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The Palace of Aigai following 16 years of restoration, Vergina. Source: ververidis/Adobe Stock

Archaeologists Discover Alexander the Great’s Bathroom in Palace of Aigai


In the royal palace where Alexander the Great was crowned king of Macedonia in 336 BC at the tender age of 20, archaeologists have uncovered a space that has now been positively identified as teenage Alexander’s semi-communal bathroom. The excavations also discovered the palaestra, or combat-sport gymnasium, where Alexander trained, located adjacent to his bathing facilities.

These are just two of the rooms that have been found during excavations both past and present that have taken place at the spectacular ruins of the legendary palace of Aigai in northern Greece, which can be found near the village of Vergina in the municipality of Veria in Central Macedonia. It was in this magnificent structure that the young man who would become known in history as Alexander the Great spent his formative years, and it was here that he assumed the throne of a kingdom that he would expand to many times its original size.

Aerial view of the Palace of Aigai following 16 years of restoration, Vergina.  (ververidis/Adobe Stock)

Aerial view of the Palace of Aigai following 16 years of restoration, Vergina.  (ververidis/Adobe Stock)

Training Hard and Taking a Bath with Alexander the Great

The newly discovered bathroom and the rest of the freshly restored palace will be revealed to the public for the first time on Saturday, May 11, on the television series ‘Bettany Hughes’ Treasures of the World,’ which appears on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. 

“It's the most extraordinary sight, seeing Aigai being excavated and renovated,” Hughes told the Daily Mail Online, in an interview publicizing her upcoming telecast. 'There's a massive drain cut into the rock and a communal bathroom.”

These bathing facilities would have been shared by the adolescent Alexander with his friends, the young aristocratic men who learned how to fight and play sports beside him, as they prepared for their roles as the future political and military leaders of Macedonian society.

One of the drains in the stonework at Aigai. (© Sandstone Productions Ltd)

One of the drains in the stonework at Aigai. (© Sandstone Productions Ltd)

Among those who would have exercised and bathed regularly with Alexander was his closest childhood friend, Hephaestion, who would become his second-in-command once Alexander became king. The other young men in his entourage would also accompany him during his long marches and military endeavors, and everyone in the group was trained strenuously to prepare for these adventures.

“There were all these rites of passage they went through,” Bettany Hughes explained. “They were incredibly active in the gym, fighting and wrestling. They were trained to hunt. Imagine those communal baths….”

Detail of Alexander from the mosaic in Pompeii. (Public Domain)

Detail of Alexander from the mosaic in Pompeii. (Public Domain)

At the same time Alexander was developing his body and his fighting skills, he was also training his mind for leadership, under the tutelage of the great philosopher Aristotle.

While it might seem as if Alexander was being carefully prepared to take the place of his father, the king of Macedonia, Philip II, in fact it is highly unlikely Philip would have chosen Alexander as his successor if it had been in his power to make that decision. The king apparently hoped that the last of his seven wives, Queen Cleopatra, would give birth to a son who would ultimately be anointed to follow his father’s footsteps. But those plans were dashed when Philip II was assassinated in 336 BC, leaving the Macedonian aristocracy with no choice but to replace him with his 20-year-old son from his fourth wife and queen Olympias.

Fortunately for the Macedonians, Alexander would be more than up to the task.

There Was Malice in the Palace in Ancient Macedonia

Constructed in the heart of the ancient Macedonian kingdom, the palace in the city of Aigai was three times the size of the Parthenon of Athens, covering an astonishing 162,000 square feet (15,000 square meters). During the excavations there archaeologists have identified the foundations and/or ruins of temples, sanctuaries, a theater, a courtyard, several royal tombs, Aigai’s gated city walls, and many columns that once supported the palace’s roof.

It was Philip II who ordered the construction of the grand palace, even though he already had a large structure of this type in Macedonia’s capital city of Pella. Ironically, he was assassinated by one of his bodyguards, Pausanias, in that very palace, while attending a celebration of the upcoming wedding of his daughter. 

it was widely suspected there’d been a conspiracy to depose the king. The leading suspect was Alexander’s mother Olympias, who’d been replaced as queen and whose beloved son would have been denied the throne if Philip II were to have his way (Alexander was despised by his father, and those feelings were returned by his contemptuous son). It is suspected by some historians that Alexander was in on the plot to assassinate his father, but there is no evidence to confirm that belief.

With Philip II out of the way, Alexander was quickly sworn in as king at the palace in Aigai. He took up his father’s plan to invade Persia, but this was only the beginning for Alexander of Macedonia, who during his 13-year reign as king built an empire that spanned thousands of square miles and covered parts of three continents, cementing his reputation as one of the greatest military leaders of all time.

Reintroducing the Spectacular Palace of Aigai to the World

For the past 16 years, the palace at Aigai has been undergoing extensive renovations. Archaeologists working at the site have restored 15,000 square feet (1,400 square meters) of marble floors, columns and mosaic pictures and decorations, while continuing to unearth new artifacts and ruins that have shed light on how Alexander the Great and his contemporaries lived.

The results of these efforts will be on full display during the upcoming telecast of ‘Bettany Hughes’ Treasures of the World,’ which should be quite a treat for Greek history and architecture aficionados everywhere.

Top image: The Palace of Aigai following 16 years of restoration, Vergina.                           Source: ververidis/Adobe Stock

By Nathan Falde



I recently watched Luke Caverns' presentation on Alexander The Great and learned absolutely so much from it. Reading this article just adds to it and helps cement into my memory the life of Alexander. I hope to read more articles on Greece to get a greater understanding of its history.

Nathan Falde's picture


Nathan Falde graduated from American Public University in 2010 with a Bachelors Degree in History, and has a long-standing fascination with ancient history, historical mysteries, mythology, astronomy and esoteric topics of all types. He is a full-time freelance writer from... Read More

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