A Flourishing Journey Through Serbia In Roman Times

Serbia in Roman times

Table of Contents

Step back in time with me as I unravel the captivating story of Serbia in Roman times. This journey through history takes you to the heart of ancient cities, explores archaeological marvels, and delves into the remarkable legacy of Roman emperors born on Serbian soil.

Join me as I trace the footsteps of the past, uncovering the enduring cultural connections that link modern-day Serbia to the grandeur of the Roman Empire.

Welcome to a fascinating exploration of Serbia in Roman era, exploring Serbia’s rich and hidden Roman history – where every stone tells a tale of a bygone era.

How long did the Roman Empire rule in Serbia? Roman rule in Serbia lasted for several centuries, from the 2nd century BC to the decline of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD.

From Naissus to Singidunum: A Journey Through Serbia in Roman Times

During the Roman era, the territory now Serbia was part of various Roman provinces, and the administrative divisions evolved. The region was primarily included in the provinces of Pannonia and Moesia. Here is a brief overview:

Map of Serbia in Roman times in first century A.D
  • Pannonia: The northern parts of present-day Serbia, along the Danube River, were part of the Roman province of Pannonia. Pannonia was subdivided into Pannonia Superior (Upper Pannonia) and Pannonia Inferior (Lower Pannonia).
  • Moesia: The central and southern parts of what is now Serbia were part of the Roman province of Moesia. Like Pannonia, Moesia was divided into Moesia Superior (Upper Moesia) and Moesia Inferior (Lower Moesia).
  • Dacia: In the early years of Roman rule, the region north of the Danube, including parts of modern Serbia, was part of the province of Dacia. However, Emperor Trajan later conquered Dacia, and the Roman province of Dacia was established north of the Danube, while areas south of the river remained in Moesia.

The administrative divisions changed over time due to military, political, and strategic considerations. The provinces underwent reorganization, and borders were adjusted based on the evolving needs of the Roman Empire.

The specific territories that constitute modern-day Serbia were within the boundaries of these provinces, contributing to the region's overall historical and cultural heritage.

What are the most important and best-preserved monuments and rests of the Roman empire in Serbia nowadays?

Serbia boasts several well-preserved monuments and archaeological sites that witness its rich Roman heritage. Some of the most important and best-preserved remnants of the Roman Empire in Serbia include:

Gamzigrad (Felix Romuliana)

Located near the modern town of Zaječar, Gamzigrad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Emperor Galerius built it in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries AD.

The site includes a palace complex, temples, and fortifications, making it one of Serbia's most significant Roman sites.

Mediana (Naissus) - Nis Serbia

Mediana Nis - Roman Villa
Villa of Emperor Constantine the Great

Situated in Naissus Niš, Mediana was once a luxurious residence of Emperor Constantine the Great.

The site features well-preserved remains of Roman villas with impressive mosaics and a reconstructed granary.

Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica)

Sirmium was one of the four capitals of the Roman Empire during the Tetrarchy period. Today, Sremska Mitrovica preserves the remains of Roman palaces, temples, and fortifications. The archaeological site provides insights into the city's significance in Serbia in Roman times.

Sirmium Roman Capital


Located near Kostolac, Viminacium was a major Roman city and military camp. It features well-preserved archaeological remains, including a Roman amphitheater, mausoleums, and tombs. The site is still under excavation, uncovering discoveries.

Ras (Arts and Crafts Center of Ancient Ras)

The ancient town of Ras, near modern-day Novi Pazar, was an important administrative and military center during Roman times.

The archaeological site includes remnants of Roman and Byzantine structures, providing insights into the town's history.

Find out more about this old military center.

Ras Roman settlement

Tabula Traiana

The Tabula Traiana is an ancient Roman monument located along the Danube River near the present-day town of Kladovo in eastern Serbia.

Carved into the vertical rock face of the Djerdap Gorge, this well-preserved memorial is a testament to Roman engineering and craftsmanship.

These sites collectively provide a fascinating glimpse into the Roman presence in Serbia, showcasing their architectural, cultural, and economic contributions to the region during ancient times.

Singidunum - White City

The name “Belgrade” connects to its location and the city's historical development. The word “Belgrade” is derived from two Slavic words: “beli,” meaning white, and “grad,” meaning city or fortress. The name translates to “white city” in English.

There are a couple of theories about the origin of the name:

  • White Fortress: One explanation is related to the city's medieval fortress, Kalemegdan. The fortress was built on a ridge overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. The limestone cliffs of the ridge were white, and the name “Belgrade” may have been inspired by the distinctive appearance of the fortress.
  • White Wall or Palisade: Another theory suggests that the name comes from the color of the defensive walls or palisade that surrounded the city during its early history. The use of light-colored materials in construction might have contributed to the association with the adjective “white.”

Belgrade Fortress (Kalemegdan Fortress): The Belgrade Fortress is a historic citadel located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. It has a complex history, with origins dating back to Celtic and Roman times.

The Romans built a castrum (military camp) here in the 2nd century AD. Today, visitors can explore the Roman Well, a structure dating back to the Roman period, which was likely used to supply the military camp with water.

While the Roman heritage in Belgrade may not be as prominent as in some other parts of Serbia, these remnants offer a glimpse into the city's early history and its role as a strategic outpost in the Roman Empire.

Additionally, ongoing archaeological research may uncover more insights into Belgrade's Roman past in the future.

Roman Emperors born in Serbia

Believe it or not, as many as 18 Roman emperors were born in the territory of modern-day Serbia.

The northern Serbian city of Sirmium (now Sremska Mitrovica) was among the top 4 cities of the late Roman Empire, serving as its capital during the Tetrarchy. It is believed that as many as 18 Roman emperors were born in the territory of modern-day Serbia.

The disintegration of the Roman Empire left a solid political, cultural, and religious influence on the later development of Serbia.

Constantine the Great was born in Naissus

The Roman rule in what is now Serbia, spanning several centuries, brought about various positive consequences that have left a lasting impact on the region's history and culture.

While the Ottoman rule in Serbia had the negative consequences in the history of Serbia, Serbia in Roman times had some benefits and positive aspects like:

  • Urbanization: The Romans established well-planned urban centers, contributing to developing cities such as Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica) and Naissus (Niš). These cities became significant administrative, economic, and cultural hubs.
  • Economic Opportunities: Roman rule facilitated economic activities such as agriculture, trade, and mining. The exploitation of natural resources and improved agricultural practices contributed to economic development.
  • Road Network: The Romans constructed an extensive network of roads, including the famous Via Militaris, which connected the Danube frontier with important Roman centers in the Balkans. This road system facilitated trade, communication, and military movements.
  • Integration into the Roman Empire: The territories constituting modern-day Serbia were integrated into the vast Roman Empire. This integration allowed individuals to participate in the broader imperial society, contributing to social mobility and cultural diversity.

While Roman rule in the region had positive consequences, it's essential to recognize that historical narratives are multifaceted, and not all aspects were uniformly beneficial.

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