44. Travel Greece with a Bible in Your Suitcase | Aigai, Macedonia | Vergina, Greece | Daniel 8 | Daniel 11 | Luke 16:19-31 | Galatians | 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25 | Matthew 26:29 | Matthew 16:18 | Acts 2:31 | 1 Peter 3: 18,19 | 1 Corinthians 15:55 | Revelation 20:14

We toured the Museum of the Royal Graves of Aigai, but were not able to get any pictures. Here is what we learned: In the Old Testament in Daniel 8, the ancient prophet asked, “What is this male goat and the ram?” The archangel Gabrielle said to him, “Look, the male goat is the King of the Greeks. And the ram is the King of Persia.” (Daniel chapter 11 speaks about Alexander as well.) The prophet Daniel predicted that the Macedonian King, Alexander the Great, would be a part of God’s plan for world history. Is the grave of Alexander in the Museum of the Royal Graves of Aigai?

The first capital city of Macedonia was Aigai, the city of the goats. In 7 BC King Perdiccas I unified Macedonia under his scepter, and he built the capital city, Aigai, the city of goats (plural of the word means goats.) Ancient Aigai is now modern-day Vergina Greece.

So, Aigai was the first Macedonian capital but at the beginning of 4 BC, Archelaus I built a new Macedonian capital closer to the seafront and called it Pella. The royal family led the world from the new palace in Pella, but all the ceremonies, weddings, and funerals were organized at the old palace in Aigai, which was the place of the origins of the dynasty. The palace of Aigai remained the center of official royal family activity. This is why the royal cemetery is in Aigai (Vergina, Greece) at the old palace, and not at the new capital, Pella.

In 1977 there was systematic archeological research around the little village of Vergina (ancient Aigai.) The research brought to light two intact royal graves in the cemetery of Vergina. One grave was identified with the great Philip II, and the other grave we think belongs to his grandson Alexander IV, also known as Alexander the great son.

The discovery of two graves in Vergina is considered the second most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century, worldwide (after King Tut’s grave in Egypt.) After the research was finished, a shell that looked like the preexisting tumulus was built upon the graves to give the impression of what it looked before the excavations.

Entering the space under the shell, you can see graves, the graves of Philip 2 and Alexander IV along with the objects found, including approximately twenty-five kilos of gold which is more than fifty pounds of gold in jewelry. You can also see special items of silver, ivory, and other precious things. The most important thing is not the precious material, but it is the classical art of the fourth century BC. Extremely fine art.

When entering the Museum of the Royal Graves of Aigai, first look for the video show. The video gives a lot of information about the excavation, but also about the burial habits of the Greeks relating to the classical background of the New Testament. For that reason, make sure to see that video show.

The New Testament story of Jesus, Lazarus, and the rich man, reveals reality beyond death (Luke 16:19-31.) From the point of view of ancient Greeks, the story of Lazarus and the rich man speaks about Hades. The two men were divided by a gap. On the one side of the gap was the bosom of Abraham, called by the Greeks, The Elysian Fields. On the other side of the gap was the place of torture, for the hubrists. The rich man was thirsty, and he begged Abraham to send Lazarus some water to drop into his mouth. Greeks thought that the dead were always thirsty. For that reason, the Greeks escort their dead with jars of water.

At the museum you will see vaulted chambers and the use of art. You will see the main chamber at the back. Against the wall you will see a marble sarcophagus, in which was placed the golden reliquary with the relics of the Kings. And you see the burial goods on the floor, in groups, because the goods were initially placed upon wooden furniture which decomposed. So, you will find the burial goods on the floor. In the empty chamber you will see the marble reliquary for the relics of the queen. In front of the King’s sarcophagus a lot of organic material was found. It was identified as the royal recliner and because of its decoration it was partially reconstructed. The façade that you will see has a frieze depicting a royal hand.

Next find the four, freestanding columns from the façade, which were vandalized by the Galatian army. The invasion of the Gauls, the Galatians, occurred at the end of the third century BC. These Galatians, who called themselves Gauls, were the ones to whom Apostle Paul addressed his letter, in the middle of the first century AD.

The Galatians of 3 BC were (mostly) hired by local Kings as mercenaries. As mercenaries they moved about, bringing their families with them, keeping their families at a distance from their camps. But they had the opportunity to visit them often. When we say Gauls, we mean mostly people from today’s Spain and France.

King Pyrrhus of Epirus hired the Gauls, and he promised to pay them after the war, but then King Pyrrhus was killed during the war. And so, the Gauls were not paid. For that reason, the Gauls entered Macedonia from Epirus to plunder their repayment. They sought out the old capital Aigai, the location of the royal cemetery. While the royal family was away and at the new capital, Pella, the Gauls plundered the graves of Aigai, and they also destroyed graves. The extensive destruction continued until the King of Macedonia, King Antigonus II Gonatas, found out about it. King Antigonus II Gonatas went to Aigai with his army and chased the Gauls away. By chance, two graves remained intact and were not plundered.

King Antigonus II Gonatas collected all the remaining material that he could, even broken gravestones, and built a big artificial hill for the protection of the two important, intact graves. The King chased the Gauls outside of Macedonia to Thrace. From Thrace the Gauls were pushed through to Asia Minor. The Gauls finally found a permanent place to stay in eastern Phrygia, which is called Ankara Turkey today. And through the centuries, from Aigai to Eastern Phrygia, the Gauls lost their language, their culture, were totally Hellenized and adopted Greek culture. But they never forgot their national identity.

The four freestanding columns from the façade of the grave were vandalized, obviously, by the Galatian army. On a board at the museum, you can see a reconstruction of the facade and a piece from the floor of the destroyed grave.

Continue your tour and look for the actual objects that were found.

You will see the golden decoration of the leather arrow case of the King. Inside were found seventy-two arrow heads. Of course, the reeds decomposed, but you can see five golden rings, part of the decoration of the bow and you can see also the golden parts of a leather breastplate that was there. And you will see something special on the left, the pair of greaves (leg guards). You will see the left one is shorter and a little bit disformed. There were no inscriptions, yet the identification of the owner came because of his personal characteristics. First, his age and secondly, because of historical information. We know that the owner had fallen from his horse in a battle, and he had broken his left leg, which was shorter than the other after the accident – something which was verified by his bones but also by the difference in the size of the bronze gold-plated pair of greaves.

Continue your tour and look for his armor.

Remember the King was personally leading the army on the battlefield as Chief General. The ancient Greeks were proud to say that their Kings were dying on the battlefield and never on the bed. We have a part of the actual shield, which had a wooden skeleton and was covered with layers of leather. You can see a part of the upper part of the breastplate which was made of steel, and you see another pair of bronze greaves. You can see this formation in another case and a sword made of steel, spearheads – two of them – with the golden ring of the royal symbol.

Now let us go behind there to see the graves.

Usually as Kings got older, they prepared their own graves. But Philip was 46 years old when he was assassinated, and his mind was set to attack Persia, He had not thought about his death. So, when he was assassinated, a grave was not ready for his funeral. They had to prepare his grave very quickly. We assume today that the Kings grave was prepared in 48 hours. At ground level they built the chamber with preexisting building material.

The façade is built of adobe and plastered to give the impression of marble. The only real marble is the door frame and the door panels, bearing the structure of the façade. At the top you can see the frieze, which is a painting, also made very quickly by a very capable artist. The painting technique was egg yolk tempera, the same technique used in the monasteries. When this grave was buried, part of the painting was still wet, but it could be fully reconstructed. Archaeologists can recognize faces in the frieze. Imagine how well it was executed and how quickly.

In the container used for the last bath of the King’s body, they even found the sponge. Everything that encountered the dead body was considered holy and unclean at the same time. That is why the sponge was placed in the grave with the dead body. The object you see, that looks like a pen, is a bronze gold-plated vase for libations, like phiale, used by the King acting as a High Priest.

In the Bible, we have the mention of two objects that were used as head jewels. One is the imperishable wreath and the other is the diadem. In most English translations both words, wreath, and diadem, are translated into the word crown. But the crown, the symbol of political power, is not mentioned at all in the New Testament. So anytime you find the word crown in your Bible, if does not refer to a symbol of political power. It refers to a wreath, a religious symbol, or the diadem, mainly an athletic symbol, a symbol of victory.

Diadems, the athletic symbols of victory, were ribbons tied around the head of the athletic winner. The diadem remained displayed on the winner’s head until the last day of the games. Then the winner would proceed in front of the priesthood to receive his prize, a perishable wreath.

A diadem, especially in places where the monarchy was preserved, was used as the head jewel of the Queen – instead of a crown because the Queen did not reign. A queen was not allowed to put a crown on her head, so she used a diadem, a ribbon, beautifully decorated with gold and precious stones as her head jewel. She wore the diadem in official and formal presentations when she was at the side of the King. The Queen’s diadem is a unique masterpiece of classical art.

You can see more of the remains from the cremation: the urn, terracotta spears with bits of gold not melted off, food offerings of boar, snails, fish, deer, legumes. You can see golden parts of a burial wreath from the head of the King, and the remains of carbonized ivory from the decoration of the burial bed and chiseled ivory vases. Be sure to look at their perfection. These archeological objects from Macedonia speak to the history of Macedonia.

Continue to move along on your tour, to see purple wool with golden embroidery from fabric which used to wrap the relics of the queen. The thread is real gold, which is why it has been preserved.

The queen’s wreath may not be at the museum at the time of your visit because sometimes it is a part of a temporary moving exhibition. But you can see garment decorations of round, golden medallions decorated with the star of the Macedonians, the emblem of the dynasty.

You can see the golden box of the queen, weighing approximately eight kilos of pure gold (more than sixteen pounds.) The original use of the box was for storing special royal documents. But it was removed from the royal treasury for the burial to be used as a reliquary. Remember, the funeral had to be prepared very quickly.

And you can see above the golden box, the golden decoration of the Queen’s diadem, considered to be possibly the finest head jewelry ever found. Look at the details, the middle flower at the top which looks like a palm or at the lower part of the flower is a honeybee. The whole diadem has 112 honeybees.

Next look at the King’s armor. Usually, armor was made of bronze. It was very heavy and shining like gold. It was well polished. Except the King’s armor was made of steel. It was shining like silver, – and we have such a description for the armor of Alexander the Great. You can see the breastplate and the helmet, and the swords made of steel with golden decoration. You can see the King’s kilt with the decoration of the edge of pleats. Still today, the traditional costume of the Greeks is the kilt, like the Scottish, but with pleats. You also see the ceremonial shield, which inside had golden decorations and outside ivory decoration depicting Amazonomachiai (Ἀμαζονομαχία.)

You can see white Ivory. In the middle is a frieze which depicts a battle. The background of the frieze was wooden. The bodies and the governments of the soldiers were carved on the wood and painted like you can see. There is a little bit of the wood preserved. The naked parts of the body were chiseled on ivory and inlaid. The second head is recognized as the head of Philip himself. The third one is recognized as the head of Alexander. Look how small they are. Next you should go to see the magnified photo of them which is one hundred times bigger. The most important thing is the second bodily characteristic of Philip. You know from history that in another battle, yes, Philip lost his right eye because an arrow broke his eyebrow. Look for the scar.

On the other side you can see the portrait of Alexander. Then see the most precious objects of the exhibition. See the decoration on the King’s reliquary which weighs approximately ten kilos of pure gold. Its original use was for preserving and keeping royal documents inside it.

You can also see the wreath that was used in religious activity by Phillip II, the wreath of the King-Priest, the High Priest. It looks like an oak leaf wreath and weighs approximately seven hundred grams – more than 1.5 pounds. It is the heaviest wreath found in Greece. The King, during his religious activity as Priest, wore it on his head. The leaves of the wreath were a gold imitation of oak leaves, the favorite plant of the god that Philip served.

The gold wreath is the imperishable wreath (contrary to the perishable wreath which was used mostly in athletic events as a religious blessing, and the actual prize of the athletic winners.) Read in the Bible,1 Corinthians 9:24, 25: “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race but only one receives the prize. Run in such a way to win the prize. Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown (an imperishable wreath) that will fade away, but, we, a wreath that will never fade away.” Yes, an imperishable wreath. You now understand what kind of wreath the Apostle Paul had in his mind when he wrote those verses.

