Средновековни градови и тврдини во Македонија

Иван Микулчиќ







I. Introduction

II. The Heritage of the Late Antique Period

III. The Slavs in Macedonia

IV. Byzantine rule in the 11th and 12th centuries

V. Events in the 13th and 14th centuries

VI. Medieval material evidence

      1. Building remains

      2. Small finds

      3. Ceramics

VII. A Catalogue of Sites


I. Introduction


There is only one word in Slavonic languages for ancient fortified sites, grad. Translated, it denotes a castle, but its modern meaning is also town. A more precise denotation for fortifications that existed in those times can be found in Byzantine documents. Καστρα denotes a larger, and φρουρια a smaller fortification. Both types existed simultaneously in these regions from the 9th to the 14th centuries.


The above-mentioned fortifications were clearly military in character until the and of the 13th century. It was only near some of the more important castra in the 9th and the 10th centuries that unfortified civilian settlements had developed. The documents designate them asεμπορια (late as varoš). In Late Middle Ages some of these emporia were fortified with city walls, while the fortresses above them (which were known as castra) served for the housing of the city guard. Thus the civilian settlements-fortified towns — which were known as Πολεις in Byzantine terminology, came into existance.


Smaller fortresses were used only occasionally as regional guard posts that watched over the main roads or the state borders. A large number of such fortresses was built near mines. The building of feudal or knights' castles, as weii as the buiding of for-tified monasteries, which served as civilian shelters or refugia, began in the Late Middle Ages. All of these fortified sites vary in size and their position. They also vary in the manner of buiiding and strength of fortification. Their interior structure is different, as well as their planning and purpose for which they were built. The dating of these fortifications is based on the features of their structure and on the excavated archaeological material.


With few exceptions, the fortifications included in this study appear for the first time in scholarly literature. With the assistance of Viktor Lilčić, the author has been collecting material for this publication in the course of the past twenty years, which included compiling a full list of these sites, their archaeological treatment, measurement and technical documentation.






II. The Heritage of the Late Antique Period


The great plundering raids of the Huns across the Balkan provinces in the middle of the 5th century, of the Ostrogoths in 479, and the Kutrigurs, Bulgars, Slavs and Awars in the 6th c. left of the region in ruins. This urged the emperors Leo, Zeno, Anastasius, and Justinian I to carry out a full-scale and thorough fortification of this region. In the region of present-day Republic of Macedonia, which covers only 25,760 sq.km., more than 400 fortifications have been catalogued. Their structural characteristics and archaeological finds point to the late 5th and 6th centuries as their date of origin.


In most cases one comes across massively built fortifications which had remained well-preserved until the Late Middle Ages and had been in use until that time only with smaller repairs. The most frequently applied bulding technique is the emplectum with plenty of mortar, while the facade is covered with large chiselled stone blocks. The walls are 6 to 12 feet wide. The towers are massive and have a triangular, pentagonal, trapezoid or poligonal base, which made the rebounding of shots easier. The walls of some of the fortifications have been preserved in their original height.



III. The Slavs in Macedonia


Historical documents record a series of incursions and plundering raids of Slavs and Awars from the lands north of the Danube towards Macedonia and Greece to the south. The incursions which occured after the death of Justinian, and especially the one in the autumn of 586, resulted in the collapse and the end of civilized life of the Roman-Byzantine population in these regions. Soon after 615, the Slavs settled in the south, on the Peloponessus and in Thessaly, and then in the Salonica Bay. The northernmost sclavinii which are mentioned in Miracula ss Demetrii lay on the north coast of the Aegean Sea and at the mouth of the Haliakmon. However, in the region of Northern Macedonia, which is covered today by the Republic of Macedonia, there are no traces of Slavonic settlement in the late 6th, 7th and 8th centuries. On the contrary, in this region the Byzantine rule had been re-established at that time. It relied on a small number of fortresses along the main roads. In these fortresses coins have been discovered dating from the 7th and 8th centuries, as well as fibulae and jewellery from Byzantine South Italy, together with finds from the local „Komani” Culture. (Illustrations 4, 5, 38, 137)


The breakdown of the Awarian Kaganat in Panonia at the end of the 8th century made possible the re-establishing of connections between the Slavonic heartland in the North and Macedonia in the South. Archaeological finds point to a large-scale Slavonic colonization of the Balkan regions in the early 9th century, for which there are no writen records. Several hundreds of necropolises with finds from the 9th to the 12th centuries which have been discovered in the region of present-day Republic of Macedonia serve as evidence for such a claim. The Slavonic tribes densely populated the regions of Central and East Balkans.


These events were followed by the political expansion of the Bulgars under Boris and Simeon over the entire region after the middle of the 9th c. They spread from the





original heartland in north-east Bulgaria to the Drina in the west, and to Macedonia in the south-west. Following the collapse of this huge empire, the Macedonian („West Bulgarian”) empire was founded under Samoil and his heirs (976—1018).


