The Ancient City of Heraklea Lynkestis (Хераклеа)
Heraklea (Heraclea), located just outside the beautiful town of Bitola in Macedonia, is a real treasure for anyone fortunate to visit. The most impressive sights this arcaheological treasure has to offer are of the colourful mosaics found in the Large and Small Basilicas. During 4th Century B.C., Philip II of Macedon founded the town of Heraklea Lynkestis (Heraclea Lyncestis). The town is named after the Greek mythological hero, Hercules, and Lynkestis is Greek for the ‘Land of the Lynx’. In earlier times the lynx was more prevalent in Macedonia and are still present today but only in a few isolated areas. Macedonia has commemorated the lynx by including it on the Five Denar coin that is widely used in Macedonia.
Much of what can be seen today are ruins of edifications built during the Roman and Early Christian/Byzantine periods. The Romans conquered Macedonia in 2nd Century B.C. It’s reported that the Roman Emperor Hadrian is responsible for having the theatre built. Heraklea, strategically situated on two ancient trading routes, served as a major supply depot during the reign of Julius Cesar. One of these routes, a Roman road called Via Egnatia, passed through the town and this combined with Heraklea being the administrative centre for the District of Lynkestis, led to much prosperity for the inhabitants. During the spread of Christianity in the 3rd & 4th Centuries, This city became an important Episcopal centre and basilicas were constructed.
In 472 Theodoric the Ostrogothic King, sacked the city, and despite a substantial gift from the citizens of Heraklea, he returned 7 years later and in 479 sacked the city once again. Herakleans rebuilt their city and the basilicas and mosaics that you see today were constructed during the late 5th and early 6th centuries.
Aside from the Amphitheater, the basilicas are Heraklea are probably the main attraction. The large basilica features some amazing mosaics with scenes from the Garden of Eden, the fight of Good versus Evil, and interestingly enough some birds and fish, including jellyfish. The small basilica also features some intricate mosaics.