Religious meals after a sacrifice were banquets. (Weddings, and funerals were also asked for banquets.) Remember the Last Supper of Jesus in John’s Gospel which describes a banquet. And remember the games which also had a banquet as well. During the Last Supper Jesus said that I am not going to try again this bread and this wine until I have it with you, new to My Father’s Kingdom (Matthew 26:29.) Greeks believed that at the Elysian Fields, banquets were enjoyed in the presence of the gods. You can also see silverware, wine caps, wine jars, water jars, a spoon, and a strainer. The impressive thing is that these items were found shining, not tarnished at all. As you are exiting, you look for the photo of how they were at the very moment that they were found.

Archaeologists carefully researched the floor of the vandalized grave. They found some special, little things, giving them a glimpse of important items used by an important personality. They found little broken terracotta statues and ivory pieces from the decoration of wooden furniture. Look specifically for the two heads at the top. They are chiseled. Sculptures. Look at the detail, the expression, to give you an idea about the excellent quality of classical art.

After the funeral, the door of the grave was never opened again. The grave was sealed from the inside. Behind the marble panels a bronze mechanism was activated when they pulled off the handle. So, archeologists had to enter the grave from the keystone of the roof. Then everything was removed from there except the two, marble sarcophagus’ which were too big and heavy, and they are still inside the grave. Cremation took place at the top of the grave. Now when we say cremation, we do not mean the cremation of today: that nothing is left behind. The cremation of that time was through natural open fire. And so, the bones could be collected. For that reason, today we have the remains and part of the other burial goods that were placed in the fire.

Now, continue your tour and see the second intact grave.

There is only one person buried in this grave. It is not a marble sarcophagus but a marble block. In the middle is a hole and in that hole was placed the silver reliquary, which imitated a silver urn. There you have the original grave.

The grave you have here is much simpler than the grave of Philip. You can see the façade, quite simple, but inside the grave are all the symbols of a King-Priest. From the bones we know that the person who was buried there was a male teenager. We do not have other body characteristics or inscriptions dating to the late fourth century. But from history we know that when Alexander died his wife Roxanna was pregnant, and Cassander, his brother-in-law, brought her to Aigai and she gave birth to a boy who was called Alexander the Fourth and he was born a King. Cassander claimed himself the King of Macedonia and the protector of the royal family, meaning protector of the baby, his mother and his grandmother. Cassander kept them far away from the Capitol and kept their custody in the city of Amphipolis, pretending that it was for safety reasons. But then the boy became sixteen years old. Remember, Alexander the Great was sixteen years old when his father made him the Head of the Cavalry and Assistant King. So, at this age Cassander had to initiate the young King to his royal duties. But. Instead of that, Cassander assassinated him, and his mother, and his grandmother. So, we believe, so close to Philips grave, the young teenager with all the symbols of a King-Priest should be Alexander’s son, Alexander the Fourth.

You can see two male figures, Persians, depicted. This art is also supportive identification of the person of the grave. because you know, his father was, for a while, the King of Persia. His mother was a Persian princess. And so, it is natural for something related to Persia to be found in that grave. Something that we do not have in Phillips grave. Look especially at his hat, which is Persian.

Next look at the silverware, the same quality as Philip’s from the royal table. You can see a religious vase for libations, instead of having a phiale. It is not bronze gold-plated like Philips, but it is made of silver. Also, look at the wine caps, a strainer and two little containers for oil and vinegar. How similar they are to the objects you use today, on your tables, for the same use.

Then you can see three bronze gold-plated items that are recognizable: a lamp, placed upon a lampstand, and beside it is a bronze silver-plated bushel. In Matthew 5:15 Jesus said, “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.”

Just behind the three items, the oil, lamp and bushel, there is a photo where you can see the silverware found in the grave. The green color you see on some of the silverware is because of the decomposition of some organic material, but you see it was shining like you see them today.

