The Palace at Pella

In Book 1, “In the Company of Friends”, much of the initial action takes place within the Royal Palace at Pella, so I have given here a few notes on what that building was like. The excavation and restoration of the site is on-going so much more will no doubt be discovered in future years.

The ancient Macedonian palace was a massive construction covering an area of 56,000 square meters (602,780 sq ft). Originally built in the fifth century BC, during the reign of Archaelaus, its buildings were added to during the reigns of later kings. Comprised of a complex network of buildings connected to each other through loggias, staircases and paths and built on different levels, it must have impressed even the sophisticated Athenians when they visited.

Approached from the south, the visitor’s first sight of the monumental entrance of the propylon (portico) must have immediately announced that, certainly in Philip and Alexander’s day, they were about to enter the home of not just any king, but the home of King of Makedon. It must have been an intimidating feeling and yet at the same time, there was a lightness and airyness about the palace that must also have lifted hearts if the visitor was coming to ask for Philip’s aid for any King who dwelt in such a magnificent palace would surely be able to help.

Two impressive two-storied stoas (colonnades) flanked the palace entrance and contained benches for seating at least 120 individuals. One wonders if this was for waiting visitors or for guests to watch some display carried on before the palace entrance. Inside the palace, a peristyle court (peristylion) at the building’s heart operated as an Agora, a social place where the Makedones could meet and discuss the affairs of the day.

There were also gardens known for their beauty and serenity. We know this from details given of the life of the Greek tragedian Euripides who wrote two of his most famous plays, “Archaelaus” and “The Bacchae,” while he was sitting in the Macedonian palace’s gardens. Sadly, his stay there did not end well as he was killed by dogs – some say they were the King’s ferocious hunting hounds, others that the dogs were wild. Either way, this must have made King Archelaus distraught that his renowned guest had suffered such a terrible end to his life whilst under his protection.

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