Mediana

Mediana is a settlement of open type with elongated base which at the time of its greatest rise spread at about 80 hectares surface.

By Archeological Sites of Serbia

Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

The Medieval Museum. (2013) by Jovica KrstićArcheological Sites of Serbia

In topography, there is clear and distinct division of settlement in the northern and southern part, while the bordering part is the route of the Roman road (via publica) Nais - Serdica. In architectural aspect, one may differentiate certain individual parts of Mediana, which mutually differ according to their organization, function, decoration and time of construction.

The layout of the median. (2013) by Gordana MiloševićArcheological Sites of Serbia

The excavations that were carried out at Mediana from 2000 to 2011 significantly changed knowledge about the complex and enabled significant revision of certain views concerning architecture, sculptures, frescoes and mosaics. In that way, it was possible to separate three horizons of construction, namely: horizon 1 (end of the 3rd - beginning of the 4th century), horizon 2 (around 330-378) and horizon 3 (about 383-441).

Archaeological site Mediana (4th century) by National Museum of NISArcheological Sites of Serbia

It was confirmed that most of the horizon 1 was deliberately destroyed for the purpose of building the entire complex at Mediana, to which belongs a large group of buildings. End of the horizon 2 is characterized by a strong fire and destruction of the original residential complex at Mediana. On the remains was formed an entirely new type of settlement. In the horizon 3, new buildings were built around the barracks and villa with peristyle, and some parts of the villa have undergone changes.

Mediana, view of the southwest (entrance) part of the protective structure. (2018) by Željko CajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

As much as it can be determined at this stage of the research, the settlement that was created after demolition of the residential complex has characteristics of a rural community. That settlement was also destroyed, that time in overrun of the Huns, probably immediately in 441, when Nais was also conquered, which is also supported by numismatic finds at Mediana.

Mediana. (2018) by Željko CajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

Byzantine writer Procopius in Panegyric on construction at the time of Justinian mentions Mediana, but in the area that was intensively researched no traces of the 6th century have been found. It is possible that only fortification or fortified  villa was rebuilt (?) on Vlaško brdo, across the residential complex (now under the Electronic Industry buildings).

Archaeological site Mediana (4th century) by Nemanja SmiciklasArcheological Sites of Serbia

In interpreting the Mediana complex one should start from the fact that Mediana was built and perhaps received the status of vicus probably at the end of the 3rd century, with bigger number of individual villas and their respective estates. Excavations have shown that at the area now occupied by the villa with peristyle, as well as at the area around horeum and between barracks and villa enclosure, there were buildings that had been deliberately destroyed and leveled.

Mediana view of the northwestern floor. (2018) by Željko CajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

On their remains a new building complex was built. Somewhere, under the walls of younger structures, remains of an older architectural horizon have been observed, but for now, there are no records that there were built houses at Mediana before the end of the 3rd century. Comprehensive and expensive works, demolitions and reconstructions could have been carried out only by a very rich person of high rank.

Horeum., Gordana Milošević, 2013, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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In Nais, however, no aristocrats or senators were recorded, who were the richest social class after the emperor and who had sufficient funds to carry out the whole idea regarding the villa complex at Mediana. The new-constructed buildings are of imposing dimensions, with organization and design of more official appearance, not as facilities that were used exclusively for rest and leisure, and, occasionally for economic activities (otium et negotium). In that regard, excavations of the space occupied by the villa with peristyle with additional buildings within the enclosure wall showed extremely formal character of the construction. For decorating the villa, the most expensive marble was used while frescoes were painted by the most expensive paints.

Villa with octagon. (2015) by Gordana Milošević, Kosana GrkinićArcheological Sites of Serbia

Power of the customer who ordered the major reconstruction and decoration is also confirmed by construction of water tower, which supplied with water exclusively the complex of buildings at Mediana. According to Ammiano Marcellino’s writings about the two brothers‘ stay and division of the army, one can conclude that Mediana was the imperial estate.

