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The marble facade of Philip II tomb, Vergina Greece

Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, Was Buried with Wife and Child after Assassination Says New Study

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Spectacular golden tombs containing the remains of ancient Macedonian royalty are under scrutiny after new examinations challenge previous research. A new study claims to conclusively identify King Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, and determines he was buried in Tomb I, not Tomb II, as previously believed.

The tombs were originally discovered in 1977 in the village of Vergina in northern Greece, and astonishing gold caskets were uncovered housing the remains of several people.

Numerous studies have been published concerning the relatively intact human remains found in the 24-carat gold casket in Tomb II. A study published in the journal Science in 2000, for example, concluded that the remains could not be Philip II as they did not bear traces of injuries that Philip supposedly suffered during his lifetime. Then, a study released in 2010, conversely state that the remains must be Philip II as a notch in the eye socket is consistent with a battle wound received by Philip II years before he died.

The newest research by a team of archaeologists led by Antonis Bartsiokas, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conclusively identifies Philip II as the occupant of Tomb I, rather than the occupant of Tomb II. reports: “The most striking evidence comes in the form of a leg bone—an upper thigh fused to a shin at the knee with a hole in it—it appears to align with historical texts that describe Philip as suffering a wound from a lance. Additional testing showed the bone had fused and smoothed over in just a few years’ time, which also agrees with writings from the time—Phillip was murdered just a few years after suffering the injury. Dating showed the skeletal remains to be that of man approximately 45 years old, which is consistent with the age at which Philip reportedly died.”

Philip II of King of Macedon

Philip II of King of Macedon (Public Domain)

Also found in Tomb I were the remains of Cleopatra, Philip’s young wife, and a child born a few days before Philip II’s assassination. Ancient writings record that both wife and baby were killed soon after Philip’s murder.

Forensic dating of the remains of the other occupants revealed a young woman of approximately 18 years of age, matching the description of Cleopatra, and bones of a newly born baby were also identified.

The evidence cements Tomb I occupants as Philip II, Cleopatra, and baby.

It has been found the bones in Tomb II were entombed a long time after those in Tomb I, making them too late to have been Philip II and his wife. This indicates to researchers that Tomb II instead serves as the final resting place for some of Alexander the Great's other relatives, such as King Arrhidaeus and his wife Eurydice.

Model of tomb found at Vergina, Greece.

Model of tomb found at Vergina, Greece. (CC BY 3.0)

When archaeologist Manolis Andronikos started excavations on the tombs in 1977 he found that two of the four tombs had been undisturbed since antiquity, and contained fabulous, high quality treasures. The shrines found within were thought to have been dedicated to the worship of the royal family. Not seen as gods, they were instead celebrated and recognized as heroes.

Golden larnax containing cremated remains and golden crown found in Tomb II in Vergina.

Golden larnax containing cremated remains and golden crown found in Tomb II in Vergina. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Philip II was the 18th king of Macedonia (359–336 BC). He restored internal peace to his country and gained domination over all Greece by military and diplomatic means, thus laying the foundations for its expansion under his son Alexander the Great.

Philip II is described as a powerful king with a complicated love life. He married between five and seven women, causing confusion over the line of succession. In 336 BC, Philip II was assassinated at a celebration of his daughter's wedding, perhaps at the behest of a former wife, Olympias.

Alexander the Great succeeded his father as king.

The archaeological team concludes in the study that this new reconstruction solves an ancient mystery concerning the Royal Tombs of Vergina “which has puzzled historians, archaeologists, and physical anthropologists” alike.

Hades and Persephone, fresco in the tomb called "Eurydice", Vergina, Greece. Colors on marble.

Hades and Persephone, fresco in the tomb called "Eurydice", Vergina, Greece. Colors on marble. 48 x 80 cm. (Public Domain)

Featured Image: The marble facade of Philip II tomb, Vergina Greece.  (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Liz Leafloor



Tomb II was considered initially as Philip's II, because of size and splendor. By comparison tomb I which is now believed to contain Philip's II remains, is simpler and smaller. The male body in tomb II is probably Arrhidaeus', who barely deserved such a splendid burial, but at that time Macedonia was very rich thanks to Alexander's campaign. Also tomb II was intact, while tomb I had been robbed. That was one of the factors that led to the initial assumption that Philip II was buried in the magnificent tomb II. As about the second (female) body in tomb II, her age (30+), bone injuries and the presence of weapons, indicate Cyane, half sister of Arrhidaeus. Her mother Eurydice been an Illyrian princess, gave her daughter a proper military training, but she was eventually assassinated in the struggle for power following Alexander's death.

I believe the flowers were mere decoration. Using flowers during burial rites stretches back into ancient times. Graves with petrified remains of flowers have been found in both Roman and Greek graves. From what I’ve heard, the flowers are thought to be a sign of respect, which still bears true today.

What are the many petaled Daisey like flowers on the Macedonian gold funerary casket ??
and what was their significance ??
They seem to feature in much Bronze Age Greek Art .


Liz Leafloor is former Art Director for Ancient Origins Magazine. She has a background as an Editor, Writer, and Graphic Designer. Having worked in news and online media for years, Liz covers exciting and interesting topics like ancient myth, history,... Read More

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