The walls of Dium continue southward and the path continues to follow the exterior (there is no path along the interior), with some spolia such as an altar visible within the walls. Some drainage features can also be seen. Some more robust towers (in comparison to the northern interior wall) from this circuit are visible in this stretch. About 185 meters south of the castellum aquae, the southwestern corner is reached and the walls turn and continue to the east. These run, again with towers visible every so often, for about 325 meters before they end up back at the Great Thermae, which required the removal and incorporation of these southern walls to construct. What is most apparent along these walls is the stark difference between the earlier walls composed of large ashlar blocks and the mid-3rd century CE phase of building which includes much smaller stone and ad hoc use of unrelated building materials.
Upon reaching the western extent of the Great Thermae, there is a path that leads south, to the final point of interest in the archaeological park, the Cemetery Basilica. As the name would suggest, this building is associated with an Early Christian graveyard that was used outside the southern wall of Dium. The basilica was constructed in the early 5th century CE, well into the decline of the city which had lost much of its population in the turmoil of invasions, earthquakes, and flooding of the previous century. This became the primary center of Christian and seemingly community activity after the large-scale abandonment of the city. The remains of the basilica are not directly accessible, but there is a path that runs a circuit around the entirety of the building.
From the Cemetery Basilica, it is a short walk west back to the entrance to the southern section of the archaeological park, and back to the entrance. In all, I spent a good 4 and a half hours wandering around Dium. I was fortunate to have the park largely to myself, which I thought was part of a general trend I was experiencing in Greece that summer, being early in the summer season and only one year post-pandemic. Talking to others, however, it seems that the archaeological site is frequently overlooked and not especially well visited. Most of the points of interest have informational boards with English and Greek descriptions. Sometimes these are accompanied by aerial pictures, reconstructions, or plans. As I’d mentioned previously, sometimes these board seemed to leave out information that made interpreting the remains of particular areas rather difficult. This combined with a surprising lack of English language material on the site as a whole to make some parts of these posts quite difficult. The site is absolutely fantastic, though, quite possibly one of the most fascinating sites I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting, and certainly one of the highlights of my trip through Greece in 2021.
Beyond the archaeological park, there are a few things worth seeing. About 675 meters northwest of the archaeological park’s entrance, but just 150 meters from the path along the northwestern corner of the city’s interior walls, along the Eparchiaki Odos Katerinis-Limena Litochoriou heading out of Dion to the north, is one of a few Macedonian tombs found in the area, termed Tomb I or the Tomb of Sotiriadis. One of the best preserved Macedonian tombs in the region, it was placed among the western necropolis of Dium, which was in use from the 4th century BCE through the Early Christian period. There don’t seem to be any other visible remains of the necropolis in the area. The tomb is also presently inaccessible. There’s an information board up, but the site is locked and there are no hours or information about requesting access. Through the gate, the top of the tomb can be seen under a modern protective covering, but that’s it.
A little farther up this road, depending on the season (due to how much overgrowth there is between the road and the walls), one can see at least the specter of the western walls off to the right side of the road. As it passes over the riverbed, the walls turn and head to the east. Some of these can also be seen running along the south side of the riverbed, making up the original line of the northern fortifications. Again, the visibility will depend on the time of year because the walls and the area between the roads and the walls can be quite overgrown, as these aren’t really part of the archaeological route and so they are not maintained as something for visitors to see.
About 500 meters east from the parking lot of the archaeological site, down the road that runs past it, is the Archaeological Museum of Dion. The museum has essentially the same opening hours as the archaeological site; open every day in the summer (mid-April through October) from 8:00 to 20:00. The rest of the year it is open Wednesday through Monday from 8:30 to 15:30 and is closed on Tuesday. Admission is a combination ticket for the archaeological park and the museum costing 8 Euros. It can easily be walked from the archaeological site, but there is also free street parking up and down the street it is located on.
Like the archaeological site, the museum seems somewhat of a hidden gem, as I saw only a couple other people in the museum the whole time I was there. The main building of the museum is two main floors as well as a basement area. The circuit I took was starting on the ground floor, going up to the second floor (or first floor since it’s Europe) and then down to the basement. The first room of the main floor has a number of objects found in some of the most high profile buildings at the site, namely the Great Thermae, Sanctuary of Demeter, and the Sanctuary of Isis. These include most of the objects I mentioned for these buildings in previous posts; the statues of Asclepius and his family from the Great Thermae and the cult statues of Aphrodite Hypolympidia and Isis and the statue and base of Julia Frugiane Alexandra from the Sanctuary of Isis. There are also a number of other votive finds from both sanctuarys, including the footprint votives from the Sanctuary of Isis.
