In the fertile plain at the foot of Mount Vermio, nestled among the towns of Kopanos, Lefkadia and Naoussa, excavations have brought to light the remains of an ancient city identified as Mieza. Mieza was one of the major cities of the Macedonian kingdom during the period of its prosperity (4th-2nd century BC). Ancient authors and geographers refer to Mieza as lovely Emathia, the name used by Homer (Iliad, XIV, 226). Named after the daughter of Beres and sister of Olganos and Beroia from ancient mythology, the dispersed buildings uncovered so far provide a rough picture of the Hellenistic city. The architectural remains belong mainly to a number of public buildings. It is most likely that the nucleus of the ancient city, namely its agora, lay at the present rural site of Belovina at Kopanos. It is here where an ancient theater sits. The theater dates to the Late Hellenistic period, though its current form belongs to Roman times. It was built on a hillside with a panoramic view over the valley and its capacity is estimated at roughly 1500 spectators. The total restoration of the monument aims to highlight its historical value and allow for its reuse so that the site becomes a key place for cultural activities in the region.
The prosperity of Mieza is reflected in the luxurious villas of the Hellenistic and Roman times. Among the best-preserved examples are the two Roman villas at Tsifliki of Lefkadia and Baltaneto of Naoussa, with splendid mosaic floors dated to the 2nd century AD. One of the most important findings at the Archaeological Museum of Veroia is the marble bust of the river god Olganos, dated in the 3rd quarter of the 2nd c. AD. The bust was found in a field near the modern village of Kopanos (ancient Mieza). According to the 2nd century lexicographer Stephen of Byzantium, the river god Olganos was the son of Veris, mythical ancestor of the Macedonias and brother of Veroia and Mieza, who gave their names to two of the most important cities in ancient Imathia. This is the only known portrait of the river god in ancient Greek art. The idealized facial features betray both the influence of the imagery of Alexander the Great and the romanticism of the age of the Antonine emperors (2nd c. AD).
Outside the perimeter of the ancient city, along the contemporary rural road that leads from Kopanos to Naoussa, lies the idyllic site of Isvoria. The lush landscape with plentiful waters and natural caves characterize Dionysian scenery, an ideal place for worshipping the Nymphs in antiquity. The scattered architectural remains of a rock-hewn Ionic stoa, dated after the mid-4th century BC, were used to identify the site as the very school of Aristotle, where the young prince Alexander studied under the great philosopher along with young members of Macedonian aristocratic families. Philip the II of Macedon, hired Aristotle to teach his son, Alexander.
Aristotle was the most learned and celebrated philosopher during this time period. In return for instructing his son, Phillip the II rewarded Aristotle by restoring Aristotle’s hometown – the city of Stagira. The city had been razed in a previousconquest and its citizens sold into slavery. Phillip rebulit the city and restored its citizens, who were in exile or slavery, to their habitations. As a place for the teaching of his son, Phillip II assigned the temple of the Nymphs, near Mieza to Aristotle. Tothis very day, Aristotle’s stone seats and the shady walks, which he was known to frequent remain.
The antiquities of the region were first mentioned in the middle of 19th century by foreign travellers, W. M. Leake and A. Delacoulonche. The first excavation was conducted by the Danish architect K.F.Kinch, who excavated the Macedonian tomb of Lyson and Kallikles.
The archaeological finds indicate that the region has a long history of habitation, which began around the second millennium BC and lasted until the end of antiquity. Discoveries during excavations gradually led to the image of a rural community that transformed into an urban center to become a prosperous and wealthy city during the Hellenistic period. The site has been untouched since the 1960’s.
Archaeological Focus for 2019
Our team will collaborate with Greek archaeologists that are launching a project that is vital for the region. Mieza exists today as a collection of disparate monuments strewn across the landscape. This project aims to fully connect the monuments across the site including areas currently inaccessible to the public. The intent is to understand the site from a more complete historical context and allow for its protection. This work will not only ensure their survival, but will also lead to an influx of visitors to the area.
The goal for 2018 was to continue the excavation of the Roman baths and to investigate their connection with the rest of the villa and between the villa and the city. We will continue investigating Mieza early stages and excavating the construction excavated in the bedrock East of the site. We will also attempt the first steps to consolidate the mosaics discovered last summer.