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STOBI - THE HOUSE OF POLYCHARMOS & THE SYNAGOGUE BASILICA

The ancient city of Stobi “…Stobis, vetus urbs…”

The earliest written evidence of Stobi is found in Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita. It refers to the triumph of the Macedonina King Phillip V against the Dardanians. Livy says that the battle happened near Stobi in 197 BC.

Being at the crossroad of the road along Axios River (Vardar) and the road that connected Via Egnatia and Via Militaris, Stobi became one of the most significant towns in Macedonia during Roman rule. During the reign of the first Roman emperor Augustus, Stobi became Civium Opiddum Romanorum in 69 CE and later it reached the status of Municipium. Although the dominant population was autochthonous, there were many citizens who had Ius Italicum.

The first Jews arrived in the area now known as Republic of Macedonia during Roman times, when Jews fled persecution in other Roman territories, with some settling in Macedonia. The presence of Jews in Macedonia is proved by Agrippa's letter to Caligula. At Stobi, in 165 AD, Tiberius Polycharmus, who is designated “father of the synagogue” converted his villa into a synagogue containing a prayer hall, a dining hall (triclinium) and a portico, reserving the upper story of the complex for his residence and that of his successors. The information comes from a very impressive and informative inscription, arguably the most important one found to date in a Diaspora synagogue. The remnants of a Jewish synagogue excavated in Stobi (Macedonia) date back to that period and the conclusion that a developed Jewish Community existed in that locality those days is based on these findings.

One of the most significant events in the history of Stobi is the appearance of Christianity. The name of the first bishop Budius is noted at the first ecumenical council in Nicaea in 325 AD. The Old Episcopal Basilica in Stobi was built in the 4th century and it is considered to be the oldest Christian church in R. Macedonia. In 388 AD the emperor Theodosius I visited Stobi from where he published two edicts which banned the heretic gatherings and the public discussions about religion. The sacred architecture discovered at Stobi, especially the Episcopal Basilica of the bishop Philip from the 5th century, recognize Stobi as an important Christian centre with established traditions.

In 447 AD Stobi was destroyed by the Huns as many other towns on the Balkans. The event, recorded by the sources, is also documented by the fired strata containing Hun weapon. This marked the beginning of a turbulent period and the gradual demise of Stobi. The beginning of the 6th century is marked by the huge earthquake in 518 AD which ruined many towns in Dardania and Macedonia Secunda. The movements of the Slavs, Avars, Kutrigurs and other tribes brought the destruction of the ancient towns at the Balkans towards the end of the century. This also meant an end of the urban life in Stobi.

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Skopje, Macedonia

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  • Uploaded on May 18, 2012
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    by Stojan Toshe Nikolov…