Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

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Paralus
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Paralus »

agesilaos wrote:...the skeleton may well be a later intrusion, the whole monument may well not be late fourth century, obsessing over Olympias and ignoring the historical context is still not good method any more than replacing one assertion with another is 'objectivity'. Only time will tell, though there is certainly a weight of written source material which tips the scales in one direction whilst not completely eliminating the possibility that every ancient history textbook can be ignored and in the middle of a war Kassandros spent a fortune on a traitor's corpse.
I'd agree with all of that though I'd note that the proposal now is that Cleopatra and "the generals overseas" paid for the tomb, the latter as an "investment", whilst Kassandros allowed the construction of the traitor's tomb because he "sought a reconciliation with her daughter, daughter-in-law, grandson and other members of the royal family" (or was "ostensibly working towards" same). Just how plausible or "preposterous" a suggestion that is is up to others.

On the skeleton itself, I do wonder how anyone's identity is ruled out given its current state which is quite damaged.
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Zebedee »

Taphoi wrote:[ In fact Olympias is an excellent fit to a 60+ woman in a grand Macedonian tomb with queenly iconography at Amphipolis that was built in the last quarter of the 4th century BC, but there is nobody else in the entire Heckel Who's Who of Alexander's era (or Diodorus, or Justin...) who is a good fit.
What queenly iconography? And that's precisely the point I'm making really. You see cultic priestesses with baskets of snakes and queenly sphinxes at the entrance, I see a tomb outside a former Athenian colony, newly rich and with the Athenian ornamental funerary business supposedly closed by decree. You see family portraits, I see the similarity with a known painting of the mythical cycle depicted. You see a 60 year old woman being buried and say 'it's Olympias', I see a whole host of remains found and would like to know the order of burial, as well as whether all were actually buried inside that specific tomb, especially for the supposed cremation. I have to start at Olympias and work the iconography to fit to get her as the 'obvious'.
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Xenophon »

agesilaos wrote:
Since half the bones are missing and the rest broken it must be one of those divine inspirations that allows Xenophon to declare that the female skeleton is intact! Stoning might not present further than broken bones, they are not going to have time to heal. The stories of Olympias' death are contradictory, hacked to death in Justin, stoned in Pausanias, but as you say gepd the big anomaly is the mound itself, it is never mentioned and that ought to make us look at an under reported era.
Paralus wrote:
On the skeleton itself, I do wonder how anyone's identity is ruled out given its current state which is quite damaged.
Agesilaos may need 'divine inspiration' but I do not. Simple logic based on the information we are given suffices. And I clearly mean relatively or essentially intact - of course every bone is not present.
Paralus, it seems, is not up to speed with forensic archaeological practices. Whether damage to a skeleton is pre or post mortem, or subsequent to burial, or even old healed wounds are all easily determined - even in the case of a cremated skeleton such as that of Philip II. Similarly it seems that these two are not familiar with the sort of skeletal trauma that would have occurred from being stoned to death [ or even hacked to death. Justin's somewhat lurid version is likely to be less accurate, not least because public execution, as opposed to military execution, in Macedon was usually by stoning, but the trauma would be similar in death by hacking.]

Olympias' execution will have led to severe skeletal damage from head to foot. ( She supposedly lay down and drew her robe over herself during the execution). When I was young, one could only see graphic images of such injuries in criminological text books and military medical manuals, but now there are plenty of online images of the hideous trauma victims suffer. The image below shows the surviving parts of the female skeleton - more than enough to show any skeletal pre or immediate post mortem injuries ( such as those on the males). According to the excavators and the official reports, they are emphatic that there is no such trauma to the female skeleton. No 'divine inspiration' needed, just common sense, and the knowledge that any skeletal damage occurred after burial, not pre or immediately post mortem. Nor is it credible that the only damaged bones might have been 'missing'ones.[ if Agesilaos or Paralus are familiar with probability theory, they can work out the odds - in practical terms, zero.]

In such cases, there is always severe head damage, and damage to the 'long' bones ( even when the victim is tied, which Olympias was apparently not )- and as can be seen, the skull is intact, even down to the lower jaw, and the long bones display no injuries either.

