Ruins at Stobi
|Location||Gradsko, Vardar Statistical Region, Republic of Macedonia|
Stobi (Ancient Greek: Στόβοι) was an ancient town of Paeonia, later conquered by Macedon, and later turned into the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia Salutaris (now near Gradsko in the Republic of Macedonia). It is located on the main road that leads from the Danube to the Aegean Sea and is considered by many to be the most famous archaeological site in the Republic of Macedonia. Stobi was built where the Erigón river (mod. River Crna) joins the Axiós river (mod. Vardar), making it important strategically as a center for both trade and warfare.
The pre-Roman period
Stobi developed from a Paeonian settlement established in the Archaic period. Located on the northern side of a terrace, the early town covered an area of about 25,000 m2 (270,000 sq ft). Its proximity to the junction of the Erigón and Axiós rivers as well as its position in the fertile central Vardar valley allowed it quickly to develop a flourishing economy and to establish trade. Nearby Mount Klepa was a lucrative source of marble. The initial Paeonian population was later supplemented by other immigrant groups.
It is believed that in 217 BCE, Philip V annexed Paionia during his campaign against the Dardans who had entered the largest Paionian town Bylazora.
The Roman period
In 168 BC, the Romans defeated Perseus and Macedonia was divided into four nominally independent republics. The town was first mentioned in 197 BC by Livius. In 148 BC, the four areas of Macedonia were brought together in a unified Roman province. In the reign of Augustus the town grew in size and population. The town grew in 69 BC once it became a municipium and coins, with Municipium Stobensium printed on them, were distributed. The citizens of Stobi enjoyed Ius Italicum and were citizens of Rome. Most belonged to the tribes Aemila and Tromentina. During Roman times Stobi was the capital of the Roman province Macedonia Salutaris. Emperor Theodosius I stayed in Stobi in 388. Late in the 5th century the town underwent a terrible turn of events. In 479, it was robbed by Theodoric, an Ostrogothic king. The citizens reconstructed the town, but in 518 was struck by a powerful earthquake. Avaro-Slavic invasions in the 6th century ruined the city's economy and infrastructure.
The name Stobi is Paeonian and meant "post, pillar" and is akin Old Prussian stabis "rock", Old Church Slavonic stoboru "pillar", English staff, Old English stapol "post", and archaic Greek stobos "scolding, bad language", Macedonian Slavic stolb meaning "post, pillar", Greek stephein "to tie around, encircle", staphyle "grapevine, grape bunch", Middle Irish sab "shaft". Such a name may imply that it was the site of a large local cultic pillar, though there is no evidence of this.
The Museum of Belgrade was the first and only institution to investigate the city from 1924 to 1936. Serbian archaeologists first discovered public and private buildings in the city and then the city's theater, built in the 3rd century, and religious artifacts from the central and western part of the town. Research into the city officially ended in 1940. During World War II late Hellenistic graves were found in the Palace of Peristerius and most of these had had buildings built over them. In 1970, between the North and Central Basilica and in the western necropolis 55 graves were discovered. In 1955 in the southern part of the north basilica 23 Slavic graves, dating from the 9th to 12th centuries were discovered. Bronze statues from the classical and archaic periods and ceramic objects from the Neolithic era were discovered in the two parts of the civil basilica and in the central basilica the older part of the second Synagogue. In the north basilica architectonic structures and 23 Slavic graves were discovered. The most significant finds occurred between 1970 and 1980 by Yugoslav and American archaeologists. In this period more buildings were discovered and new expeditions in the western necropolis, the Casa Romana and in the aqueduct network of Stobi revealed more mosaics. From 1981 to 1988 the Episcopal basilica was unearthed. These researches confirmed predictions concerning the religion, culture and daily life of its population.
