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 Drangiana/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)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Via Egnatia, a road to remember

It was during my first visit to Philippi (Greece) that I noticed the inscription “Via Egnatia” next to what appeared to be a Roman road running a couple of meters below the modern road and parallel to it.

Till then I only knew about the main roads of Italy, like the Via Appia, the Via Emilia, Via Aurelia, Via Flaminia, the Via Trajana and the Via Ostiensis to name only a few, but the Via Egnatia?

Since it bordered the Roman Agora at Philippi it must have been important and I soon found out that it ultimately connected to Rome. Built in the 2nd century AD, it started back in Byzantium, running through Thrace, Macedonia (Philippi, Kavala, Amphipolis, Thessaloniki, Pella, Edessa, Florina) over the mountain passes to Lake Ohrid; from there over a difficult stretch along the Genusus River to the Adriatic Sea at Dyrrachium (originally Epidamnos), today’s Durrës in Albania opposite the port of Brindisi on the Italian Peninsula; hence the connection to Rome. Like most Roman roads, it was about six metres wide and in many places it was covered with large stone slabs. In total it covered a distance of 1,120 kilometres. According to Strabo it was named after Gnaeus Egnatius, proconsul of Macedonia who seems to have initiated its construction, although that has not been proven yet. The road was expanded and improved many times and for centuries it remained Rome's  vital link with its eastern provinces.

[picture from Wikipedia]

The Via Egnatia made history when Julius Caesar and Pompey marched over it fighting for supremacy during the Great Roman Civil war that lasted from 49 to 45 BC. Leading to the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC, the armies of Marc Antony and Octavian pursued Cassius and Brutus along the same road and several milestones have been recuperated recording the many crucial events of its life-span. By the fifth century AD large sections, especially at its western end fell in disrepair and the Via Egnatia became more a name than an actual highway.

The modern version called Egnatia Odos now links Igoumenitsa on the Adriatic coast to Greece’s eastern border with Turkey - a distance of 670 km and a worthy ode to the ancient Via Egnatia.

[Egnatia Odos]

Many portions of the antique highway have survived and the best known, I think, is to be found in Philippi. But this soon may change with the discovery of a marble paved road at a depth of three meters during the construction works for the metro in Thessaloniki. A great number of tombs and graves ranging from the fourth century BC to the fourth century AD once lined this road and yielded a great number of offerings that accompanied the dead. So far, 1,500 pieces of jewellery in silver, gold and copper, have been unearthed, as well as gold coins from Persia, glass perfume bottles, terracotta vessels and even eight golden wreaths.

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