Exploring Macedonia

In August and September students from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology took part in an 11-day fieldtrip to explore the multiple pasts of Macedonia. Join them at a free event to find out their experiences and conclusions about this significant area.

HCA Macedonia fieldtrip 2019
Clockwise from top: In front of a rock-cut shrine in Philippi (Benedikt Eckhardt); Hellenistic wall painting in Amphipolis (Tom Chambers), Reading an inscription in the museum of Kavala (Benedikt Eckhardt)

Macedonia found itself at the centre of world history at least three times. It was from here that Alexander the Great set out to conquer the world, it was here that the Romans first established a foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean, and it was here that the murderers of Caesar were defeated, paving the way for Augustus to transform Rome into a monarchy. The region is thus justly famous – but where exactly is it? From antiquity to today, its boundaries and its cultural identity have been hotly contested. Already in the Classical period, debates on what was 'Greek' and what was 'Macedonian' were frequently shaped by political concerns, and later events such as Roman provincialisation and Ottoman rule have added new layers that are difficult to disentangle.

For 11 days in August and early September 2019, HCA students went on a trip to find out more about the region’s multiple pasts. Organised by Judy Barringer and Benedikt Eckhardt and generously supported by the Edinburgh Fund, their journey led them to archaeological sites in three different modern countries – Greece, North Macedonia and Bulgaria. Apart from traditional centres of Macedonian royal power like Aigai, Pella or Dion, the group explored the periphery of the ancient kingdom, including regions that came to be labelled 'Macedonia' only in Roman times. Highlights included the famous Macedonian tombs in Vergina and Lefkadia, the discovery of a Roman statue in Bulgarian Heracleia Sintica, and a visit to the magnificent marble quarries on Thasos. Students engaged with the region’s art and architecture as well as with its numerous Greek and Latin inscriptions, many of which could be investigated on site.

It was a challenging trip, with multiple sites per day and much travelling, but it proved to be a rewarding experience. Students and organisers will share  their experiences and conclusions from the trip a public event on 21st January, at 5 pm in the Meadows Lecture Theatre - there  will be photos, short presentations and a wine reception afterwards - to which everyone is welcome.

The sheer amount we got to see – both sites and artefacts – coupled with the organisers’ expertise made for a fascinating and unforgettable trip.

Tom Chambers, Classics (MA Hons) student