If you wish to consider that the female skeleton is even 'possibly' Olympias, then you must reject the sources accounts of her death. ( And that's ignoring the archaeological evidence that Olympias lies at Pydna )

Nor is there any 'anomaly' about the mound not being referred to in our histories etc. Northern Greece, Thrace and other nearby areas are covered in hundreds of anonymous tumuli and grave mounds - a reminder of just how many 'unknown' people are out there in the archaeological record, but not the historical one.

And the official view?
Prof Valavanis said :
"It was a surprise that there were so many deceased buried in the same grave, not because it is unexpected that in a Macedonian grave one might find many dead – after all, Macedonian tombs are family tombs – but because our minds had become so side-tracked with the speculation and discussion over one prominent individual, that unconsciously we had become fixated on there being one deceased.
On the other hand, the anthropological findings were a nice reminder to all of us, myself included, that we should not develop interpretive theories before we collect all of the data from an excavation.

As we had said, the monument was built for one deceased, in my opinion for the person who was buried in the grave of the burial chamber.
[ Whether the tomb was actually built for the evnetual occupant is debateable]

Is there some ‘limit’ to the number buried in a grave?

No. Greater numbers, even up to 15 deceased, if I am not mistaken, have been found buried in the same Macedonian tomb.

We have no evidence to connect the Amphipolis tomb with Olympias and the Temenid dynasty, aside from the size of the tomb – which doesn’t necessarily by itself mean that it is a royal tomb, there is nothing else to connect it to the Temenid dynasty. Furthermore the attempt to link the tomb with Olympias is not supported by the facts. We had noted from the outset that Olympias was buried in Pydna, where she was killed, a fact which is confirmed by two ancient inscriptions.

We may never identify the dead in the tomb.The latest results not only do not provide us with additional facts to narrow down the identity of the key occupant, but they create additional uncertainty. I fear that we will never be able to identify the first deceased with certainty"


And that, in my view is a reasonable summary. We may not ever identify the entombed, who are likely to remain anonymous. Ironically, we can say with considerable certainty that the female skeleton is not Olympias, because the anthropological evidence is totally inconsistent with that being the case.
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Xenophon »

Taphoi wrote:
The fact that there is sufficient desperation to avoid the obvious as to propose that the Macedonians spent thousands of talents in building by far the greatest tomb ever erected in Greece for somebody unknown to history is very telling of the weakness of the evidence against Olympias's candidacy. It makes it very clear that it is recognised that no other candidate known to history is tenable, whereas there are thousands of individuals in the era of Alexander who are known to history. But I would urge people not to put themselves in the position of the sceptic in my little dialogue above, who took the view that there was salvation to be had from the obvious through proposing preposterous alternatives. It is not even reasonable to propose an unknown individual until it has been proved that no known individual fits. In fact Olympias is an excellent fit to a 60+ woman in a grand Macedonian tomb with queenly iconography at Amphipolis that was built in the last quarter of the 4th century BC, but there is nobody else in the entire Heckel Who's Who of Alexander's era (or Diodorus, or Justin...) who is a good fit.
.......Here is the classic example of Taphoi putting forward the sort of irrational argument so prevalent among humanity generally. My conviction, right or wrong and I'll 'explain away' the awkward actual evidence.. Firstly, there is NO evidence FOR Olympias' candidacy beyond wishful thinking, and plenty against, so much so that in probability and practical terms we can exclude her, as the excavators do ( see my last post). No other candidate "known to history" ? Again, see my last post for the hundreds of 'unknown' tumuli and grave mounds. The occupant need not be known to history ( the positivist fallacy).
It is not even reasonable to propose an unknown individual until it has been proved that no known individual fits.
That is indeed an illogical approach, when the reverse is be true. Nothing says an occupant has to be 'historical' and probability says they are not.
Citing Heckel is not supporting evidence because of course he only lists 'known' Macedonians!!

