Few people ever heard of Aiani, a most lovely village close to modern Kozani, once surrounded by Kastoria, Florina, Pella, Imathia, Pieria, Larissa in Upper Macedonia. Aiani was the capital of the kingdom of Elimeia.
The ruling king in Macedonia was Perdiccas III, who had been forced to give his younger brother Philip (the father of Alexander the Great) as a hostage to Thebes. At some time during his reign (368-359 BC) Philip returned to Macedonia and Perdiccas gave him part of his kingdom, probably not to rule in his place but merely to rule on his behalf. According to speculations, he was entrusted with the territory of Amphaxitis, a strategic stretch of land between the Axius River and the Thermaic Gulf.
In 364 BC, Philip married his first wife, Phila, the daughter of King Derdas II of Elimeia, most probably a diplomatic alliance arranged by Perdiccas as was his right as king.
But Macedonia was faced with several threats to the kingdom’s security and in 359 BC the Illyrians, led by King Bardylis envious of the fertile lands in Lower Macedonia invaded Macedonia, killing Perdiccas and with him 4,000 brave Macedonian soldiers.
Macedonia was on the brink of collapse and facing the problem of the king’s succession to the throne since his son Amyntas was still a youngster. The Athenians saw an opportunity to interfere pushing forward a certain Argaeus and the Thracians with a certain Pausanias already marched towards the capital city of Pella. Macedonia was in dear need of a strong leader and given all these threats, the Macedonian Assembly proclaimed Philip as king, granting him full power which he could not have received if functioning as regent for Amyntas. Philip, they knew had acquired serious experience in the years he ruled part of the kingdom under the wing of his brother.
In 359 BC, Philip II was elected king and the people of Macedonia swore their oath of allegiance. It is obvious that Upper Macedonia was at the core of Philip’s expansion and this included Elimeia. One year into his kingship, Philip managed to unite Upper and Lower Macedonia and he achieved it probably peacefully, consolidated no doubt by his success in crushing the Illyrians.
Presently, Aiani is in the news as restoration of the entire city nears completion and the site is now open to the public. The excavations have revealed a well-organized town that goes back to prehistoric times and flourished during the classical and Hellenistic era.
The landscape, it must be said, is very different from what we find near Pella, Vergina and Thessaloniki. This is a true high plateau swept by the wind, poor in agricultural land and only fit for herding sheep and goats.
Until now, Aiani only could offer its precious Archaeological Museum to visit, which is a true treasure trove with for instance the oldest pieces of matt-painted pottery in black and white in the world. Some of the museum’s artifacts date back to the Mycenaean era but most are from Greece’s archaic and Hellenistic times. This museum also holds some of the oldest samples of writing on archaic pottery which confirms that the inhabitants wrote and spoke Greek well before the 5th century BC.
It will be interesting to see this site now that it is has opened to the public!