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Historical Routes

HOLY MOUNTAIN OF ATHOS
The Holy Mountain of Athos is considered to be one of the most important areas not only in the Balkans but also in Europe and for the Eastern Orthodox Church in general, due to its great national, historical, religious, literary and cultural value, but it is also renowned as a center for the preservation and conservation of a rich cultural heritage, so much so that many consider it as a “refuge” and “museum” for a unique treasure of Greek art and letters. The peninsula of Athos is the easternmost and roughest of the three individual parallel peninsulas of Halkidiki (Cassandra, Sithonia and Athos). This peninsula is completely occupied by the mountain Athos and ends at cape Nymfeo. The name “Holy Mountain” seems to have prevailed during the first half of the 12th century, and, more specifically, in a golden-bull document by Emperor Alexius I Comnenos to the Holy Monastery of Great Lavra in 1144 where the name is officially recognized and imposed as it is cited in said document. The Holy Mountain comprises of twenty holy, dominant, royal, patriarchic and under the archbishop’s jurisdiction monasteries. According to the hierarchical order the Holy Monasteries on Mt. Athos are the following: Great Lavra, Vatopedi, Iviron, Hilandar, Dionysiou, Koutloumousiou, Pantokratoros, Xiropotamou, Zografou, Dochiariou, Karakalou, Filotheou, Simonos Petras, Agiou Pavlou, Stavronikita, Xenophontos, Osiou Grigoriou, Esphigmenou, Agiou Panteleimonos, Konstamonitou.
Explore here for organised daily excursions to Holy Mountain of Athos.
 
VERGINA – AEGES
Vergina is located roughly 80km. to the southwest of Thessaloniki. It is near the ancient city of Aeges, once capital of ancient Macedonian kingdom. Archaeologists have shown great interest for the hills surrounding Vergina already by 1850, suspecting that they may have been burial monuments, while systematic excavations, which begun in 1861, unearthed parts of a royal palace. Despite these great findings, excavations stopped due to the threat posed by malaria. In 1937 Aristotle University of Thessaloniki recommenced excavations unearthing more parts of the palace but excavations came to an untimely end yet again, due to the Greek-Italian war in 1940. After WWII excavations were resumed in the 50’s and 60’s bringing to surface the remaining parts of the palace. Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos was convinced that a hammock known as Megali Toumpa (Great Toumpa) concealed the tombs of Macedonian kings. In 1977 Andronikos commenced a six week excavation at Toumpa and unearthed four buried burial rooms which were untouched by grave robbers. Three more were brought to light in 1980. The excavations continued in the years from 1980 to 1990. Andronikos claimed that the findings were the burial grounds of the great Kings of Macedonia, including the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, one of his wives and of the son of Alexander the Great, Alexander IV the Macedonian. His claims have been confirmed by many archaeologists and the Greek Government The golden urn in which Adronikos has identified the remains of the body of Philip II, is adorned with Sun of Vergina, which was adopted as the symbol of Greek Macedonia. The archaeological spade brought to light many works of art, a lot of them in gold, including the urn which held the cremated remains of Philip II and his golden oak garland. Since 2000 these findings are exhibited in the museum of the archaeological site which is located inside a hillock. In 1996 UNESCO included the archaeological site of Aeges in its list of World Heritage Monuments.
Explore here for organised daily excursions to Vergina.

DION
Dion was a city in antiquity of great strategic importance and one of the most renowned cities in Macedonia. The geographic location of ancient Dion was on the eastern foothills of Mt. Olympus, where one today finds the homonymous hamlet, 83km. from Thessaloniki. The first written reference to Dion comes from Thucydides, who cites it as the first city through which Spartan general Vrasidas passed in his campaign, in 424BC. In the era of Alexander the Great Dion was very important both for Macedonia and Greece in general. It was from there that the victorious army commander assembled his troops and launched his campaign to Asia. In early 19th century all ruins in Dion were lost amidst the dense vegetation and the waters. In 1806 English traveler William Martin Leake stopped at Dion and was the first to have identified the location of ancient Dion with certainty. The ruins of the city are located at a distance of roughly 4 kilometers from the sea. Archaeological research in the area commenced in 1928. The archaeological spade unearthed the sanctuary of Isis and other Egyptian deities, the small shrine of Hypolympia Aphrodite, the ancient Sanctuary of Demeter, a Hellenistic theatre build in the era of Philip the Fifth, a roman theatre dating from the 2nd century, a stadium, the villa of god Dionysus with its marvelous mosaics, a graveyard, shops, stone columns (at the temple of Zeus), an Odeum, walls as well as various musical instruments [such as the water organ (hydraulis) a pipe organ blown by air) and baths.
An archaeological museum operates in Dion since 1983, where all the findings from Dion and other areas in Pieria are exhibited.
 
PELLA
The capital of the Macedonian state from the end of the 5th century to the beginning of the 4th century BC. The graveyard and few architectural remains have been unearthed belonging to the older city, in the area of the modern irrigation channel. The city is organized and expanded in the era of Philip II and Cassander. Pella will flourish in the second half of the 4th century, the 3rd and the 2nd centuries BC. It fell to the Romans in 168/7 BC and was destroyed by an earthquake, possibly in the first decade of the 1st century BC. In the first period of excavations (1957-1964) the houses with the mosaic floors and parts of the palace were unearthed, while the second period (1976-present) has brought the Market, part of the Palace, houses, sanctuaries and graveyards to light. The findings are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Pella.

PETRALONA
At a distance of 54km to the southeast of Thessaloniki one finds the cave of Petralona, home of the Archanthropus of Petralona some 700,000 years ago. The fossil skull found dates 260,000 years. It belonged to a transitory type Archanthropus, the link between Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens and it is the oldest known remains in Greece. The cave was discovered in 1959 and is located at an altitude of 250m. while its total surface is 10,000 square meters and the total length of corridors is 1500m. with impressive stalagmite and stalactite halls. Established at the entrance of the cave is a paleontological museum.
 
STAGIRA
The historic village of Stagira is the birthplace of Aristotle and is located on the foot of mount Stratoniko at an altitude of roughly 500m. on the northeast side of Halkidiki and at a distance of 73km. from Thessaloniki. At the entrance of the village, visitor may visit the park marked by the statue of Aristotle and many other monuments, such as towers (one dating from the 16th century), public baths and the konak of Madem Aga, from the era the place was known as Siderokafsia (Black Furnace). The town where Aristotle was born was destroyed by Philip II but rebuild by Alexander the Great to honor his tutor. In the Byzantine era its residents worked in the nearby mines and this continued during the Ottoman occupation. These mines belonged to Monasteries on Mt. Athos until the 18th century, where their exploitation was assumed by Mademochoria (Cast Iron Villages).

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