Stobi and the Middle Vardar Region
Stobi 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 North Macedonia). It is located on the main road that leads from the Danube to the Aegean Sea. Stobi was built where the Erigón River (mod. Crna) joins the Axiós River (mod. Vardar), making it strategically important as a center for both trade and warfare.
The first historic records to mention Stobi are by the Roman historian Titus Livy (ca. 197 BCE). According to Livy, Stobi became an important center for salt trading after the Roman conquests of Macedonia and the establishment of Pax Romana. In 69 CE, Emperor Vespasian granted Stobi the rank of municipium and the right to mint its own coins. Stobi was not only an important salt trading center, but also was located at the crossroad of the ancient roads that ran along the two rivers Axios and Erigon. The first road connected the North and the South of the Balkans as it does today, while the second to the southwest connected Stobi with Via Egnatia near Heraclea Lyncestis and to the northeast, it continued to Serdica (today Sofia, Bulgaria).
This fortunate position brought Stobi long-term prosperity, especially in the period between the 1st and 3rd centuries CE. Several monumental buildings in the city are dated to this period: the Theater, the first City Wall, Porta Heraclea, Public Building with Arches (most probably the Stobi library), Casa Romana, the Synagogue, as well as the water supply system. In 267 CE, the city suffered Goth and Herule raids. At the end of the 3rd century Stobi was devastated by an earthquake. It was later rebuilt, but following a different urban plan. Most of the ruins visible today belong to buildings dated to this period.
During the 4th century CE, Stobi became an important Christian center and the seat of powerful bishops. In the 5th-6th centuries CE, Stobi was the capital city of the Roman province Macedonia Secunda but suffered from the raids of Huns, Ostrogoths, Avars and Slavs. The constant threat of barbarian raids, as well as certain climatic changes, lead to the gradual abandonment of the city in the second half of the 6th century CE. Some records mention a small Slav community that settled and lived there in later centuries. The last historical reference regarding Stobi describes the victory of the Byzantine troops over Stobi’s local militia during the 11th century CE.
The Northern Basilica 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 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.
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.
See more at the official site of the National Institution Stobi.
Field Schools in this Region: