High-priced stonecutters form Asia Minor have done the decoration of the square of Heraclea Sintica – but not completely

There is no doubt anymore – about 388 years A. D. a powerful earthquake has rocked Heraclea Sintica and caused a strong tidal wave of Strumeshnitsa River, which left the lower parts of the city and the forum covered with over two meters of yellow river clay. The archaeologists from the team of Assoc. Prof. Lyudmil Vagalinski / NAIM / continue to find traces of it and on the finest elements of architectural decoration. Fortunately, big part of them is not crushed, despite the quake. Why?

Marble troughs with lions’ heads, facing upside down
Glass kiln

It is almost certain, that at that time the town square, was in a period of reconstruction, think the specialists. So those elements, which have not yet been placed where they should be, have not fallen from above and have remained intact. For example, part of the large marble troughs with lions’ heads is facing upside down, keeping them unbroken. The hypothesis is also confirmed by the fact, that a glass kiln was found in a premise in the northwest corner of the civilian basilica. It is a type that has to be dismantled after the completion of the construction.

Capital with broken edges
Capital on a marble “beam”

Recently at the northeast end of the forum the archaeologists have encountered collapsed columns and two Corinthian capitals – with them, there are four found on the site. After their cleaning was visible that one of them has broken edges, literally rounded. The other, however, appears to be on a marble “beam”, is filled with pebbles by the side and to the surprise of the professionals there is no hole for groove, which should fix it. Only two of its volutes are finished properly, others are roughly shaped.

Were they left unfinished on purpose, because the capital was intended for a place, only partially exposed to passers-by? After consultation with Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zdravko Dimitrov (NAIM) the thesis that it was columnar was firmly laid, i.e. visible on all sides. But why is it in this state then?

First, finished side
Second, finished side

This capital just like the others was made by experienced masters – probably traveling stonecutters from Asia Minor, the ones that were the best in marble decoration. In the second century AD the city was in bloom, its management could afford their high prices, at least at the beginning. They have sculpted all the details on the architraves too, it was a long and hard work not for a month or two, but for years. Probably a period of financial difficulties has occurred, the stonecutters have not received the full pay for their work and they left, without finishing the last capital. This has not prevented the Heracleians to install it, but also to their heirs about 150 years or more lately to reuse it during the repairs of the forum.

Third, unfinished side
Fourth, unfinished side

But after the earthquake at the end of the 4th century Heraclea Sintica never succeeded to regain the old shine. The population of the city was so poor, that it did not clear the traces of Strumenshnica’s tidal wave even on the main square. And the roof of the civilian basilica was not fully restored. Judging by the many animal bones in it, it is possible that this building was used as a barn. Again then most of the commercial premises at the northern end of the forum have been turned into poor dwellings.

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