Apollonia of Macedonia, a city scarcely known even in Greek history, is on the verge of new prominence as a recent discovery brings its past to light. In the summer of 2000 a farmer digging in his fields near Nea (“new”) Apollonia, 30 miles east of Thessalonica, made an amazing discovery. In the bottom of a trench he found a wreath of thirty solid-gold ivy leaves, decorated with two bunches of grapes, that weighed more than a pound. Only three other wreaths of this type and quality have ever been discovered in all of Greece. Archaeologists from Thessaloniki dated the find at approximately 350 B.C.E., or more than 2,350 years old. (This remarkable wreath is currently on display in the Archaeological Museum in Thessaloniki.) The following day their probings uncovered a statue believed to be an image of the goddess known as the Nike of Samothraki, or the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Subsequently, massive fortifying walls and five towers from the 5th century B.C.E. were uncovered. Likewise, two pottery kilns and sixteen cist (stone slab) graves have been unearthed. Archaeologists now believe that this finding marks the location of ancient Apollonia of Macedonia. More surprising, they estimate its population at 10,000, roughly the same as that of Athens during the same period. The city is believed to have existed from approximately 400 B.C.E. to the 8th century C.E. and to have reached its zenith under Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. The first inhabitants of Apollonia were refugees from the nearby Chalkidiki peninsula who fled that location when it was threatened by Athenian warships during the Peloponnesian War. Prior to the recent discoveries, Apollonia was known only as a station on the ancient trade route between the east and west. King Xerxes of Persia passed through the area in 480 B.C.E. (Herodotus 7.112–115), as did Alexander the Great in his epic journey to the east some 150 years later (Arrian, Anabasis 1.11.4).
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