This state depended on a great number of large and small fortresses (castra and phrouria) for which both written and archaeological evidence exists. In addition to the historical records from the 11th and 12th centuries, of greatest importance are the Charters of Emperor Basil II from 1019, 1020 and 1025, which quote the rights of the Ohrid Archbishopric. They also provide a list of all episcopal sees, as well as their enoriae, or smaller church centres subject to them. It is important to note that the castra mentioned above did not serve only as church centres but as administrative seats as well. Most of them have preserved thus function until the present day.


The Ohrid Bishopric (still called Ohrid today) included the enoriae Kičava (now Kičevo), Prespa (now the region of Prespa with Resen as its centre) and Mokra (now in Albania). The Pelagonia Bishopric (now Bitola) included the enoriae Prilep, Debrešte and Veles (their names have been preserved). The Morobisdos Bishopric (now the village of Morodvis) included the enoriae Lukovica (now the village of Lukovica), Pijanec and Maleševo (now the regions of Pijanec and Maleševo), Kozjak and Slavište (now the regions of Kozjak and Slavište with old centres or castra near Kanarevo and Opila). The Strumica Bishopric administered the enoriae Radovište and Konče (their names have been preserved). The Skopje Bishopric included the enoriae Lukovo (now the micro-region Luka with a castron near Gradište), Bineč (now a village and a region in neighbouring Kosovo), Prinip and Preamor (they have not been identified). The Moglen Bishopric (now the region of Morihovo with its centre near the castron at Manastir). The Prisdiana Bishopric (now Prizren) included Lešs’k, now the village of Lešok in the region of Polozi.


In addition to these castra, a number of phrouria have been registered that can also be identified in the field. There was at that time also a large number of other phrouria whose names have been preserved only in oral folk tradition (Map 2).



IV. Byzantine rule in the 11th and 12th centuries


The 11th and the 12th centuries represent an age of political stability, when the long peace was only occasionally interrupted by the incursions of the nomadic tribes of Pecheneges and Usi in the middle of the 11th c. and the Normans from South Italy in the late 11th c.


Economy prospered: agriculture was in the hands of Byzantine feudal lords, to which numerous records bears witness. Mining also thrived in the regions of Poreče, Zeleznec, Debrica, Kozuf, Osogovo and elsewhere. It was mainly iron ore that was mined from surface digs. Archaeological research has confirmed that silver and copper ore was smelted there as well. Dozens of small phrouria were built adjacent to the mines as centres for government clerks and for the protection of mining sites. This activity is well evidenced by numerous coins from the 11th and 12th centuries and iron tools which were unearthed in these fortresses.






V. Events in the 13th and 14th centuries


Central Byzantine government began losing control over these regions as early as the late 12th century. Dobromir Hrs. a local feudal lord, founded his princedom around the castra of Strumica and Prosek. The region of Polozi was conquered by the Serbs. In the early 13th C. the castron of Prosek became the political centre of the Povardarie region, which included Skopje in the north and Pelagonia in the west. Prosek, as well as the castra Peiagonija-Bitola, Prilep, Veles and Skopje became the objects of incessant strife among the lords of Salonica, Nicaea and Epirus, and then the Bulgarians and the Serbs. These places constantly changed hands. It was not until Michael VIII, the restorer of the Byzantine Empire, came to the throne, that these regions were reunited with the new Empire. In 1282—1285, however, the Serbs disjoined permanently the north and west parts of present-day Republic of Macedonia from Byzantium. They had conquered its other parts in 1330—1335, and ruled over them until the Turkish conquest in the years of 1385, 1392 and 1395. The Ottomans ruled over these regions until 1912.


New mortar walls were built around the most important castra in the 13th century. The building technique in these cases is specific. Chiselled stone slabs are connected with limestone mortar and strengthened with wooden frameworks. It is undoubted that this techinque derives from the rural style of building, which, however, used clay and not mortar as a connective material. This techinque is still in wide use today in villages all over the Balkans and further to the East.


In the late 13th and 14th centuries, certain West European building elements and forms began to appear in our regions as well. They reached these parts via South Italy and the Adriatic, penetrating to the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. Such features can be identified in the large main towers (donjon, Bergfried), the tall shield-walls and towers with open interior sides, U-shaped towers and arcades which strengthen the interior sides of the city walls (Illustrations 28, 30, 32, 43, 49, 52, 63, 87, 95, 96, 103, 111, 129, 135, 149, 150, 151, 158, 160, 169, 174, 177, 178; Photographs 2, 3, 10, 13, 14, 31, 33, 35, 37, 38).


In the late 13th and 14th centuries almost all the castra had open unfortified lower towns with civilian population (emporion, varoš). Those in Skopje, Prosek, Morovisd, Ohrid and Strumica (?) were protected with walls and the buildings in their interior followed a particularly regulated plan. A number of documents dating from this period mention military and civilian officials (clercs) in these towns, nobility, priests, craftsmen and other inhabitants.