Religion in Stobi
The Grand Palace near the eastern wall of the city was built during the Roman period and contains beautiful frescoes. The Temple of Nemesis in the theatre, and religious items related to Hygeia and Telesphorus, Artemis Locheia, Apollo Clarious, Jupiter, Dionysus and Hera were common during this time. In the early Christian period Stobi was an Episcopal see from 325, when bishop Budius took part in the First Council of Nicaea. Stobi is one of a small number of towns from the late ancient and early Christian period that kept a large number of mosaics. From the 4th to 5th century, several big churches were built and were known for their interior decoration of mosaics and frescoes. Decorative mosaics can also be found in private luxury buildings from the late Antiquity, such as the Villas of Theodosius, Policharmosius and Peristerius. New archaeological research has shown that all Christian basilicas in the city, so far discovered, were built over ancient buildings.
Historical sites in Stobi
The Northern Basilica. The church has three main parts: a narthex, an exonarthex separated by colonnades and an atrium constructed mostly of marble. In the northern part there is a Baptistry and in the southern part are Slavic graves. The church, which was built at the beginning of the 5th century, can be entered from the street Via Principalis Inferior. The Civil Basilica is south of the north basilica and was discovered in 1937. In 1956 archaeologists found that there were seven building phases. Between the North and Civil Basilicas are the ancient Thermae Minores, or "Little Baths" made of stone blocks.
The Central Basilica and Synagogue can be entered from the Via Principalis street. The Central Basilica was built on a Synagogue at the beginning of the 5th century and had two building phases. The floor of the Synagogue was discovered 1.5 m (4.9 ft) under the level of the central basilica. Dating from the 4th century, it was built on an older synagogue from the 3rd century, created by the father of the Synagogue of Stobi, Tiberius Claudius Polycharmos. Inside were two vases dating from 121 to 125.
The House of the Psalms, in front of the central basilica, has a central room with a mosaic floor, a room with colonnades, a big pool and columns in the western part of the yard.
Via Axia is one of the main streets in Stobi. It is oriented east-west with only small part of the street discovered.
The Main Town Public Fountain is located on a small square created by the streets Via Axia and Via Principalis Inferior.
The Magnae Thermae, or Big Bath, discovered in 1931, consisted of two rooms: one large room with a statue and a pool made of stone blocks. The reconstructed bath was in use until the late 6th century.
Via Principalis Inferior was a major street of the city running from the central basilica to the main town fountain, then to house of Partenius, the 'Palace of Theodosius' and the house of Psalms.
The House of Peristerius was a large living complex for several families and also had rooms for shops. The Peristerius family owned the rooms in the southern part of the complex. The central part of this complex is a yard under open sky, with fountains on the western side. In the eastern part is an excellent example of floor mosaics and in the middle there is a fountain made of marble. The complex and the mosaics date from the late 4th or the early 5th century. The Via Theodosia street is parallel to Via Axia and it is located between the house of Peristerius and the 'palace of Theodosius'.
The Palace of Theodosius was where the emperor Theodosius first stayed while in Stobi. The floor is covered with marble blocks and the peristyle with mosaics in the technique opus sectile. The other rooms are also decorated, dating from the 4th to the 5th century.
The House of Partenius is located near the southern part of the Palace of Theodosius, and is connected to it by a wall making it into an L-shaped building standing for Latin.
Valavica (Domus Fullonica) is a complex of connected shops and residences, built on older objects. The name regards only one phase of building in the small yard, whereas in the 5th century there was also a workshop for painting and making carpets. The complex was in use from the 1st century to the 6th century.
The Episcopal Basilica, dating from the 5th and 6th centuries, with a baptistery to the south. A peacock from the baptistery's mosaic floor is depicted on the reverse of the Macedonian 10 denars banknote, issued in 1996, and of the 10 denars coin, issued in 2008.
- A Companion to Ancient Macedonia, By Joseph Roisman and Ian Worthington, p. 549
- Katicic', Radoslav. Ancient Languages of the Balkans, Part One. Paris: Mouton, 1976: 53.
- Excerpts from Jews in Yugoslavia - Part II[dead link]
- National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia. Macedonian currency. Banknotes in circulation: 10 Denars. – Retrieved on 30 March 2009.
- National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia. Macedonian currency: Coins in circulation. – Retrieved on 30 March 2009.
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