The palace of Aigai, known today as Vergina, is considered not only the biggest but, together with the Parthenon, the most significant building of classical Greece.
Constructed during the reign of Philip II (359 – 336 BC) on a raised outcrop in Vergina in northern Greece, the palace, a remarkable landmark and symbol of power and beauty three times the size of the Parthenon, was visible from the whole Macedonian basin.
Archaeological evidence proves that the site was continuously inhabited starting from the Early Bronze Age (3rd Millenium BC) while in the Early Iron Age (11th to 8th centuries BC), it became an important rich and densely populated center.
The city reached its zenith in the Archaic (7th – 6th centuries BC) and Classical periods (5th-4th centuries), when it was the most important urban center of the area, the seat of the Macedonian kings, and the site for the establishment of many traditional sanctuaries.
The palace of Aigai was designed for Philip by an ingenious architect, most likely Pytheos, known for his contribution to the construction of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and to the development of urban planning and the theory of proportion.
Aigai Palace was covered with high-quality marble stucco
The east wing of the Aigai Palace included a monumental entrance, the ‘Tholos’ (probably a place of worship), and other rooms of unknown purpose.
The south wing contained the residential rooms proper as well as banqueting halls decorated with mosaic floors. Banqueting halls were located in the west wing.
On the lower north slope, there extended a long and narrow veranda in front of the chambers.
The masonry and architectural members were covered with lustrous, high-quality marble stucco that resembles marble.
Thousands of roofing tiles and relief antefixes of excellent quality, hundreds of square meters of floors covered with marble inlays and mosaics, some of which constitute exceptional works of art, extravagant pigments, bronze, and all kinds of luxurious materials were utilized in the creation of a complex that would fulfill the king’s ambitions.
Basic elements of the structure include: the large square peristyle (row of columns surrounding a space within a building) which comprises the heart of the building; the surrounding areas with their impressive propylon (the structure forming the entrance to a building); and the stoes (porticos, roofed colonnades) which form the façade and by which the propylon is enclosed. These constitute the foundational elements of this contemporarily innovative architectural project.
Royal tombs at Aigai include King Philip II
The most important remains at Aigai are the monumental palace and burial ground with more than 300 tumuli, some of which date to the 11th century B.C..
Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos brought to light the royal tombs in the Great Tumulus of Vergina (Megale Toumba) in 1977.
The most remarkable of these was the tomb of Philip II (359-336 B.C.). Its discovery is considered to be one of the most important archaeological events of the century.
Since 1977, continuing excavations have revealed a series of significant monuments.
This priceless archaeological site and the treasures discovered there were included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1996.