News item from 2011


Heracles to Alexander the Great: Treasures from the Royal Capital of Macedon, a Hellenic Kingdom in the age of Democracy

This April the Ashmolean launches a groundbreaking archaeological exhibition that will showcase over five hundred treasures made of gold, silver and bronze, recently found in the royal burial tombs and the palace of Aegae, the ancient capital of Macedon. Most of these extraordinary new discoveries will go on display for the first time anywhere in the world. They re-write the history of early Greece and tell the story of the royal court and the kings and queens who governed Macedon, from the descendants of Heracles to the ruling dynasty of Alexander the Great.

The royal city of Aegae, modern–day Vergina in northern Greece, was the first capital of Macedon, the seat of the Temenid kings who claimed descent from Heracles. They ruled from the mid–7th to the 4th century BC, and gave to Greece two of its most renowned heroes – King Philip II (382–336 BC) and his son, Alexander the Great (356–323 BC). Until 30 years ago, when excavations uncovered the tombs of Philip II and his grandson Alexander IV, Aegae remained relatively unknown. Recent work at the site by the 17th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities and the Aristotle Unvierstiy of Thessaloniki, has continued to unearth a startling wealth of objects – from beautifully intricate gold jewellery, silverware and pottery, to sculpture, mosaic floors and architectural remains.

The true extent of the wealth left behind at Vergina, has come to light with recent work in the last 20 years, making this exhibition an international first. On show will be the riches of the royal court, with gold wreaths and jewellery, silverware and pottery; weaponry and spectacular reconstructions of the burials of royal women. The exhibition takes visitors through the world of Macedonian men – in hunting and war; the life of women – in fashion and rituals; and the royal palace – with fragments of its architecture and objects of the banquet.

‘Heracles to Alexander’ will be a thrilling tour around the royal capital of the kingdom of Macedon, in the period which gave birth to some of the ancient world’s most famous names.


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