Stobi - an ancient city with its urban part located on three
terraces, which descend to Crna Reka, surrounded by walls, and at
the mouth between Crna Reka and Vardar. The archeological site Stobi
has an area of 1,600 square meters. It is known that the main
roads that connected the areas of the front Danube with the
Mediterranean countries have passed here, since the prehistoric
period. Cultural influences moved from the south to the north and
vice versa on this main road on the Balkan Peninsula. Crna Reka, on
the other hand, was a natural road that connected the central areas
of Macedonia with the Adriatic Sea. In the Roman period, along the
Black River, he led an important road, which connected the city of
Stobi with the Via Egnatia near Heraclea Lyncestis, near present-day
Bitola. Thus the city of Stobi occupied a very important strategic,
military and trade position in the ancient period.
To the south of the city are traces of suburbs, while the city gate leading to Heraclea, and on the slopes of the Tomb Church to the Basilica of Palikura, are several necropolises. These necropolises are from the Hellenistic, Roman, Roman (medieval Roman) and Slavic periods.
The oldest written sources about Stobi are found in
Titus Livius, when he mentions the victory of Philip V, king of
Macedonia, over the Dardanians in 197. п.н.е. According to
archeological data, the city was built in the Hellenistic period,
but not long before the reign of Philip V.
Excavations under several buildings in the central area of the later city have found layers from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, and bronze objects from the Classical and Archaic periods have been found, as well as individual ceramic objects from the Neolithic period. It is assumed that the city was founded in 359. п.н.е. In 168 BC, with the victory of the Romans over King Perseus, Macedonia was divided into four areas. Then Stobi became the center of trade in the third area. In 148 п.н.е. Macedonia becomes a Roman province. During the reign of Augustus (31-14 BC) the city expanded west and south, as evidenced by 55 tombs from the western necropolis from the time of Augustus.
The expansion of the city is also associated with the rise of the status of the city in the rank of municipality, 69 BC, when coins with the inscription "Municipium Stobensium" began to be minted.
During the early and middle Roman period, the city of Stobi flourished, as indicated by most inscriptions on monuments. As the most important prominent monument of the Roman city is certainly the Theater built in the II-III century AD. The city wall is from the III century, while the inner wall on the east side is certainly from the late IV century, when the eastern part of the outer wall was abandoned. The inner wall, of course, was erected after a series of floods from the Black River. It was supposed to provide better and more secure protection, so it was built even through large public buildings with well-preserved mosaic floors.
During the Roman period Stobi was also an important and influential city. The city has been an episcopal center since 325, when Bishop Budios took part in the Council of Nicaea. During the IV-V century, many imposing churches were built here, both in size and in their interior decoration with rich architectural decoration, mosaics, frescoes and structure, many of which were found during excavations. Several private buildings are decorated with mosaics, the internal arrangement and layout of which houses the Peristeri and Theodosian palaces.
There was also a Jewish community in Stobi from the 3rd century, when Polychramos built the Synagogue, which was destroyed at the end of the 4th century and an early Christian basilica was built above it, which probably happened during the visit of Theodosius I to Stobi, 388 d., when issuing two edicts banning the Jews.
Bishop Nikola from Stobi in 451 took part in the Council of Chalcedon, while the name of Bishop Philip is noted on the lintel from the entrance of the Episcopal Basilica. In the 5th century Stobi became the capital of Macedonia Sekunda (Makedonija Sekunda), during the redrawing of the Roman borders. In 479 the city was plundered by Theodoric's armies, and in 518, and perhaps later by a catastrophic earthquake. The city never regained its former splendor and prosperity. Bishop Fokas took part in the Council of Constantinople in 553. The great Avar-Slavic attacks in the VI century, of course, contributed to the devastation and abandonment of the city. The coins found in the houses of the acropolis and in the buildings south of the Episcopal Basilica are from the time of Justin II (569-570). The victory of Basil II over the military crew in Stobi in 1014 is mentioned. Some activity in the 11th century was found in the upper layers of the theater. In the area between the North Basilica and the Central Basilica-Synagogue, as early as 1937, medieval towns from a larger necropolis were discovered, from which in 1955, in the south nave of the North Basilica and south of it, 23 Slavic medieval tombs were discovered. from the time of IX-XII century. This indicates that Stobi, after being plundered and demolished by barbarian peoples heading for Thessaloniki and Constantinople, was undoubtedly inhabited by Slavic tribes. This is confirmed by the recently discovered tombs from the Slavic period from a larger necropolis near the basilica in Palikura, which may also date from the early Slavic period. It remains to be seen whether there were traces of city life in Stobi after the 6th century.
In the discovered part of Stobi, several architectural objects
have been discovered and studied so far, including profane and
sacred buildings with public function, then private houses, baths,
baths, theater, part of the city walls, streets, forum and the main
entrance to the city.
Stobi, as well as Skupi with several other ancient cities, was not bypassed by the barbaric breakthroughs in the third century. The rebuilt late antique city was destroyed in the 5th century by Attila's Hun raids, and then by the Ostrogoths with Theodoric in 479. The Christian community revitalized the city at the end of the 5th century and life went on.
However, the easily conquered position of the city, during the turbulent VI century, brings decadence to Stobi, and the only bright spot is the monumental Episcopal Basilica.
Ancient sources report several Christian priests from Stobi: Bishop Budi (Council of Nicaea, 325), Bishop Eustathius (on the floor mosaic of the Old Episcopal Basilica, between 343 - 381); Bishop Nicholas (4th Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon, 451); Bishop Philip (restorer of the great Episcopal Basilica in Stobi, around 500); Bishop Phocas (participant in the 5th ecumenical council in Constantinople, 553).
It is quite surprising the late mention of Bishop Jovan from Stobi as a participant in the 6th Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 681, as well as his successor, Bishop Margarit, at the church council in the same city in 692. Some scholars comment that in the new situation, when the Balkan Peninsula was flooded with Slavs, the Christian priests certainly withdrew - they emigrated to the safety of the great late antique capitals of Thessaloniki and Constantinople.
A large number of cult representations of deities from the Greco-Roman pantheon have been observed in Stobi: Apollo and Artemis, Asclepius, Dionysus, Nemesis, Zeus, Tihe, Aphrodite, Hygia, Telesfor ... These are bronze and marble statues, or relief representations of small stone icons. Numerous examples of architectural stone sculpture from the early Roman temples have also been discovered. Unfortunately, archeological excavations have not yet discovered the face of the early Roman city and today we do not have representative preserved objects from this time, with the exception of two or three buildings, among which the theater stands out.
Data on the existence of at least two temples are given by the coins minted in the mint in Stobi. The coinage production in Stobi took place in the time of Tsar Vespasian (69-79) to Tsar Elegabal (218-222). The earliest coin features representations of Victoria - a genius of victory - and a bull figure. The dating of this so-called autonomous type is not certain.
The coins from the time of Vespasian bear the profile of the emperor on the obverse, while on the reverse there is a representation of a four-column temple with a miniature figure of Asclepius in the middle, Bonus Eventus - genius of good luck; Unknown genius with little Victoria in his hand and horn of abundance, with helmet, shield and armor: woman - genius of the city of Stobi with a wreath in her hair, holding in her hands little Victoria and the horn of abundance. One type of coin from the time of Titus and Domitian shows the profiles of the two emperors facing each other, while on the reverse is a temple with 4 columns.
The coins of Domitian (81-96) show a temple with four columns and a small figure of the emperor in military equipment with a spear and a scepter. The coins with the profile of his wife Domicia are also known.
The coins of Trajan (98 - 117) have a representation of: a four-column temple with a figure; but also a very significant symbolic scene with a woman - a genius of the city with a crown of muralis (city crown) in her hair, with little Victoria and a scepter in her hands. To the left and right below it lie two bearded figures with vessels from which water flows. The right figure is holding a cane. These are the river geniuses of Erigon and Axius. The coins of Marcus Aurelius (161 - 180) show the same representation, then a figure of Jupiter with a scepter and a patera (shallow cult plate); figure of Victoria, the woman - genius of Stobi with a spear and a patera.
A type of coin by Faustina the Younger, wife of Marco Aurelius, shows Fortuna with the horn of abundance and the rudder.
Coins from the time of Septimius Severus (193 - 211) bear
Victoria with a wreath and palm tree; Pluto grabs Persephone;
Persephone in a quadriga (quadruped).
On one type of coin by Julia Domna, Septimius Severus's second wife, who committed suicide by abstaining from food, we see her profile and the scene of Persephone abducting. The coins of her first son Caracalla (198 - 217) show: Victoria in several variants, Jupiter on a throne with a scepter and little Victoria; Pluto grabs Persephone, the standing Jupiter; Standing Demeter; Mercury with a bag of money in his hand sits on a rock.
The coins of Geta (209 - 212), the second son of Julia Domna, show the figure of a soldier between two nymphs or Victoria.
The coins of Elegabal (218 - 222) show: Jupiter sitting, with little Victoria and a scepter; figure of a boy (perhaps an athlete) with a victory wreath and a palm tree; Victoria in several variants; figure of a fighter; Pluto grabs Persephone.
All known coins have been minted in bronze. Given the modest repertoire of types of these coins, in science there is an opinion that the mint of the city of Stobi minted exclusively jubilee - occasional coins.
Buildings and structures
The church is an early Christian three-nave basilica, whose side naves have been upgraded to the central one. There is a spacious atrium, exonarthex and narthex, and a baptistery on the north side, which has a four-leaf pool. The church is entered from Via Principalis Inferior. The building, according to the stylistic features, is dated to the V-VI century. In the south nave and south of the church were discovered 23 medieval Slavic tombs from the IX-XII century, which belonged to the large necropolis that stretched from the North to the Central Basilica.
This building is located opposite the North Basilica. The research identified seven construction phases. It is believed that it eventually served a secular purpose, hence the name Civil Basilica.
Below the level of the Civil Basilica, bronze objects from the 5th century BC have been discovered, found deep inside the apse. Under the nave of the basilica was found a fragment of a fresco - fresco with a representation of a swamp bird, from the first century AD. Hellenistic layers from the III and II century BC have been discovered under this building.
The building is located between the Civil and the North Basilica, built according to the regulations of the late ancient bath buildings. The building has an apoditorium, with a swimming pool located in the apse space, as well as a double room with 3 apses with hypocausts. Hypocaust suspensions are made of round and square bricks.
Central basilica and synagogue
The early Christian basilica has a three-nave disposition, which is entered from Via Principalis Street, built in the late 4th or early 5th century. There are two construction phases. Before that, there was a synagogue on the site, the floor of which was discovered 1.5 meters below the level of the nave.
This synagogue dates from the 4th century, built on the foundations of an older 3rd century building, which is believed to have been built with money from Polyharmos. The name of the "father of the synagogue in Stobi" was Tiberius Claudius Polyharmus, known from the column of the longitudinal inscription used on the northeast side of the narthex in the atrium of the basilica, hence the assumption that the basilica was.
Deeper excavations under this building revealed buildings from the II century BC, and under the nave was found a deposit with money from 211-125 BC. The money was found in two vessels, below the level of the Polyharmos synagogue. The Hellenistic layers lie above the prehistoric bed of the Black River.
The Roman Forum is a monumental public building that transcended provincial boundaries. Specifically, it is a building worthy only of a city with the rank of a municipality, such as Stobi. According to the cultural layers, the building functioned in the II-III century, although there are indications that its construction was at the end of the I century. In the 3rd century, the functioning of the forum ceased, probably after the invasion of the Goths, when it was vandalized, as evidenced by the violent breaking of the statues and the burning of the building.
House of Psalms
The building is located south of the Central Basilica with the Synagogue. It has an apse room, corridors, halls with colonnades, a large swimming pool, with columns on the west side of the courtyard. The main hall is lined with luxurious mosaics, the other rooms - also with mosaic floors with geometric ornaments.
The mosaic floor in the large apse courtyard consists of 4 main squares. The western field is with geometric ornaments and birds. The eastern field is a composition with marsh birds and leaves surrounding the octagonal fountain in the middle. On the eastern largest mosaic plateau, deer and marsh birds are handed over in the middle with a cantaros from which water flows, an early Christian motif so often used in the sacred and profane buildings of this time. The apse space itself is decorated with geometric motifs in the form of scales.
The religious themes of the mosaics in the apse hall and the
structural connection with the basilica indicate that it was a
residence that belonged to the church and the church dignitaries.
This building was also used to enter one of the synagogues.
Via Axia was one of the main streets with the first east-west, of which only one part has been discovered so far.
On the small square, formed by Via Axia and Via Principalis Inferior, on the west side there is a public fountain. From three pipes the water flowed in three troughs, made of spolia from the theater and other buildings.
Discovered in 1931-1932, this bath is entered from Via Axia. It has an apoderium, a large hall, a large hall with hypocausts with 6 marble pools and a prefurnium on the south side. The bathroom has several stages of construction and extension. The reconstructed bath was in use in the last phase of the city life, in the late VI century. However, the statue found in the apothecary dates from the middle of the imperial period.
Via principalis inferior
This street is north-south, it can be sent from the North Basilica to the City Fountain, then past the Parthenius House, Theodisian Palace and the House of Psalms.
This is a building complex for several families and with rooms in the west, for shops. The Peristeri family occupied the premises in the southern part of the complex. The courtyard, under the open sky with large fountains on the west side, is a central space. The rooms on the east side were used for magazines. The main rooms of the house were apse halls south of the courtyard. The floor mosaics are preserved in the east hall, and in the middle there is a fountain made of marble. Glass paste tees were used for the mosaic surfaces in this house, which gives a special liveliness to the motifs. The mosaic is believed to have originated in the late 4th or early 5th century when the building itself was erected.
