Come with us as we take you to see four of the best Roman Ruins in Serbia. Serbia was under Roman rule for about 600 years, from the 1st century BC until the Slavs invaded in the 6th century. Serbia was the birth place of 17 Roman Emperors, including Constantine the Great who was the first Christian Emperor of the Roman Empire.
The first stop is ancient Sirmium in the modern day Serbian town of Sremska Mitrovica. Sirmium is a fascinating Roman imperial complex that dates back to the 1st century AD. It grew to become one of the most important cities in the Roman Empire and where several Roman Emperors were born. We visit the archaeological museum for a tour of Roman artifacts: tombstones, sarcophagus, sculptures, columns, and coins
Then we visited the 5th century Christian Basilica dedicated to St. Demetrius. Sirmium actually had one of the highest concentrations of Christian Basilicas, especially since Christianity was rapidly growing through the region in the first half of the 4th century. The first Christian Emperor Constantine spent more time during his reign in Sirmium than in any other city in the Balkans.
And lastly we visit the Imperial complex, which is preserved within a building in the center of town for all to see. What we can see is only a portion of the original structure, which occupied 15% of the entire city! What we see today are some of the original mosaics, bath system, and palace walls. Sirmium is an easy daytrip from Belgrade, it’s just a one-hour drive east on the road to Croatia.
Next up we head east of Belgrade to the Roman military base of Viminacium. It’s a fascinating archaeological park situated where the River Mlava empties into the Danube. Lubomir, an archaeologist who has worked to uncover several of the sites here takes us for a tour.
This ancient Roman military fort served at the base for the Seventh Legion Claudia in the fourth century, but it was in use well before that time since the 1st century. We walk around one of the covered excavation sites to see the ruins of ancient roads, public bath system, tiles, and human remains in the necropolis.
Viminacium is a great day trip from Belgrade especially for history lovers. The site also features a reconstructed amphitheater and beautiful visitors center, modeled after an ancient Roman villa rustica. There is also a hotel and restaurant onsite.
We now head southeast to Felix Romuliana in the town of Gamzigrad, Serbia. We take a quick tour of and visit some of the highlights of this amazing archaeological park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace of Felix Romuliana was commissioned in the late third/ early fourth century by Emperor Caius Valerius Galerius Maximianus, or Emperor Galerius for short. He built it to commemorate his retirement from the throne and named it after his mother Romula. It is a sprawling compound spread across 10 acres.
The columns of the Imperial Palace are not completely original, but they were erected to give visitors an idea about how the atrium once looked. We also see the remains of a temple dedicated to Jupiter, public bath complex, palace gates, and walls. We suggests driving an extra 15 minutes to the Museum of Zaječar in the town by the same name. It holds an impressive collection of mosaics, statues including a bust of Emperor Galerius, Roman coins, and aerial photography of the site.
Lastly, we drive south close to the border of Kosovo to visit Justiniana Prima, or Empress’ Town near the town of Leskovac. Our guide Nebojsa takes us for a tour of the Byzantine ruins of Justiniana Prima.
Justiniana Prima was an early Christian city founded by Emperor Justinian I. It served as the seat of the Archbishop from 535 to 615. The site contains what is left of an enormous basilica, the acropolis, lower town, and upper town. Walking around Justiniana Prima will reveal city walls, gates, churches, and large bath complex with hypocaust system. Justiniana Prima served as the administrative and spiritual center of Illyricum, a Roman province that encompassed the central Balkan Peninsula.
We see portions of unearthed mosaics and the remains of the public bath complex, which was heated by an innovative method known as the hypocaust system in which the heat from an oven was used to heat the floors from underneath, sort of like ancient sub-floor heating. Justiniana Prima is a beautiful site that badly needs to be maintained. While the Serbian government sorts that out, you will need a guide to show you around the different areas so you know what you’re looking at.
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