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Gothic Warrior Found Buried in Greece’s Thessaloniki

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The arched tombs found in the Christian basilica of Syntrivani in Thessaloniki. Credit: Erricos Maniotis, as seen in Archaeology news network.

A Gothic warrior, who was buried with his weaponry, was found recently in an early Christian basilica in Thessaloniki, Central Macedonia, Greece.

The extraordinary discovery was made by a group of archaeologists who work on the three-aisled Christian basilica dating back to the 5th century AD near the Syntrivani station of Thessaloniki’s new metro system, which is under construction.

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What is particularly interesting about this discovery is the fact that this is the first discovery of such a burial not only in Thessaloniki but also in the wider region of Roman Macedonia.

The skeleton of a male figure dating back to the 5th century was found in the southern part of the Christian church in downtown Thessaloniki, along which remains of weaponry was also found.

One of the most well-preserved of his weapons was a folded iron sword. The astonishing part of this discovery was the fact that despite the burial taking place in a Christian basilica, the folded sword is a sign of ancient pagan rituals.

This gives archaeologists evidence that this warrior, despite the fact that most probably embraced Christianity and the Roman customs of the time, did not forget his Gothic roots, as his burial included a custom embedded in pagan tradition.

Melina Paisidou together with the Ph.D. candidate Erricos Maniotis, will soon present the findings of their extraordinary study during the 33rd Scientific Meeting on the Archaeological Project in Macedonia and Thrace (AEMTH). Their study is named “Soldier’s armament from a tomb of the basilica of Sidrivanios.”

The Basilica in Thessaloniki where the Gothic warrior was found

According to the official website of the municipality of Thessaloniki, the three-aisled paleochristian basilica was discovered in the west part of the Sintrivani underground station of the city. It was built on the site of an older place of worship (4th century AD).

This building also housed a mosaic floor, part of which has been uncovered, showing a vine stalk with birds on its branches, including the mythical “Phoenix”. The mosaic was still visible during the initial phase of use of the basilica.

It has to be noted that Thessaloniki grew to be an important trade hub located on the Via Egnatia, the Roman road connecting Byzantium (later Constantinople) with Dyrrhachium (now Durrës in Albania), which facilitated trade between Europe and Asia.

The city became the capital of one of the four Roman districts of Macedonia while it kept its privileges but was ruled by a praetor and had a Roman garrison.

Also for a short time in the 1st century BC, Thessaloniki (known in Roman times as Thessalonica) became the capital for all the Greek provinces that were under Roman rule. When the Roman Prefecture of Illyricum was divided between the East and West Roman Empires in 379, Thessaloniki became the capital of the new Prefecture of Illyricum.

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