Macedonian War (which culminated in the battle of Cynoscephalae in 197), and again in the Third Macedonian War (which ended at Pydna in 168). The Roman general Lucius Aemilius Paullus reorganized the old kingdom by dividing it into four administrative units. Amphipolis was to be the capital of one of these.



Archaeology has uncovered remains at the site dating to approximately 3000 BC. Due to the strategic location of the site it was fortified from very early. In the 8th and 7th century BC the site of Amphipolis was ruled by Illyrian tribes. Xerxes of Persia passed during his invasion of Greece of 480 BC and buried alive nine young men and nine maidens as a sacrifice to the river god. Near the later site of Amphipolis Alexander of Macedon defeated the remains of Xerxes’ army in 479 BC.
Throughout the 5th century BC, Athens sought to consolidate its control over Thrace, which was strategically important because of its primary materials (the gold and silver of the Pangaion hills and the dense forests essential for naval construction), and the sea routes vital for Athens’ supply of grain from Scythia. After a first unsuccessful attempt at colonisation in 497 BC by the Milesian Tyrant Histiaeus, the Athenians founded a first colony at Ennea-Hodoi (‘Nine Ways’) in 465, but these first ten thousand colonists were massacred by the Thracians. A second attempt took place in 437 BC on the same site under the guidance of Hagnon, son of Nicias.


Map of Amphipolis.
The new settlement took the name of Amphipolis (literally, “around the city”), a name which is the subject of much debates about lexicography. Thucydides claims the name comes from the fact that the Strymon flows “around the city” on two sides; however a note in the Suda (also given in the lexicon of Photius) offers a different explanation apparently given by Marsyas, son of Periander: that a large proportion of the population lived “around the city”. However, a more probable explanation is the one given by Julius Pollux: that the name indicates the vicinity of an isthmus. Furthermore, the Etymologicum Genuinum gives the following definition: a city of the Athenians or of Thrace, which was once called Nine Routes, (so named) because it is encircled and surrounded by the Strymon river. This description corresponds to the actual site of the city (see adjacent map), and to the description of Thucydides.
Amphipolis subsequently became the main power base of the Athenians in Thrace and, consequently, a target of choice for their Spartan adversaries. The Athenian population remained very much in the minority within the city. A rescue expedition led by the Athenian strategos (general, and later historian) Thucydides had to settle for securing Eion and could not retake Amphipolis, a failure for which Thucydides was sentenced to exile. A new Athenian force under the command of Cleon failed once more in 422 BC during a battle at which both Cleon and Brasidas lost their lives. Brasidas survived long enough to hear of the defeat of the Athenians and was buried at Amphipolis with impressive pomp. From then on he was regarded as the founder of the city and honoured with yearly games and sacrifices. The city itself kept its independence until the reign of the king Philip II despite several other Athenian attacks, notably because of the government of Callistratus of Aphidnae.



The Tomb of Amphipolis

In 2014 Greek archaeologists unearthed northeast of Amphipolis (location: 40.8394°N 23.8628°E) at a location called the Kasta Hill, a vast tomb from the last quarter of the 4th century BC, known as the Hellenistic Period. This is the biggest burial tomb ever unearthed in Greece. It is believed that it belonged to an important figure from the late period of the reign of Alexander the Great although the identity of the deceased remains unknown as of September 8, 2014, since no remains have yet been revealed and therefore examined

From Wikipedia