The “Enchanted Ones” - Las Incantadas of Thessaloniki
The monument called the “Enchanted Ones” or the “Idols”, Las Incantadas in Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), probably belonged to an important public building in the center of Roman Thessaloniki. It dates to the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD, and was positioned somewhere between the church of Panagia Chalkeon, The Paradise Baths, and Agios Nikolaos, along modern-day Aristotelous Street. In the 17th and 18th century the monument, known from travelers and painters of the era, was an impressive sight for the city’s residents and visitors. Its façade, which was about 13 meters in height, was a two-story colonnade with Corinthian columns on the lower level and pillars on the upper one.
The four pillars were decorated on their two main faces by eight reliefs of mythological figures. A Maenad, Dionysus, Ariadne, and Leda and the Swan-Zeus were depicted on the inner sides, while Nike, Aura, one of the Dioskouri, and the abduction of Ganymede were depicted on the outer ones. Until the 19th century, the monument survived in the heart of the Jewish quarter of Rogos, incorporated into the courtyard of a merchant. As noted in travelers’ texts, this merchant broke off small pieces of the monument and sold them to tourists.
In 1864 the French paleographer Emmanuel Miller, with a permit from the Ottoman government and in spite of the general reaction by the city’s population, dismantled the monument, brutally cutting it into pieces and transporting the sculptures to France, where they are today on display at the Louvre. In 1997, a fragment of another pillar preserving part of the head and wing of a Nike was found on Rogkoti Street. It is now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
Las “Incantadas” and the Jewish quarter of Rogos
In 1492, the Jews of Spain (Sephardim or Sephardites) were compelled to abandon their country in the space of three months upon the order of the Catholic kings Ferdinand and Isabella because they did not become Christians. At that time, the Sultan Bayezid II (1481-1512) gave permission for Jewish refugees from Spain to settle in Thessaloniki. Subsequently, other waves of Jewish refugees to the city followed from Italy, France, Portugal, and Romania. Thus, numerous Jewish residential quarters were founded in the city together with their synagogues. According to mid-18th century travelers, in Ottoman Thessaloniki (1430-1912) the number of Jews in the city exceeded the total of Christian and Turkish inhabitants.
The Jewish quarter of Rogos or Rogoz was created in the mid-17th century. It extended above Egnatia Street to Filippou Street, and from Agiou Nikolaou to Venizelou Street, hemming in the monument of the “Enchanted Ones”. One of the streets in this quarter was Suretler (the “Street of the Idols”), which took its name from the Stoa of the Idols (the “Enchanted Ones”), and demonstrates the impression this important monumental complex of Roman Thessaloniki made on people.