Villa with peristyle, 2nd phase of construction. (2015) by Gordana Milošević, Goran JerinkićArcheological Sites of Serbia

The concept of administration headquarters and residence of Emperor required halls for state receptions, rooms for reception and entertainment of foreign rulers and deputies followed by large number of people from the emperor’s environment. Such halls had to be of much larger dimensions compared to those at the private citizens’ houses, regardless how rich and powerful they were.

Plan of the residential complex on the Mediana. (2013) by Gordana MiloševićArcheological Sites of Serbia

In addition, the emperor’s presence also involved receiving of applications and appeals, conducting the state legal affairs and adoption of laws and other state regulations. Accordingly, there had to be special space for those activities within the palace during the late antiquity (4th-5th century). Such concept can be found exactly in Mediana.

Ideal reconstruction of the Constantine villa complex on Mediana. (2015) by Gordana Milošević, Goran JerinkićArcheological Sites of Serbia

After the monarchy had been established, Constantine’s builders began construction of public buildings throughout the Empire, and the Emperor himself was preoccupied with establishing new capital and palace on the Bosphorus. Within the general representation of the Emperor, it was necessary to decorate and mark the place of his birth and prepare it as it is appropriate for an inviolable monarch.

Villa with peristyle, northern porch. (2015) by Goran JerinkićArcheological Sites of Serbia

Sovereignty and prestige, but also the royal origin, had to be marked in accordance with already existing values   expressed in residences and villas owned by Diocletian (Split), Gallerius (Romuliana - Gamzigrad), as well as by other dignitaries. Narrowness and overpopulation of the ancient fortified town of Nais hindered erection of monumental constructions or thorough reconstruction of the existing infrastructure.

Villa with peristyle, 1st phase of construction. (2015) by Gordana Milošević, Goran JerinkićArcheological Sites of Serbia

Imperial domain, occupying dominant place at Mediana, on the route via publica was extremely convenient for demonstrating the dynastic power and origin. The works were extensive, fast, but also consistent with preparations for  celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of his rule. After the reconstruction completion, the appearance was completely changed, as well as the meaning of the central space at Mediana.

Archaeological site Mediana (4th century) by Nemanja SmiciklasArcheological Sites of Serbia

Its public, administrative and private characters were featured simultaneously. By using featured elements in architecture and decoration, the existing building was transformed into the residence with all attributes contained in the adjective “imperial”. Despite the fragmentary preserved pieces of the Constantine’s villa with peristyle architecture, the major part of which has been researched, the building appearance may be restored with some certainty.

Lanternarius., Željko Cajić, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Kapitel pilaster composite style of marble., Željko Cajić, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Torzo satire., Željko Cajić, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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The south entryway of the villa is accentuated by deep access porch with massive columns carrying the arcades. At the bordering section towards the peristyle, a part in the form of big semicalotte (sky) resting on massive pylons was built additionally. Porches in the courtyard were extended and 50 marble columns were set on cubic pedestals and stylobate. Walls of the porch are decorated with frescoes, and floors were lavishly paved with mosaics. Arrangement of the spacious courtyard can be estimated only on the basis of a large pool (impluvium) of 242 m2 surface. On foundation remains of the massive wall one can recognize impressions of square pedestals, which were carrying the pillarscolonnade with architrave ending. Other parts of the courtyard could have had features of the ordinary antique landscape with numerous plants of Mediterranean origin, local plants and lined up sculptures in natural size or on pedestals.

The reception room was also re-arranged for the needs of new users. Its accentuation in architecture as well as dominance emphasized finalization the emperor’s ceremonial passing. North, semicircular part of the room was carrying a monumental semicalotte of around 12 m diameter. In the southern rectangular part, ceiling was probably flat with false ceiling, which was fresco-painted and imitated monumental stone caisson ceilings.

