Μίεζα, πόλη ΗμαθίαςPart of : Το Αρχαιολογικό Έργο στη Μακεδονία και στη Θράκη ; 2009, pages 17-30
Mieza, city in Imathia
In the Prefecture of Imathia, in the area between Kopanos-Lefkadia and Naousa, an important group of antiquities began gradually to be revealed from the early 20th century. In accordance with the now-prevailing view of researchers, these belong to ancient Mieza, a city known from literary as well as epigraphic sources.Habitation in the region is confirmed from the Late Bronze Age, and the existence of a settlement of the Late Archaic and Classical periods is attested by the excavation of a cemetery of this period. However, Mieza reached its zenith during the Hellenistic period, as shown inter alia by the monumental Macedonian tombs that belonged to the local aristocracy, which are among the most important funerary monuments of this type, characterized as they are by particular architectural elements and preserving outstanding examples of major painting (the Tomb of Judgment, the Palmette Tomb, the ‘Kinch’ Tomb, the Tomb of Lyson and Kallikles). At the same time, there were also organized urban cemeteries with cist graves and rock- cut chamber tombs containing rich grave goods.The limits of the Hellenistic city may be discerned in general outline from the location of the cemeteries, as may the city’s residential core, though the course of its walls has not yet been identified. Despite this, there is the significant presence of an acropolis surrounded by strong fortifications at the northwest edge of the area, on the other side of the river Arapitsa.Also particularly important is the extensive public center of the city with its noteworthy architectural remains, under excavation in the area of Beiovina Ko- panou, which confirms the existence of a vibrant city at its apogee in the second half of the fourth century B.C. Furthermore, during the same period, at the site of the nearby Nymphaion with its wild vegetation, beside springs and sacred caves, an Ionic stoa was built with extensive “peripatetic” areas. These have been identified with the School of Aristotle, which according to a passage in Plutarch was situated “near Mieza,” where by special command of Philip II the philosopher taught the young heir Alexander for nearly three years. This fact suggests the already significant place of Mieza among the cities of the Macedonian kingdom, and the existence of a local aristocracy whose young members, together with the other “companions and friends” of the youthful heir, comprised the “high” society of the School.Evidence for the following period is provided by the luxurious villas of the early Roman and Imperial periods that have come to light, as well as by the Late Hellenistic or Early Roman theater in the southwestern part of the public center of the city, which make it clear that the city continued to prosper, though perhaps to a lesser degree and under what was now a different political status.A reconstruction-restoration plan was prepared for the city’s ancient theater by the Department of Architecture of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, whose implementation was incorporated among the programs of the Third Community Support Framework, and which is underway.For more than fifteen years, excavations have focused on the city’s public center, from which there has come to light an impressively large and well-organized building complex which took advantage of the natural lay of the land and extended over successive terraces to a length of approximately 300 m. The unified architectural plan and obvious public nature of the complex orient us to the wider area of the agora, with buildings that served a variety of activities of both a religious and secular character.In the western section of this space, which has been more fully excavated, there stands out a covered, oblong space with an “underground passage,” which carried semi-columns on one side, thus creating on its interior the image of a false facade. An important collection of shards from Panathenaic amphorae discovered here strengthens the official picture of the area as well as its particular ritual character, given that these vases, awarded as contest prizes, frequently comprised votives at sanctuaries. From this area, a ramp led to a Doric stoa with rooms, two of which had mosaic floors. To the north of the ramp a small temple-shaped building, probably used for worship, was uncovered.At the western boundary of the complex there was a large Γ-shaped building, with western and northern wings, where among other spaces there were eleven identical square symposium rooms, each able to accommodate seven couches.Taking into consideration all of the excavation data, and above all the fact that a large part of this Γ-shaped building functioned as a restaurant, a use found among the ritual practices at sanctuaries of As- clepius (and whose worship is the only one epigraph- ically attested during this period in the region of Mieza), we have a basis for the hypothesis that this space comprised part of a sanctuary of the healing god. A complex so extensive and complex, incorporated in the city’s agora, would obviously have combined a variety of functions. If the buildings in the western section in fact formed part of a sanctuary, then the sporadic remains of buildings discovered further to the east may have served commercial, social, and political functions.It goes without saying that a public complex of this size reflects experimentation as well as achievements by the eras architects, who were being calledupon to manage the organization of complex spaces with original solutions, in conjunction with the goal of impressing visitors. From among the excavation finds, a few red-figure shards of the late fourth century and coins dating from the second quarter of the fourth century to the first quarter of the third century B.C. provide a lower chronological limit during the early years of the reign of Antigonos Gonatas. For the time being, however, the cause(s) of the destruction and abandonment of the complex cannot be determined.In any case, the design of such an ambitious building program presupposes a powerful political purpose that cannot be devoid of ideological content. Its successful implementation points to the crucial place of Mieza in the political context of the age, and belongs within the general framework of the tremendous growth in urban life in Macedonia that may be traced via the reorganization of old urban centers as well as the founding of new ones like Cassandreia and Thessaloniki.
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