Originally called ‘Nine Roads’ for the nine roads leading out of it, Amphipolis was where the Persian king Xerxes buried alive 9 youths and another 9 maidens to appease the gods after his defeat at the Battle of Salamis.
Later colonized by Athens in 437 BC, the city became a bone of contention between Athens and Sparta during the Peloponnesian war (431-404 BC) for access to the rich gold and silver of the Pangaian hills as well as the area’s timber, needed to built warships. The citadel was heavily fortified by long walls that can still be seen. It is said that Alexander the Great’s wife Roxanne and his son/heir met a bitter end here. Remains of a gymnasium, clay and lead sewer system, staircases and temple to Hermes and Heracles have been unearthed. In the Roman period, Amphipolis became an important stop on the Via Egnatia, and the Apostle Paul rested here on his journey to Thessaloniki from Philippi in 49 BC. A 5.37-meter-tall statue of a lion was only discovered in 1913. It now stands sentry by the bridge across the Strymonas river. Remnants of four early Christian basilicas indicate the city’s wealth in the Middle Ages.