The Info List - Pella

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(Greek: Πέλλα, Pélla), is an ancient city located in Central Macedonia, Greece, best known as the historical capital of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon
and birthplace of Alexander the Great. On the site of the ancient city is the Archaeological Museum of Pella.


1 Etymology 2 History 3 Archaeology

3.1 Hippodamian plan 3.2 Urban area 3.3 Palace

4 Language 5 References 6 Bibliography 7 External links

Etymology[edit] A common folk etymology is traditionally given for the name Pella, deriving it from the Ancient Greek word pélla (πέλλα), "stone", and it appears in some toponyms in Greece like Pallini (Παλλήνη).[1][2][3] With the prefix a- it forms the Doric apella, meaning in this case fence, enclosure of stone.[4] The word apella originally meant fold, fence for animals, and then assembly of people into the limits of the square.[5][6] Τhe original meaning was " wooden bowl", and later it meant "stone".[7] R. S. P. Beekes has suggested a Pre-Greek proto-form *πελσα[8] History[edit]

House of Dionysus
(325–300 BC).

Map showing the geographic location of Pella
in a valley, west of river Axios.

Lion hunt mosaic

Stag Hunt Mosaic from the House of the Abduction of Helen.

In Antiquity, Pella
was a strategic port connected to the Thermaic Gulf by a navigable inlet, but the harbour and gulf have since silted up, leaving the site landlocked.

Shops right along the eastern edge of the agora.

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 capital of the kingdom by Archelaus I, replacing the older palace-city of Aigai[9] although there appears to be some possibility that it may have been created by Amyntas. 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
was first staged here, about 408 BC. According to Xenophon, in the beginning of the 4th century BC Pella
was the largest Macedonian city.[10] It was the birthplace and seats of Philip II, in 382 BC and of Alexander the Great, his son, in 356 BC. It became the largest and richest city in Macedonia and flourished particularly under Cassander's rule. The reign of Antigonus most likely represented the height of the city's prosperity, as this is the period which has left us most archaeological remains. The famous poet Aratus
died in Pella
c. 240 BC. Pella
is further mentioned by Polybius
and Livy
as the capital of Philip V and of Perseus during the Macedonian Wars
Macedonian Wars
fought against the Roman Republic. In 168 BC, it was sacked by the Romans, and its treasury transported to Rome, and Livy
reported how the city looked in 167 BC 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.[11]

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 BC and, crossed by the Via Egnatia,[12] Pella
remained a significant point on the route between Dyrrachium
and Thessalonika. In about 90 BC 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 BC, though by then the provincial seat had already transferred to Thessalonika. Pella
was promoted to a Roman Colony sometime between 45 and 30 BC 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.[13] (This is not to be confused with Pella, Jordan
Pella, Jordan
to which ancient sources report Christians fled from Jerusalem in 66 AD.[14]). In about 180 AD, Lucian
of Samosata
could describe it in passing as "now insignificant, with very few inhabitants".[15] In the Byzantine period, the Roman site was occupied by a fortified village. Excavations there by the Greek Archaeological Service begun in 1957 revealed large, well-built houses with colonnaded courts and rooms with mosaic floors portraying such scenes as a lion hunt and Dionysus riding a panther. In modern times it finds itself as the starting point of the Alexander The Great Marathon, in honour of the city's ancient heritage.[16] Archaeology[edit] The site was explored by 19th-century voyagers including Holand, Pouqueville, Beaujour, Cousinéry, Delacoulonche, Hahn, Glotz and Struck, based on the descriptions provided by Titus Livius,. The first excavation was begun by G. Oikonomos in 1914–15. The modern systematic exploration of the site began in 1953 and work has continued since then uncovering significant parts of the extensive city. In February 2006, a farmer accidentally uncovered the largest tomb ever found in Greece. The names of the noble ancient Macedonian family are still on inscriptions and painted sculptures and walls have survived. The tomb dates to the 2nd or 3rd century BC.[17] Overall, archaeologists have uncovered 1,000 tombs since the year 2000, but these only represent an estimated 5% of the site. In 2009 43 graves containing rich and elaborate grave goods were found and in 2010 37 tombs dating from 650 to 280 BC were discovered containing rich ancient Macedonian artifacts ranging from ceramics to precious metals. One of the tombs was the final resting place of a warrior from the 6th century BC with a bronze helmet with a gold mouthplate, weapons and jewellery.[18] Many artefacts are displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Pella.

