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STOBI Yugoslavia.

The site lies along the left bank of the Crna (Erigon) river where it empties into the Vardar (Axius) ca. 160 km N-NW of ThessaIonica. It occupied the juncture of two of the most important ancient routes in the Balkans: the corridor of the Vardar was the chief route between the middle Danubian regions and the Mediterranean, and a road from the Via Egnatia at Heraclea Lyncestis passed through Stobi and continued NE into Moesia. The cut for the modern highway from Athens to Belgrade and the railway for the Orient Express passes through the NE limits of the ancient city.

Livy (39.53.16) referred to Stobi, and the town figured prominently in his account of the N campaigns of Philip V of Macedonia in the 2d c. B.C. Stobi became a municipium during the early Roman Empire and minted its own coins at least from the reign of Titus to that of Elagabulus (69-222). The city continued to flourish during the later empire and may even have become the capital of the province of Macedonia Salutaris in the late 4th c., and even later of Macedonia Secunda. Theodosius I resided briefly in the city and issued two edicts. Stobi was an especially flourishing community during the 5th c. when Johannes Stobaeus resided there and a number of palatial structures, public and private, were erected or remodeled and lavishly decorated. The grandeur of its Episcopal Basilica and related buildings, along with the presence of at least four other basilicas, indicates its importance as a wealthy ecclesiastical center.

The historian Malchus records that Stobi was sacked in 479 by the Gothic army of Theodoric. There is considerable evidence of rebuilding at the site, but the city seems never again to have recovered its former prosperity. It ceased to exist as an urban community before the end of the 6th century.

Most of the monuments revealed by excavations belong to the 4th-6th c. and lie on the S slope of the low ridge that projects into the angle of the two rivers. The fortified area of the town measures ca. 450 by 450 m and the line of the city wall, exposed in a few places, can be followed for most of its extent. Part of a Turkish pavement is preserved above the city wall near the center of its E line and leads to the ruins of a bridge across the Crna.

The N basilica (5th-6th c.) lies at the NE end of the lower excavated street and is distinguished by the presence of a small quatrefoil baptistery with a sunken cruciform piscina attached on its N side. The next building to the SW is a civil basilica and beyond that a large complex that included, in the 3d c., the residence of Polycharmus and the Jewish synagogue. A second synagogue with a mosaic floor and frescoed walls was superposed on the first and was followed in the next century by a Christian basilica at a still higher level. Mosaics with both animal and geometric motives are preserved in the adjoining residence to the SW and a small bath lies to the E. Structures dating to the 2d c. B.C. lie below the civil basilica and the synagogue where a hoard of some 500 silver Roman denarii was found in 1971.

Beyond a cross street is a large bath, partly restored, in which were found a number of late Roman portrait statues. Large private residences occupy the next two blocks to the SW including one with a colonnaded court and fountain adorned with Hellenistic and Roman bronze and marble statues. These latter large complexes fill the area between the upper and lower of two roughly parallel streets. Farther to the SW along the upper street is another large residence on the right and opposite it the spacious residence of the bishops of Stobi. The street is paved with flagstones and lined on both sides by colonnades for the remaining 100 m or so to the Porta Heraclea, the only gate yet excavated.

A semicircular, colonnaded court stands at the N end of this main street opposite the entrance to the two-storied basilica of the Bishop Philip, whose name is preserved in the dedication inscribed on the lintel of the entrance to the nave. The basilica in the 5th c. was decorated with figured frescos and elaborate mosaics, partly preserved in the narthex and S aisle. The carved marble screens of the ambo and the presbyterium, along with numerous figured capitals of fine workmanship were found in the earlier excavations and are in the National Museum of Belgrade. The three aisles of the naos were increased to five in the late 5th or early 6th c. by the addition of mullioned screens in the side aisles. A vaulted crypt lies below the S wall and there is a sunken confessio in the apse. An earlier building with well-preserved wall frescos bearing geometric motives has been found below the S aisle. The floor of this earlier structure, perhaps a church, lies some 4 m below the earlier of the two superposed mosaics in the S aisle of the Episcopal Basilica.

