Monday, April 5, 2010

“Who’s Who in the ‘Royal’ Cemetery at Vergina and Why it Matters”

The Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies
University of Illinois at Chicago
by Jonathan Hall
University of Chicago

“Who’s Who in the ‘Royal’ Cemetery at Vergina and Why it Matters”
Friday 9 April 2010 3:00 PM

UIC Institute for the Humanities
Lower Level of Stevenson Hall
701 South Morgan Street

Reception to Follow. Public Cordially invited.

ABSTRACT: Manolis Andronikos' excavation of the Great Tumulus at Vergina and his
identification of the remains in Tomb II as those of Philip II stirred the Greek national imagination. Almost immediately, however, the identification was challenged (one author has even argued that the remains are those of Alexander the Great) and some doubts have been expressed as to whether Vergina is really the ancient Makedonian capital of Aigeai.
In the light of continuing hypotheses and analyses, this lecture will take stock of what we can and cannot know and offer a new conjecture, as well as seeking to explain what is at stake in the identification of the burials.
Hall (Ph.D. University of Cambridge, 1993) is the Phyllis Fay Horton Distinguished
Service Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Greek History in the Departments of History and Classics and the College, and Departmental Chair. He is the author of Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity (Cambridge, 1997), for which he was awarded the APA's Goodwin Award in 1999, Hellenicity: Between Ethnicity and Culture, (University of Chicago Press, 2002), which received the 2004 Gordon J. Laing Prize from the University of Chicago Press, and A History of the Archaic Greek World, ca. 1200-479 BCE (Blackwell, 2007), and has written numerous articles and reviews on the social and cultural history of archaic and classical Greece. His teaching is focused on Greek history, historiography, and archaeology. He was a recipient of the Quantrell Teaching Award in 2009.

Please direct inquiries to Prof. John T. Ramsey (312) 996‐5530


  1. Is the lecture available anywhere?

    For a recent review of the past 30 years of Verginology, also see M.B. Hatzopoulos - The Burial of the Dead (at Vergina) or the Unending Controversy on the Identity of the Occupants at Tomb II, in TEKMERIA Vol. 9.

    Available online at tekmeria(dot)org

  2. I asked him at the end of the presentation if he plans to publish it and he assured me that he will. His main point in the speech was that due to the fight between Greeks and Slavomacedonians on the naming issue, the Vergina/Aegai identification was important as was the identification of the remains in the tombs. he was inconclusive about the identification of the tombs, but very certain on the identification of Aegai as the capital of ancient Macedon. The professor also allowed a healthy amount of his native British sarcasm to surface when describing the claims of the Slavonic speakers of FYROM as being the rightful descendants of the ancient Macedonians mentioning also the adoption of the Macedonian Sun as the first, abortive flag of FYROM. Obviously, being a serious scholar himself, he showed his distaste for rampant nationalism of all kinds, preferring instead to see archaeology be he treated as the multifaceted discipline that it is, where the study of the classics, history, geography, geology, forensic anthropology and DNA, art appreciation, identification and restoration, and so many other sciences need to come together and contribute their expertise for an archaeologist to be able to do his job properly and to arrive at conclusive results.
    Yugoslav and FYROMian politics and claims were quite obviously not standing very high on his list of contributors to issues relating to ancient Macedonia and to Vergina finds in particular. Professor J.Hall allowed his admiration for such men as Manolis Andronikos and Miltiades Hatzopoulos become apparent even as he disagreed with them in details. He also found it natural that the Greeks would surround the Vergina findings with a religious-like aura, normally reserved to religious relics of Orthodox Saints, noting the great importance that modern Greeks, especially of Macedonia, place on their close identification with the Hellenism of the ancient Macedonians.
    While the end of his presentation left many in the audience puzzled as to what was his precise personal opinion as to the identification of the tomb inhabitants, responding to two questions I posed him, one during the questions and answers session after his speech (refering to the identification of the ages of the man and the woman in Royal Tomb II, the man being about 35 to 55 and the woman being 20 to 25, which seem to correspond with Philip and Cleopatra) and another question over wine at the reception that followed, he seemed to be of the reserved opinion that while it is not certain and conclusive either way whether Philipos II, father of Alexander the Great or Philippos Arrhideos, Alexander's brother from Adea is the man found in royal tomb II, he personally seems to think that the slightly earlier "Persephone" tomb, which Andronikos thought contained the remains of the parents of Philip II, where a man a woman and a baby have been buried seem to be more in tune with the historical record, where Philipos B', his young wife Cleopatra and the baby brother of Alexander the Great are possibly buried. If this is true, then Philippos Arhidaeos is the man in Royal Tomb II, which would mean that the armor in it belong to none other than Alexander the Great. Either way, Macedonian Greeks end up with Philippos B', the Royal Tombs in Aegai and Alexander's armor, while Gruevski has to do with Italian-made sculptures in the middle of Skopje.

  3. Thanks for the information.

    Hatzopoulos in the above article seems to be somewhat inclined towards Phillip II. It's interesting to see the twists and turns the debate has taken since Andronikos' excavations.