Lake Ohrid is situated in the southwestern part of Republic of Macedonia. Since 1979 it is under the protection of UNESCO as a natural world heritage site, and since 1980 as a cultural world heritage site. It is located at 695m above sea level and covers an area of 358 km2 meters. The lake is surrounded by the following mountains: Galichica (2255 m), Mokra (1514 m) and Jablanica (1945 m), which shape a certain geographically closed space around it. Its geological origin was estimated at more than 1 million years, which makes it one of the oldest lakes in Europe. Lake Ohrid is known for its unique eco-system comprised of endemic floral and faunal species. Cultural and historical values that enabled development and settlement of this space since prehistory till nowadays are another great accomplishment.

The city of Ohrid lays in the northeastern part of Lake Ohrid. In ancient times it was known as Lychnidos, i.e. city of light. Ohrid is place where different cultures and influences collided, a place unique for its cultural history, often conquered and visited, always attractive for scientists, travelers and tourists. It was first mentioned in 3rd century BC by Livius under the name of Lychnidos. In 9th century its name changed into Ohrid and was kept ever since. Legend has it that it was established by the Phoenician Cadmus, while Herodotus and Apollodorus noted that this area was inhabited by the Enchelei and Bryges, replenished by Polybius, the chronicler. In lack of historical sources regarding the oldest life forms at this place witness the pile dwelling settlements discovered at the shore: Bay of Bones, Penelope, Ustie na Drim, Vrbnik, to name just a few. In historical sources, Lychnidos was first mentioned by Livius in 3rd century BC when the city was already fortified and under Macedonian rule. After the Macedonian-Roman wars in 2nd century BC, the city fell under Roman rule and became the capital of the region Dessaretia. In 148 BC, when Macedonia became a Roman province, Lychnidos kept its free status and remained part of the Macedonian kingdom, which is confirmed by the coins with presentations of Macedonian shield on the obverse, as well as a quarter of a ship with an inscription shown on the reverse.

Ptolemaeus, the geographer and Strabo, the historian, in their description of Via Egnatia refer to Lychnidos as a Dessaretian town, while at the beginning of the 4th century it is mentioned in two itineraries as well as in Tabula Peutingeriana, as a station along Via Egnatia, a Roman road that connected this town and the Western, as well as the Eastern part of the Roman Empire and provided communication with the whole known world at the time.

From 4th till 6th century Lychnidos is mentioned as a bishopric seat, witnessed by the unearthed Early-Christian buildings with rich architecture and decoration that refer to the rise and the glory of the city. The city and its demolition were mentioned for the last time by Procopius in the middle of the 6th century, a time when the Roman Empire has undergone in disasters and earthquakes which ruined many cities. The city continued to live and to ressurect. It is found in historical sources from the 9th century by the name of Ahrida, while later the name of Ohrid is being used till nowadays.

Through the Middle Ages Ohrid rose to an ecclesiastic, cultural, administrative and craft center in the wider region. It was time when foundations of Slavic literacy were made, when the university of St. Clement was established (9th cen- tury), today part of the Plaošnik cultural complex. For the monumentality in the period between 11th and 19th century witness the churches of St. Sophia (11th century), Holy Mother of God Peribleptos (13th century) where the most representative collection of icons can be found, as well as St. John of Kaneo (17th century), which speak of the artistic accomplishments in this period. All these traditions, material and cultural values reflected onto the later Ottoman architecture, whose remains can be seen in Ohrid.

Valentina Todoroska
Center for Prehistoric Research