Heraclea Minoa was an ancient Greek city situated near the mouth of the river Halycus (modern Platani). Excavations have revealed several parts of the city which are now open to the public.
Archaeological finds from the necropolis show the city was founded in the mid-6th century BC. The first written mention of the city is of a small town and a colony of the Greek settlement of Selinus. The city was only briefly under the control of the Spartans and during the whole of the 5th century BC it was under Akragan control and became very prosperous.
However it was destroyed by the Carthaginians probably in 406 BC. The territory fell under Carthaginian control as a result of the treaty of 405 BC. but the absence of all mention of Heraclea suggests that either it did not then exist or must have been in a very reduced condition. It was won back in 397 BC by Dionysius, but recovered by Carthage in 383 BC.
Little of it is recorded under Roman dominion, but Heraclea Minoa appears to have suffered severely in the First Servile War (134–132 BC) and in consequence received a body of fresh colonists, who were established there by the praetor Publius Rupilius. At the same time the relations of the old and new citizens were regulated by a municipal law, which still subsisted in the time of Cicero, when Heraclea was still flourishing. Soon afterwards it must have fallen into decay, in common with most of the towns on the southern coast of Sicily. Archaeology shows that towards the end of the first century BC the city was abandoned.
In the early 20th century, a mid-6th-early 5th century BC necropolis was discovered. A large-scale excavation by Professor Ernesto de Miro from 1950 uncovered late 4th–late 1st century BC dwellings and the late 4th century BC theatre. The absence of Arretine ware at the site strongly suggests that the city was abandoned by the beginning of the 1st century AD. Many cemeteries and tombs have been excavated in the nearby countryside and many of their grave goods are on display in the on-site museum.References:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.