Ancient monuments in the Town of Vis

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Ancient monuments in the Town of Vis
As well as other Greek towns, Issa was also surrounded by walls which partially saved it on the western, northern and eastern parts of the former town located on the Gradina (Fortress) slopes.
As far as the town wall on the southern side is concerned, we are not certain it actually existed. Probably the walls were located some ten metres from the current coast line but – as it seems – after Issa lost its independence, these were destroyed, so that in the Roman period the town was completely open and free in the direction of the port and the sea.
The Issa town walls were preserved mostly in the lower layers of their construction. The walls were 2.4 m wide and the construction technique used was the "emplecton" method where the external and internal façade were constructed of larger stone blocks whilst the interior was filled with rough stones.
Apart from the lowest part of the town – which can seen in the description of the large town thermae – up until today have the exact material remains of ancient Issa streets have not been discovered nor have any other elements (town doors, squares and other such things) which would represent a solid base for conclusions with regard to the urban town scheme. However, there are a number of clues from which a hypothesis with regard to the hypodamic system of creating the urban space could be set up, that is, the hypothesis that Issa had a regular layout of town streets that crossed amongst themselves at right angles.
With regard to the circumstances that ancient Issa emerged on the terrace configuration of the southern slopes of present day Gradina, the traversal town roads, leading from east to west, passed through a single terrace whose antique supporting masonry has partially been preserved until the present. As far as the streets leading from south to north are concerned, that is, those leading from the town port to the peak of the settlement, the problems with terraced levels were certainly resolved with steps. In the same way as current problems, occurring in settlements constructed on steep terrain are resolved. One of the typical examples today is the town of Vis itself.
Issa was built on the slopes of a hill that climbs down on terraces towards the sea. The supporting walls of these terraces have, in some places, been preserved until today. The best preserved parts are the ones of the lowest terrace located around fifty metres from the present coastline. Here of particular interest are the important remains of supporting walls in the eastern part, from the left side of today's field path which – when coming from Prirovo – climb towards the upper part of Gradina. The already mentioned 60 metre long remains can be seen here and these are the exact dimensions of the gap in the two town streets it is presumed were here originally.
Amongst the architectural curiosities located between the illustrated supporting masonry and the sea shore are the remains of the large public thermae whose several metres high walls were destroyed completely at the end of the Second World War, in 1944. In 1963, archaeologists found - although still incomplete – the eastern part of this facility which as regards Issa spatial conditions were of very impressive dimensions. A pavement was also discovered on the northern part of the thermae.
Part of it was discovered on the north-eastern side as well but it would appear that this could also be the pavement to an open courtyard within the thermal baths themselves as there is a direct entrance to the room which once served as a dressing room (apodyterium). This can be seen in the traces of constructed benches and in the holes used for leaving clothes and footwear. From the dressing room onwards was the entrance to a large room whose borders have not been defined and whose floor was covered with geometric motive mosaic. Precisely in the passage to the north-eastern part of this large hall in mosaic are four blue dolphins on a white background.
Issa's residential building is still not recognizable enough, but in this kind of polis most probably the type of one-floor building with modest ground plan dimensions prevailed. This conclusion is drawn from the traces of house foundations which can still be seen in several places in the area of Gradina.
From the Issa's former theatre, built on the small peninsula of Prirovo, only a few details can still be seen today, such as those from the 16th century, where a church and Franciscan monastery was built above its remains. At the end of 19th century the Vis amateur-archaeologist, Apolonije Zanella did some research on the theatre area and as a result of his research made the plan of the facility public.
Issa's theatre, as with all antique theatres, had an auditorium, an orchestra area, a proscenium and a main stage. The auditorium (theatron, cavea) in Issa's theatre had 20 rows of stone seats which were set concentrically one above the other. The total length of the rows was 1,100 metres which means that it was able to accommodate around three thousand spectators.
The semicircular area was used as the orchestra pit on which firstly the choir performed but then lost that function during the Roman period. The dimensions of the area were reduced and turned from a horse-shoe into a semi-circle form which was also the case in Issa. Spectators entered the theatre through the hall (parodoi) at the edge of the orchestra pit and then from there they climbed up the steps to their seats.
Behind the orchestra was the proscenium in which actors played their roles and the theatre building, the so called scene which from the decorations on its facade represented the architectonically articulated and, very often, luxuriously decorated stage. On the scene façade were three doors through which actors came out to the proscenium stage.
The Necropolis, that is, ancient Issa's cemetery, was located outside the western town walls; in the area which was given the Slavic name Martvilo precisely because during the intense digging, graves were found.
A large part of Issa's tombs were searched and destroyed without archaeological control and records. The exceptions are a number of tombs researched by the Split Archaeological Museum in 1955 which represent the main source for the recognition of the funerary praxis of the Hellenistic period in Issa.