A broad sandstone stairway led from the narthex to the area S of the basilica where the episcopal baptistery was located nearly 5 m below the floor of the basilica. The baptistery, uncovered in recent excavations, is basically quatrefoil in plan with corner apses, all set within a quadrangle, ca. 9.4 m square. The walls were covered with fresco, of which thousands of fragments were found, including many depicting human faces. The floor is a well-preserved and colorful mosaic of animals in paradise. A circular pool (interior diameter 2.4 m) is centered in the room and set off from it by a low parapet. The pool was revetted with marble and slate slabs and covered by a baldacchino. A marble kantharos nearly 1 m high and 60 cm in diameter was set into the parapet.

Many of the marble architectural pieces used in the Episcopal Basilica and elsewhere in Stobi during the 4th to 6th c. were originally part of the 2d c. theater that lies immediately E of the basilica. The cavea was built in two tiers of gray-white marble from nearby Pletvar and could hold over 7600 spectators. The scena frons was built of rose and green breccia and fine white marbles. Rubble screen walls and parapets and a sanctuary of Nemesis point to its later use as an arena. Nearly half of the lower tier, both paradoi, and much of the scene building are still in place. The seats bear hundreds of inscriptions listing the names of patrons. A small building NE of the theater seems to have been devoted to entertainment and pleasure in the last years of Stobi: its rooms included an apsidal gaming room and a room with marble-encrusted bathing cubicles.

A cemetery (1st to early 4th c.) has been partly excavated just outside the Porta Heraclea. A Christian basilica with adjoining cemetery is located ca. 300 m SW of the gate; another basilica, ca. 1000 m farther SW, was cleared near the bridge to the village of Palikura.

Large and elaborately decorated structures have recently (1972-74) been explored below the flood plain of the Crna river. The Casa Romana on the banks of the river E of the Synagogue has walls decorated with molded stucco panels and pilasters as well as colorful frescos. A yet larger structure lying below the 4th c. Inner City wall has mosaic floors and marble-encrusted walls with arched niches preserved to a hzight of over 4 m. Both buildings were in use in the 2d and 3rd c. and may have been built still earlier.

There is a small museum at the site where some of the recent discoveries may be seen. Material from the excavations in the 1920s and 1930s is in the National Museum in Belgrade and a few items, mainly inscriptions, are in the Archaeological Museum of Skopje.


R. Egger, “Die stadtische Kirche von Stobi,” JOAI 24 (1929); B. Saria, “Neue Funde in der Bischofskirche von Stobi,” JOAI 28 (1933) 132-33; id., “Pozorište u Stobima,” Godišnjak Muzeja Južne Srbije 1 (1937)PI (shortened German version, “Das Theater von Stobi,” AA [1938] 81-148); D. Mano-Zissi, “Mosaiken in Stobi,” BIABulg 10 (1936)I; E. Kitzinger, “A Survey of the Early Christian Town of Stobi,” DOP 3 (1946) 81-161; E. Dyggve, “La theâtre mixte du bas-empire d'après le theâtre de Stobi et les diptyques consulaires,” RA (1958) 1, pp. 137-57 and 2, pp. 20-39; R. E. Hoddinott, Early Byzantine Churches in Macedonia and Southern Serbia (1963)PI; J. Wiseman & D. Mano-Zissi, “Excavations at Stobi, 1970,” AJA 75 (1971)PI; id., “Excavations at Stobi, 1971,” AJA 76 (1972)MPI; id., “Excavations at Stobi, 1972,” AJA 77 (1973) 391-403MPI; id., “Excavations at Stobi, 1973-1974,” JFA 1 (1974)MPI; id. (eds.), Studies in the Antiquities of Stobi I (1973) and II (1974)MPI; J. Wiseman, Stobi. A Guide to the Excavations (1973)MPI.


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  • Cross-references from this page (1):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 53
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