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Geography of Zajecar, Serbia

 

 

 

        FELIX ROMULIANA

 

 

The town of Zajecar is famous for its museum where large parts of excavation things from FELIX ROMULIANA are kept. As Felix Romuliana is under UNESCO protection as World Heritage Site (During the 31st Session of the Unesco World Heritage Committee in Christchurch, New Zealand, The World Heritage Committee decided to place Gamzigrad-Romuliana, Palace of Galerius on the World Heritage List.) Zajecar is a good place to start the visit as Gamzigrad / Romuliana is only 11 kilometers from Zajecar and it is one of the most important late Roman sites in Europe.


Felix Romuliana

The Late Roman fortified palace compound and memorial complex of Gamzigrad-Romuliana at the outskirts of Zaječar was commissioned by Emperor Caius Valerius Galerius Maximianus, in the late 3rd and early 4th century. It was known as Felix Romuliana, named after the Emperor's mother Romula. The site consists of fortifications, the palace in the north-western part of the complex, basilicas, temples, hot baths, memorial complex, and a tetrapylon. The site offers a unique testimony of the Roman building tradition marked by the ideology of the period of the Second Tetrachy. The group of buildings is also unique in its intertwining of ceremonial and memorial functions. The relation between two spatial ensembles in this site is stressed by the tetrapylon which is placed on the crossroads between the worldly fortification and palace on the one side and the other-worldly mausoleums and consecration monuments on the other.

Early explorers believed the ancient ruins to have been a Roman military camp, because of their size and numerous towers. Systematic archaeological excavations conducted since 1953 revealed that the site was, in fact, an Imperial palace. It was conceived and built by one of the Tetrarchs, Emperor Galerius, the adopted son and son-in-law of the great Emperor Diocletian. Galerius started construction in 298 (after a victory over the Persians that brought him admiration and glory) to mark the place of his birth. The name Felix Romuliana was given in memory of his mother Romula, who was also a priestess of a pagan cult. The complex of temples and palaces served three main purposes - a place of worship of his mother’s divine personality, a monument to his deeds as emperor, and a luxurious villa for Galerius. Romuliana survived until it was plundered by the Huns in the mid 5th century. Later the site became a humble settlement of farmers and craftsmen, finally to be abandoned at the beginning of the 7th century with the arrival of the Slavs. The structures were first evaluated in 1835 by Baron von Herder, a Saxon mine entrepreneur, in the "Bergmänische Reise in Serbie im Jahre 1835". Later the German mineralogist August Breithaupt also wrote an article about the constructions. The Austro-Hungarian naturalist, geographer, ethnographer and archaeologist Felix Philipp Kanitz (who has earned great respect in Serbia and Bulgaria through his works on the South Slavs) was especially interested in Gamzigrad and visited the ruins on two occasions, in 1860 and in 1864 when he drew the then condition of the ramparts and towers, included in his works on Serbia, printed in Vienna and Leipzig.

 “Gamzigrad is one of the most magnificent monuments of the past...”
...“one of the largest and best preserved monuments of Roman architecture in Europe” -F. Kanitz

The enthusiasm for Gamzigrad disappeared by the end of the 19th century. The real history of the complex was yet to be researched. The interest was revived in the 1950s during the period of "Neo-romanticism of Serbian archaeology". Vekoslav Popovic, Director of the Town Museum of Zajecar initiated the systematic archaeological research in 1953. The academic professor Dr. Dragoslav Srejovic was in charge of the research in 1970, he is the one regarded as positioning the monument among world archaeology.
The complex was demystified in 1984, when in the south-west an archivolt with the inscription of FELIX ROMULIANA was discovered.


 

Felix Romuliana is a popular tourist stop on the Roman Emperors' trail which links the birthplaces of over 17 Roman Emperors born on the territory of modern Serbia.

Three Roman Emperors were born in this municipality (modern Zaječar, Serbia)

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