Amphipolis tomb could intensify Greece-Macedonia feud


Are you following what’s going on in Amphipolis, Greece? It’s as gripping and interwoven as Game of Thrones. And the story is just as rich — mixing thousands of years of history, geopolitics, imperialism, and hero worship.

Archaeologists have discovered a tomb dating back to the reign of Alexander the Great. Yes, I know. This is ancient ground. Tombs must be as abundant as Starbucks is here. 

But this is exceptional. The tomb is massive, and has the potential to be a singularly significant archaeological find. The size and design of the tomb have led to speculation about who might be buried inside. Some say it is Alexander’s mother, Olympias. Others say it’s one of Alexander’s generals, or his wife, Roxana.

The most tantalizing theory, of course, is that it’s the great conqueror himself — though archaeologists and scholars tend to dismiss that notion. The location of Alexander’s tomb – apparently he was dragged around a bit after death – is one of the great unsolved mysteries of ancient archaeology.

What a trip, though, if it is Alexander. Greece and Macedonia have long squabbled over “ownership” of the ancient king. (There’s more than a bit of bad blood between the two. Greece blocked Macedonia’s bid to become a member of NATO — demanding that Macedonia change its name. And Macedonia seems to be doing everything it can — gleefully — to “steal” Alexander from Greece.) The unearthing of Alexander, pupil of Aristotle, would almost certainly up the stakes in this long and building feud.

The tomb is a full-blown media sensation, which is interesting and troubling at the same time. The slow, methodical pace of the science is hardly a fit for the 10-second Tweet cycle. So far, the archaeologists actually doing the excavation work don’t seem to be giving into the pressure — they’re resisted talking to the media. But the Greece prime minister is practically salivating, and I hope he doesn’t try to rush the dig along, which could jeopardize this very important historical find.