Ancient mass graves in Greece have been found at the edge of Athens. Greece’s Central Archaeological Council considers the mass grave find of “high importance,” and will investigate further, according to Discovery.com. Archaeologists think the mass graves may hold the remains of men who failed in a tyrant’s attempted coup.
Regional archaeological services director Stella Chryssoulaki believes the 80 skeletons found in the two graves may be those of followers of Cylon of Athens. It is, at this point, just a theory. One of the reasons archaeologists believe the remains might be of Cylon’s men is the good condition of the teeth, suggesting these were young and healthy men. Thirty-six of them were also shackled.
Kristina Killgrove, writing about the mass graves in Greece for Forbes, says the international news media have gotten the dates wrong, however. She says most media outlets place the skeletal remains’ dates at between 675 and 650 B.C.E. Killgrove puts Cylon’s rebellion as taking place later, in 632 B.C.E. But the date mix-up may actually work in Chryssoulaki’s theory’s favor. The Greek press, she writes, narrows the dates to the “third quarter of the 7th century BC.” The third quarter wouldn’t be 675 to 650 B.C.E., but 650 to 625 B.C.E.
As exciting as the new find is to archaeologists, no one is making definitive statements. There are too many inconsistencies, experts say, to come to any conclusions.
The mass graves were found when an ancient cemetery was being excavated where the new National Opera and National Library of Greece are to be built.
Cylon (or Kylon), the would-be tyrant, was a nobleman’s son and a former Olympic champion. He, his brother, and his friends seized the Acropolis in an attempt to make Cylon ruler of Athens.
The Acropolis is one of Greece’s biggest tourist attractions today. But for Cylon and his men, it became their Alamo. Athenians resisted their coup. The power grab failed. Cylon and his men had taken the Acropolis, but then were besieged there. Cylon and his brother escaped, but not his followers. According to the ancient Greek historian Plutarch, a powerful Athenian named Megacles persuaded the remaining rebels to come out of the Acropolis, or Minerva’s temple as it was then known. Megacles promised the men that they would live to get a fair trial.
Megacles had them killed when they came out, though.
Countless bodies are buried along the road Greece took toward democracy. The newly discovered mass graves may just hold the bones of men who unwittingly helped shorten that road just a little bit. The people of Greece will have to wait to find out, though.
[Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images]