Macedonian Cities: Literary and Epigraphic Sources about the history of Ancient Edessa


One of the most important cities of Ancient Macedon was Edessa (Gr: Έδεσσα) , the ancient capital of the country.

According to A. B. Tataki, ((J.N.Kalléris, Les Anciens Macédoniens I (Athens 1954) 117 n.2, 120 nn. 1-3, 315; according to him, ibid. 315, it recalls Greek rather than Phrygian or Thracian toponyms. Cf.F.Papazoglou, supra n. 3, 128 n. 20)) the name Edessa has been linguistically analysed and interpreted as connected with βέδυ, a Phrygian word that means water, a very appropriate name for a city known for its characteristic waterfalls. A more recent interpretation of the name by J.Kalleris, explains it as Greek, derived from the words εδος, έδρα, έδαφος with the suffixεσσα.

Prof. M. B. Hatzopoulos (((Hatzopoulos (1996b) i. 112))) informs us about the city’s geography. The territory of Edessa, although strategically situated and very extensive, in fact contained arable land on a comparatively limited scale, for in its western part it was squeezed between the massifs of Mount Barnous (Nitze) and Mount Bermion, whereas its eastern part was to a large extent practically reduced to a corridor bordering the road between the territories of Kyrrhos and Genderrhos on the north and the lake on the south. It must have formed an elongated surface with a maximum length of 40 km and must have possessed a total surface comparable to that of Pella. Remains of numerous ancient rural communities have been discovered in the territory of Edessa: at Ekklesiochorion Agras, Nesion, Drosia, Mesemerion, Rizarion, Kaisariana, Sebastiana, Platane, Phlamouria, and Karyotissa, attesting the existence of a significant number of komai. Their names remain unfortunately unknown. The inscriptions ound in the urban centre and in the territory of Edessa rarely mention ethnika, and when they do so, they proudly boast the ethnikon city itself: Edessaios or Edessaia. Another important road in addition to the later Via Egnatia ran across the territory of Edessa, joining this east-west axis with a northsouth one, leading along the foothills of Mount Bermion to Beroia and to the crossing of the Haliakmon river. The narrow stretch of land between Mount Bermion and the lake was divided between four cities.

The territory of Edessa to the south marched with those of two small cities: Skydra to the east and Marinia to the west of the north-identified with the extensive remains between the modern villages of Arseni and Episkope by A. Delacoulonche in the nineteenth century.

We owe to Ph. Petsas the identification of Marinia, a city ignored by our literary authorities, with the ancient remains at the modern village still called Marina.

The city-ethnic as we already saw is Εδεσσαίος (F. Delphes iii.3 207.2 (C3m)), or Εδεσσέος (Tataki (1994) no. 56). The collective use of the city-ethnic is attested internally in SEG 36:615 (See Below)

Makedonia (Bottiaia) — Edessa — ca. 200 AD

” Διονύσου και αρχιέριαν της εδεσσαίων πόλεως”

Edessa is called a polis in Diod. 31.8.8. The constitution of Edessa is known to us only from inscriptions of the Roman period (e.g. SEG 24 531.6 (ad 180/1)) which is also the earliest attested public enactment; Antoninus (1879) 227,no. 26).

Edessaians were granted proxenia by Delphi (F.Delphes iii.3 207.2 (C3m)) (See Below)

Πελλαωι λεξνδρωι Λ․․․ου δεσσαωι ντιγνωι σνδρου”

and Haliartos (IG vii 2848.4 (C3?)), (See below)

“άσσανδρον Νικρχω Μακεδνας σς δσσας προξνως”

and received citizenship from Larisa (SEG 27 202 (220210)). (See Bellow)

Χρυσγονος Πυρρχειος Μακετον ξ δσσας φλος ον κα εεργτας”

Edessa is recorded on the Argive list of contributors of C4l, which may be connected with the dispatching of theoroi (IG iv 617.16; cf. Perlman (2000) 74).

“Ἀλεξανδρεανς ξ δσσας”

The cult of Herakles is mentioned by Hesychius, s.v. Εδεσσαίος, and is attested epigraphically (Struck (1902) 310 no. 15 and, with the epithet Kynagidas, in two unpublished C2s and C1m inscriptions). From the same period date inscriptions referring to the cults of Zeus Hypsistos (P. Chrysostomou (198991) 3034) and Parthenos (Hatzopoulos (1995)). Evidence for other cults is of later date. A probably C4l (A. Chrysostomou (1988) 60, (1996) 174) wall enclosed both the acropolis (triangular perimeter, one tower on the north-west apex of the triangle and one on each of the west and north sides) and the lower city (polygonal perimeter, 2.43 m wide) covering an area of 3.5 and 23 ha respectively (A.Chrysostomou (1987), (1996)). The walls are mentioned by Polyaen. 2.29.2 (r274). The only public monuments known are the temple of Ma and its stoas, which are epigraphically attested (Hatzopoulos (1995) 126). The site has been occupied continuously since the Bronze Age, which accounts for the lack of Archaic and Classical remains (A. Chrysostomou (1996) 18082); however, Livy 45.30.5 refers to Edessa as among the urbes nobiles of central Makedonia in 167, and it was presumably already so in the Classical period.


– “An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis”, Edited by Mogens, Herman Hansen and Thomas Heine Nielsen. Ch. “Makedonia”, M. B. Hatzopoulos with thecollaboration of Paschalis Paschidis.

-” Macedonian Institutions under the kings – An Historical and Epigraphic Study by M. B. Hatzopoulos – Meletimata 22

– “Macedonian Edessa: Prosopography and Onomasticon” by Argyro B. Tataki -Meletimata 18

The Packard Humanities Institute – Ancient Greek Inscriptions

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Pantelis says:

BEDU: = HYDOR. (vedy hydor)
"Vedy lavon kata Heiron kataheou" (thytis) Etumologeitai ek' tou HDY, ADY, F'ADY, "BADY YDOR" =Glyko nero. Oxi Almyro….
Vady, Vedy, Vedessa, V'Edessa, EDESSA.

Pantelis says:

BEDU: = HYDOR. (vedy hydor)