And as to anonymous Queens in Macedonian tombs, bear in mind Macedonian Kings were polygamous, and consider we don't know who the female in Philip II's tomb is - one of the few official 'Queens' or perhaps more likely, some favoured concubine.......there are plenty of 'unknown' candidates from the period for the Kasta tomb, as Prof Valavanis pointed out.
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by gepd »

Nor is there any 'anomaly' about the mound not being referred to in our histories etc. Northern Greece, Thrace and other nearby areas are covered in hundreds of anonymous tumuli and grave mounds - a reminder of just how many 'unknown' people are out there in the archaeological record, but not the historical one.
Do we have examples of so large scale and luxurius monuments in the ancient Greek world, located in important city centrers and that were known or accessible to locals and visitors for centuries (Romans dismantled the peribolos, so the site was known, no matter when you assume the chambers were sealed), but disappeared from history?
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Zebedee »

gepd wrote: Do we have examples of so large scale and luxurius monuments in the ancient Greek world, located in important city centrers and that were known or accessible to locals and visitors for centuries (Romans dismantled the peribolos, so the site was known, no matter when you assume the chambers were sealed), but disappeared from history?
Random one, the tomb of Hector outside rebuilt Thebes (similar time to this) is only known from the written records so far. Alexander's tomb count as being part of the Greek world? What continues to perk my interest is the idea that this tomb was accessible for so long but the lack of clear reference to it.
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Efstathios »

Xenophon, you edit your posts to correct typos, but you haven't yet corrected "Katsas" into "Kasta". The hill is known as Kasta hill.

As far as the rest of the argument, it has been discussed before, and without proper evidence no one can say with certainty who is and who isn't in the tomb. Of course I think that the Olympias scenario is far fetched, and in the same manner others believe that the Hephaestion scenario is also unlikely.
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by gepd »

Thanks Zebedee, I was actually thinking the other way round: grand monuments revealed in the past by excavations for which we had no single clue about their existence. Maybe we can include the roman world or any other era if that makes it easier to find similar examples. Of course, this may be a topic for a different thread than this one.
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Zebedee »

gepd wrote:Thanks Zebedee, I was actually thinking the other way round: grand monuments revealed in the past by excavations for which we had no single clue about their existence. Maybe we can include the roman world or any other era if that makes it easier to find similar examples. Of course, this may be a topic for a different thread than this one.
Sorry gepd, that's a nice way of telling me to read better - appreciated :D

Perhaps the lion of knidos fits the bill?
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by agesilaos »

Kastas is a world record size; akin to stumbling across a new pyramid of Giza
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Taphoi »

Zebedee wrote:
Taphoi wrote:[ In fact Olympias is an excellent fit to a 60+ woman in a grand Macedonian tomb with queenly iconography at Amphipolis that was built in the last quarter of the 4th century BC, but there is nobody else in the entire Heckel Who's Who of Alexander's era (or Diodorus, or Justin...) who is a good fit.
What queenly iconography? And that's precisely the point I'm making really. You see cultic priestesses with baskets of snakes and queenly sphinxes at the entrance, I see a tomb outside a former Athenian colony, newly rich and with the Athenian ornamental funerary business supposedly closed by decree. You see family portraits, I see the similarity with a known painting of the mythical cycle depicted. You see a 60 year old woman being buried and say 'it's Olympias', I see a whole host of remains found and would like to know the order of burial, as well as whether all were actually buried inside that specific tomb, especially for the supposed cremation. I have to start at Olympias and work the iconography to fit to get her as the 'obvious'.
We have been told effectively that the 60+ woman was the principal burial. It is one of the few facts that her bones were concentrated near the actual grave slot. The only likely conclusion is that she was the principal burial (despite imaginative and exotic suggestions as to how the grave fill could somehow have been turned upside down.) I have said very clearly that Olympias is an hypothesis (not a conviction) until it is shown (and the evidence will almost certainly determine the question) that the bones are early and the tomb is from the last quarter of the 4th century BC. I find the opposition to the pursuit of hypotheses in this forum quite incomprehensible. Without hypotheses nothing will ever be determined. The Olympias hypothesis has been rather successful so far. When there were sphinxes, it predicted more queenly iconography and we got priestesses that could specifically be associated with Olympias. Then it helped me to predict a female in the unexcavated part of the mosaic before anyone else had seen her. Then I predicted that bones would be found in the tomb and that there might be a cist grave beneath the floor of the third chamber on the basis of the Cassander sealing hypothesis, which is an extension of the Olympias hypothesis. Then the hypothesis predicted that the bones would belong to a woman aged circa 60 and the principal bones do. In the meantime I note that many other confident hypotheses have fallen: does anyone remember the cenotaph? Nearchus? Laomedon? That Trojan war hero? (I see that someone does remember Hephaistion, but it will not be he.) If I wished to complain about others pursuing convictions, which I note that I do not, I would not lack ammunition.
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Zebedee »

