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Glories of Antiquity – Macedonia

April 16, 2012

Ruins at Heraclea Lyncestis

Archaeologists Excavate Major Ancient Urban Center in Macedonia

The monumental city played a key strategic role in Greek and Roman times.

Popular Archaeology has this wonderful article about Heraclea Lyncestis near the present-day town of Bitola in the Republic of Macedonia. The ruins pictured are truly captivating and compelling.  A quick bit of background about Heraclea Lyncestis:

Founded in the fourth century BC by the conquering Phillip of Macedon, it was a key strategic urban center along the Via Egnatia road in Antiquity, connecting Rome and Asia Minor. Conquered later by the Romans, it was mentioned in the chronicles describing the campaigns of Julius Caesar, and inscriptions, monuments and artifacts discovered at the site have provided clear evidence of the town’s rising prosperity and significance during the Roman period. During the Byzantine period, It was the residence of bishops. In the end, its urban prominence and history came to an end in the late sixth century when the Slavs conquered Pelagonia, the geographical plain between present-day Greece and the Republic of Macedonia.

Map of the antic Roman Via Egnatia crossing the South of the Balkans. Eric Gaba, Wikimedia Commons

Previous excavations have revealed portions of a fortification wall on the site’s acropolis, including two basilicas in the town itself. The remains of Heraclea have become well-known for the remarkably well-preserved mosaics found within the basilicas. Dated to the the fifth and sixth centuries AD, they depict geometric and figured patterns. Most remarkable was the mosaic found in the narthex of the large basilica – a rectanglular framework of 36 octagonal panels, linked together and featuring images of mythological figures, fishes, and water birds. Mosaics were also found in other structures near the basilicas, including streets and buildings dated to the fourth and fifth centuries.

Mosaic in Heraclea Lyncestis, Macedonia. Raso, Wikimedia Commons

The mosaic pictured above reminds me of what I saw at Caesura and Zippori National Park in Israel. And even its they’re only half as good, book me on the next available flight.

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