Statue of the type of Great Female Hercules, white marble, sculpture studio in Stobi, Antonini period.

 MACEDONIA IN ANCIENT TIMES

 

The Ancient epoch was time when material and spiritual development of Macedonia reached its peak. The phenomenon civilization was the basis of this development. Slowly, but surely, with grave difficulties the ancient city conceived and established its image. The crafts were developed first. They opened up the opportunities for emancipation of culture and art.

Macedonia in Early Ancient Times

 

The Macedonians and Paonians settled down after the great Aegean movements on the territory of Macedonia. Both peoples will develop their culture and civilization and as a result, the first cities - polis- will erect on Macedonian territory.

Classes will establish in these cities more and more. The rulers and the dukes lived in mansions built on the highest fortified part of the city - the acropola- while the craftsman and court in the suburbs. These ancient cities were located on high mountainous positions, while later on they were built near regional roads and rivers. In addition, there were military fortresses built on carefully selected defence positions suitable to control specific strategic buildings and the valleys dangerous to cross

         

In these cities trade developed, especially with the Greek merchants. Metal ore and slaves was the most prominent commodity. Slowly, cultural novelties were established. Molding was the most developed craft because it created cheap and practical goods. Such products were wineglasses decorated with relief ornaments of lotus leaves and figures of women and divinity. These cities used coins with the mark of the ruler of the city (usually the image or symbol).

Novelties came about in burial rites - cremation of the dead that were laid down in the so-called "Macedonian type tomb". These tombs were made of stone blocks and had an arch on the top. They were covered with dirt.

Golden earring in filigree, Crkviste, Beranci

Menada, bronze figure of maiden in dancing trance, Krater, Tetovo.

 

 

 

Burial mask of golden plated tin in Paonian dukes, Trebeniste, Ohrid

They had an access corridor  (dromos), front chambers for commemorations, main chamber for depositing the remains of the deceased and a large number of objects connected to the life of the deceased such as: necklaces, fibulae, bracelets, rings, arrows, spears, knives, swords, bronz helmets and armours. They had golden masks on the head. The masks were decorated with ornaments on the edges. They had sandals on their feet.
 

Macedonia in Roman Times

In 1-century BC Macedonia became part of the Roman Empire. Roman merchants and other businessmen came to the new province looking for an opportunity to extract raw materials and to market their products. As a result, Macedonia will have an enormous quantity of republican silver denars.

Most of the territory of the Republic of Macedonia was part of the province Macedonia while the Skopje-Kumanovo region was part of the province Gorna Mezia and Thrace.

Road traffic started to develop in Macedonia. The most prominent three routes were Vardar road in the direction towards the Northern border of the Empire, the Via Egnatia from the Adriatic Sea towards the Dardanelles, and the Diagonal road from Heraclea (Bitola) via Stobi towards Serdika (Sofia). Apart from these other second-rate roads existed between many ancient centres leading towards the rich reserves or the greater craft centres.

The ancient city in Macedonia acquired the image of the Roman ancient cities with newly built amphitheatres, therms, aquaducts, temples, and court rooms. Such cities of the time were Stobi, Skupi, Heraclea, Lihnid, Stibera etc.

The Romans did not impose their pagan religion onto the Macedonians. They allowed for each ancient settlement to have a separate place for a sacred temple dedicated to the protector to whom they sacrificed many big sacrificial gifts.

The Macedonians acquired novelties in their burial rites. Long rows of tombs and vaults with tombstones and epitaphs were established alongside the two exits of the city. The difference in status was noticeable in the size of the monuments and mausoleums (large structures like a temple).

         

When Christianity was recognized as the state religion in Macedonia churches started to emerge. New churches were built like the Roman basilicas, however the altar was always turned towards the East. In the apsidal space Episcopal thrones were made, with seats for priests on both sides and a table for the service. The believers gathered in the large room, men on the right and women on the left. Behind them were the catachumens i.e. candidates to enter the new belief. They used to learn Christian mysteries and secrets for 2-3 years and they were obliged to come out during the service.

There are ruins from over 230 basilicas in Macedonia of which 8 were discovered in Stobi, 7 in Lihnid, 3 in Skupi etc. The oldest basilica dates back from the first half of 4th century in Stobi. It had 3 navels and a baptisterium.

The dead were deposited in previously dug chambers in rocks with an arch on top or they used to make underground galleries - catacombs. Pits, sarcophagus and brick-laid tombs can be found in Macedonia.

In the late Classical period the city acquired a new image - several basilicas, residential compounds for priests, episcopal council, and attractive city fontains. Strong and tall walls so-called "City Walls" for protection surrounded the city from barbarian attacks. In addition, every bigger city was secured with several smaller fortified guarding points located on mountain peaks alongside major roads, always bearing in mind the visual contact.

Amphitheatre, Stobi

Aqueduct, Skopje

Leopard and the deer from the nartex of the Great Basilica, Heraclea, Bitola.

Map with sites from this period