This street is parallel to Via Axia and separates Peristeria Street and Theodosian Palace. The street was paved with paving stones.
East of Via Theodosia Street is one of the most luxurious houses ever discovered in Stobi, where Emperor Theodosius I is believed to have resided during his visit to Stobi in 388. Since the name of the owner of the house is not known, it is called Theodisian Palace, in memory of the emperor's visit. This building has a plan in Latin L and goes out on three streets. The hall is surrounded by columns on the north and west sides. On the east side is a pool with eight marble pedestals, decorated with spiral grooves, on which stood the discovered statues. On the north and south sides of the courtyard are low platforms, probably once flower terraces. The floor in the yard is covered with marble tiles, and the peristyle with mosaics.
The large apse room, the triclinium, located on the south side at a higher level, is paved in the opus sectile. The other rooms are also lavishly decorated. According to the mosaic surfaces, the palace was probably built in the 4th century. Some elements of additions can be dated to the early 5th century, and the building was in use throughout the 5th century.
This house is south of Theodosius Palace, with which it has common walls and dates from the same time as the first. It was built in the shape of the Latin letter L, similar in concept to the previous palace, but smaller and more modestly built and decorated.
It is a complex of interconnected buildings, which were residences and small shops built on older buildings. The name corresponds only to one phase of the small yard, where in the 5th century there was a workshop for dyeing and rolling fabrics. The life of this complex starts from the I century and lasts until the V and the beginning of the VI century.
It is located north of the Episcopal Basilica. In the 4th century it served as a Christian oratorio, and in the 5th century it was turned into an episcopal residence. A bronze censer and a gold cross in the shape of a cross with almanadins were found here. This complex of buildings, of which the eastern part in the form of a spacious basilica is not sufficiently explored, and is a complex of the oldest early Christian buildings in Stobi.
It is located north of the Episcopal Basilica, separated from the street by a low partition from the seats of the theater. It is believed to have been erected in the IV-V century, surrounded by a colonnade, with a base for a large monument in the center.
The church is an early Christian basilica with a three-nave disposition, known as the basilica of Bishop Philip. It was built on an artificial terrace. The church is of the Hellenistic type, with an atrium, a narthex and an exonarthex with a double apse on the east side in which the crypt is located. Two phases of construction were discovered from the altar partition of the presbytery, as well as on the floors in it, which were made in opus sectile. Two levels of floors were also discovered in the south nave, under which was a large vaulted tomb in which a bishop was buried. The central nave is divided into square squares and paved with marble slabs and gray slate in which triangular mosaic triangles are interpolated, which represents a particularly luxurious arrangement. The narthex is divided into 9 square fields, of which 6 are preserved in a mosaic with geometric, floral and animal representations. The rooms south of the church were on the first floor and also had a mosaic floor.
To the south of the basilica is the baptistery with unusually luxurious mosaics depicting peacocks, swamp birds and deer drinking water from a large cantaros. In the middle of the baptistery is a pool that has two phases of construction and the last phase with the use of a large marble cantaros that was used for baptism. Remains of frescoes in two layers were discovered from the walls of the baptistery, the oldest of which with representations of saints and whole scenes that were in the niches.
In the church as well as in the baptistery, a rich architectural decorative plastic was discovered, among which a special place is occupied by the richly decorated capitals and the parapet plates that separated the ships as well as from the empora. The episcopal basilica dates back to the beginning of the 5th century and the second phase at the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century.
Remains of an Old Basilica with preserved remains of a mosaic floor in the presbytery and in the central nave were discovered in the central nave of the Episcopal Basilica in 1978, 1979 and 1981. An inscription was found in the central ship, in Greek letters in 6 lines, and west of it in special rhomboid fields, the monogram of Christ. On the north wall of this basilica was discovered a fresco of rhomboids separated by columns and the same IS HS which confirms the identification that the building is a church building. We date the old basilica at the end of the IV century. The level of the baptistery and the Old Basilica are equal, so it is possible that the baptistery served both the Old Basilica and the later built Episcopal Basilica.
In 1991, the conservation of the large mosaic from the old Episcopal Basilica (the largest floor mosaic in Macedonia) began, which was completed in early 2015. Then, the mosaic was placed again in the basilica. During the conservation, an additional, third phase in its installation was discovered (two phases were previously known). Otherwise, the mosaic has geometric and floral decoration, typical for the IV century. Prayers, a monogram of Christ, are found on it as medallions, and in the second phase of its installation, the name of a previously unknown bishop, who renovated the basilica, was written. It is about Bishop Eustathius, and on the mosaic it is written: "The Holy Church was rebuilt in the time of the Most Holy Bishop Eustathius".
