Late Antique Mesembria: (Re)Shaping of Public Spaces

  • Hristo Preshlenov Department of Classical Archaeology National Archaeological Institute with Museum Bulgarian Academy of Sciences 2 Saborna Str. BG-1000 Sofia
Keywords: urban design, urban planning, architecture, public spaces, liturgical architectural environment


From the 5th c. BC to the 9th c. AD three defensive walls were built in Mesambria between the slope of the Young Karangatian marine terrace, bordered by a steep abrasion-type shore, and the underwater terrace which corresponds to the Phanagorian regression around the city-peninsula. They defended the Classical and Hellenistic city of Mesambria, the Roman city, and the Early Byzantine Mesembria. The course of the fortifications did not follow the antique coastal line, but was rather attempted to stay close to the base of the peninsular slope. In the Early Hellenistic period on the terraced northwestern slope of the peninsula, south of the supporting wall a temple in antae was built dedicated to Zeus Hyperdexios. During the construction of the Northwestern Early Christian basilica, the pagan buildings were destroyed. In the center of the Late antique Mesambrian entrance square the two main urban streets meet; traditionally they connect the country roads with the central and the harbour zone. Between them, to the southwest of the temple of Demeter, is another basilica. The street running along the north of the basilica leads to the central urban area, where the basilica St. Sophia was probably built in the temenos of Apollo’s temple. From the trade and administrative center along the orthogonal, west-east oriented street network one reaches the highest eastern part of the peninsular terrace. The medieval church St. George the Oldest inherited topographically an Early Christian basilica. Another basilica was built in the northeastern urban zone, with adjoining
necropoleis from the 7th, 12th and 13th–14th c. AD.