Ruth & I went through the only Greek town named Alexandria as we were crossing the vast plain of Kampania on our way to Pella. Population about 15,000, Alexandria must be among the least impressive of the 70 or so towns that Alexander the Great named for himself. Pella, about 55 miles northwest of Greece’s 2nd largest city, Thessaloniki, is where Alexander was born. Macedonia’s ancient capital, Pella was where the soon to be King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire grew up. Young Alexander watched and learned as his father, Philip II, turned their territory into a great military power. When Alexander was 13, Philip hired Aristotle to tutor him. When Alexander was 16, Dad left him in charge and went off to invade Thrace. While he was gone, Alexander had to assemble his own army to put down a local rebellion. When Alexander was 20, Philip was assassinated and Alexander was crowned king. He immediately executed his enemies, restored Macedonian rule in northern Greece and marched south, conquering all. Next he headed north to the Danube River to defeat the Thracians and Illyrians. He destroyed the city of Thebes where his father had been held hostage for 3 years and prepared to invade Asia. He made it as far as India while choosing the most difficult routes over mountains and losing no battles. Heading back to Pella, Alexander died in Babylon at the age of 33, probably of malaria. He was buried in the Alexandria in Egypt.
Pella thrived with perfume stores, exceptional local pottery, metalworking, and successful mosaic floor workshops until an earthquake struck in the early 1st century BCE. The most fully developed town in the ancient Greek world was quickly abandoned.
In AD 1966 a farmer discover a mosaic floor made of river stones. Over the next few years the ancient city of Pella was uncovered. It’s still a major, working archaeological site. About 5 years ago, The Pella Museum was built to show what was being found. Concrete and very plain, it sits on the southeast corner of the hill where the royal palace where Alexander grew up once stood. His childhood home had reception rooms, private apartments complete with baths, large courtyards–5 buildings in all. It’s a 5 Compass experience to visit The Pella Museum. The mosaic floors on display are exceptional as are found household objects, like a strange looking baby bottle, and tributes to Alexander in mosaics and statues, etc. I gaped in amazement at 336 silver coins that were discovered by chance in a bronze vessel. The city had a sophisticated water and sewer pipe system. Life must surely have been pleasant for Alexander and his family in the years before he became known as The Great.