The Palace of Aigai, a 2,400 year-old palace where Alexander the Great was once crowned as King of Macedonia, is reopening its doors to visitors after undergoing an extensive 16 year restoration. According to the Greek Ministry of Culture, the palace used to be the largest building in classical Greece, spanning over 15,000 square meters.
“It is the place where Alexander the Great was crowned king, a short while after his father’s assassination, to start his glorious campaign,” the PGreek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at the opening ceremony on 5 January. “What we are doing today is an event of global importance and international scope.”
Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II of Macedonia, commissioned its building in the 4th century BCE. Witnessing the rise and fall of Alexander’s Macedonian Empire and withstanding through the Hellenistic period, the palace was destroyed by the Romans in 148 BC and looted multiple times over the years.
“They’re calling it the Parthenon of Macedonia,” Konstantinos Vorgiazides, the mayor of Veria, the nearest town to the archaeological treasure, explained. “Every year the site draws about 250,000 tourists but now we are expecting it to increase greatly. We’re very proud. It’s a beautiful place.”
The palace restoration required a budget of over 20 million euros, part of which was subsidised by the European Union. The renovation involved excavations, the reinstatement of about 1,400 square meters of mosaics and multiple columns. Overall, however, the palace retains the outlook of a ruin.
“The importance of such monuments transcends local boundaries, becoming property of all humanity. And we, as the custodians of this precious cultural heritage, we must protect it, highlight it, promote it and at the same time expand the horizons revealed by each new facet,” Mitsotakis said.
However, the restoration project only touched a fraction of the total surface of a much bigger ensemble of which the palace (bigger than the Parthenon) was just one building. The larger complex included, among others, a theatre, sanctuary, library and vast necropolis of more than 500 burial mounds.
“When we began, what we confronted were tens of thousands of scattered architectural remains, a huge jigsaw puzzle of column bases and capitals [column tops], architraves, roof tile fragments and walls. To envision how it would have looked, then to piece it together and have that verified, was pure joy. Less than 10 percent has been excavated. It’s the gift that keeps on giving”, Angeliki Kottaridi, the archeologist overseeing the restoration project, explained.