ARISTOTLE UNIVERSITY OF THESSALONIKI
DEPARTMENT OF ARCHAEOLOGY
Much has been learned about Macedonian administrative institutions, manufacturing and trade from the Aristotle University Excavation at the Agora of Pella (fig 1), the capital city of of Philip II and Alexander III (figs 2-3).
The market place covered approximately 72000 sq m. or ten city blocks (fig 4). Its large central piazza (ca 200 x 170 m) was surrounded by colonnaded buildings with four rows of square rooms on two levels, in perfect harmony with the general urban plan. The northern part of this complex was raised to a second storey (figs 5-8). The walls, stone below and brick above, were finished with a tinted plaster; the wooden superstructure rested on Doric columns and piers. The complex had monumental gates opening onto the four main city streets (fig.9), and was bisected by the grandest of them all, an east-west avenue fully 15 metres wide. This road was one of the main routes into the city, and it was flanked beyond the city limits by monumental tumuli.
Pella’s Agora was built in the last quarter of the 4th century, and destroyed by the earthquake that flattened the city in the early part of the 1st century BC.
The complex itself was an architectural unit, thus far unparalleled in size, while the wealth of finds discovered there, mostly in the destruction debris, yield important information about the administrative and economic life of the city.
THE AGORA AS ADMINISTRATIVE CENTRE
The north wing of the Agora was an administrative complex, housing the city magistrates and certain core cultic functions, as we know from inscriptions, inscribed monument bases, the surviving monumental sculpture (figs 10-11) and the clay document seals found in that area, several of which read ΠΕΛΛΗΣ ΠΟΛΙΤΑΡΧΩΝ (fig 12) (= Pella Civic Authorities). The southwest section housed the public archives (fig 13). Here, in a two-storey building with a central peristyle atrium (fig. 14), public documents were transcribed, sealed and stored, and here the excavations brought to light scores of clay sealings from public documents hardened by the fire that destroyed small part of the building (fig 15-16). Here, too, were found broken pens and inkwells, stores of clay, and semiprecious stone stamping seals, which were used to seal a good number of documents. These seals bore effigies of male or female heads or animals: that of a grazing cow was commonly used on both seals and coins in Pella. The inscription ΠΕΛΛΗΣ ΕΜΠΟΡΙΟY (fig 17) on many sealings is indicative of the commercial activity carried out in the complex.
THE AGORA AS MANUFACTURING AND COMMERCIAL CENTRE
The east, west and south wings of the Agora housed workshops that made, and commercial shops that sold, a wide variety of goods.
Pottery was made and sold in the south end of the east wing (figs. 18-21), idols and figurines in the south wing (figs 22-23); liquid goods and foodstuffs were sold in the south wing, perfumes in the northwest corner, and imported pottery and lamps in the southwest corner, where there were also metal workshops and vendors selling metal wares. This we know from the quantities of objects from the destruction layer found heaped on the floors and buried beneath fallen walls, or discarded and thrown outside the shops or into wells, which at some point became rubbish tips. Figurines, terracotta moulds and quantities of vases were found in certain workshops (figs 22-23), while large quantities of the pointed amphoras in which many imported goods were transported.
Many of the goods manufactured in the Agora and other workshops in the city have been found in places with which Pella maintained trade relations, while numerous products were imported from other cities and sold in the city’s shops. Archaeological evidence has shown that Pella traded with the rest of Greece, the southern Balkan region, the Black Sea, Asia Minor, Cyprus, North Africa, and the Italian and Iberian peninsulas.
Many of the city’s wells at some point became rubbish tips, and the finds from them include a wide range of fine ceramic (fig 24-25), terracotta and metal goods, discarded because they broke or were flawed. These tips also yielded remains of organic substances from foodstuffs, which furnished invaluable information about the people’s diet and the crops they grew.