An­cient grave in Greece hon­ored Alexan­der’s pal

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

An op­u­lent un­der­ground mon­u­ment in north­ern Greece that caused a stir when ex­ca­vated last year may have been a sym­bolic grave — but not the fi­nal rest­ing place of — the clos­est friend and gen­eral of an­cient war­rior-king Alexan­der the Great, the ex­ca­va­tor claimed Wed­nes­day.

Ar­chae­ol­o­gist Ka­te­rina Peris­teri said she be­lieves the vaulted struc­ture, dec­o­rated with sculp­tures and a mo­saic floor, “was a fu­ner­ary mon­u­ment for Hephaes­tion.”

The Macedonian no­ble­man grew up with Alexan­der and died in Per­sia in 324 B.C., pre­de­ceas­ing the king by less than a year and driv­ing him into a frenzy of grief dur­ing which he or­dered a se­ries of mon­u­ments to be built for Hephaes­tion across his newly won em­pire.

But Peris­teri said there was no ev­i­dence Hephaes­tion was ac­tu­ally buried at the tomb in Amhipo­lis, east of Thes­sa­loniki, whose ex­ca­va­tion grabbed head­lines, pro­vok­ing spec­u­la­tion that it might be­long to Alexan­der him­self, who lived from 356-323 B.C.

Another ar­chae­ol­o­gist how­ever, who was not in­volved in the ex­ca­va­tion, re­jected her iden­ti­fi­ca­tion as “to­tally un­founded.”

Panayi­o­tis Fak­laris, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Thes­sa­loniki, told the As­so­ci­ated Press the tomb more likely be­longed to some prom­i­nent an­cient citizen of Am­phipo­lis.

“There is no his­toric or sci­en­tific ba­sis” for what Peris­teri claimed, he said. “Hephaes­tion had no con­nec­tion with Am­phipo­lis.”

The dis­cov­ery caused con­tro­versy from the out­set. Other ex­perts crit­i­cized Peris­teri for dig­ging too fast and cre­at­ing un­jus­ti­fied ex­pec­ta­tions that the tomb was un­plun­dered.

The mon­u­ment con­tained twin mar­ble stat­ues of sphinxes and young women, had a painted frieze — parts of which sur­vive — and, ac­cord­ing to Peris­teri, was topped with a large mar­ble lion now stand­ing a few kilo­me­ters away.

Peris­teri has of­fered no ex­pla­na­tion of one of the find’s strangest fea­tures — that it shel­tered at least five skele­tons, in­clud­ing an el­derly woman and a baby.

She ar­gued Wed­nes­day that frag­men­tary in­scrip­tions link the mon­u­ment with Hephaes­tion, and said an Alexan­der-era coin found in the mon­u­ment — which she thinks was filled with earth gen­er­a­tions later to pro­tect it from van­dals — con­firms it was built in 325-300 B.C.

Alexan­der led an army of Greeks to con­quer a vast em­pire stretch­ing as far as mod­ern Pak­istan. An­cient writ­ers say he con­sid­ered Hephaes­tion to be his al­ter ego, mak­ing him the sec­ond most pow­er­ful man in the em­pire.

When Hephaes­tion died, Alexan­der is recorded to have granted him hero’s rites, de­clared mourn­ing through­out the em­pire and had him cre­mated in Baby­lon at enor­mous ex­pense.

AP

In this Oct. 8, 2014 file photo, tourists read a sign in front of the re­con­structed, colos­sal 4th cen­tury B.C. mar­ble Lion of Am­phipo­lis, some 5 kilo­me­ters (3.1 miles) from a large fu­neral mound cur­rently un­der ex­ca­va­tion by Greek ar­chae­ol­o­gists near Am­fipo­lis, Greece. An op­u­lent un­der­ground mon­u­ment in north­ern Greece that caused a stir when ex­ca­vated last year may have been a sym­bolic grave — but not the fi­nal rest­ing place of — the clos­est friend and gen­eral of an­cient war­rior-king Alexan­der the Great, the ex­ca­va­tor Ka­te­rina Peris­teri said on Wed­nes­day, Sept. 30.

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