81 graves were found not far from Porta Heraclea. The oldest tombs are from the late 1st century BC. and the beginning of the II century The cemetery was used until the IV century, with a break in the II and III century.
The tombstones are numerous and consist of coins, ceramic vessels, terracotta and glass inventories, jewelry and terracotta figurines. These cemeteries extend to the Cemetery Church. From there, along the slope, late antique and early Christian tombs were discovered, all the way to the basilica in Palikura, near which a Slavic necropolis was discovered.
The theater was built in the II or III century. It is similar to the older Greek theaters and is one of the largest and most representative buildings in Stobi, from the Roman period.
The auditorium, the orchestra and the stage building are raised separately from each other. The construction of the stage does not have a stage, but a well-built facade, which was the background of the performances in the orchestra. The auditorium, which consists of two parts, is built of white marble brought from Pletvar. According to estimates, the theater could receive 7,638 visitors. The distribution of seats was of course done according to the affiliation of individual tribes - in the auditorium are written the names of 5 tribes.
In the late third century, the theater was turned into an arena
for fighting gladiators with wild beasts. This change occurred in
325, after the issuance of the imperial decree of Constantine the
Great, which banned the fights of gladiators with wild beasts. In
the middle and at the end of the II century, the parades served as
dumps, over which area houses were later built, on a slope that
descends to the east and to the west wall of the building on the
stage. The entire upper part of the auditorium and a considerable
part of the lower parties were blown up for the building material
needed for buildings in the late IV and V centuries, and in the last
century of Stobi city life. Seats and other architectural elements
were embedded in the outer city wall at the Gate of Heraclea, in the
inner city wall, in the shops and pedestals along the Via Sacra, in
the Semicircular Square, in the Episcopal Basilica, towards the City
Fountain, the Central Basagilica and
Part of this building, located north of the theater, was discovered at the time of the outbreak of World War II. The building is entered from the west side of Via Principalis Inferior Street, however, the entrance itself has not been discovered. Excavations in 1981 found that the building was an early Christian three-aisled basilica with a narthex and an exonarthex.
It is part of a complex of buildings located on the north side of the building, which have a thermal character. The central nave, the nave and the apse space are originally lined with a mosaic floor with geometric motifs, with a high technique of construction. The later floor is made of large bricks with a magnificent fountain in the middle of the central ship. The north wing of the basilica has two visible phases of construction and in the last adjustment of the buildings on the north side. It is an old basilica from the late IV century, whose use continues in the V and VI century. In the central ship were found two marble slabs from the table, and in the northern ship two depots with bronze coins from the V-VI century.
Inner city wall
The remains of this wall are visible along the line from the museum to the sub-theater, and the wall has been excavated only in the part southeast of the Central Basilica. This rampart is a later built part, when the city area near Crna Reka was abandoned in the IV century, due to major devastation or floods in Crna. The wall is 2.36 meters wide, and is preserved in a depth of 3-5 meters.
The studied part of the wall cut through a large public building, which was on the first floor and with well-preserved mosaic floors.
East city wall
This outer rampart can be traced around the perimeter of the site. It surrounds an irregularly shaped area 400 meters wide, east-west, and 450 meters long, north-south. The outer wall can be seen on the ridge that rises above Vardar, near Porta Heraclea and a few meters near Crna.
The cobblestone access to the Turkish period bridge is on the left bank of the Black Sea. This approach was erected above the city wall, but slightly higher. The rampart was made of roughly hewn stone and second-hand mortar-bound blocks. The thickness of the walls is 2.3 meters. The city wall, erected in the 3rd century or earlier, ceased to be used in the 4th or 5th century.
The basilica is three-aisled with a double apse with a narthex. The tombs under the church floor are from before. The church can be dated to the IV-V century. The floors were lined with mosaic. The preserved crypt south of the narthex is certainly a martyrdom.
Basilica in Palikura
The building is located 2 km south of Porta Heraclea. A building of basic type with three-nave disposition of a series of compartments, so it is presumed to be a monastery church. Immediately next to it, towards Crna, a larger building was discovered, which according to the length of 47 meters turned on the facade and the porch towards Crna, should definitely represent an inn. A late-ancient necropolis stretches near the church. However, the most significant is the discovery of a larger Slavic necropolis in this area near the basilica in Palikura, with tombs that have a stone construction with numerous items in silver and bronze jewelry that can date from the IX-XII century.