The Project

The city of Argos, situated in the area called "Orestis" in antiquity, is particularly important for the history of ancient Macedonia, since according to literary sources it was thought to be the place of origin of the Argead kings.

The people living in the area - the "Orestai" - remained for quite some time independent until they were annexed to the macedonian kingdom under Philip II. In the Roman period, the inhabitants of the settlements in Orestis, having formed the "Koinon of the Orestai" - a federation-like body of the region's cities - were in a seemingly better position in their dealings with Rome compared to other macedonian districts. The Koinon is attested by inscriptions, though its seat remains unknown to archaeologists. According to epipgraphic evidence it is assumed that the Koinon's administrative centre lay where the town of Argos Orestikon is today, where excavations and surveys on the Armenohori site brought to light finds from the Imperial and Byzantine eras. Among them, we may note part of an honorific statue base dedicated by the Koinon in honour of Emperor Claudius.

Previous research on the site
Further to initial research undertaken by A. Keramopoullos and D. Samsaris, mostly consisting on epigraphic finds or small-scale rescue excavations, the sole truly significant excavation in the area, which furthered the study of its topography in a substantial way, was the excavation undertaken by Thanasis Papazotos (ADelt 43, 1988 [Meletai] 195ff). Digging a number of Early Christian basilicas and parts of the city's fortification, Papazotos was able to identify the archaeological site in the outskirts of Argos Orestikon with a city known as Diokletianoupolis, which apparently was situated in the area before the Emperor Justinian moved it to a more suitable site (see also, A.S. Petkos, Diokletianoupolis: Guide to the Site, Veroia 2008). Papazotos himself discovered on the nearby site of Paravela a building, safely datable to the time prior to the reign of Emperor Diocletian. The building, though dug by Papazotos in exemplary fashion, has never been published and has not been duly incorporated into accounts on the area, even though it could shed light to some crucial questions.

The building preserves only scant traces of its groundplan, owing to its fragile make and the fact that in the Early Christian period it was replaced by the so-called "Basilica C" and a burial monument. The Roman building consists of two rectangular parts: one is an atrium (52,40 × 33,20 m.), furnished with a portico along (presumambly) its four sides. The other space is smaller (17,60 × 12 m.), adjacent to the NW side of the atrium. Its long sides are lined with built benches and a semi-circular niche along the NW wall. The remains of a built base originally carrying a life-size statue were found inside the niche; its only surviving piece so far is a marble fragment of a left hand holding a laurell branch - presumably an Apollo - found in front of the base.
Papazotos interpreted the building as an heroon or a sanctuary belonging to some agricultural or mystic cult. Owing to the discovery of a coin struck by the Koinon, providing a rather secure terminus ante quem, the erection of the building can be placed before the time of Diocletian. It seems that the building was destroyed rather than abandoned.

In a recent paper (ΑΕΜΘ 20, 2006, 911ff), D. Damaskos re-interpreted the building as the seat of the Koinon of the Orestoi, based on the typology of the building, reserved for assembly halls in that period. He assumed that the members of the Koinon would meet in front of the statue of Apollo, the legendary forefather of the Orestai, according to Strabo. The larger, porticoed space would, accordingly, serve as a gathering place, like an agora of sorts.

Our Aims
The new excavation project, under the auspices of the University of Ioannina, aims to:

1. Conclude the excavation of the building in order to settle questions regarding its groundplan and possible phases in its use.

2. Investigate the relation of the building with the topography of the area; given its size, it is important to verify whether the building was part of a wider settlement lying in the plane north of the present-day town of Argos Orestikon.

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