Pella is an ancient city located in Central Macedonia, Greece. It is best-known for serving as the capital city of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, and was the birthplace of Alexander the Great.
In Antiquity, Pella was a strategic port connected to the Thermaic Gulf by a navigable inlet, but the harbor and gulf have since silted up, leaving the site landlocked.
Pella is first mentioned by Herodotus of Halicarnassus (VII, 123) in relation to Xerxes' campaign and by Thucydides (II, 99,4 and 100,4) in relation to Macedonian expansion and the war against Sitalces, the king of the Thracians.
It was probably built as the commercial capital of the kingdom of Macedon by Archelaus I, complementing the older palace-city of Aigai although there appears to be some possibility that it may have been created by Amyntas III.
Archelaus invited the painter Zeuxis, the greatest painter of the time, to decorate his palace. He also later hosted the poet Timotheus of Miletus and the Athenian playwright Euripides who finished his days there writing and producing Archelaus. Euripides Bacchae was first staged here, about 408 BCE. According to Xenophon, in the beginning of the 4th century BCE Pella was the largest Macedonian city. It was the birthplace and seats of Philip II, in 382 BCE and of Alexander the Great, his son, in 356 BCE. It was already a walled city in the time of Philip II and he made the city of great international importance.
It became the largest and richest city in Macedonia and flourished particularly under Cassander's rule who redesigned and expanded it. The reign of Antigonus most likely represented the height of the city's prosperity, as this is the period which has left the most archaeological remains. The famous poet Aratus died in Pella c. 240 BCE.
Pella is further mentioned by Polybius and Livy as the capital of Philip V and of Perseus during the Macedonian Wars fought against the Roman Republic.
In 168 BCE, it was sacked by the Romans, and its treasury transported to Rome, and Livy reported how the city looked in 167 BCE to Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus, the Roman who defeated Perseus at the battle of Pydna:
...[Paulus] observed that it was not without good reason that it had been chosen as the royal residence. It is situated on the south-west slope of a hill and surrounded by a marsh too deep to be crossed on foot either in summer or winter. The citadel the "Phacus," which is close to the city, stands in the marsh itself, projecting like an island, and is built on a huge substructure which is strong enough to carry a wall and prevent any damage from the infiltration from the water of the lagoon. At a distance it appears to be continuous with the city wall, but it is really separated by a channel which flows between the two walls and is connected with the city by a bridge. Thus it cuts off all means of access from an external foe, and if the king shut anyone up there, there could be no possibility of escape except by the bridge, which could be very easily guarded.
Pella was declared capital of the 3rd administrative division of the Roman province of Macedonia, and was possibly the seat of the Roman governor. Activity continued to be vigorous until the early 1st century BCE and, crossed by the Via Egnatia, Pella remained a significant point on the route between Dyrrachium and Thessalonika.
In about 90 BCE the city was destroyed by an earthquake; shops and workshops dating from the catastrophe have been found with remains of their merchandise, though the city was eventually rebuilt over its ruins. Cicero stayed there in 58 BCE, though by then the provincial seat had already transferred to Thessalonika.
Pella was promoted to a Roman Colony sometime between 45 and 30 BCE and its currency was marked Colonia Iulia Augusta Pella. Augustus settled peasants there whose land he had usurped to give to his veterans (Dio Cassius LI, 4). But, unlike other Macedonian colonies such as Philippi, Dion, and Cassandreia, it never came under the jurisdiction of Ius Italicum or Roman law. Four pairs of colonial magistrates (duumvirs quinquennales) are known for this period.
The decline of the city was rapid, in spite of being a Colonia: Dio Chrysostom (Or. 33.27) and Lucian both attest to the ruin of the ancient capital of Philip II and Alexander, though their accounts may be exaggerated. In fact, the Roman city was somewhat to the west of and distinct from the original capital, which explains some contradictions between coinage, epigraphs, and testimonial accounts. Despite its decline, archaeology has shown that the southern part of the city near the lagoon continued to be occupied until the 4th century.