Taphoi wrote:. In the meantime I note that many other confident hypotheses have fallen: does anyone remember the cenotaph? Nearchus? Laomedon? That Trojan war hero? (I see that someone does remember Hephaistion, but it will not be he.) If I wished to complain about others pursuing convictions, which I note that I do not, I would not lack ammunition.
Best wishes,
Andrew

Really Andrew? That's disingenuous and most deceitful of you to portray anything I said about Rhesos as 'confident'. On that note, I think I shall leave it. My posting record is short enough for those who have interest to let it speak for itself versus your clumsy and ungraceful comments there.

Revenons a nos moutons, I'm not clear at all what the order of burial is. Especially not if there's a later interment, epecially not considering the cremation found.

Your reading of the iconography remains as curious as it was all those months ago. You've been provided with ample rebuttals which really don't seem to penetrate into your ideas. You claim cultic priestesses with baskets for snakes on their heads when one of the statues you provided as an example has no basket, it just looks that way because you'd never thought to check what it looked like from behind - you must realise that there's some confirmation bias going on there for you?

I agree fully with you on hypotheses are there to be tested. Your's seems not to follow that rule though. You're making claims for your 'predictive powers' which are reliant on a level of circular reasoning which leaves me scratching my head.

Anyways, hope the summer is an enjoyable one!
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Alexias »

Please, please don't start arguing whether it is Hephaestion's tomb or I will lose the will to live, because it will degenerate into a discussion on whether or not Diodorus's description of Hephaestion's pyre is to be believed, and we've already had that argument. If it is an accurate description, there would have been so much debris that it would have been very difficult to locate any, and probably not all of the bones. Don't quote me on this but logic suggests that the heat would be so intense that it would shatter many of the bones. Unless the bonfire was raked out, it would have continued to smoulder for several days. Even if Diodorus is describing a tomb and not a pyre, there is still the unanswered question of why anyone would take Hephaestion's bones back to Amphipolis, a conquered city with which he had no connection (unless he was an Athenian), and not to the Macedonian heartland at Pella. Probably this has already been argued about ad infinitum but I simply don't care anymore. The chances are we will never definitely know for whom the tomb was built, and given the state of the Greek economy the archaeologists have a great deal more to worry about.
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Xenophon »

Xenophon, you edit your posts to correct typos, but you haven't yet corrected "Katsas" into "Kasta". The hill is known as Kasta hill.
Yes, I'm aware of the typo in the heading, but I don't seem to be able to edit a thread heading once posted......
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Re: Olympias and the Katsas Tomb at Amphipolis

Post by Xenophon »

Zebedee wrote:
I agree fully with you on hypotheses are there to be tested. Your's seems not to follow that rule though. You're making claims for your 'predictive powers' which are reliant on a level of circular reasoning which leaves me scratching my head.
Well said, Zebedee......a good post. There are several 'predictions' Andrew claims which seem to be the product purely of hindsight, and others are merely obvious matters, not 'predictions' at all, and the reasoning is indeed circular.

In testing hypotheses one should bear in mind the following advice:

1. Search for evidence which is contrary to your beliefs, don't just stop when you think you have found something to support them.
2. Try to consider hypotheses that may conflict with those beliefs.
3. Be careful to consider contrary evidence as objectively as you can, don't just merely 'explain it away', ignore it, or distort it.
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