The Henley Archaeological and Historical Group were treated to a lecture by one of our members, Derek Toms, who recently participated in a study tour of the Macedonian region of Greece. The highlight of the tour, and the lecture, was the Great Tumulus of Aegae at Vergina, the location of the royal tombs of Macedon. This site had been excavated in 1977, and was found to contain several, virtually intact burials, including that believed to be of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. Other burials include that believed to be of Eurydike, Philip’s mother.
The tomb of Philip was identified through the pre-mortem damage to cremated bones found in the ossuary, or larnax, and the design of the greaves, or leg-armour, found in the tomb, which were designed for someone with the recorded injuries of Philip. The rectangular larnax (pictured) is of gold and bears on its lid the star emblem of the Macedonian dynasty. Further treasures in the tomb include a golden oak wreath, a golden panel (part of a quiver) depicting battle scenes, an iron cuirass with gold ornamentation and a silver wine-jug with a magnificently-crafted head of Silenus.
Philip was the conqueror of much of what is present-day Greece. He did this initially through diplomacy – he made peace with neighbouring invading states by promising tribute – and military tactics – subsequent invasion of these states using the innovative phalanx, a mass of infantry troops armed with 6 metre-long spears with devastating effect against troops armed with shorter weapons. Philip did all the work to allow his son Alexander to expand the influence of Greece; without this, Alexander would have been less great.