Schematic plan of Pella

Hippodamian plan[edit] The city proper was located south of and below the palace. Designed on a grid plan as envisaged by Hippodamus, it consists of parallel streets which intersect at right angles and form a grid of eight rows of rectangular blocks. The blocks are of a consistent width — each approximately 45 m — and of a length which varies from 111 m to 152 m, 125 metres being the most common. The streets are from 9 to 10 metres wide, except for the middle East–West arterial, which is up to 15 metres wide. This street is the primary access to the central public agora, which occupied a space of ten blocks. Two North-South streets are also a bit wider than the rest, and serve to connect the city to the port further South. This type of plan dates to the first half of the 4th century BC, and is very close to the ideal in design, though it distinguishes itself by large block size; Olynthus
in Chalcidice
for example had blocks of 86.3×35 metres. On the other hand, later Hellenistic urban foundations have blocks comparable to those of Pella: 112×58 m in Laodicea ad Mare, or 120×46 m in Aleppo. Urban area[edit] The city is built on the former island of Phacos, a promontory which dominated the sea to the south in the Hellenistic period. The city wall mentioned by Livy
is only partly known. It consists of a rampart of crude bricks (about 50 cm square) raised on a stone foundation; some of which has been located North of the palace, and some in the South next to the lake. Inside the ramparts, three hills occupy the North. In pride of place in the centre of the city is the Agora, built in the last quarter of the 4th century BC and an architectural gem, unique in conception and size; it covered approx. 7 hectares or 10 city blocks. Pella
is one of the first known cities to have had an extensive piped water supply to individual house and waste water disposal from most of the city. The agora was surrounded by the shaded colonnades of stoae, and streets of enclosed houses with frescoed walls round inner courtyards. The first trompe-l'oeil wall murals imitating perspective views ever seen were on walls at Pella. There were temples to Aphrodite, Demeter and Cybele. Pella's pebble-mosaic floors are famous: some reproduce Greek paintings; one shows a lion-griffin attacking a stag, a familiar motif also of Scythian
art, another depicts Dionysus
riding a leopard. These mosaics adorned the floors of rich houses, often named after their representations,[19] particularly the Houses of Helen and Dionysus.

Aerial photograph and plan of the House of Dionysos

Bathtubs in the public baths

Palace[edit] The palace is situated on a place of honour on the central hill. Partly excavated, it occupied a considerable area of perhaps 60,000 square metres. The plan is still not well known, but has been related to that of the city plan (see diagram). The Pella
palace consisted of several — possibly seven — large architectural groupings juxtaposed in two rows, each including a series of rooms arranged around a central square courtyard, generally with porticos. Archaeologists have thus far identified a palaestra and baths. The south facade of the palace, towards the city, consisted of one large (at least 153 metres long) portico, constructed on a two metres high foundation. The relationship between the four principal complexes is defined by an interruption in the portico occupied by a triple propylaeum, 15 m high, which gave the palace an imposing monumental air when seen from the city below. Dating of the palace has posed some problems: the large buildings could date the reign of Philip II, but other buildings appear to be earlier. The baths date from the reign of Cassander. The size of the complex indicates that, unlike the palace at Vergina, this was not only a royal residence or a grandiose monument but also a place of government which was required to accommodate a significant portion of the administrative apparatus of the kingdom. Language[edit]

