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, Afghanistan) - 329 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)

Monday, March 3, 2014

A closer look at Illyria

So little is known about Illyria and so little is mentioned in history that it hardly appears on a map, but it was the northwestern neighbor of Macedonia that made life difficult for Alexander and before that for his father, Philip II. Today most of the northern territory is occupied by Serbia while the south is in hands of Albania.


[Map from Wikipedia]

The Illyrians envied the good agricultural land and lush grasslands of the Macedonian floodplains and invaded that country on a more or less regular basis. It was during such an attack in 360/359 BC by the Illyrian King Bardylis that King Perdiccas III of Macedon was killed and with him 4,000 brave Macedonian soldiers. This incursion left the door open for further invasions for not only could the Illyrians push all the way down to the Thermaic Gulf but neighboring tribes like the Paeonians (in the buffer zone between Illyria and Macedonia) and the Thracians from the east could also seize this opportunity. With the death of Perdiccas III Macedonia is exposed to more attacks by its neighbors. Besides, there also was the matter of succession to the throne since the dead king’s son Amyntas was still a youngster. Given all these threats, the Macedonian Assembly unexpectedly proclaimed Philip as king in 359 BC, and the people swore their oath of allegiance to him. The most urgent enemies were evidently the Illyrians who had just defeated his brother, and it seems that King Philip II managed to sign some treaty which may have included his marriage with Audata (his second wife), King Bardylis granddaughter. One year later with a stronger army, Philip was completely confident to march into Illyria and bluntly refused to accept old king Bardylis’ terms. Consequently, both armies met near today’s Lake Ochrid, maybe close to the town of Heraklea Lyncestis. Philip was victorious and demanded that the Illyrians pulled out of Upper Macedonia all the way north to Lake Lychnitis including the tribes of Orestis which until then were controlled by the Molossian King of Epirus – no small achievement for a young king.

Illyria again comes in the news in 337 BC at King Philip’s wedding to Cleopatra, the niece of Attalus. Purposely or by accident, Attalus brings a toast to a lawful successor to the Macedonian throne which implied that he looked at Alexander as a bastard. We know how insulted Alexander felt, more so when his father was siding with Attalus. Alexander then leaves the court taking his mother Olympia with him and after placing her in the hands of her brother, the King of Epirus, he himself retires to Illyria. It is not known what he did or didn’t do there except spending the winter. All that is being reported is that Alexander returns to his father’s palace thanks to the diplomatic intervention of Demaratus, a mutual friend and actor.

The news of Philip’s murder in October 336 BC runs fast and practically all his new allies start revolting. The following summer, Alexander, who meanwhile succeeded to his father as king of Macedonia marches north towards the Danube and defeats the Illyrians on his way back to subdue Thebes. Obviously, no deep ties of friendship had been forged during his earlier stay.

This long introduction now brings me to recent excavations carried out at Kale-Krševica in southeastern Serbia, exposing significant remains of what appears to be a city from the late fourth/early third century BC built according to the Greek model in the days of Philip and Alexander! The settlement covers an area of about five hectares and was located on an important through-road from Greece to Central Europe. Archeology in Serbia is still in infancy and only about 6% of the site has been investigated so far, raising more questions than providing answers. But based on the type of architecture, the shreds of pottery and amphorae, the coins and jewelry, tools, and the overall organizational system of the area, clearly establish a Greek presence that might lead to locating the city of Damastion, which is still elusive as well as its precious silver mines mentioned by Strabo.  This would, of course, boost further research. So far, it has been established that most of the settlement was located on the slopes of the hill towards the Krševica River where several remains were uncovered like a rampart, a larger building, undefined walls, ovens, etc.

It is interesting however to mention that a wide range of coins has been found with the effigy of Philip, silver drachmae showing Alexander the Great and bronze coins of Cassander, Uranopolis, and Demetrios Poliorketes – all of them showing close ties with Macedonia in any case. On top of these specimens, one tetradrachma of early Damastion was discovered (hence the possible theory that this settlement might be the very city) and one tetradrachma of Aduleon, King of Paeonia.

Yet one of the greatest discoveries made so far is the arched vault used for water storage and supply, a highly sophisticated and modern installation for its time. It shows that because of the rising water level by the end of the fourth century BC the entire appearance and function of the original structure had to be adapted resulting is this 10 meters long and 6 meters wide cistern, built from large ashlars to a height of at least six meters. The fact is that it must have held enough water for a population of several thousands. More intensive investigation had to be abandoned however as archeologists were seriously hampered by the high water table and the cistern has been buried again pending more advanced technologies.

Well, this is just a tiny corner of Illyria that surfaced lately but it would be extremely interesting to see these excavations and others bring proof of closer contacts with Macedonia from the days of King Philip II and Alexander the Great.

[Last two pictures from Kale-Krševica]

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