Heraclea Lyncestis

Ancient town "Heraclea Lyncestis"

Famous for its dazzling mosaics, ancient theater and Roman baths, Heraclea is the most vividly preserved city from the surviving Ancient Macedonian Empire in the country.

Heraclea Lyncestis was an ancient Macedonian city situated 2 km south of the present-day town of Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon in the middle of the 4th century BC, after he had conquered the surrounding region of Lyncestis and incorporated it into his kingdom of Macedon. The city was named in honor of the mythological Greek hero Heracles. The epithet Lyncestis means "the Land of the Lynx" in Greek.

Heraclea was a strategically important town during the Hellenistic period, as it was at the edge of Macedon's border with Epirus to the west, and to the non-Greek world to the north, until the middle of the 2nd century BC, when the Romans conquered Macedon and destroyed its political power. The Romans divided Macedonia into 4 regions and Heraclea was in the fourth region. The main Roman road in the area, Via Egnatia went through Heraclea, and Heraclea was an important stop. The prosperity of the city was maintained mainly due to this road. Objects discovered from the time of Roman rule in Heraclea are: Votive monuments, a portico, thermae (baths), a theatre and town walls. In the early Christian period, Heraclea was an important Episcopal seat. Some of its bishops are mentioned in synods in Serdica and other nearby towns. From this period are the ensembles of the Small and Great (Large, Big) basilica. The Grave (Funeral) basilica with a necropolis is located east of the theatre.

From the 4thto the 6th century A.D Heraclea also had an Episcopal seat. First excavations were done before World War I, but it’s since then have the full glories of the ancient city been discovered. Beautiful Roman baths, the Episcopal church and baptistery, a Jewish temple, portico and a Roman theater now used for summer concerts and theater performances, all stand proud in excellent condition. The Roman theater on the hill, who's ruins where unearthed in the late 1960's, was constructed during Emperor Hadrian's 20-year reign (A.D. 117-138). He is credited with building as well as restoring many structures in the province of Macedonia. It was not until after his death that the theater came into use. Artifacts found at the site indicate that it was primarily used to stage gladiator fights until the late 4th century, when such fighting was banned throughout the Empire.

There is a small museum on the grounds with few artifacts and a nice scale model of the city at its peak.