Welcome to Rome Across Europe!
Since the start of the new year we’ve been trying to provide you the best information and entertainment for your view buck. It’s been a stretch due to my starting a teaching credentialing program (shock, I want to be a History teacher) so we’ve revisited some previous articles.
Recently we came across one of the most ingenious ideas for tourism we have have seen so far, and we knew we had to share. The bigger surprise is that it came out of Serbia.
Today we journey along a path created by Romans and brought to you by tourism as we travel the Roman Emperors Route!
The Roman Emperors Route (Latin: Itinerarium Romanum Serbiae) is a route spanning roughly 373 miles with several Ancient Roman sites, among which are notable cities, estates and birthplaces. The project’s name is derived from the fact that 17 were born within the current borders of Serbia (the Roman provincia of Ilyricum), 2nd only to Italy itself.
Regarded as one of the national brands of Serbia, the sites include the important Roman coloniae of Sirmium, Felix Romuliana (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Naissus. The project is regarded as one of the largest archeological and tourism projects in Serbia, and the project board is guided and financed by the Serbian Ministry of Economy and Regional Development and Ministry of Culture.
The Roman Emperors were the leaders and guardians of a complex political structure which was built on the rule of law and limited autonomy in self-governing colonies and municipalities. The rule of law, after the Emperor Caracalla’s decree of AD 212, included universal citizenship throughout the Imperium Rōmānum.
Local government was stabilized in the various provinces of the Empire by the Emperors’ individual grants semi-autonomous governing powers to local communities with the award of colonial or municipal status (coloniae and municipia). These communities received their governing privileges from the Emperors active in the Danube region who also wanted to encourage the integration of indigenous peoples into Roman citizenship and the governing system.
Far from Rome, along the unpredictable Danube, the Roman Empire established its eastern border, the Limes. A series of military fortifications was set up along the road marched by the Roman Legions in their campaigns against the barbarian tribes across the river.
The troops were followed by traders and craftsmen, and soon towns sprang up along all the major roads. Upper Moesia and Lower Pannonia roughly match Serbia’s territory today. Beginning in the 3rd Century, over a period of some 200 years, these went from being marginal border provinces to occupying a place at the center of events in the Roman Empire.
This cultural route of the Roman Emperors reveals ancient Roman towns, roads, ruins, and artifacts on what was the eastern border of the Roman Empire. Adding to the tourism draw, wine tasting was added along the route.
The appreciation of wine and its consumption is promoted in the wine part of the route, and continues a tradition that stems from the introduction of the beverage by the Romans. Perhaps it is that the spirit of the Latin word convivium (eating/enjoying together) is continued in modern European culture where wine is highly prized and considered a necessary accompaniment to good living.
Now let’s hit the road!
Sirmium, one of the most important towns of the late Roman Empire, was located by the river Sava, on the site of modern-day Sremska Mitrovica. Originally was founded by Celts in the 3rd Century BC, Sirmium was conquered by the Roman Empire in the 1st Century BC.
Sirmium was the economic capital of Roman Pannonia and reached its zenith in AD 294 when it was pronounced 1 of the 4 capitals of the Roman Empire. In 1990, Sirmium was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, protected by the Republic of Serbia.
The Belgrade Fortress was built as a defensive structure on a ridge overlooking the confluence of the Sava and the Danube rivers during the period from the 2nd to the 18th Century. Today the fortress is a unique museum of the history of Belgrade.
It was the birthplace to the Roman Emperor Jovian. Belgrade has arisen from its own ashes 38 times!
Viminacium (VIMINACIVM) was a the provincial capital of Moesia, a Roman military camp, and the capital of Moesia Superior. Today known as Kostolac the town is located near Požarevac, where the Mlava flows into the Danube.
It was one of the most important Roman towns and military encampments from the period from the 1st to the 6th Century. The civilian settlement next to the encampment during the rule of Hadrian (117-138) gained the status of a municipium (a town with a high degree of autonomy).
The city lies along the Via Militaris and contains archaeological remains of temples, streets, fora, amphitheatres, palaces, hippodromes and Roman baths. The entire archeological site occupies a total of 1,112 acres.
The Roman castrum of Diana was raised on a high cliff above the Danube called the Karataš archaeological site, close to the town of Kladovo. Construction of the earliest earthen and wooden fortification is connected with the arrival of the initial military formations to the Danube in AD 100–101.
The main buildings were built on a strategic location overlooking the Danube frontier with stone in 100 AD during the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan, who had a military camp located at the vicinity. Further modifications were made at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th Century when additional towers were added towards the river for extra defense towards the Danube shores.
Trajan’s Bridge or the Bridge of Apollodorus over the Danube was a Roman segmental arch bridge, the earliest built over the lower Danube. For more than a thousand years, it was the longest arch bridge in the world in terms of both total and span length.
A Roman memorial plaque (Tabula Traiana), 13 feet in width and around 6 feet in height, commemorating the completion of Trajan’s military road is located on the Serbian side facing Romania near Ogradina. It reads:
IMP. CAESAR. DIVI. NERVAE. F
NERVA TRAIANVS. AVG. GERM
PONTIF MAXIMUS TRIB POT IIII
PATER PATRIAE COS III
MONTIBVUS EXCISI(s) ANCO(ni)BVS
SVBLAT(i)S VIA(m) F(ecit)
Felix Romuliana (FELIX ROMVLIANA) was an imperial palace built on the orders of Galerius Maximianus on the spacious plateau of Gamzigrad, near the city of Zaječar. Galerius, who was born in this area, raised the palace in the 3rd and 4th Centuries in honor of himself and his mother Romula, after whom he named it.
It belongs to a special category of Roman court architecture associated only with the period of the Tetrarchy and is the best-preserved example of this style. Gamzigrad is an archaeological site spanning 10 acres, and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site of Serbia.
Not far from Niš is Mediana, the most famous and prestigious suburb of the classical city of Naissus. It was built near the river and the thermal springs, over an area of more than 99 acres.
Mediana was built in the early 4th Century AD, during the time of Constantine the Great. It served as a residence for use by Roman Emperors when visiting Naissus, and is now an important archeological site from the late Roman period for its highly organized economy.
Excavatations have revealed a villa with a peristyle, thermae, granary and water tower. Although Roman artifacts can be found scattered all over the area of present-day Niš, Mediana represents the best-preserved part of Roman Naissus.
Iustiniana Prima (Empress’s Town), is one of the most important Byzantine towns in the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. It is situated 18 miles west of Leskovac and 4 miles from Lebane, close to the village of Prekopčelica.
In AD 535, Emperor Justinian I, originally from southern Serbia, decided to raise a city in his area of birth to basically honor himself. The city of Justiniana Prima lies on the gentle slopes which descend from the mountain of Radan towards the Leskovac basin, where key traffic routes pass.
Justiniana Prima served as the seat of an Archbishopric that had jurisdiction of the Central Balkans. In 1979, Justiniana Prima was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, protected by Republic of Serbia.
We hope you enjoyed this trip as much as we did. We found the combination of Roman archaeology, architecture and, of course, wine to be more than something would could pass up.
If this has inspired you to travel the Roman Emperors Route, or even to see some historical site elsewhere, please let us know. We’d love to share your experience with other like-minded people.
Till next time, Don’t Stop Rome-ing!
The cultural route of the Roman Emperors. National Tourism Organization of Serbia.
Tourist Organization of Serbia. “Itinerarium Romanum Serbiae” (PDF). Belgrade: Tourist Organization of Serbia.
Roman Emperors and Danube Wine Route. Danube.Travel.
Itinerarium Romanum Serbiae. Rogueclassicism.com
Museum of Zaječar