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STOBI

Short history of the settlement

Oldest written source about Stobi is recorded after the victory of Philip V, King of Macedonia, over the Dardans, which took place near Stobi in Paionia, in 197 B.C. In another document historian Livius wrote that Stobi is located at the delta of river Crna Reka (Erigon), near the place where it flows in Vardar (Axius), who called the settlement “old town” versus the new town of Persida, founded by Phillip V in 183 B.C.

Although large excavations have been done with lots of findings and objects, still the historic date about the foundation of Stobi is scarce. The opinion prevails that the settlement was established in the Hellenistic period, but not long before the rule of Phillip. Archeological probe researches of the Acropolis and under several buildings near the center of the later city discovered sediments of layers belonging to 3rd and 2nd century B.C. Few findings in mainly bronze objects, originating from the classical archaic period, are found in Stobi, but cannot be linked to the context material and its age.

From what is known today, it seems that Stobi was founded during the century after the war that Phillip II fought against the Paionians 359 years B.C.

After the victory of the Romans over Macedonian King Persei, 168 years B.C. Macedonia was divided to four areas and Stobi was center for salt trade in the third area. Macedonia in 148 year B.C. become roman province, but still there are no evidences of important changes in the lifestyle and policy of Stobi.

Intensive expansion of the town and its importance as a trade center in this part of Macedonia can be linked with rising of its status into municipium which Stobi had since 69 year A.C. i.e. in time when they started making coins of various types with the inscription municipium Stobensium. Making money in Stobi continued until early 3rd century A.C. Individual writings confirm that Stobi had the status of municipium, as well as inscriptions on some of the structures in the settlement. Citizens of Stobi used the term Ius Italicum which meant they were citizen of Rome and belonged to roman tribes Aemilia and Tromentina

During early emperor’s period, city has reached its highest stadium and welfare. Many monuments with inscriptions testify to secular and sacral legacies of wealthy citizens of Stobi. Large building near the East city wall, with perfect relief structure and frescoes with painted representations on the walls, are evidences of that welfare. Several gods and goddesses were worshiped in Stobi: Higija, Telesphor, Artemidis, Lohija, Apolo, Klarios, Dionisius, Hera and other.

Stobi was city with influence during early Christian period. It was Episcopal seat, if not earlier than for sure since 325 year when bishop of Stobi Budios participated in the Nikea Council. During 4th and 5th century at least three Christian basilicas were built in the city, out of which two had baptisteries, while two were out of the city.

City walls existed since 3rd century, while the internal wall along east side was erected at the end of 4th century, when the eastern part of the outer wall was abandoned.

Churches in Stobi were magnificent monuments decorated with frescoes and mosaics, and few were found in excellent condition. It all drives a conclusion that Stobi had schools for education of artists, painters and musicians. Beautiful mosaics were not only decorating churches, but also some private palaces as the house Peristerija and Theodosian Palace.

There was a rich Jewish community in Stobi since 3rd century, when Polychromous “father of synagogue” built the Jewish temple almost in the center of the city. At the beginning of 4th century synagogue was restored. There was a new floor mosaic with geometric pattern and the walls in the main chamber were covered with frescoes. Synagogue was destroyed at the end of 4th century, and a Christian basilica was built on top of its remaining.

Turning the holy place of the Jewish community into Christian church happened approximately in time of the visit of emperor Theodosius I to Stobi. He issued two edicts in Stobi in June 388, banning gathering of heretics, as well as any public discussion about the religion.

There are a few famous Stobi episcopes from the 5th century such as Nikola, who took part in the Halkedon Council in 451 and Phillip, whose name was written above the entrance of the Episcopal basilica. Most famous citizen of Stobi who lived and worked in Stobi was Johannes Stobaeus, whose scientific studies were kept until present times.

It seems that Stobi become capital of the province Macedonia Salutaris in second half of 4th century, when the province was formed Stobi was also capital of Macedonia secunda, created in 5th century during the alteration of provinces borders.

End of 5th century was catastrophic for the city. Stobi was saved from ruin in 472 by opening the gates for Teodemir, king of Ostrogots. City management must have paid an enormous amount of money and food supplies to the Ostrogot army, which then headed for Constantinople. But just a few years later, city was attacked and robbed by Teodorih, son and heir of Teodemir. Barely surviving the last attack, it was hit by another disaster, the great earthquake in 518.

After the catastrophic earthquake which nearly destroyed the city, and killed hundreds of citizens, he never regained its pride, power and welfare. Less then two decades after the earthquake citizens of Stobi left the city in fear of cholera outbreak, which had been devastating the eastern empire at that time. But one of the reasons for leaving Stobi could be the breakthrough of the Slavs at the end of 6th century.

Before the large building was demolished, the beautiful mosaic in the Baptistery, the south side of the Episcopal basilica, they dig a canal to insert a lead pipe which served to bring water in.

It is not possible to state with certainty that Stobi’s collapse was a consequence of a major catastrophe or conquests. Second assumption is more logical, having in mind the movement of the Slavic tribes and other northern people at that time.

Some writings demonstrate some life in Stobi after the 6th century, and pointing at two episcopes who were operating in Stobi in the 7th century and there is the source which mentions the victory of byzantine emperor Vasilius II in 1014, over the military siege of Stobi. But those sources still cannot confirm that city was inhabited at that time. Some archeological findings mark certain activity in the upper layers of the Theater during 11th century, and a few Slavic graves were uncovered near the Northern basilica. Still after the 6th century, there are no signs of city life in Stobi.