Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Thessaloniki's Temple of Aphrodite

The city of Thessaloniki was officially founded in 315 BC by Cassander and is now the second largest city of Greece with most of its past buried beneath modern buildings. From time to time, however, new remains are being discovered. 

Thessaloniki was a half-sister of Alexander the Great, i.e. the daughter of PhilipII by Nicesipolis of Pherae, whom he married to secure Thessaly. She was taken as a bride by King Cassander of Macedon in 315 BC who named the city after her. Cassander we know, was a son of Antipater who served as regent in Macedonia while Alexander was marching through Asia. Although Cassander belonged to the group that was educated by Aristotle in Mieza, he did not accompany Alexander and did not share in his glory, much to his chagrin. But Cassander was not really appreciated by his father either, Antipater, who did not allow him to lie on the couches with the men at his dinner parties but put him on a low stool because he never had killed his own boar as required by tradition. After Alexander’s death and Antipater dying from old age, Cassander crowned himself King of Macedonia and in order to support his legitimacy to the throne married Thessaloniki who was truly of royal blood.

The marriage cannot have been a happy one, but that was of no importance in antiquity. Cassander’s life cannot have been a pleasant one either and his reign was led by fire and sword. He besieged Pydna in 317 BC to capture Olympias, Alexander’s mother and had her executed. Roxane and young Alexander IV, Alexander’s wife and son, were later on also put to death upon Cassander’s orders.

But, to return to modern Thessaloniki,  an ancient temple, first located in the 1930’s and entirely forgotten, was exposed when an apartment block was being tore down. In the backyard of this building located in the modern municipality of Thermaikos were the poor remains of his temple half hidden under lots of garbage and wild growing trees. Apparently it belonged to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and dated from the late Archaic period, built in the 6h century BC. Some statues and other artifacts had already been moved to the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki although the original seven meters high columns never could be re-erected in their full length under the low ceiling. But now the temple is threatened to disappear after the demolition of this apartment complex and the plans to build new housing on the very spot. 

The underlying sanctuary could be saved if the land were expropriated by the Central Archaeological Council, but the present owner refuses expropriation. It is a well-known situation all over Greece where urban development is fighting against cultural preservation. For the aficionados of Greek culture, the temple is a symbol of national pride and very much part of Greece’s rich history. For modern builders, these antiquities hamper the city’s development and modernization.

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