The ancient palace of Macedonian King Philip II, one of Greece's ancient treasures where Alexander the Great was proclaimed king, was inaugurated on Friday after sixteen years of restoration work.
This 4th century BC palace is located in Aiges, the first capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia in northern Greece. It covers an area of 15,000 m2, near the village of Vergina where the museum of Macedonian tombs is located, including that of Philip II. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who participated in a ceremony at the site, was delighted to introduce the public to a “monument of global importance”, which will open its doors to visitors on Sunday. The palace of Philip II “has a cultural and national character, because it confirms the Greek timelessness of Macedonia through the centuries,” he told the media.
The site includes the royal palace consisting mainly of a peristyle, a gallery of Doric columns surrounding the palace courtyard and the agora where the Macedonians gathered to make decisions, specifies archaeologist Agueliki Kottaridi, quoted Friday in the daily Kathimerini . It was in this courtyard, which could accommodate 8,000 people, that Alexander the Great was proclaimed king of Macedonia in 336 BC, after the assassination of his father Philip II. He then inherited a powerful kingdom which allowed him to unite Macedonia and the Greek cities to invade the Persian empire.
The palace was destroyed by the Romans in 148 BC and its excavation began in 1865 before continuing “sporadically” into the 20th century, according to archaeologists. Begun in 2007, its restoration was allocated a budget of 20 million euros including European funds, underlined the Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni. She called the palace “a symbol of Macedonian hegemony” and Aiges “the cradle and religious and cultural center of the Macedonians” and “the starting point of political and ideological developments in the world of the time.”
A country rich in ancient sites, including the iconic Parthenon temple on the Acropolis hill of Athens (5th century BC), Greece is investing in their conservation, a source of significant tourism revenue. For more than three decades, Greece has been demanding the return of the famous Parthenon friezes, exhibited at the British Museum, which, according to Athens, were the subject of “looting” in the 19th century, when the country was under Ottoman occupation.
But London continues to maintain that the sculptures were “legally acquired” in 1802 by the British diplomat Lord Elgin, who sold them to the British Museum. This dispute caused a diplomatic hiccup at the end of November between Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his British counterpart Rishi Sunak, who canceled at the last moment a meeting in London during which this subject was to be discussed.