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HERAKLEIA LYNKESTIS (Bitola) Macedonia, Yugoslavia.

At the W edge of the modern city lies the ancient one, founded by Philip V, probably after one of his early campaigns against the Illyrians either in 359-58 or 356 B.C. It was situated on a low hill at the juncture of two ancient routes, one leading from the Adriatic coast through Lychnidos to Thrace, and a second extending NE through Pelagonia to Stobi in the Vardar valley. The former route became the Via Egnatia after 148 B.C. This location on important highways made Herakleia strategically important, and it became the principal town and administrative center of the district of Lynkestis, a fertile plain surrounded by wooded mountains.

Herakleia figured in the campaigns of Julius Caesar during the civil wars as a supply depot, and inscriptions of veterans who settled there date as early as the turn of the era. Although the town is seldom mentioned in ancient literature its importance during the Early Empire is attested by numerous private and official inscriptions.

The names of bishops from Herakleia are known from the 4th, 5th, and 6th c. The town was sacked by Theodoric in 472 and, despite a large gift to him from the bishop of the city, again in 479. Herakleia was restored in the late 5th and early 6th c. and conquered by the Slavs in the late 6th c.

Excavations have revealed several sections of the fortification wall on the acropolis and two basilicas in the main part of the settlement below to the S. Both basilicas had well-preserved mosaics of the 5th to 6th c. B.C., depicting geometric and figured motives. Test trenches, dug in the vicinity of the basilicas, revealed streets and parts of buildings of the 4th-5th c.

Part of the ancient theater on the slopes of the acropolis has been excavated, but work has been concentrated in the larger of the two basilicas found earlier and in the area to its W and S. The smaller basilica and a small baptistery have been partially restored as well as some sections of the earlier buildings.

Mosaics were found in numerous buildings near the large basilica but the most interesting of the new mosaics, remarkable for its size and arrangement, was found in the narthex of the large basilica. It is a rectangle (over 21 x 4.7 m) with a broad rectangular border containing 36 octagonal panels in which fish and water birds are depicted; the panels are linked by intricate meanders. The mosaic dates to the late 5th-early 6th c.

There is a small museum at the site and a large museum in Bitola.


F. Papazoglu et al., Héraclée I (1961); Heraklea II (1965); G. Tomašević & M. Medić, Heraklea III: The Mosaic in the Large Basilica (1967); Tomašević & Tome Janakijevski, Herakleja Linkestis (1973).


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