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Amfipolis municipality
Amfipolis municipality
Amfipoli is located in Greece
Coordinates: 40°49′N 23°50′E / 40.817°N 23.833°E / 40.817; 23.833Coordinates: 40°49′N 23°50′E / 40.817°N 23.833°E / 40.817; 23.833
Country Greece
Administrative region Central Macedonia
Regional unit Serres
 • Municipality 414.3 km2 (160.0 sq mi)
Population (2011)[1]
 • Municipality 9,182
 • Municipality density 22/km2 (57/sq mi)
 • Municipal unit 2,615
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Vehicle registration ΕΡ

Amphipolis (a.k.a. Amfípolis,[2] Modern Greek: Αμφίπολη; Ancient Greek: Ἀμφίπολις) is a municipality in the Serres regional unit of Greece. The seat of the municipality is Rodolivos.[3] In ancient times, it was a city in the region once called Edonia in the present-day region of Central Macedonia. It was built on a distance of around 5 kilometres (3 mi) from the Aegean Sea coast.


View of the delta of Strymon river from the acropolis of Amphipolis.
The ruins of Amphipolis as seen by E. Cousinéry in 1831: the bridge over Strymon, the city fortifications and the Acropolis.


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 raided by Illyrian tribes as the Bryges,[4] the Balkan Phrygians, migrated after being there since the Late Bronze Age.[5] Xerxes I 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.[citation needed] Near the later site of Amphipolis Alexander I of Macedon defeated the remains of Xerxes' army in 479 BC[citation needed].

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.[6] A second attempt took place in 437 BC on the same site under the guidance of Hagnon, son of Nicias.

A design dated at 1825 picturing the city according to Thucydides's details on the battle of Amphipolis. A bit further to the lower right the circular detail of the Kasta Tomb discovered in 2014 is also visible.
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;[7] 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.[8] 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[9][10][11] and honoured with yearly games and sacrifices.

Macedonian rule[edit]

Fortifications and bridge of Amphipolis.

The city itself kept its independence until the reign of king Philip II (r. 359–336 BC) despite several Athenian attacks, notably because of the government of Callistratus of Aphidnae. In 357 BC, Philip succeeded where the Athenians had failed and conquered the city, thereby removing the obstacle which Amphipolis presented to Macedonian control over Thrace. According the historian Theopompus, this conquest came to be the object of a secret accord between Athens and Philip II, who would return the city in exchange for the fortified town of Pydna, but the Macedonian king betrayed the accord, refusing to cede Amphipolis and laying siege to Pydna as well.

The city was not immediately incorporated into the Macedonian kingdom, and for some time preserved its institutions and a certain degree of autonomy. The border of Macedonia was not moved further east; however, Philip sent a number of Macedonian governors to Amphipolis, and in many respects the city was effectively "Macedonianized". Nomenclature, the calendar and the currency (the gold stater, created by Philip to capitalise on the gold reserves of the Pangaion hills, replaced the Amphipolitan drachma) were all replaced by Macedonian equivalents. In the reign of Alexander the Great, Amphipolis was an important naval base, and the birthplace of three of the most famous Macedonian admirals: Nearchus, Androsthenes[12] and Laomedon, whose burial place is most likely marked by the famous lion of Amphipolis.

Amphipolis became one of the main stops on the Macedonian royal road (as testified by a border stone found between Philippi and Amphipolis giving the distance to the latter), and later on the Via Egnatia, the principal Roman road which crossed the southern Balkans. Apart from the ramparts of the lower town, the gymnasium and a set of well-preserved frescoes from a wealthy villa are the only artifacts from this period that remain visible. Though little is known of the layout of the town, modern knowledge of its institutions is in considerably better shape thanks to a rich epigraphic documentation, including a military ordinance of Philip V and an ephebarchic law from the gymnasium.

Conquest by the Romans[edit]

After the final victory of Rome over Macedonia in a battle in 168 BC, Amphipolis became the capital one of the four mini-republics, or merides, which were created by the Romans out of the kingdom of the Antigonids which succeeded Alexander’s empire in Macedon. These merides were gradually incorporated into the Roman client state, and later province, of Thracia.

Revival in Late Antiquity[edit]

During the period of Late Antiquity, Amphipolis benefited from the increasing economic prosperity of Macedonia, as is evidenced by the large number of Christian churches that were built. Significantly however, these churches were built within a restricted area of the town, sheltered by the walls of the acropolis. This has been taken as evidence that the large fortified perimeter of the ancient town was no longer defendable, and that the population of the city had considerably diminished.

Nevertheless, the number, size and quality of the churches constructed between the fifth and sixth centuries are impressive. Four basilicas adorned with rich mosaic floors and elaborate architectural sculptures (such as the ram-headed column capitals - see picture) have been excavated, as well as a church with a hexagonal central plan which evokes that of the basilica of St. Vitalis in Ravenna. It is difficult to find reasons for such municipal extravagance in such a small town. One possible explanation provided by the historian André Boulanger is that an increasing ‘willingness’ on the part of the wealthy upper classes in the late Roman period to spend money on local gentrification projects (which he terms euergetism, from the Greek verb εύεργετέω, (meaning 'I do good') was exploited by the local church to its advantage, which led to a mass gentrification of the urban centre and of the agricultural riches of the city’s territory. Amphipolis was also a diocese under the metropolitan see of Thessalonica - the Bishop of Amphipolis is first mentioned in 533. The bishopric is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[13]

From the reduction of the urban area to the disappearance of the city[edit]

The Slavic invasions of the late 6th century gradually encroached on the back-country Amphipolitan lifestyle and led to the decline of the town, during which period its inhabitants retreated to the area around the acropolis. The ramparts were maintained to a certain extent, thanks to materials plundered from the monuments of the lower city, and the large unused cisterns of the upper city were occupied by small houses and the workshops of artisans. Around the middle of the 7th century AD, a further reduction of the inhabited area of the city was followed by an increase in the fortification of the town, with the construction of a new rampart with pentagonal towers cutting through the middle of the remaining monuments. The acropolis, the Roman baths, and especially the episcopal basilica were crossed by this wall.

The city was probably abandoned in the eighth century, as the last bishop was attested in 787. Its inhabitants probably moved to the neighbouring site of ancient Eion, port of Amphipolis, which had been rebuilt and refortified in the Byzantine period under the name “Chrysopolis”. This small port continued to enjoy some prosperity, before being abandoned during the Ottoman period. The last recorded sign of activity in the region of Amphipolis was the construction of a fortified tower to the north in 1367 by the megas primikerios John and the stratopedarches Alexios to protect the land that they had given to the monastery of Pantokrator on Mount Athos.


Fresco from a house (Hellenistic period).

The site was rediscovered and described by many travellers and archaeologists during the 19th century, including E. Cousinéry (1831) (engraver), L. Heuzey (1861), and P. Perdrizet (1894–1899). In 1934, M. Feyel, of the École française d'Athènes, led an epigraphical mission to the site and uncovered the remains of a funeral lion (a reconstruction was given in the Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, a publication of the EfA which is available on line).[14] However, excavations did not truly begin until after the Second World War. The Greek Archaeological Society under D. Lazaridis excavated in 1972 and 1985, uncovering a necropolis, the rampart of the old town (see photograph), the basilicas, and the acropolis.

The Tomb of Amphipolis[edit]

Main article: Kasta Tomb
The Abduction of Persephone by Pluto, Amphipolis

In 2012[15] Greek archaeologists unearthed northeast of Amphipolis (location: 40°50′22″N 23°51′46″E / 40.8394°N 23.8628°E / 40.8394; 23.8628) at a location called the Kasta Hill, a vast tomb, the biggest burial tomb ever unearthed in Greece. The perimeter is 497 meters long, and is made of limestone covered with marble. Three sections have been revealed by the excavation, each closed with a stone wall. There are two sphinxes just outside the entrance to the tomb. Two of the columns supporting the roof in the first section are in the form of Caryatids, apparently mimicking the fourth ce. BC style. The large size of the tomb indicates the prominence of the burial made there. The identity of the burial remains unknown, since the excavation is still going on.[16] Dr. Katerina Peristeri, the archaeologist heading the excavation of the tomb, dates the tomb to the late period of the 4th Century BC, which is the period after the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC). In the course of the excavation, directly behind the Caryatids and in front of the Macedonian marble door leading to the "third" chamber, a pebble mosaic showing the abduction of Persephone by Hades was discovered. Hades' chariot is drawn by two white horses and led to the underworld by Hermes. The mosaic verifies the Macedonian character of the tomb and its date in the last quarter of the 4th Century B.C. As the head of one of the sphinxes was found inside the tomb behind the broken door, it is clear that there have been intruders in the tomb, probably in antiquity.



The municipality Amfipolis was formed at the 2011 local government reform by the merger of the following 4 former municipalities, that became municipal units:[3]

In popular culture[edit]

The fictional character Xena, of the show Xena: Warrior Princess, was from the city of Amphipolis.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Detailed census results 2011" (in Greek). 
  2. ^ "Amfípolis: Greece, name, administrative division, geographic coordinates and map". Geographical Names. Retrieved 2014-10-22. 
  3. ^ a b Kallikratis law Greece Ministry of Interior (Greek)
  4. ^ Boardman, John (1982). The prehistory of the Balkans and the Middle East and the Aegean world, tenth to eighth centuries B.C. Cambridge University Press. p. 655. ISBN 0-521-22496-9. 
  5. ^ Borza, Eugene N. In the Shadow of Olympus: the Emergence of Macedon. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1990, ISBN 0-691-00880-9, p. 65. "What can be established, despite an extremely slight archaeological record (especially along the slopes of Mt. Vermion), is that two streams of Lausitz peoples moved south in the later Bronze Age, one to settle in Hellespontine Phrygia, the other to occupy parts of western and central Macedonia."
  6. ^ Thucydides I, 100, 3
  7. ^
  8. ^;query=chapter%3D%23471;layout=;loc=4.105.1
  9. ^;query=chapter%3D%23511;layout=;loc=5.10.1
  10. ^ Koukouli-Chrysanthaki Ch., "Excavating Classical Amphipoli", In (eds) Stamatopoulou M., and M., Yeroulanou <Excavating Classical Culture>, BAR International Series 1031, 2002:57-73
  11. ^ Agelarakis A., “Physical anthropological report on the cremated human remains of an individual retrieved from the Amphipolis agora”, In “Excvating Classical Amphipolis” by Koukouli-Chrysantkai Ch., <Excavating Classical Culture> (eds.) Stamatopoulou M., and M., Yeroulanou, BAR International Series 1031, 2002: 72-73.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 831
  14. ^ Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique (French)
  15. ^ Andrew Marszal (7 September 2014). "Marble female figurines unearthed in vast Alexander the Great-era Greek tomb". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  16. ^ "Greek tomb at Amphipolis is 'important discovery'". BBC News. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 

External links[edit]