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by Archaeology Newsroom

Antique cities and towns. Great early Christian church centres in Macedonia

Eastern Illyricum and Macedonia were populated by powerful tribes, that were organized ethnically and politically so as to exist both separately and as an entity. In 168 BC or, more precisely, in 146 BC, they came under Roman rule. At that time Macedonia was divided into four districts. From the second half of the 2nd century onward the Roman Empire and its cities were threatened by barbarian incursions from the north.The restoration of towns and their fortresses that had been neglected in peacetime began all over Illyricum and Macedonia. This had its influence on the urban organization of the towns. Soldiers were recruited from remote eastern provinces to man fortifications along the lines of the Danube. This contributed to the rapid development of eastern religious cults. The worship of ancient and oriental cults and deities also contributed to the rise of Greek and Roman polytheism in Illyricum.

Christianity began to develop during an extremely complex political and religious state of affairs in the area of the Roman Empire and Macedonia . It appeared very early. According to literary sources, the missionary activity of the Apostle Paul, apart from numerous Mediterranean countries, reached the borders of Illyricum. The free growth and peaceful development of Christianity was abruptly interrupted in 64 AD. This year marked the onset of organized and cruel persecutions which, with minor interruptions, were to last until 313 AD, when Constantine I advocated tolerance towards Christianity. After religious peace had been established, Christianity began to represent an outward manifestation of the power exerted by the state. In cities, bishops were equal in power to the defenders of the state (defensor civitatis). Each town or city had a bishop who became the city’s most influential figure. The period between the establishment of religious peace and the end of the 6th century saw a rapid deurbanization of the ancient polis. The church was the only initiator and organizer of civil engineering and of construction works. In Macedonia, a number of Early Christian episcopal centres have been discovered, and a large number of Christian churches has been explored. Outside the urban diocesan centres a considerable number of churches, under the jurisdiction of bishops, has also come to light.