As days go by and the mystery of the Casta hill tomb in Amphipolis remains unsolved, new questions and conspiracy theories arise. The “who is buried in there” has now become “why now and not earlier” in the minds of many, as the public keeps getting bombarded by all kinds of theories and personal opinions.
The “reserved optimism” Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras suggests lately is interpreted in many different ways. In fact, it sounds rather suspicious, given the high tones he used himself when he visited the tomb site shortly after the discovery. As the excavation progresses and the discoveries become less conclusive about the monument, the tones get lower. And as the indications that the site is looted become more and more apparent, the previous optimism has been replaced by an uncomfortable silence.
Yet, the unearthing of the undoubtedly great monument may have political and historical significance given the timing and its location. As more and more archaeologists express their certainty that inside the tomb lies a member of Alexander the Great’s family, our northern neighbors of FYROM rush to add wax figures of Alexander the Great and Philip II in the Skopje Archaeological Museum. And it’s no surprise that Skopje had the outrageous demand to participate in the excavations, as Amphipolis is part of Macedonia! Athens denied the request of course.
The latest desperate efforts of the Skopjans to claim Macedonia as their “home” and Alexander the Great as their ancestor coincide with their efforts to win the country’s naming dispute with Greece. United Nations Special Envoy Matthew Nimetz is currently pushing the two countries to come to a mutual agreement over the name. Greece has already lost the battle over the “Macedonia” compound in the name. What Greek politicians are struggling for now is to have the word “Macedonia” along with a qualifier, such as a geographical specification.
Nimetz allegedly proposed the name “Upper Macedonia” to FYROM’s President Nikola Gruevski after his mid-October visit to the neighboring country. The UN Envoy will soon call the two countries for a meeting in New York in order to try to resolve the ongoing naming dispute one more time.
Imagine what would happen then if the tomb’s resident is a prominent member of Alexander the Great’s family. Along with the Philip II tomb in Vergina, the Amphipolis tomb would be further proof that Macedonia belongs 100% to Greeks, and Greece would go to the negotiations with an extra negotiating tool.
Unfortunately, our NATO and EU allies openly support FYROM’s membership in Euro-Atlantic institutions. Kostas Karamanlis was allegedly “pushed out” from the Greek premiership when he said “no” to FYROM by blocking Skopje’s accession to NATO in 2008. Also, German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems keen to accept FYROM in the European Union arms while it was reported that the Greek Ambassador to Germany resigned over this particular issue in September.
Therefore, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched for one to suspect that NATO and EU are putting pressure on the Samaras government to delay the excavations until after the negotiations between Athens and Skopje. It sounds suspicious indeed that archaeologists knew about the tomb for decades and did not proceed sooner. The fact that works have cost only 590,000 euros so far (250,000 of which are donations) makes it even more suspicious; the Greek state has been far more generous on far less important discoveries.
Certain analysts say that the Amphipolis tomb has been used to allay outbursts of national pride since the early 1990s, when the problem with Skopje first appeared. It is said that both PASOK and New Democracy governments cut funding on excavations in the area or ordered to stop them altogether. Even in times of great prosperity for Greece, very little or no funds were going the Amphipolis way. It is said that Kostas Simitis, Prime Minister between 1996 and 2004, had put a stop on all works in the area, and works started again in 2009 after great pressure from archaeologists.
As for the initial enthusiasm on the part of the Greek government, that was a convenient distraction for Greek people at a time when the new property tax was implemented and New Democracy was plunging in the intention to vote polls.