Boy, it’s been a good week for Classicists – and it’s only Tuesday! Just yesterday we had the news that Xena is going back into production, and today (okay, the news came out yesterday, I just sat on it for a day) we hear that researchers have released a study that says they have identified the remains in one of the tombs at the Great Tumulus hill near Vergina in Macedonia. They had previously attributed a different tomb to Philip of Macedon, which contained a number of elaborate grave goods that seemed linked to the Macedonian royal family.
However, these goods were eventually realized to be from a slightly later period than when Philip died – 317 BCE, instead of 336 BCE when he was assassinated. The big thing in identifying that the body was not Philip’s is that he was said to have suffered a critical lance to the leg just a few years before his death, which crippled him. This body showed no signs of this, or a few other significant injuries.
The skeleton in this tomb that is now identified as belonging to Philip did indeed have a knee injury, and was about the correct age. He was really tall (180 cm), too. The tomb also contained the body of a woman approximately 18 years old, and a baby. The article over at Popular Archaeology says this supports the story that Olympias, mother to Alexander the Great, killed Cleopatra, who was Philip’s wife after her (he had a lot of wives), and their child. This happened shortly after Philip’s own death. There are a lot of historians that speculate on events around this time so it’s typically been hard to understand what is truth and what is fiction, but with this sort of evidence it certainly does put one version of the tale into a more concrete light.
Super interesting stuff. If you want to read the whole article and see more photos, check out the story over at Popular Archaeology.