Anastasioupolis: A Lost Byzantine City in Need of a Conservation Program

Well, not lost entirely; I found it, after all. But it certainly feels that way. I had the chance to visit it a couple of weeks ago while traveling through northern Greece. We couldn’t find it on our first attempt. It’s one of these situations in which there’s a single sign on the main road, which provides a general direction, but no signs thereafter, despite the need to make several turns on dirt roads that wind through farm fields. Luckily, on our second attempt we happened to turn the right way and drove to the site’s entrance.

Anastasioupolis was located along the Via Egnatia and perhaps took its name from the emperor Anastasius (r. 491-518). It was positioned on the north shore of lake Vistonis (between Xanthi and Komotini today), which is today some distance away because of the accumulation of silt from the nearby river. The city was destroyed in the early 13th century but subsequently rebuilt under Andronikos III (1328-41). Most of the extant remains date to this phase, though previous phases are relatively easy to discern, too.

The site today sits within a jungle (basically). The Byzantine circuit is discernable though and you can follow a path around the city’s walls relatively easily. The south gate, which fronted the harbor directly in the late middle ages, is particularly well preserved (for now). Monograms of the Palaiologoi survive on each side of the gate. Lake Vistonis provided Anastasioupolis with a good natural harbor, which itself was fortified at the entrance to the lake, at modern Lagos (remains are visible here, too).

No archaeological work has been conducted at this site, which is not surprising given the extraordinarily thick vegetation that has taken root throughout the entire area. This vegetation is a direct threat to the survival of the site today, and it seems clear that a program of conservation is needed if the remains of Anastasioupolis are to be preserved in any meaningful way. The pictures below illustrate the extent of the damage already done and the site’s dismal future if no action is taken.

The site from the entrance

The site today is mainly a hunting ground

The modern jungle, which is slowly eating the site

The south gate, with monograms of the Palaiologoi on each side of the gate

The same (fragile) tower from another angle

Another of the city's gates

This entry was posted in Anastasioupolis, Byzantine Greece, CRM. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Anastasioupolis: A Lost Byzantine City in Need of a Conservation Program

  1. Pingback: Friday Quick Hits and Varia « The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

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