05 January 2024

Palace where Alexander the Great became king reopened after 16-year restoration

05 January 2024

After a 16-year renovation, the ancient Palace of Aigai, where Alexander the Great was proclaimed king, has been reopened.

The largest building in classical Greece was built more than 2,300 years ago during the reign of Alexander’s father, Phillip II, at the royal capital of the Macedonian kingdom as it rose to become the dominant power in the ancient world.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described the 20 million euro (£17.2 million) inauguration as being of global significance.

The 15,000sq metre (160,000sq ft) palace once featured column-rimmed courtyards, worship places, and banquet halls adorned with marble and mosaics.

The renovated site will open to the public on Sunday.

“After many years of painstaking work, we can reveal the palace … What we are doing today is an event of global importance,” Mr Mitsotakis said at the site’s inauguration event on Friday.

The palace contained column-rimmed courtyards, courts, places of worship, and spacious banquet halls, its floors decorated with patterned marble and intricate mosaics.

The building covered a little under the area covered by the US Capitol building.

The Palace of Aigai was the administrative and spiritual centre of the kingdom.

Its remains and nearby royal tombs are a United Nations World Heritage Site at the area next to the modern village of Vergina.

Like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, the marble columns were resurrected by fitting pieces of stone unearthed in the ruins together with replica replacement parts.

Some 40 miles south-west of the port city of Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, Aigai drew international attention in the late 1970s during burial mound excavations in the area of rolling green hills with patches of wild poppies and daffodils.

The late Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos led the digs and discovered the royal tombs, recovering a gold casket and other gold artefacts as well as the bones widely believed to belong to Philip II.

The discoveries revealed the sophistication of the ancient Macedonians, who had often been sidelined in historical accounts by the attention bestowed on Athens.

Angeliki Kottaridi was still an archaeology student at university when she joined the project as a young assistant.

She devoted her life’s work to the excavations and decades later became the driving force behind the new museum at Aigai, which opened a year ago, and the palace restoration.

Ms Kottaridi retired on December 31 as head of the region’s archaeological service and was honoured at Friday’s ceremony.

“What you discover is stones scattered in the dirt, and pieces of mosaics here and there,” Ms Kottaridi told state television ahead of Friday’s inauguration.

“Then you have to assemble things and that’s the real joy of the researcher.

“So when people ask me what makes me happy, I tell them it’s not the moment something is revealed. It’s the moment you realise you can take the knowledge one step further.”

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