Neolithic settlements, royal tombs with frescoed walls, gold caskets and gold wreaths and crowns, waterfalls, rivers, high mountains, verdant villages and endless plains are some of the things Imathia has to offer. Veria is the prefectural capital, a modern town that still has several traditional neighbourhoods. n Byzanfine times it was a major centre, one of the chief cities of Macedonia. Its past importance is reflected in its 51 Byzantine and post - Byzantine churches, many of which contain wonderful wall paintings.

It is only 12 kilometres northwest of Vergina, which gained world-wide renown with the discoveries made there by Professor Manolis Andronikos in the late 1970s. The incredible wealth of the site's finds led to the conclusion that Vergina was actually the first capital of the kingdom of Macedonia, Aegae.

The excavations brought to light the acropolis, well- preserved sections of the walls, foundations of Hellenistic houses, the palace, theatre, a temple and, to the north of the ancient city, the cemetery. However, the most important monuments at Vergina is the complex of ryal tombs, which were unearthed in 1977-78 in the present village. The largest of them belonged to Philip , a smaller one to a young prince, perhaps Alexander, and the third - a cist grave - to a woman.

Many funerary stelae were found in the vicinity, bearing invaluable inscriptions, all of them in Greek. Philip's grave yielded a marble sarcophagus in which a solid lamax had been placed containing the bones of the dead man and his gold wreath. Round the casket lay weapons, various vases and utensils bearing the royal seal.

Here, too, was buried one of Philip's seven wives. Her bones were also gathered in a gold lamax, in which there was another gold diadem, one of the most beautiful pieces of ancient jewelry ever found, and a cloth woven in purple and gold, decorated with flowers and birds, which is on display in the Vergina museum. However, something else, something unique was also discovered in the tomb: a painting of a hunting scene on an Ionian frieze. It is a masterpiece the like of which had only previously been seen in works of the Italian Renaissance.

The Prince's tomb is very similar to that of Philip. It, too has a painted frieze as well as a bed with gold and ivory ornamentation, surely one of the most elegant creations that has come down to us.

Finally, the cist grave yielded a brilliant fresco depicting Pluto's abduction of Persephone; this and the hunting scene are the only original works of any great painters of antiquity that have survived to the present. Southwest of Veria, on the slopes of Vermion ( 18 km. ), lies the village of Kastanies, which is usually snowed in during the winter. This is the site of the monastery of the Panagia Soumela, founded by refugees from Pontos.

At Kato Vermio (26 km. from Veria), all that snow is put to good use at the Seli ski centre (1.400 m. alt). A town noted fr its waterfalls, its wine, its fruit and its Carnival customs is Naoussa. Situated 19 km from Veria in a gree, well-watered region, it is very picturesque with traditional houses and the Arapitsa river running through it. Near Naoussa is the village of Lefkadia, where Macedonian tombs and the remains of Hellenistic buildings have been found.

Finally, 9 km northeast of Veria at Nea Nikomidia, excavations have revealed traces of a Neolithic settlement of the 7th millennium BC, which is the oldest agricultural settlement along with Sesklo in Thessaly. The clay female figurines, as well as many frog figurines made of steatite are among the most interesting exhibits of the Veria Archaeological Museum.







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