Ancient Stagira, the birthplace of Aristotle
The position of ancient Stagira
Ancient Stagira located about 500 meters southeast of the current settlement of Olympiada, on a small, mountainous and beautiful peninsula called "Liotopi". The city occupied the two hills of this peninsula, i.e. the coastal North and a greater South, which are separated by a low strip of land. The location of the city, which is known as the birthplace of Aristotle, it is both identified with certainty from the reports of the ancient writers, and by the investigations of modern scholars.
The ancient evidence is clear:
They give the distance of this city from the ancient Acanthos southern, state that was seaside and, most importantly, most of the time talking about a small island opposite Stagira, bearing the name "Kapros". (The same name is given to the port of the ancient city, probably identical to the bay of Olympiada, while the coins of Stagira shown one Kapros (boar)). The only island that actually exists in the region is the current "Kafkanas", which is only 1.5 miles from the ancient city. Today it is uninhabited and attracts all the gulls of the area, but the ruins there indicate that it had been inhabited from the classic up to the Middle Byzantine years. Most characteristics of the ruins are the two large water tanks and a building from the Byzantine period located on the west coast of the island.
It is a small but beautiful village of 650 inhabitants, built by refugees who came from St. Kyriaki of Asia in 1923. When the refugees settled there, found a village with about 10 farming families. The small area that allocated to them was swampy and plagued by malaria. Because of the disease was lost the 1/3 of the original refugee population, while much of them dispersed to other regions of Macedonia and Thrace.
According to a local tradition, the name comes from Olympiada, the mother of Alexander, who, by the king Cassandros, had been exiled at Ancient Stagira or at the nearby island "Kapros". Although the information is unconfirmed, it is conceivable to hide some historical truth.
Today the village, built along a beautiful beach, is stretched in the recess of a natural harbor. It is surrounded by lush mountains and beautiful beaches in a great combination, which attracts many visitors especially during the summer months.
Each summer also, on celebration of the patron Saint Kyriaki, there are organized cultural and artistic events, with subjects of the life and work of the great philosopher Aristotle.
In Ancient Stagira, that is located southeast of Olympiada, the excavations began in 1990 with a funding from the European Union and the Ministry of Culture, and with the participation of the Community of Olympiada. Since then and until 2000 there were researches every summer.
Supervising authority is the 16th Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities of Thessaloniki, with director the Archaeologist Dr. Sismanides Costas.
Historical data for Stagira
The city was founded around 655 BC by Iones colonists of Andros Island, and later arrived settlers from Chalkis.
After the Persian wars, Stagira was a member of the Athenian Alliance, contributing to the common fund.
However, during the Persian Wars, namely in 424 BC, the city renegaded from the Athenians and made an alliance with Spartans. That angered the Athenians, who were rushed to encircle the city, but without a result.
Later Stagira joined the Halkidean League, the confederation of all the cities of Halkidiki, which was established at Olynthos. In 349 BC the city was besieged and then yielded to the king of Macedonia Philip II, who destroyed it completely, but he reinstated it a few years later, in honour of Aristotle.
But it seems that this disaster by Philip already marked the beginning of the decline of the city, which started to decline continuously. Thus, the geographer Stravon, who lived at the time of Jesus Christ, notes that during his era, Stagira was already deserted.
A thousand or so years later, the existence of a small medieval castle is indicating in the same position, which bore the name "Livasdias" and later "Lipsasda". At this castle belongs, obviously, the few buildings at the top of the North Hill as the Byzantine wall which closing up the same hill.
Also, we delivered the information that in Classic years, Stagira bore and the name Orthagoria, but that view is incorrect, mainly because a city of that name existed near Maronia of Thrace.
The birthplace of Aristotle
He was born in Stagira in 384 BC. His father was Nicomachos, the physician of King Amyntas II and his mother was Faistis or Faistias. His parents died early and the care of young Aristotle took the Proxenos, a relative from Atarnea, a city of Mysia. At the age of 18 years he came down from Stagira to Athens, where he attended for 20 years in the Platonic Academy, i.e. until the death of Plato in 347 BC.
Shortly before, Aristotle had established a school in Assos of Troada as a branch of the Academy. Then he married Pythiada from Atarnea. He stayed in the area of Troada for 3 years and then went to Lesvos, where he friendly linked to Theophrastos, and later left him as a successor of the school of Athens. He stayed in Lesvos for 2 years, i.e. until 343 BC, when he was invited by Philip II as a teacher of his son Alexander.
The education of Alexander lasted 3 years, i.e. until 340 BC. Then Aristotle retired in Stagira, where he remarried, this time with his compatriot Cherfyllida (or Erpyllida). He returned to Athens in 335 BC, when he founded his own school, the Lykio, which later named Peripatos. He led this school for 12 years, during which occurred his wondrous work.
After the death of Alexander, he was accused by his enemies "for blasphemy" and fled to Chalkis, where he had an estate, inherited from his mother. There in Chalkis and at age of 63 years, died one year later, in 322 BC. He left two children, Pythiada and Nicomachos.
According to a later literary tradition, one year after the death of Aristotle in Chalkis, the Stagiritians officially transferred and buried his bones in the city. It is reported that it was a magnificent ceremony, and it was created a great altar to the tomb of the philosopher and established in his honour an annual festival, the "Aristotelia". Today there are efforts for the revival of this great celebration of "Aristotelia". The first art exhibitions were already took place in the summer of 1996 and they were very successful.
The history of excavations
Before starting the excavations in ancient Stagira, only the traces of the medieval occupation were visible at the North Hill (especially the Byzantine partitions), while from the oldest city of Stagira, only minor traces were distinguished within the dense jungle vegetation. It is in honour of the Community Councils of Olympiada, that for years, it was striving to convince the Archaeological Service, to start excavations in the homeland of Aristotle.
A first, small-scale excavation and for a short-time effort undertaken in 1968 by the director of the Museum of Thessaloniki, F. Petsa. Then researches conducted at two points outside the fortified city: in the bay of "Sykia&, where uncovered the retaining walls of the classical period and in "Vina" (about 1.5 kilometers southeast of the ancient Stagira), where came revealed a circular tower.
The reason for this effort was the discovery of a particular half statue of Kouros, which brought up by an individual diver in the gulf of "Liotopi". It took more than 20 years since that first excavation attempt to resume with a more systematic way,(the excavations in Stagira. The launch is conducted by the writer of this report, the archaeologist Dr. Sismanides Kostas), with pilot and exploratory incisions in September 1990. The very encouraging results of that research created the favorable conditions for the continuation of excavations that conducted regularly for a decade.
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