And now back to the archaeology...
This stone-built house (or what's left of it), built between the 5th and the 3rd century BC, is on the north side of the South Hill, i.e. in the valley between Stageira's two hills. The path we are now on (see gallery page 18) was probably a street leading to the agora (market place) in the centre of the city.
Most of the houses so far uncovered are on North Hill, which is thought to have been a densely populated residential area. They were closely packed together in rows, along tiers of narrow streets. This is very much like the arrangement in Greek island villages today. The population and building density helps explain how a settlement covering such a small area could be described as a city rather than a village (see the map and article on gallery page 7).
The steep slopes meant that in order for rooms to be level, the fronts of the houses were above hollow spaces - basements used for storage or as workshops. The floors of rooms were made of stamped-down earth.
Before the construction of buildings and streets, protruding rocks were removed or levelled with hammer and chisel (see gallery page 24), and layered earthworks were raised. The streets themselves were either of the natural rock or paved with stone. You can see a photo of a pebble-paved street on gallery page 22.
In his discussion on the ideal city in Politics, Aristotle may well have had his hometown of Stageira in mind when he considered the form of houses and layout of streets:
"As to the form of private houses, those are thought to be best and most useful for their different purposes which are distinct and separate from each other, and built in the modern manner, after the plan of Hippodamus.
But for safety in time of war, on the contrary, they should be built as they formerly were; for they were such that strangers could not easily find their way out of them, and the method of access to them such as an enemy could with difficulty find out if he proposed to besiege them.
A city therefore should have both these sorts of buildings, which may easily be contrived if any one will so regulate them as the planters do their rows of vines; not that the buildings throughout the city should be detached from each other, only in some parts of it; thus elegance and safety will be equally consulted."
Aristotle, Politics (Greek Πολιτικά, "Things concerning the polis"), Book VII, chapter XI.
Politics: a treatise on government by Aristotle, translated by William Ellis. J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, London & Toronto, and E. P. Dutton & Co., New York, 1928. At Project Gutenberg.
For more about Aristotle's ideal city, see gallery page 7.
In the second paragraph of the above quotation, Aristotle refers to the maze-like layout of streets, designed to confuse intruders, which is still evident in many old villages around the Mediterranean today, particularly on coasts and islands.
Walking around the archaeological site, it's clear that many of the city's secrets still lie buried, and one wonders what surprises await discovery beneath the vegetation and soil. It seems strange, for example, that in a Greek city in which such cultured people lived, no sign has so far been found of anything like a theare. Will diggers ever find Aristottle's house, his father's surgery, or even a cobbler's workshop?