Halkidiki Ancient Acanthus

The archaeological site of Ancient Acanthus in Halkidiki, in Greece: Archaeological evidence dates the beginning of the ancient city of Acanthus to 655 BC. The origin of the name can be traced to the acanthus bush which abounds aplenty in the area. Acanthus was initially colonized in the 7th century BC from residents of Andros island and was the most important port to the northeast of Halkidiki.

The city's growth in the Archaic Period of Greece (750-480 BC) is evident from its currency, minted around 530 BC. The city was conquered by Phillip II, king of Macedon, in 348 BC. Later on, in 200 BC, it was pillaged by the Romans and subsequently resurrected as a colony of veteran Roman legionaries. Acanthus was renamed Ericius in Latin, from which the Byzantines derived the name of Ierissos or Erissos. An earthquake of great magnitude destroyed the city in 1932. The modern Ierissos town stands 1 km to the north-west of the ancient city.

Acanthus existed along a steep hillside. A huge edifice with elegant stucco and a paved court remains of walls, a citadel and Hellenistic buildings have been found. An abandoned Byzantine church and two post-Byzantine churches are also to be seen. Extensive excavations have been carried out at the graveyard (necropolis) unearthing over 9,000 graves. It is interesting to note that the dead were interred with the skull pointing to the southeast. The objects often buried along with the dead were locally made whilst some were from other parts of the ancient Hellenic world.

This is indicative of the city's prosperity and commercial relations. Some of the findings are exhibited in the Polygiros Archaeological Museum. Today the archaeological site of Acanthus lies 24 km from Polygiros, on the eastern peninsula of Halkidiki.