In the area of Tomb 1, you can see another grave with a monument. This grave was also found looted, but not vandalized like the other grave. The thieves were individuals: the interesting thing is that they took all that was precious, but they left behind what the archeologists needed to identify who died. This was a lady, who died in her late thirties, at the latest stage of pregnancy. You know from history that one of the seven wives of Philip died delivering a baby, so possibly this is her grave.

The grave has a decorative painting, a mural found in it.

Usually when we speak of classical art today, we refer to classical sculpture, because mostly classical painting was done on perishable wooden or leather boards. But in this grave, the grave of the lady, you can uniquely admire a mural on the wall, painted according to the classical style. Are you familiar with the myth of Hades and Persephone? The mural depicts the abduction of Persephone by Hades, the King of the Underworld. Look for Hades’ abduction of Persephone, her friends being scared, her mother, Demeter. To learn more about the myth of Persephone and her abduction by Hades, you can go to the sanctuary at the Archeological Museum of Elefsina, which is believed to be erected upon the very spot where myth says Hades abducted Persephone. The god Hades, and Death, who abducted Persephone, also abducted this young lady at the very moment when she was delivering her baby. Look for the chariot in the mural, and babies. Look for artistic perspective, motion, and expression. The mural is from 4 BC. From the world of classical art, you see paintings again like this, twenty centuries later after the 16th century AD, the time of innocence. The word Renaissance is Latin and means born again, and the reason is that this kind of art, the art of Renaissance, represents art from the first time when the art was born during the classical time.

Now here is something to consider. Hades is the name of a personality; a Greek god and he is mentioned in the Bible. Jesus speaks about Hades. In many English translations, the name Hades is translated “hell.” Is this a mistake in translation? Greek people who heard the name Hades, from that time and for four hundred years later until the time of Theodosius, knew Hades as a Greek god, a personality, not a place, not hell, nor a situation. Remember, in the Greek monastery, we saw the icon of resurrection? We saw Hades depicted, but not as a ruling power. He is a captive under the feet of Jesus. And remember that the Apostle Paul says that Jesus disarmed not only Satan. There are other dark powers that are unnamed. He undressed the powers and the principalities in plural.

What else do we know about Hades?

Hades’ name is mentioned at the proclamation of the foundation of the church. Jesus said, “I am going to build My Church on this rock and the gates of Hades will not prevail on it.” (Matthew 16:18)

The Apostle Peter during his first preaching on the day of Pentecost, doesn’t use the original Hebrew Old Testament to argue about the resurrection of Jesus. He uses the Septuagint translation which says that when Jesus died, Jesus went to Hades, not to the grave – not to Shaol, but to Hades (Acts 2:31.) 

In the book of 1 Peter in the New Testament, Peter says that Jesus went to preach to the dead. That means the dead exist. The dead were active personalities, in a place, and he went to Hades to release the imprisoned spirits. (I Peter 3:18,19)

The apostle Paul, in his triune for resurrection, mentioned Hades as a defeated enemy (1 Corinthians 15:55, Textus Receptus) together with death.

In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John says that Hades and death are going to be chained and thrown in the Lake of Fire. (Revelation 20:14) These are not situations but personalities.

So, you see Hades is depicted as a personality.

What do you think?

The Archaeological Museum of Elefsina is dedicated to Hades as well and contains finds from the excavations of the sanctuary. Yes. Yes. It is correctly translated in our English Bibles, “down to the Kingdom of Hades.” Yes, Kingdom of Hades. Sometimes translations will say “to Hades,” like we say, “we go to John’s, or we’re going to Paul’s,” meaning, the place of John, the place of Paul, and so on. For the ancient people, death and Hades were personalities, gods, principalities, and authorities in the underworld. Elefsina is the place where the Elefsinian mysteries were held.

Here is something else to consider. Since Adam and Eve committed their sin, they were expelled from paradise. And then no mortals, not even the saints of the Old Testament, were fated to see the face of God – because they were all sinners. And so, they went to Hades, waiting there, until the day of their release when Jesus paid the cost of their sin, and to whom Jesus went to preach (not to the hubrists.) Did Jesus bring them to the presence of God when He rose again? From this tour we have some theological things to consider.

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