Ancient Akanthos


Below Ierissos lies the ancient cemetery of Akanthos. On a plot of the Municipality, opposite the church of Agios Nikolaos, the Archbishopric of the Antiquities has revealed a small part of the cemetery that is open to the public. Ancient Akanthos stretched across three hills of Mount Stratonikos on an area of ​​560 acres, about 600 meters southeast of the settlement of Ierissos. The tumultuous city was named after either the many thorns of the area or the sprawling formation of the fortification. Systematic excavation has not been done. Some of the travelers of the last century report the existence of an ancient moat in the port of the city. Indeed, the current traces of ancient Akanthos begin from the beach of Ierissos, where remnants of the quay of the ancient harbor are preserved. From the ruins the most impressive are the walls of the Acropolis, as there are rescued sections with a height of up to 8 meters!

The visible remains are mainly parts of the fortification of the city, the walls and an impressive section of the acropolis. Also scattered architectural members and building remnants of Hellenistic years, public buildings, houses and the foundation of a temple – probably the goddess Athena – at the top of a hill.

Wonderful is the walk in the three hills where the ancient Akanthos stretched. You will especially enjoy it in the spring where the place is green. Walking straight from the entrance of the archaeological site you will see the Byzantine cobbled streets and above it a house with an inner courtyard surrounded by rooms. It was built in the late 4th century 3rd century BC. and was destroyed in the 2nd century. B.C. As it can be seen from its structure, it is characterized by the absolute sense of private space.

Continuing the walk, you will climb the first hill where you will see a Byzantine church, probably of the 10th century, built with materials from an ancient building that was destroyed by the earthquake of 1932. Ceramics of the Early Iron Age were found around it. Walking to the second hill you will notice parts of your left wall and then you will climb to the third hill. At its top there are the foundations of an ancient temple (100 feet or 30.48 meters), which during the excavation was found to have few movable finds. The view from there is excellent.

Ancient Akanthos may not have been excavated to a large extent, but the necropolis research has begun since 1973. It extends to the coastal part of Ierissos and to date more than 600 tombs have been recorded. The cemetery was used from the Archaic period to the Roman times, and then, perhaps with some holidays, until the 17th century. B.C. Tombs are in at least two or three layers, in a layout usually parallel to the shoreline. Adults and children were buried in the same place, according to the familiar burial customs of antiquity. There are various species, such as rectangular pits either plain or lined with clay or clay veneer, simple, or embossed or painted decoration, box-shaped and tiled graves. Injections were also recorded, ie burials in jars or smaller vases, which are also the largest proportion of infant or child burials.

Deliveries show a wide variety. Most are clay pots. Many were personal belongings of the dead, or related to their professions and occupations – including jewelery, pins, buckles, mirrors, spikes, needles, hooks, knives, etc. The presence of weapons is rather rare. Very often, in the graves of women, but especially of children, we find clay figurines in the form of chthonic deities, actors, aries, people, animals, etc. Similar funerary customs, tombs and finds are also found in cemeteries of other ancient cities of Macedonia and Thrace.

The influences, the cultural contacts and the trade with the Greek-speaking cities of the East, as well as with the centers of the Aegean, with Evia, Athens, Corinth and Boeotia, are obvious. Between the ancient cemetery and the city were built the workshops of Akanthos, where, among other things, amphorae were constructed for the transfer of the known from the ancient sources of “thistle wine”.

An important place in the history of the city occupy the coins that were released. They are considered the oldest and most elegant Greek coins of antiquity. Akanthos cut coins for the first time in 530 BC, using the Euboan weighted silver rule. Its tetradrachim features a lion-like depiction of a ox, the famous bullfighter lion. On the back side there is a slender square divided into four identical squares. Later, in the same coin was added the inscription “AKANTHION” on the back side, along with some symbols (thorn flower, etc.). In other tetradrachma, the lion ravages a boar-perhaps they were cut into Stagira, whose port was called Capra.

In the Drachmas of Akanthos is depicted a bull frog, turning the head backwards. Blinds or bulls are again depicted on the mattresses. In twentieth, the head of Athena. In the owls the head of the lion’s forehead. Note that all these coins were silver. After 424 BC, when Akanthos joined the Lacedaemonian camp, he began to cut silver coins based on the Phoenician weighted rule. And there is also the lion that bruises the bull, while on the back there is the inscription “AKANTHION” and the name of the governor. Four-wheelers, mattresses and three-poles carry a front bull. The twins depict in front the Athena helmet, with the inscription “AKAN”. These continued to be published until 400 BC.