The ground floor continues on with material from the other sanctuaries, including the Hellenistic documents found at the Sanctuary of Zeus Olympios, and the eagle column toppers from the Sanctuary of Zeus Hypsistos. There are also some other larger pieces including the trapezophoros of Leda and the Swan from the eponymous house and another trapezophoros depicting Medea with a nurse shielding one of her children from her. The floor rounds out with finds from the necropoli of Dium, dating back from the 4th century BCE through the Early Christian period.
The upper floor has some more statuary from the Villa of Dionysus, but also one of the mosaics found there, depicting Medusa. It also displays the finds from the Hydraulis Sector, including the actual hydraulis, which is probably one of the highlights of the collections of the museum, simply due to the uniqueness. Much of this floor is contains displays of objects not directly from Dium, but rather from sites in the area around the city, most notably Pydna. Finds from here include some statues and funerary finds including the grave of the Sleeping Girl.
The basement is home to sort of a mish mash of things. There’s some sort of miscellaneous statuary and smaller finds from Dium such as coins and daily life type objects. The mosaics from the House of Zosas are on display down there. There are also a few reconstructions of conservation processes and informational posters on how certain things functioned within the city.
Adjacent to the museum, on the grounds of the museum, is the Archaiotheke, which is essentially a purpose built structure for displaying the triumph of Dionysus mosaic found at the Villa of Dionysus. It is basically a two story building with a sunken area where the mosaic is placed, allowing for pretty good views of the mosaic from the walkway that circuits it. There are also some small finds from both Dium and the surrounding area displayed in cases along the walkway. Many of the objects don’t really have much information, they’re presented in kind of thematic assemblages, or just don’t have any specific information about them, at least not in English. A number of objects just had Greek find tags attached to them.
Outside the archaeological museum, along the western, southern, and part of the eastern exterior sides of the museum and in the green space to the south of the museum, is a lapidarium displaying dozens of inscriptions and reliefs. The most unfortunate part is that there is no information for any of them. Most are Greek, but there are a few Latin inscriptions as well. Some of them seemed quite interesting, and in many museums would certainly have made the main collection, rather than be relegated to the outdoor lapidarium.
The museum took me a good 2 and a half hours to get through, including the Archaiotheke and lapidarium. Other than a few things in the basement rooms, almost everything in the museum had information in both English and Greek. The staff was very friendly. In some museums I would run into a little annoyance at my prolific picture taking, particularly museums where someone was tasked with watching me; since there were often no other visitors. Here they were curious and inquired, but were really excited to talk with me when I told them about my archaeological background.
This put the total trip at about 7 hours for me to see the museum and archaeological park. I topped it off with a trip out to the Orlias Stream waterfalls to see if I could find any remnants of the aqueduct, which may have traveled along that route, which I couldn’t find anything. It’s a pretty full day, but was an overall easy day trip from where I was staying in Larissa, about an hour and a half away if not using the toll roads. It’s an absolutely fantastic site and museum that I could not recommend more highly. Part of the charm is that it is a bit off the beaten path and not overly crowded, so it’s kind of a catch-22, but it definitely deserves a lot more attention than it seems to get.
Agiamarniotis, Georgios. The Sanctuary of Demeter at Dion and the Cults Worshipped There.
Evangelidis, Vasilis. “Agoras and For a: Developments in the Central Public Spaces of the Cities of Greece During the Roman Period.” The Annual of the British School at Athens, Vol. 109, 2014, pp. 335-356.
Evangelidis, Vasilis. “Macella and Makelloi in Roman Greece: The Archaeological and Textual Evidence.” Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Vol. 88, No. 2, April-June 2019, pp. 283-318.
Lolos, Yannis A. “The Hadrianic Aqueduct of Corinth.” Hesperia: The Journal of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Vol. 66, No. 2, 1997, pp. 271-314.
Pandermalis, Dimitrios. Dion: The Archaeological Site and the Museum. Translated by David A. Hardy. Athens: Adam Editions, 1997.
Pingiatoglou, Semeli. “Cults of Female Deities at Dion.” Kernos, Vol. 23, 2013, pp. 179-92.
Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. Walton & Murray, 1870.
Stillwell, Richard, William L. MacDonald, and Marian Holland. McAllister. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U Press, 1976.
Thucydides. Histories, 4.109.