Far from Rome, on 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 two hundred years, these went from being marginal border provinces to occupying a place at the centre of events in the Roman Empire.
The later established Roman province of Ilyricum produced 17 emperors, who were to rule the Empire in its times of greatest crisis. Born either in the rich towns of the Limes, or in the rugged hinterland, some of them were to change the face of the world as it was in that day.
The cultural route of the Roman Emperors reveals ancient Roman towns, roads, ruins and artefacts, among which is Gamzigrad, included by UNESCO on the World Heritage list. It is a highway running through the time when the Danube was the eastern border of the Roman empire.
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. Founded in the 1st century, Sirmium reached its zenith in 294 when it was pronounced one of the four capitals of the Roman Empire.
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. The complex is made up of the Belgrade Fortress itself, divided into the Upper and Lower Town (Gornji/Donji Grad), and the Kalemegdan Park.
Viminacium, today Kostolac near Požarevac, where the Mlava flows into the Danube, we find 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.
Diana, Pontes, Trajan’s memorial plaque
The Roman castrum of Diana was raised on a high cliff above the Danube called the Karataš, near the village of Sipa, close to the town of Kladovo. Construction of the earliest earthen and wooden fortification is connected with the arrival of the first military formations to the Danube at the beginning of the 1st century.
Felix Romuliana 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 honour 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.
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 40 hectares. Mediana was built in the early 4th century AD, during the time of Constantine the Great, as a residence for use by Roman emperors when visiting Naissus.
Iustiniana Prima, or Caričin Grad (‘Empress’s Town’), is one of the most important Byzantine towns in the interior of the Balkan peninsula. It is situated 29 km west of Leskovac, 7 km from Lebane, close to the village of Prekopčelica, where the Caričina river flows into the Svinjarica. Emperor Justinian I, originally from southern Serbia, decided to raise a city in his area of birth in honour of his own name. 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.