The Mosaics of ancient Heraclea Lyncestis Macedonia – Elements of a colorful recorded history

The art of crafting historical imprints is probably the most valuable heritage of the Roman Era. Therefore, the Roman mosaics are wonderful masterpieces of the craftsmen of the epoch depicting the real conception of society. The motifs of the mosaics include animal portraits reflecting peculiar meanings. As we know, the Roman world was a polytheistic construction of divinely appointed gods and goddesses. The traditional values and customs promoted largely the importance of the rulers. The kings represented the will of the gods. Moreover, they served as an intermediary between the gods and the people.

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A unique portrait of the symbol of the power of the central administration present in the periphery of the Roman Empire. The primordial aspect of Roman Art is shaped by the existence of floor mosaics. Thus, the most famous Roman mosaics are the ones excavated in the archaeological city of Heraclea Lyncestics (nowadays Bitola). Bitola is one of the cosmopolitan cities of the southern part of Macedonia. Heraclea Lyncestis as a Roman Municipium was constructed roughly around the 4th century BC. The city was located on the crucial trade route Via Egnatia. Over time, the famous phrase ‘All the routes lead to Rome’ emerged. The floor mosaics are incredibly decorated with colourful stone tiles representing the essence of the diverse animal portraits.

The Roman craftsmen were very skilled and talented. The rectangular shape of the floor mosaics is a fascinating demonstration of the sensitivity of Roman art and culture. The natural elements present in the mosaics reveal the secrets of the local observations of the harmonious cycle of nature. Trees, birds, leaves, flowers and animals are the main figures of the theatrical scene of the mosaics. A structural emphasis on the four seasons of the year is widely noticeable as well. The popular saying that ‘the strong will survive and the weak will perish’ is vividly represented in the mosaics: the tiger attacking the deer and the lion attacking the bull. Indeed, such animal fights explain the veritable position of the state power based on the hierarchical structure of the society and the strong place of the Church. Some interesting local beliefs mention that the process of emancipation was prevalent by following strict traditional rules. For example, one of the interesting stories or myths was that a young boy had always to hunt a lion in order to become an adult.

The transition from adolescence to adulthood was socially determined. The floor mosaics are the remains of an early Christian Roman Cathedral in Heraclea Lyncestis known as the Small Basilica and the Great Basilica. The excellent preservation of the Basilicas signifies abundantly the longevity of Roman art. The astonishingly beautiful columns around the Basilicas testify about the process of urbanisation or city planning. The Romans were pioneers in this matter by establishing aqueducts, forums and legal courts. Only by remembering the beauty of the past, we can never forget the history of one of the greatest world civilisations in terms of cultural transmission and legal enterprise. If you travel to the southern part of Macedonia, visit the city of Bitola and discover the colourful mosaics of Heraclea Lyncestis.

*Hristina Crenn is a bachelor student of Law at Paris 1 Panthéon – Sorbonne University (France) and History and Political Science and International Relations at Ibn Haldun University (Turkey)

* Column published on the website of Media Pulse Production House of Sarajevo: https:// pulse.ba/index.php/pulse-lifestyle/3472-the-mosaics-of-ancient-heraclea-lyncestis-macedoniaelements-of-a-colorful-recorded-history



Hristina Crenn is a student at the Sorbonne Law School (France) and at Ibn Haldun University (Turkey) pursuing a Bachelor of Law and a Double Major in History & Political Science and International Relations, respectively. She is completing an intercontinental and interdisciplinary education in two different countries in order to grasp the divergent perspectives of multicultural civilizations. Her main research interest is focused on the study of women’s contributions in history and legal history on a societal level. She is an active learner of International Law, particularly International Humanitarian Law and Conflict & Peace Studies.

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