User:Ehrlich91/Jewish settlement in Stobi

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The Jewish settlement in Stobi – is one of the oldest and continuous Jewish community in Macedonia. Its history in the ancient city Stobi reaches back to the 2nd – 3rd century, when Tiberius Claudius built the synagogue. The Jewish community in Stobi is considered to be one of the oldest one in Europe, albeit short-lived. It is believed that the Jews were expelled or their settlement destroyed during the stay of Emperor Theodosius in Stobi in 388.


The first traces and data for the existence of an organized community of Romaniote Jews in Stobi emerged during archaeological digs in 1931. The team of archaeologists discovered a beautiful basilica in whose peristyle in the ruined pillars, a pillar with inscription in Greek consisting of 32 lines was found, which dates from the 2nd or 3rd century. The discovery of the Polycharmean pillar caused a sensation not among the archaeologists only, but it was also reported in numerous local and international newspapers. As nothing discovered in the surroundings pointed to the existence of a Jewish community from the 2nd or 3rd century deep in the interior of the Balkans, some suggested that the pillar has actually been brought there and served as building material. The contemporary local archaeologists were against this interpretation, who, at the same time, discovered another Jewish monument near Bela Palanka dating from antiquity and carrying the Star of David. The Polycharmean pillar was then transported to the National Museum in Belgrade where it remained for 40 years, until the archaeological researches in the period of 1970-1975. In 1970 intension archaeological excavations began in Stobi as part of a Yugoslav-American project. They discovered that the basilica was built over a well-preserved Jewish temple (later called “Synagogue II), not the first built there. Under its pillars, ruins of an even older temple were discovered, the Synagogue of Polycharmos, including coins and pottery with inscriptions carrying the name of Polycharmos, and a record of the donations he contributed to the synagogue. In the same layer a bronze plate with the inscription of the second contributor, one Posydonius, was discovered. In contrast to the ruins of the lower temple, the upper was preserved almost in its entirety. The main room had three doors. Parallel to the southern wall there were stone blocks which served for sitting. The room also had a lovely mosaic on the floor with drawings without human faces, which was in accordance with Judaism. This manner of decoration overlaps with those of the synagogues in Palestine of the same period. The walls were decorated with frescos with orange colour and engraved graffiti depicting the Menorah. The small stage which could be reached by three steps leading to the east wall, has been identified as the basis of the Torah ark, placed in the direction of Jerusalem. There was a link with the neighbouring building, called “House of Psalms”, whose chambers and corridors on the same level were similarly tiled. Proof that this building too belonged to the Jewish community is the bronze seal on a tablet with the Menorah found in the piping of the house. This community in Stobi vanished almost at once and it is assumed that this happened as a result of expulsion or the destruction of the community during the reign of Emperor Theodosius Flavius (379-395), who, during his stay there in 388, published two edicts against non-Christian sects.

1. References: Zeni Lebl, Flow and Collapse from the history of the Jews of Vardar Macedonia, Skopje, 2013