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Fortifications of ancient Amphipolis

Amphipolis[1] was an ancient city located in Greece, northern Macedonia and nearby the Strymon River and Mount Pangaion, founded by the Athenians as a colony in the year 437 BC.[2] Amphipolis was built on top of the older Thracian site of Ennea Hodoi. The city and its history are told by many ancient authors, including Thucydides and even the Bible itself as a location which Paul passed through from his trip from Philippi to Thessalonica.[3] Today, the site of this city is now occupied by a Turkish village called Neokhorio.[4]

In 2012, the ancient city received magnitudes of attention for the discovery of perhaps one of the most significant tomb findings in the last several decades.[5]


We are told about the origins of the name of Amphipolis in the writings of Thucydides. Accordingly, the Athenian general Hagnon named the city as he saw that the Strymon River surrounded the city on three sides, and thus deriving the name 'amphi', meaning 'on both sides'.[6]


Coins found at Amphipolis

The ancient city of Amphipolis propsered well in its time because it had a great abundance of natural resources, and it was located in a geographically strategic area, controlling the valley of the Strymon that had a forest with large trees (a necessity for building ships) and the route from Macedonia to Thrace.[7] It was also located by the sea, and thus had a sea port, where commodities such as fish would be available. It also maintained an abudance of natural resources such as silver, timber, and the gold mines in the nearby Pangaion mountains.

Historical Overview

Although founded by the Athenians in 437 BC, it would not stay under Atheninan control for long. Less than two decades later, the Spartan general Brasidas conquered the city and took it under his control. In 422 BC, the Athenians attempted to re-capture Amphipolis at the Battle of Amphipolis, but Brasidas defeated them again, however he eventually succumbed to his wounds in this second battle and died that year.[8] A year later, in the Peace of Nicias, the Athenians would now once again have control over Amphipolis, but the city of Amphipolis desired to become an autonomous city-state, and succeeded. By the fourth century BC, the Macedonians had acquired control over Amphipolis, and despite the attempts of the Athenians, they did not yield over the city to them, but instead established major defensive fortifications and walls to ensure their control over the region. The rulers of Amphipolis would only change again in 168 BC, when the Romans seized Amphipolis and turned it into a free city under Augustus, and for it Augustus received the title of Ktistes (founder). Under the Romans, Amphipolis gained extraordinary fortifications, walls that stretched for over 7,000 meters long and 7 meters in height. By the 8th and 9th centuries, Amphipolis was abandoned due to the Slavic invasions, and the people were forced to relocate themselves to the nearby site of Eion, however, by the 13th century, Amphipolis was again re-inhabited and resettled.

Tomb Discovery

4th century BC lion statue of the 2012 tomb discovery of Amphipolis

In 2012, a major finding of a royal tomb was found within the city of Amphipolis, constructed in the 4th century BC.[9] This tomb is suspected of having the body of one of the close relatives (such as a brother, mother) of Alexander the Great, or perhaps even Alexander the Great himself. The tomb itself is surrounded by a nearly perfectly circular wall,[10] built out of limestone and marble shipped from Thasos, as well as timber. The wall stretches over 500 meters in perimeter and over 150 meters in diameter. The tomb consists of three chambers, and the first chamber has an opening to enter the tomb. Outside the first chamber are two statues of headless and wingless sphinxes.[11] One of the most considerable aspects of the tomb is the enormous lion statue.[12] The statue is massive, the lion itself standing over 5 meters tall, and the overall statue being 15 meters in height including the base.

See also


  1. Britannica - Amphipolis
  2. Cartwright, Mark. Amphipolis
  3. Bible Dictionaries, Amphipolis, Acts 17:1
  4. Mackay, Alexander. Manual of modern geography, mathematical, physical, and political. William Blackwood, 1873. pg. 394
  5. The Amphipolis Tomb
  6. see ref. 1
  7. Amphipolis (Ennea Hodoi)
  8. Battle of Amphipolis
  9. see reference 4
  10. The Surrounding Wall
  11. First Chamber and Entry
  12. The Lion