Ancient Stageira - Birthplace of Aristotle
Ancient Stageira is located about 700m east of Olympiada, over two hills of a beautiful peninsula called “Liotopi”. The ancient city is widely known as the birthplace of Aristotle and it is easily identified with Liotopi by the references of ancient writers and the studies of modern scholars. Ancient historians refer to the distance between Stageira and the ancient city of Acanthos to the south, they describe it as a city built by the sea, and they also mention a small island just opposite o Stageira, named “Kapros” - meaning boar. The same name was given to the harbour, which is probably identified with the gulf of Olympiada. In addition the official currency of Stageira carried the representation of o boar. The only island in the neighbourhood is modern Kaukauna’s, located 1,5 miles opposite the ruins of the ancient city. Uninhabited and a refuge for gulls today, the tiny island carries the ruins of an older inhabitation, which lasted from classical to the middle Byzantine times. The most characteristic of these ruins are two large cisterns and a Byzantine building, all located at the western end of the island.
Ionian colonists from the island of Andros first founded the city in 655 B.C. A little later, more colonists came from the city of Chalkis in Euboea. After the Persian Wars Stageira became a member of the first Athenian League and one of the contributors of the common Treasury. During the Peloponnesian War however, in 424 B.C. the city revolted against Athens and made an alliance with Sparta. This led the angry Athenians to besiege the city, but the effort was in vain. Later on Stageira became a member of the Halkidian League (the alliance of the cities of Halkidiki, with Olynthos as centre). In 349 B.C. Stageira was besieged and destroyed by king Philip B’ of Macedonia. It was he however, who refounded Stageira some years later to honour Aristotle. Nevertheless, it seems that the destruction by Philip was the beginning of the decline of the city. Strabo the Geographer, who lived at the time of Christ, informs us that at his time Stageira were already in ruins. About a thousand years later, a small medieval settlement is referred at the same site, named “Livasdias” and later “Lipsasda”. A few buildings at the top of the northern hill most probably belong to that medieval settlement, as well as the Byzantine walls closing the entry to the same hill. According to one of the traditions, classical Stageira were also called “Orthagoria”. This information however is probably wrong, mainly because there was another city with this name near Maroneia, in Thrace.
About the excavations
Before the excavation started, the only ruins to be seen in Stageira were those of the medieval settlement on the northern hill, mainly the Byzantine party wall. Only a few sings of the ancient city could be traced in the overgrown forest of the Liotopi peninsula. It is worth mentioning that the community council of Olympiada - to honor of the council - tried for many years to convince the National Archaeological Service to excavate the site of Ancient Stageira, the homeland of Aristotle.
The director of the Museum of Thessaloniki, Dr. Ph. Petsas, carried out a small and short excavational effort in 1968. Two areas outside the city walls were investigated: the small gulf of Sykia, where retaining classical walls found, and “Vina” (a site 1,5 Km southeast of ancient Stageira) where a round tower was revealed. Excavations had then started as the result of the discovery of a half-worked statue of a “kouros” (young naked man) found by a driver in the small gulf of Liotopi. More than 20 years had to pass for the next excavational effort to begin in Stageira, this time however in a more systematic way. At first, the author started with trial excavational trenches. Since the results were very encouraging and in favour of a bigger excavational campaign, systematic work started afterwards and continues until today.
He was born in Stageira in the year 384 B.C. His father was Nikomachos, a doctor of Macedonian king Amyntas B’, and his mother was called Phaistis or Phaistias. His parents died early, and Proxenos brought up young Aristotle, a relative from the Mysian city of Atarnea is Asia Minor. When he was 18 years old he went to Athens to study in Plato’s Academy for 20 whole years, until the death of Plato in 347 B.C. A little earlier, Aristotle had founded a school in the city of Assos in the Troad, as a department of the Academy. He married Pythias from Atarnea and stayed in the Troad for 3 years. Afterwards, he went to Lesbos where he became friends with Theophrastos the philosopher, whom he later left as his successor in his school in Athens. He stayed in Lesbos for 2 years, until 343 B.C.. He was then called to Pella by Philip B’, to be the teacher of his son Alexander. Alexander’s tutoring lasted for 3 years, until 340 B.C.. He then withdrawed to Stageira where he married again, with his compatriot Herphyllis (or Erpyllis). He returned to Athens in 335 B.C. and founded his own school, the “Lyceum”, later renamed “Peripatos” (Walk). He remained the director of this school for 12 years, during which all his admirable work was accomplished. When Alexander died his (Aristotle’s) enemies accused him “of impiety”. He took refuge in Chalkis where he owned an estate by inheritance from his mother. After a year he died in Chalkis, in the year 322 B.C., at the age of 63. He had two children, Pythias and Nikomachos.
According to a later tradition, one year after his death in Chalkis, the Stageiritans carried him home in celebrity and buried him inside their own city. A grand ceremony took place, a great altar was founded over the philosopher’s tomb and an annual festival, called “Aristoteleia”, was then established to honour the philosopher.