Heraclea Lyncestis, ancient city near Bitola

Heraclea Lyncestis is an archeological site located on the southern outskirts of the city of Bitola, at the foot of Mount Baba. It is named after Heracles, the mythical hero, and ancestor of the Macedonian royal Argead dynasty, while the epithet Lyncestis comes from the name of the Lyncestida region in which the city was located, where the ancient Macedonian tribe Lyncesty lived.

Heraclea was an urban settlement from ancient Macedonian times to the Middle Ages. It was founded in the middle of the IV century BC. by King Philip II of Macedon, as an important strategic point and over time developed into a significant crossroads on the road Via Ignatia (lat. Via Ignatia) which connected Durres and the Bosphorus.

Heraclea Lyncestis, Bitola, Macedonia

Heraclea is mentioned in historical sources as a city that was established by Philip II of Macedon, around the middle of the IV century BC. In its intention to extend the Macedonian state, Philip II in the border areas erected fortified cities, which served as the cornerstone of war and cultural expansion.

  • Open hours: Every day 08.00 – 16.00
  • On Monday there are no guided tours

Two centuries later, exactly in the year 168 BC, Heraclea falls under the authority of the Roman Empire.

Heraclea during Roman rule has developed as the center of the fertile province and place of junction of Via Egnatia with the road that led from north – Stobi, across Stibera.

Heraclea Lyncestis, Bitola, Macedonia

A significant economic boom, Heraclea experienced especially at the beginning of the second century to the middle of the III century AD, during the joint rule of Septimie Sever and Caracalla, when it bears the name Heraclea Septimia Aurelio.

According to an honorary inscription, found in the ancient settlement, Heraclea was governed on a Greek-Macedonian way.

In the early Byzantine time Heraclea became the seat of a bishopric, and center place of the new Christian faith.

Heraclea Lyncestis, Bitola, Macedonia

Heraclea is mentioned in the fifth century in connection with the invasion of eastern Goths in lllyric. In year 479, Theodoric with his Goths comes in lllyric, destroys Stobi, and again is in Heraclea. According to the statements, Theodoric left the town alone because the bishop from Heraclea has sent him gifts. Later he still robbed and burned the town, and went through the road Via Egnatia to ancient Lychnidos (present Ohrid).

Heraclea Lyncestis, Bitola, Macedonia

Finally, according to a record from, the acts of the Council of Constantinople in 553, for the first time is mentioned Heraclea, with the epithet Pelagoniae. Among the participants of the council mentioned is Bishop of Heraclea Benigus. Name Pelagoniae only was used as evidence that in Heraclea is built residential area on the southern outskirts of Bitola today.
During its thousand years of existence and unfettered development, Heraclea passed, Macedonian, Roman, and Byzantine era of the ancient civilization.

Heraclea Lyncestis, Bitola, Macedonia

The City of Heraclea, like any ancient city, was protected with city walls and towers from various barbaric attacks.

Mosaics of Heraclea Lyncestis

In the western sector of today Heraclea, fully is revealed the great Byzantine three-nave basilica, the narthex, and porch, as the annexes to the south and north side. The floors of the church and the other rooms are covered with mosaic, which derive various geometric and other figures from the flora and fauna. Mosaics, discovered on the floor of the narthex of the Great Basilica (1963 and 1964) are distinguished by their artistic qualities and iconographic peculiarities.

In iconographic terms, these mosaic decorations have cosmic significance in accordance with the idea that the church is a microcosm, or Christian universe, in an unusual variant.

Here the universe is shown in four domains. In the middle of the rectangular field is represented kantharos which grows vines and is flanked with deer and peacocks as a symbol of the sacred domain. The grape tree and the Trophy are symbols of Christ himself, his body and blood.

The second domain is given by the representation of the Garden of Eden. From both sides of the medallions are placed five trees, full with fruit, with flying birds around. The garden is protected by the  Cerberus, red dog, tied to a fig tree.

The third domain is the representation of the earth symbolized by the wildlife, delivered in aggressive situations or persecuted.

In border area around in rectangular box is contained the fourth domain – ocean representation of aquatic animals: in 11 fields of freshwater and 17 marine.

The mosaic represents the entire Christian universe, all its four domains. The iconographic formula for the Christian understanding of the universe, the spherical display the artist adapted rectangular field, representing a new possible solution.

The universe can be represented in the sanctuary and the middle boat, but its performance is possible and in the narthex as it proved in the case of the basilica in Heraclea.
According to the stylistic features and the development degree of the forms it is assumed that this puzzle was made at the end of the V or the beginning of the VI century AD.

Apart unearthed architectural structures from the early Byzantine era, partly from the Roman period, discovered are also inscriptions and plastic tombstones, which are exhibited in the Museum in Bitola and the Lapidarium of Skopje Archaeological Museum.

The bust of the Athenian speaker Eshin (now in the British Museum in London), Roman copy of “Athena Parthenos” (National Museum, Belgrade), Honorary and votive monuments of the portico and others, occurred in Roman times, talk about the favorable conditions in which developed the city Heraclea and its cultural and artistic success.

Heraclea Lyncestis, Bitola, Macedonia