Greece -- Ruins Renewed: Seeking New Life For Past Glories

MIEZA, Greece - The names of the dead are still visible on the walls of the small, moist chamber, a family tree buried for more than two millennia in a Macedonian tomb.

Hidden from public view since 220 B.C., the tomb of Lyson and Kallikles contains 22 niches that held the ashes of at least four generations of a military family that served the ancient Macedonian empire from the 4th to the 2nd centuries B.C.

It's one of many ancient tombs in northern Greece that were overlooked for centuries as classicists and archaeologists concentrated on better-known ruins to the south.

Now, experts want to make a showcase of past glories in many of these modern backwaters.

Unlike their more famous ancient cousins - including the Acropolis, Delphi and ancient Olympia - little is known outside of Greece about many of the archeological treasures in the north.

"All of Greece is an archeological area, and lately archaeologists are getting into the frame of mind to publicize them," says Culture Minister Elisavet Papazoi. "All they used to care about was excavating."

Archeologists are lobbying the government for funds to finish preserving tombs and transform Mieza and Pella, the capital of ancient Macedonia about 19 miles away, into archeological parks.

Pella is where many experts believe the philosopher Aristotle had among his pupils a young man who'd later be known as Alexander the Great, was born there in 356 B.C.

At the age of 16, while his father, Philip II, the king of Macedonia, marched against Byzantium, Alexander was entrusted with governing his country. When his father was murdered, he became king and leader of the powerful Macedonian army. Alexander undertook a military campaign that freed the Greek cities of Asia Minor from Persian rule. He then went on to conquer Egypt, Persia and part of India before his death at the age of 33.

For decades, archaeologists have been excavating both Mieza and Pella. But some of the tombs and many of the treasures - including a school where many believe Aristotle taught Alexander - have been open only to experts.

"Archaeologists are not the only ones who want this park . . . The people want it because nothing like this has ever been done before," says Pavlos Chrissostomou, an archaeologist at the Pella museum.

Designs for the parks include eliminating modern roads through the sites and connecting all the antiquities with pathways that would allow guided walking tours.

But many of the sites need a lot of work - as well as funding - before such a park can be constructed.

In Mieza, archaeologists will need about $3 million for each of four tombs to be preserved and opened to the public. Estimated cost for Pella is $13 million.

The funding, if approved by Greece's Central Archaeological Committee, would come from the European Union.

Mieza, first excavated in 1954, needs the most work. The facade of the largest tomb, named The Tomb of Judgment, dates to the early part of the 3rd century B.C.

Archaeologists believe it belonged to Pefkestas, one of Alexander's generals. It had to be rebuilt stone by stone because it collapsed.

The tomb still has problems that need fixing before visitors can enter it, including adjusting humidity levels in order to preserve the bright red, blue and yellow-colored wall paintings that include Hermes, the god who guided souls to Hades.

Another 3rd century B.C. tomb contains a well-preserved wall painting of a reclining man and woman.

Pella was most prosperous during the reigns of Philip II and Alexander. Archaeologists have uncovered tombs, the remains of a building, an ancient marketplace and a sanctuary dedicated to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty.

Many objects found at the sites are displayed in the Pella museum, which archaeologists are hoping to completely rebuild to include reception buildings, parking lots and toilets.

They include floor mosaics from 325-300 B.C. of a lion hunt, and another of green, beige and white stones depicting two naked men in the act of killing a lion. Both were commonly found in men's quarters. ------------------------------- More information

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