pella lion mosaic

Historical Ethnography
Prior to 70 BCE, the ancient site of Pella was known as Bounomos (Βουνομος), and it was the home of the Makedones, who may have been either Dorians or Illyrians. Neither peoples were considered ‘Greek’, but they participated in the Greek world as outlanders, like the Spartans. When Bounomos became accepted by the Greeks, it, like many cities in their position, received a new Greek name, Pella (Πελλα), meaning ‘a wooden bowl’, which referred to it’s country culture(1). Though Pella remained an outlaying city of Greece for hundreds of years, it became a true Greek polis when Alexander the Great, born in Pella, started his campaign. It was a major Greek capital during the colonization of Egypt by the Macedonians.

Fun Fact: Pella was the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Pella is an inland city, situated on a promontory or a wetland area, so it can be reached by shallow river boats and walking. It is on an ancient road between the mountain city of Heraklea and the port city of Thessalonica. The port is a day and a half’s walk from Pella, or about 42 kilometers)(2). Travelers through this countryside will notice its lovely pastures and wide fields, though it can also be a barren desert-like area in the hot months.

The Site
In antiquity, one would travel to Pella for diplomatic reasons. In the 4th century BCE, King Archelaus moved the capital of Macedonia to Pella and built his palace there(3). Today, the archaeological site includes the remains of houses and the city center, or agora, with mosaic floors and fountains showcasing the subtle wealth of the former city. The remains of the palace just north of the agora show the scale of the building and the grandeur of Archelaus(4). North of the site is the Bath of Alexander, but the Tomb of Alexander the Great has never been located.

Today, Pella is a farming village of 2500 people. The archeological remains and the Archaeological Museum of Pella are the most interesting places to go, but for the most part, it’s just a sleepy provincial town(5). Most visitors are academics in history and archaeology visiting the ruins.

Fun Fact: During the Otttoman Empire, the city was known as Postol.

(1) Tarn, William Woodthorpe. Antigonos Gonatas. London: Oxford, 1913. E-Book.
(2) “Orbis.” Stanford University. N.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2013.
(3) “Pella Macadonia, Greece.” The Princeton Encyclopedia of Ancient Sites. Stillman et al., 1976. Web. 6 Apr. 2013.
(4) “Tour of Macedonia: Pella.” The University of Omaha. N.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2013.
(5) “Pella (municipality).” Wikipedia. 2013. Web. 6 Apr. 2013.

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