Small fortresses continued to exist well into the Late Middle Ages. It is from them that the more important roads, gorges, mountain passages, state borders and mines were controlled. In the course of the 14th century several knights' castles were built as residences for local dignitaries in Ohrid, Kozle, Strumica, Prilep and Štip (Illustrations 95, 134, 150, 177). Prosperous monasteries were surrounded with stone walls which protected them from piunder. For the same reasons a number of secluded refugia were built in the late 14th century in inaccessible spots. It was there that the local population found shelter under the Ottomans conquest and the final establishing of their rule (Illustrations 103.3, 110, 114, 115, 124, 136, 148).





When the Ottomans conquered these parts, almost all of the knifhts' castles were deserted, as well as the small fortresses and guard posts. Several mine fortresses continued to function for another century. The Ottomans posted small city garrisons in the citadels above the more important settlements, which stayed there during the 15th and 16th centuries, but were eventually deserted again. Due to the changing economic conditions, a number of small towns which served as regional administrative and economic centres became extinct. They have barely survived to the present day as small villages. In their vicinity new Ottoman administrative and economic centres emerged, but they were not fortified with walls.



VI. Medieval material evidence


1. Building remains.


In the period between the 7th and the 13th centuries fortresses from the pre-Slavonic period were mainly in use. They were exceptionally firmly and massively built and remained well-preserved until the Late Middle Ages. Small-scale repairs were ca-ried out in them without mortar, and consequently, no remains survive. It is only in Skopje (Gorni grad, Kale) that the remains of a new city wall dating from the 10th—12th centuries were discovered on the South wall (Illustration 141).


It was not until the 13th century, and in the 14th century in particular, that numerous new city walls were built with hard mortar technique and with wooden frameworks, as well as towers, gates, support walls and other building elements. This has already been discussed, as well as the innovations from West Europe which were introduced in the course of the 14th century.



2. Small finds.


With respect to movable finds, special attention was paid to objects made of metal. Women's jewellery, well-known from the hundreds of Slavonic cemeteries dating from the period between the 9th and the 14th centuries, has been unearthed in our fortresses as well, and there is no difficulty regarding its dating. Most numerous are arrow tips. Among them, we lay emphasis only on those forms which were known in the Late Antique period. The numerousness of these finds suggests that the bow and the arrow were the basic weapons of the Slavs in Macedonia throughout the Middle Ages. It is only occasionally that other kinds of weapons are discovered, as well as men's (military) equipment and clothing, amulets, etc, but they have not yet been studied in our scholarly circles.


Byzantine coins appear in our fortresses at the end of the 10th and in the 11th century. Tens of thousands of samples of trachys date from the 12th century. They were buried in hoards at the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th centuries. In the course of the 13th century, a large number of Bulgarian and Latin imitations of these coins appeared, as well as coins of the rulers from Epirus, Nicaea and Salonica. They were discovered in almost every fortress.


In the Iate 13th and 14th centuries Serbian silver coin appear, as well as coins from Venice. About 1330, Byzantine coins disappeared from these parts. The silver coins





were discovered mainly near the mines from those times. Serbian and Venetian coins remained in use until the end of the 14th, or the beginning of the 15th centuries, when they were replaced by the Ottomans akça.


All the enumerated types of coins dating from the end of the 10th century to the end of the 14th century were used as the basic category of archaeological finds from these fortresses, and they were used as the means for the determination of their cultural provenience and their daing.



3. Ceramics.


Medieval ceramics is large in number in all of these fortresses, but a well-founded typology and chronology have not been established for this region as yet. Therefore we have decided not to include ceramics in our study. Finds of luxurious Byzantine pottery and its local imitations are mentioned in connection with only a few fortresses. Some of the examples include the glazed sgrafito plates from the 12th to the 14th centuries, vessels with white engobe or painted with a dark-red slip (Illustrations 17, 83, 85, 137, 143, 144). These categories of pottery are precisely dated.


The finds of a new type of roof tiles fixed with mortar onto the masonry foundation are also significant. In these regions they can be traced in the period between the 11th and the 14th centuries, while still exibiting stylistic development in the centuries to come, and as late as the Ottoman period.



VII. A Catalogue of Sites


The Catalogue includes 82 fortifications. They are listed alphabetically, after the names of boroughs in present-day Republic of Macedonia. For each fortification the following information is listed: its present and ancient name, select bibliography, topography, earlier (pre-Slavonic) remains, medieval remains and written records, in case there are such.


The planimetry of each fortification is also included, and in the case of certain more important sites, important building details are Iisted, such as towers and gates, and earliest churches dating from the 9th and 10th centuries. Characteristic small finds with clear typology are indicated for each site. It is through them that the medieval character of each of the mcluded sites is confirmed.


Map no. 1 represents a survey of all the known and safely dated fortifications from the 6th century in this region. They had been there when the Slavs mvaded these parts and later, after they settled in these regions.


Map no. 2 represents a survey of medieval fortifications in the same region. The locations are displayed as church and administrative centres — castra and phrouria in the period between the 10th and 12th centuries, and as regional centres and guard posts in the later period (13th to 14th centuries). The church territorial division corresponds to a large extent to the administrative division of the period, which has remained almost unchanged until the present day.



Translated by Rajna Koška


[Previous] [Next]

[Back to Index]