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Strumica Fortress or Czar’s Towers (Струмичко Кале/ Цареви Кули)

Strumica Fortress




Location: Strumica  Map

Constructed: 5th century





Strumica Fortress or Czar’s Towers is an early medieval citadel that stands on a hill overlooking a town of Strumica in Eastern Macedonia. It was constructed in the 5th century AD, although archaeological digs proved that it was inhabited since at least 1st century BC. Its walls measured 4 m in thickness and corners of the citadel were defended by mighty towers. In the 11th century Byzantine Emperor Basil II ordered destruction of the fortress after victory at the Battle of Belasica (Battle of Kleidion) in 1014. Strumica Castle was razed to prevent any attempts of Bulgarians, Macedonians and other Slavic nations to rise up against Constantinople. It was abandoned ever since.





Tsar's towers rise above the southwestern outskirts of Strumica where important ancient roads were crossed: the Astibo - Astrajion - Dober - Idomeni - Thessaloniki road (present-day Shtip - Strumica - Valandovo - Dojran - Thessaloniki); the road to Strimon to the east (today Petrich) and Stenaye to the west (today it only goes to Konce, not Demir Kapija).

This fortress is located at an altitude of 445 meters and from there it is possible to see and control the whole Strumica valley [2]. The fortress could have been easier to defend even if it had not been fortified, because it was surrounded by steep slopes on all sides. This location allows the fortress to control the three entrances to the city at the same time.

The suburbs of the town lay in the northern foothills of the hill, on the high terrace on which today lies the oldest part of Strumica. And it was covered with walls, and the necropolis was spread outside this space (in the old post office). In this part, tombs from the Hellenistic period (III century BC) and the Roman period (III century BC) were excavated.

The kale had a specific rectangular base that was 21.60 x 8 meters high. The whole area of ​​the fortress has foundations of houses for living and larger buildings of another character. The area of ​​the fortress is 3,654 m².

From 986 to 1018, Strumica was part of the kingdom of Samuel and his successors. From 1018 to 1330 it existed within Byzantium, with shorter interruptions from the end of the 12th century to the middle of the 13th century. Namely then it was ruled by the local feudal lord Dobromir Hrs (from about 1185 to 1202), and then alternately the Bulgarians, the Latins of Thessalonica and the emperors of Nicaea. The Serbs took Strumica in 1330 and the Ottomans in 1385 or 1395. In the Turkish period Strumica existed as a town with a mixed Turkish and Christian population and the seat of a large fort.

Ancient period
The oldest remains of a city on this site date back to the Early Eneolithic, where a house or prehistoric settlement was found on the slope itself when excavated in the 2000s. Fragments of pottery have also been found from this period. Above this so-called The house was found in the second phase, probably from the Late Eneolithic. Many fragments of pottery of the Early Eneolithic pottery were also discovered from this settlement as well as some other otolithic items that were somehow used in the daily life of the inhabitants of the settlement. Thus, according to all the findings so far, together with the discovered prehistoric settlement, indicate that various civilizations existed on this site for a period of about 6.500 thousand years.

In 168 BC Macedonia fell under the Roman protectorate and was divided into four meridians, and Astrajion was given the second meridian. In 148 BC Macedonia became a Roman province. Under the name Astrayion the city or fortress was first encountered in the written sources by Roman historian Titus Livius, in 181 BC, in connection with the murder of Demetrius, brother of the Macedonian king Perseus (179-168 BC). ), that is, the son of Philip V of Macedon (221-179). The city was named Astrayion after the Paionian tribe, Astrai.

From this period originate coins depicting the god Apollo as well as coins depicting Philip the Great. From the time Strumica was under the control of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, a necropolis was also discovered. During this period it is not known whether there was any fortress. Studies have shown a burial ritual by cremating the deceased with a rich dishware and other material such as jewelry, coins.


Five pits were also excavated from this period, some of them of huge size. The so-called Jama 5 is 5x5 meters wide and 4 meters deep. From these pits a large amount of black frieze and red ceramic fragments, jewelry, Minoan-Asian fibers, lead-based missiles, Macedonian coins of Philip II and Aminta III and Philip V, several fragments of fragments were discovered. Hermes confirmed through their terracotta shows, a pair of gold earrings with Negroid heads and another pair of gold earrings with lion protomes as well as a lamp with the image of Alexander the Great.

During 2014, an archaeological treasury of artefacts was excavated while excavating the archaeological site. In the vault were found terracotta figures of the goddess Kibella and Hermes, gold rings, Roman lamps depicting Achilles, Pentecost and Athens, as well as coins from the 4th century BC. , 4300 Byzantine coins and a small number of Venetian coins.

Byzantine-Slavic period
During the early Byzantine period the first fortress was built on the present site, although it is not known what it looked like. From that period ie IV century coins of Constantine and Diocletian were found in the necropolis. Probably there was no life in this area in the following centuries to rediscover the remains of the 11th century.

The history of this fortress is related to the existence of the city itself. During the time of Samuel's empire, the king himself knew that the Byzantine invasions of the Byzantine forces came from the southeastern part of Thrace and the Pole to the Struma River valley.

This choice of Strumica was quite appropriate. The Byzantines called the fortress "sunken" because "the people sitting on the walls looked like birds from the plain."

According to some Belasic historians, it is believed that Samuel was either in the Strumica fortress or moved to the fortress after the catastrophic defeat of Byzantium, after which his son Gavrilo Radomir took him to the fortress in Prilep. In the period after the battle of Belasica, the Byzantine emperor Basil II ordered his dukes to cross the hills around Strumica and burn the walls to clear all obstacles on the road leading to Thessaloniki. After the great victory, Basil II made his way to the Strumica fortress, but soon another event forced him to abandon her siege and turn east, where she came from. Namely, the Byzantine emperor ordered the Thessaloniki strategist Theofilakt Votaniat with a unit to clear the road to Strumica from the south, from Kosturino and Yam Chiflik. The Byzantine detachment was suddenly greeted by ambushes of Macedonian guards who destroyed it with a strait, attacking it with stones and arrows. The Byzantines suffered a complete defeat, and Theofilakt Votaniat himself fell, allegedly stabbed by the spear of Gavrilo Radomir himself, followed by the blinding of self-styled soldiers at the village of Vodochаa.

During the 12th century during the excavations, copper skiffs and 4300 Byzantine coins were found.




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