The Pella curse tablet
Pella curse tablet
at the Archaeological Museum of Pella

The question of what language was spoken in ancient Macedonia has been debated by Greek, Macedonian, and other scholars. The discovery of the Pella curse tablet
Pella curse tablet
in 1986, found in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedon, has given us a text written in a distinct Doric Greek idiom.[20] Ιt contains a curse or magic spell (Greek: κατάδεσμος, katadesmos) inscribed on a lead scroll, dated to the first half of the 4th century BC (c. 375–350 BC). It was published in the Hellenic Dialectology Journal in 1993. It is one of four texts[21] found until today that might represent a local dialectal form of ancient Greek in Macedonia, all of them identifiable as Doric. These confirm that a Doric Greek
Doric Greek
dialect was spoken in Macedonia, as was previously expected from the West Greek forms of names found in Macedonia. As a result, the Pella curse tablet
Pella curse tablet
has been forwarded as a strong argument that the Ancient Macedonian language was a dialect of North-Western Greek, part of the Doric dialects.[22] References[edit]

^ Πέλλα / Pella, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon ^ Hesych.: Schol.U.Demosth.: Martin Nilsson, Die Geschichte der Griechische Religion, vol. I (C. H. Beck), 1955, p. 558 ^ Παλλήνη ^ Nilsson, Vol. I, p. 558 ^ ἀπελλάζω ^ Heshych. ἀπέλλαι (apellai), σηκοί "folds", εκκλησίαι "assemblies", ἀρχαιρεσίαι "elections": Nilsson Vol. I, p. 556 ^ πέλλα ^ R. S. P. Beekes (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 1168). ^ J. Roisman, I. Worthington. A Companion to Ancient Macedonia. John Wiley and Sons, 2010. p. 92 ^ Xenophon: Hellenica, 5.2.13 ^ Titus Livius
Titus Livius
History of Rome
History of Rome
Vol. VI ^ Strabo
VII, 323 ^ "The Archaeological Museum of Pella
Archaeological Museum of Pella
Multimedia". Latsis Foundation. Retrieved 30 April 2017.  ^ "The Story of the Church, Second and enlarged edition", A.M. Renwick and A.M. Harman, 1985, p18 ^ Lucian
of Samosata: Alexander the false prophet, The Tertullian Project. ^ Presentation Archived 2015-07-02 at the Wayback Machine.. Alexander the Great Marathon. Retrieved on 2010-04-28. ^ "Greek tomb find excites experts". BBC News Online. 2006-02-12. Retrieved 2006-06-12.  ^ "The History Blog » Blog Archive » 37 more ancient Macedonian tombs found in Pella". www.thehistoryblog.com. Retrieved 30 April 2017.  (see picture) ^ Sideris A., "La représentation en réalité virtuelle de la Maison de Dionysos à Pella, créée par la Fondation du Monde Hellénique", in Descamps-Lequime S., Charatzopoulou K. (éds.), Au royaume d’Alexandre le Grand. La Macédoine antique. Catalogue of the exhibition in the Louvre museum, Paris 2011, pp. 682–683. ^ Fantuzzi & Hunter 2004, p. 376; Voutiras 1998, p. 25; Fortson 2010, p. 464; Bloomer 2005, p. 195. ^ O’Neil, James. 26th Conference of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies, 2005. ^ Masson & Dubois 2000, p. 292: "...<<Macedonian Language>> de l'Oxford Classical Dictionary, 1996, p. 906: <<Macedonian may be seen as a Greek dialect, characterized by its marginal position and by local pronunciation (like Βερενίκα for Φερενίκα etc)>>."


Ch. J. Makaronas, Pella: Capital of Ancient Macedonia, pp59–65, in Scientific American, Special
Issue, "Ancient Cities", c 1994. Ph. Petsas, Pella. Alexander the Great's Capital, Thessaloniki, 1977. D. Papakonstandinou-Diamandourou, Πέλλα, ιστορική επισκόπησις και μαρτυρίαι (Pella, istoriki episkopisis kai martyriai), Thessaloniki, 1971. (in Greek) (in French) R. Ginouvès, et al., La Macédoine, CNRS Éditions, Paris, 1993, pp90–98. (in French) F. Papazoglou, Les villes de Macédoine romaine, BCH Suppl. 16, 1988, pp135–139.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pella.

Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites (via Perseus) Macedonian Heritage Greek Ministry of Culture Local Newspaper House of Dionysos in Pella, 3D Architectural Reconstruction

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