Serbia Diaries: Time travelling to a Roman past

Among the many wonderful sights that I have viewed in nearly a month of travel within Serbia, a trip to Viminacium archeological dig is definitely something that stands out. Rewinding a bit, here are some geographical and historical facts about Serbia:

Serbia is a central European Balkan country bordering Bosnia and Romania besides other countries including Croatia and Montenegro. It is also the one of the successor states of the erstwhile Yugoslavia and an upper middle income economy. Historically it has been a part of the ottoman and byzantine empires.

What to see at Viminacium, Serbia?

The archeological digs that I visited held artifacts of different ages and of different types. The chief attraction of the site was undoubtedly, the remains of an enormous communal roman bath as well as the remains of a boy emperor. The tombstones as well as the sarcophagi have representations of the daily life from the roman conquistador era depicted on them.

Only a tiny percentage of the entire site has been excavated so far and it is now a designated archeology park. There is also the remains of a Roman-era amphitheater that was used for gladiatorial games  and the remains of a hippodrome which was used for chariot-racing.

While I was expecting to see roman remains and the artefacts dating back to Emperor Constantine (yes, that Constantine who was responsible for spreading Christianity in Europe and the founder of Constantinople/current day Istanbul), I was pleasantly surprised to see the tour include a viewing of an almost perfectly preserved remains of a 200k year old mammoth.

I also saw the famous Constantine ensignia/symbol embossed in the basement of the museum. The symbol, known as labarum was drawn on all of the shields of the soldiers of the army, after Constantine has a dream vision (as the legend goes). In October 312, when Constantine was marching against the armies of the Rome (which were supposedly 4 times larger), he prayed for a victory. Constantine’s subsequent vision of a cross of light emblazoned against the sun amid the background of the words In hoc signo vinces (which meant “In this sign you will win”) became his rallying sign and he went on to win the war.

The museum in Viminacium also houses a scaled model of the erstwhile Roman city which has been displayed in 50 different fairs in museums around the world.

The final leg of the tour included a visit to the Golubac fortress, a charming medieval relic which rather reminded me of the castles in a Harry Potter movie. Our guide, Aleksander narrated the fascinating history of how many forts in Serbia, including the Golubac fortress came to be, as well as their significance in either choking or facilitating the travel from one region to another.

(The next installment of this series can be found here)


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