In about 180 CE, Lucian of Samosata could describe it in passing as "now insignificant, with very few inhabitants". It later bore the name Diocletianopolis.
View over the House of Dionysus. (1181k) House of Dionysus. (1420k) Large floor mosaic. (1.6M) Floor mosaic with courtyard behind it. (1437k) Courtyard. (1266k) Floor mosaic showing a Deer Hunt. (1.5M) Floor mosaic showing combat between a Greek and two Amazons. (1492k) Floor mosaic showing the Abduction of Helen. (1207k) Right side of the floor mosaic showing the Abduction of Helen. (1383k) Left side of the floor mosaic showing the Abduction of Helen. (1155k) Large vessel. (1.7M)
Archaeological Museum of Pella
The Pella museum is one of the best museums that I visited in Greece. I highly recommend a visit.
Floor mosaic showing the Abduction of Helen. (1008k) Floor mosaic showing a Lion Hunt. (1403k) Floor mosaic of Dionysus on a panther (from 325-300 BCE). (1.7M) Floor mosaic of a Deer Hunt (from 325-300 BCE). (1085k) Closer view of the Deer Hunt floor mosaic (from 325-300 BCE). (1.6M) Marble funerary stele of a woman and child (from 300-250 BCE). (705k) Marble funerary stele (from early 4th century BCE). (703k) Terracotta figurine of Cybele, the Mother Goddess (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (647k) Terracotta figurine of Cybele, the Mother Goddess (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (721k) Terracotta figurine of Athena (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (498k) Terracotta figurine of Athena (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (622k) Terracotta figurine of Aphrodite (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (528k) Terracotta figurine of Aphrodite (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (623k) Terracotta figurine of Aphrodite removing her sandal (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (535k) Terracotta figurine of Aphrodite on a panther (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (714k) Terracotta figurine of Aphrodite reclining on a pier (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (587k) Terracotta figurine of Aphrodite playing the kithara (late 2nd century BCE). (686k) Marble statue of Artemis (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (661k) Marble statue of Artemis (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (704k) Terracotta figurine of Artemis (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (629k) Jewelry box lid with the head of the Medusa (late 2nd century BCE). (616k) Jewelry box lid with the bust of Artemis (early 1st century BCE). (727k) Bust of Dionysus (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (782k) Bust of Dionysus (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (876k) Terracotta figurine of Eros (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (624k) Terracotta figurine of Eros (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (545k) Terracotta figurine of Eros and Psyche (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (570k) Terracotta figurine of Heracles (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (585k) Terracotta figurine of reclining Heracles (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (713k) Head of a terracotta figurine of Heracles. (471k) Marble statue of Alexander-Pan (late 4th / early 3rd century BCE). (598k) Terracotta figurine of Nike (between 4th and 1st century BCE). (610k) Terracotta figurine of an ordinary women with ordinary clothes. (942k) Mable head of Alexander the Great (from 325-300 BCE). (586k) Bronze statue of Poseidon. (500k) Red-figured Attic hydria, showing the contest between Athena and Poseidon to name Athens. In the center is Poseidon with the horse, his gift to the city. (831k) Elaborately decorated pottery vase. (858k) Elaborately decorated pottery vase. (608k) Elaborately decorated pottery vessel. (594k) Elaborately decorated pottery vase of a rider fighting a Griffin. (614k) Pottery vase with pictures of two men wearing togas. (692k) Pottery vase with pictures of two men wearing togas. (739k) Bowl with fish motive. (696k) Pot with animal motive. (563k) Skyphos with a phallic spout (from 3rd century BCE). (610k) Pot with bronze stand. (430k) Grave goods from a noble grave. (618k) Grave goods from a noble grave. (603k) Grave goods from a noble grave. (667k)
Statue of Alexander the Great in Pella. (1180k)
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