Heraclea Lyncestis is an ancient Macedonian city located 2 km from Bitola. Founded in the middle of the IV-th century B.C. by Philip the Macedon, Heraclea existed for over a millennium as an important strategic point.
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In the middle of the II-nd century B. C. the Romans conquered Macedonia, destroying its political power, making it a province, disintegrated it into four districts. Heraclea which belonged to the fourth district, prospered a lot during this time, mainly due to Via Egnatia road, on which this town was an important station.
From the Roman period in Heraclea, today we can see several buildings such: Roman baths, the portico of a courtroom, Theatre, and parts of other buildings within the town walls.
During the Early Christianity (IV-VIth century A. D.) Heraclea was an important episcopal center. Several of its bishops are mentioned in documents from church councils. Bishop Eugrius is mentioned in documents from the Council in Serdica in 343, Bishop Quintilius in the Council in Ephesus in 449, and bishop Benignus in Constantinople in 533.
Buildings from Early Christianity in Heraclea are the Small and large Basilica, the Episcopal Residence, and the Cemetery Basilica with a necropolis outside the town walls.
Portico of the courtroom
The portico is a porch with a rectangular base whose roof on the north side leaned on the wall and on the south side on a row of columns. Besides the northern wall stood a row of honorable and vivacious monuments, from which three postaments with Greek inscriptions and two statues have been uncovered.
In addition to the first postament, on which is inscribed an inscription:
” To Nemesis the goddess Julia Tertila* (erects this statue) “
a marble statue in life-size was found of the goddess of justice and fate – Nemesis. Her posture, clothing, and appearance as a whole give rise to classical inspirations typical of the first years of the 2nd century AD.
On the second pedestal on which the inscription is engraved:
“The city (erects this monument) to T(itus) Flavius Orestus twice high priest and benefactor because of his love (for this city) at the proposal of Gaius Maria Vlosianus (son of) Trason during the rule of the polytarch Maria Claudius Puicher”
a marble statue of Titus Flavius Orestus, a prominent Heraclean, was discovered.
The inscription on the third pedestal reads:
“To the Goddess of Justice”
and on the upper frame above the inscription field, two verses from Hesiod’s Works and Days are engraved.
The Portico dates back to the beginning of the second century AD.
Therma – Roman baths
The Therma of Heraclea is an impressive building consisting of three main premises: Frigidarium – unheated room for a cold plunge; Tepidarium – a room at an intermediate temperature; and Caldarium – a sweating-room with a plunge bath.
The Therma was heated by a so-called hypocaust system, which is obtained by placing the floor on brick columns, while hot air circulates through its cavities, and smoke went out through hollow tubes vertically set beside the walls.
The term was built in the Roman period and was also used in late antiquity.
The Roman theatre in Heraclea served both for theatre performances and gladiator games with animals. It building probably began during the reign of Emperor Hadrian (Aelius Hadrianus Augustus / 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) and ended at the time of his successor Antoninus Pius.
The time of Emperor Hadrian was characteristic by the modernization of old theatre buildings in order to serve for agony performances.
The auditorium is horseshoe-shaped, with a capacity of about 2,500 spectators. In the central part, there is a lodge with honorary seats, and also according to the preserved Greek inscriptions, the first row of seats was reserved for representatives of the four municipalities (Asclepiades, Dionysius, Arthemisios, and Heracleis).
The high wall that surrounded the orchestra and the metal fence on it served to protect the viewers from the irritated animals. In the enclosed wall, three cages for animals were discovered.
In the period of early Christianity, Christian believers were thrown into the arena to be torn apart by the hungry beasts.
After the ban of bloody gladiator fights in the early 5th century, the theatre slowly lost its function and was slowly buried by erosion. Its seats were used for other buildings in Heraclea, and in place of the already abandoned, buried and damaged theatre at the beginning of the 6th century BC. is. a micro-housing unit was built.
The Small basilica in Heraclea functioned, with several phases of reconstruction from the end of the 4th to the end of the 6th century A.D.
Two colonnades divide the naos into a nave and two aisles. It ends in the east with an apse which is circular from the inside and contains seats for the priests, while the outer part is rectangular.
The altar space is decorated with a mosaic in the “opus sectile” technique and is separated with a marble screen, while the side apses are paved with brick floor.
To the west of the nave, there are two more rooms that are disproportionate to it. The first room was a baptistery. The next one, to the west, with a floor mosaic in the opus tessallatum technique, was the catechumen. After the construction of the Great Basilica complex, the function of these two rooms was probably modified.
The Large basilica in Heraclea Lyncestis
The Large basilica in Heraclea was a monumental building. Its rooms were paved with mosaics with excellent qualities made in the “opus tessallatum” technique with geometric, floral and zoomorphic motifs.
Especially interesting is the mosaic in the Narthex, with an area of over 100 m2, is a masterpiece of the early Christian art.
The Episcopal residence in Heraclea had a trapezoidal shape and, with its south side, was attached to the city wall. According to the ancient tradition, the premises were located around the central courtyard with a well in the middle. The luxurious chambers were located in the east wing.
In several phases, and possibly uses, this facility was in use in the period from the 4th to 6th century A.D.
Life in Heraclea, as in many other classical cities, died out at the end of the 6th century when it is believed the population moved to the present location of Bitola city.
Location of Heraclea
Text: POCKET GUIDE FOR TOURISTS – HERACLEA LYNKESTIS / Text: Nikola Ivanovski Tome Janakievski Elica Maneva / Zagreb, 1983