Where History Happened: Alexander the Great
Aigai in northern Greece was once the capital of the Macedonian kingdom and it was here in 336BC that Alexander the Great was proclaimed King of Macedon after the assassination of his father, Philip II.
Aigai probably reached its height around 500BC as the Macedonian capital, before being replaced by Pella around 100 years later. After the death of Alexander, Aigai suffered during the Wars of Alexander's Successors and the city was again damaged during the Roman conquest of the region in 168BC. Aigai survived into the Roman era but gradually declined during the latter Imperial period.
Today, Aigai can be found near the modern town of Vergina and there are a number of interesting sites to explore. Probably the most famous of Aigai’s sites are the royal burial tombs, which are believed to house the tombs of Phillip II and Alexander the Great’s son, Alexander IV. An impressive museum – the Royal Tombs of Vergina Museum - was built to enclose these tombs and visitors can explore this underground experience.
The Vergina Museum in northern Greece contains some of the most astonishing ancient tomb discoveries in history – namely tombs said to be of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, and Alexander IV, the conqueror’s son.
The museum can be found in the centre of the town, which was once the ancient Macedonian capital of Aigai. Visitors descend through the subterranean passageways to enter the museum from where they can explore both the tombs themselves and a number of exhibitions showcasing artefacts from the site and the local area.
A must-see for any Alexander the Great tour, Pella in Greece was the capital of ancient Macedonia and the birthplace of Alexander. As well as being a cultural and commercial hub, Pella was also a place of great historical significance, it being the birthplace of Alexander the Great. By the time of its peak, from the late fourth to second century BC, Pella would have been brimming with public, religious and commercial buildings as well as monuments and homes all carefully organised according to Hippodamian urban planning principles. Visitors can see several sites at Pella, including a series of remains of houses, mostly dating back to the Hellenistic period and the marketplace or "agora". There is also a museum housing artefacts from the site.
Corinth was a major city to both the Ancient Greeks and the Ancient Romans. It was at Corinth in 336 BC that Alexander was selected to lead the Greeks in the war against Persia. Throughout the classical era, Corinth had held regular sporting tournaments known as the Isthmian Games. These were continued under the Macedonians and, in fact, it was at the 336 BC Isthmus Games that Alexander the Great was selected to lead the Greeks in the war against Persia. Today, visitors to Corinth can see its many ancient sites, including the fairly well-preserved ruins of the Temple of Apollo, which was built in 550 BC and the remaining columns of the Temple of Octavia.
Perperikon was an important Thracian sanctuary turned Roman town then medieval fortress. It was here in 334BC that Alexander the Great was said to have been told that he would conquer the world. Today, visitors can wander through historic Perperikon to see its fascinating ancient ruins including the remains of important public buildings, houses, stairways, altars, tombs and walls.
Alexander entered Ephesus in 334BC after defeating the Persians at the Battle of the Granicus. The city would hail him as a deity. Fought over continuously by Alexander’s successors and their descendants, Ephesus, like so much of the region, was eventually absorbed into the Roman Republic, in the late second century BC. Today, Ephesus is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of Ancient Roman and Greek history, allowing them to walk through its streets and view its magnificent houses, community buildings, temples and stadiums.
Pasargadae was the first capital of the Persian Empire, the UNESCO-listed ruins of which are located in Iran. It was conquered by Alexander during his war with Persia. Now a town in Iran, Pasargadae was established by the first ruler of the Achaemenid Dynasty, Cyrus the Great. Amongst the sites still visible are several palaces – including the Presidential Palace - making up a royal complex and a fortress known as the Tall-e Takht.
The ancient metropolis of Babylon is one of the most famous cities of the ancient world and today can be found near the town of Al-Hillah in modern-day Iraq.
Founded almost five thousand years ago, the city on the Euphrates has seen empires rise and fall and has been the centre of the highest forms of culture and the most brutal wars and devastation.
It is likely that Babylon was founded in the third millennium BC and rose to prominence over the next thousand years. By the 18th century BC the city was the centre of the empire of Hammurabi. However, the changing political and military nature of the region saw Babylon fought over countless times over the following centuries, with one empire or dynasty after another securing Babylon as their home.
A resurgence of an independent Babylonian empire briefly flourished towards the end of the 7th century BC under king Nebuchadnezzar II – famous for building great wonders within the city, including the renowned Hanging Gardens of Babylon – yet even this dynasty failed to last, with Babylon falling to Cyrus the Great, king of the Persian Empire.
In 331 BC Alexander the Great captured Babylon, and it was here he died in 323 BC. After the fall of Alexander’s fledgling empire, Babylon was fought over by his surviving generals and was slowly abandoned over the following centuries.
The ruins of Babylon have suffered greatly due to looting and destructive policies, leaving little behind that captures the glory of the once-great city. Saddam Hussein also built a ‘new’ version of ancient Babylon over the site.
Of Babylon’s ancient ruins, it is still possible to see parts of Nebuchadnezzar's palace and some of the old city walls. It is also possible to see a reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
Although the site of Babylon is open to visitors, it is advisable to check with you government’s official travel advice policy before undertaking any trips to Babylon.
Persepolis was the capital of the ancient Persian Empire and was destroyed by the forces of Alexander after his capture of the city in 330BC. The great palace of Xerxes was set alight with the subsequent fire burning vast swathes of the city. Persepolis does not seem to have recovered from this devastation and the city gradually declined in prestige, never again becoming a major seat of power. Today the imposing remains stand in modern-day Iran and the site is also known as Takht-e Jamshid. Located roughly 50 miles northeast of Shiraz, the ruins of Persepolis contain the remains of many ancient buildings and monuments. These include The Gate of All Nations, Apadana Palace, The Throne Hall, Tachara palace, Hadish palace, The Council Hall, and The Tryplion Hall.
10. Temple of Amun
The remains of the famous Temple of Amun at Siwa represent what is left of one of the most famous oracles of the ancient world. In the western Egyptian desert near the Libyan border, a small Egyptian settlement dated to the time of the first dynasty was located at the only natural water source for hundreds of miles, the Siwa oasis. After founding Alexandria, and prior to his invasion of Persia, Alexander the Great decided to travel to the Temple of Amun at Siwa. Here he visited the oracle of the Temple of Amun and was confirmed as a divine personage and the legitimate pharaoh of Egypt.