Bitola - History - Arrival of The Slavs

Arrival of The Slavs

In the 6th and 7th centuries, the region around Bitola experienced a demographic shift as more and more Slavic tribes settled in the area. In place of the deserted theater, several houses were built during that time. The Slavs also built a fortress around their settlement. Bitola became a part of the First Bulgarian Empire from late 8th to early 11th centuries. The spread of Christianity was assisted by St. Clement of Ohrid and Naum of Preslav in the 9th and early 10th centuries. Many monasteries and churches were built in the city.

In the 10th century, Bitola was under the rule of tsar Samuil. He built a castle in the town, later used by his successor Gavril Radomir of Bulgaria. The town is mentioned in several medieval sources. John Skylitzes's 11th century chronicle mentions that Emperor Basil II burned Gavril's castles in Bitola, when passing through and ravaging Pelagonia. The second chrysobull (1019) of Basil II mentioned that the Bishop of Bitola depended on the Archbishopric of Ohrid. During the reign of Samuil, the city was an important centre in the Bulgarian state and the seat of the Bitola Bishopric. In many medieval sources, especially Western, the name Pelagonia was synonymous with the Bitola Bishopric, and in some of them Bitola was known under the name of Heraclea due to the church tradition that turned the Heraclea Bishopric into the Pelagonian Metropolitan's Diocese. In 1015, tsar Gavril Radomir was killed by his cousin Ivan Vladislav, who declared himself tsar and rebuilt the city fortress. To celebrate the occasion, a stone inscription written in the Cyrillic alphabet was set in the fortress; in it the Slavic name of the city is mentioned: Bitol.

Following battles with tsar Ivan Vladislav, Byzantine emperor Basil II recaptured Monastiri in 1015. The town is mentioned as an episcopal centre in 1019 in a record by Basil II. Two important uprisings against Byzantine rule took place in the Bitola area in 1040 and 1072. After the Bulgarian state was restored in late 11th century, Bitola was incorporated under the rule of tsar Kaloyan of Bulgaria. It was conquered again by Byzantium at the end of the 13th century, but it became part of Serbia in the first half of the 14th century, after the conquests of Stefan Dušan.

As a military, political and cultural center, Bitola played a very important role in the life of the medieval society in the region, prior to the Ottoman conquest in the mid-14th century. On the eve of the Ottoman conquest, Bitola (Monastir in Ottoman Turkish) experienced great growth with its well-established trading links all over the Balkan Peninsula, especially with big economic centers like Constantinople, Thessalonica, Ragusa and Tarnovo. Caravans of various goods moved to and from Bitola.

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