Mosaic panel from the villa with an octagon., Vesna Crnoglavac, 1905-07-10, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Mosaic panel from the villa with an octagon., Vesna Crnoglavac, 1905-07-10, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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The walls were decorated with marble cladding panels and maybe were fresco painted or decorated with wall mosaics. At the pass from rectangular into semicircular space, the triumphal arch rests on pilasters formed in the upper zones of marble semi-capitals. Glazed windows in the upper zones of the room illuminated the room and with plenty of shadows supplemented its festive look and character. The reception room entrance was wide, with double doors, architravely ending with doorjambs of profiled marble. The entrance part was emphasized also by placing elevated podium with gabled roof and a triangular gable that was carried by the massive marble pillars. Special attention was paid also to presentation of the floor mosaic at the reception room and at the access.

Floor mosaic, Mediana., Gordana Milošević, 2005, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Mediana. Mosaic on the podium entrance to the reception hall., Gordana Milošević, 2005, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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There are represented two mosaics with figural representations as follows: in the central part of the room there is representation of Medusa’s head while at the podium is mythological scene with representation of the river god and Leda and the Swan. Northwest and northeast from the reception room, two independent smaller banquet rooms framed the total rearrangement concept of the strict administrative building for needs of the residence. Jagged basis of stibadia A and B, shafting the walls with expensive marble plates, colors and motifs on the floor mosaics, traces of gilding in the upper zones of the walls and stibadium dome clearly indicate the owner’s status. 

Mediana. The "A" feast hall. (1936) by Vladimir HodanovićArcheological Sites of Serbia

For the building reconstruction, high-quality marble was used for construction of architectural elements, while stone, glass and ceramics were used for mosaics, as well as expensive materials for painting the frescoes, together with application of new construction systems such as vault, calottes and semicallotes that enhanced monumentality, representativeness and significance of the building.

In new organization of the building, there was clearly marked direction of moving down the ceremonial approach roadway through the monumental antique gate in the form of triumphal arch then continuing through the rooms for presentation (salutatorium) and waiting purposes. The ceremonial approach road led through the peristyle to the reception room (consitorium) and banquet rooms of stibadia A and B.

The monumental character expressed by accented architecturalelements was subordinated to the imperial adventus and was in complete harmony with the imperial ceremonial which was introduced by Diocletian and which ended with proskynesis.

Goddess Dardania. (2015) by Željko CajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

It is possible that the above reconstruction also includes placing the sculpture of Dea Dardaniae, the homeland deity (deapatriae), in the entrance area, with a clear message about the importance and origin of the dynasty, that is, its founder Constantius Chlorus from prominent Dardanian family. Private character of the residence was emphasized by building the stibadia A and B, as well as linking the northern rooms with the existing thermae.

Reconstruction of frescoes from room w-22., Vladimir Pajić, Miša Jovanović,Tijana Lekić, Marina Tekić, 2013, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Architect's room., Goran Jerinkić, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Rooms in the lateral wings still preserved more modest appearance and furnishing and are used for administrative affairs of the imperial office (officium). Monumental administrative building with large wooden courtyard, center of the imperial domain at the beginning of the 4th century and desire for fast reconstruction and building of new residential parts is visible in overall architecture of the Constantine’s villa. Despite the large-scale interventions, the villa preserved certain elements that give it strict administrative or even military character.

Reconstruction of frescoes from room w-22. (2013) by Vladimir Pajić, Miša Jovanović,Tijana Lekić, Marina TekićArcheological Sites of Serbia

But in spite of the deficiencies, change of the concept in relation to urban design and architecture, separating the villa from the rest of the estate part of the settlement, construction of monumental approach roadway and triumphal arch as well as all other already mentioned elements of new spaces and their decoration, clearly demonstrate the dynastic concept of demonstrating power, also recognized in other palaces and villas of the Roman emperors and statesmen.

Porphyry sculpture Hygeia. (2015) by Željko CajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

Constantine the Great placed such collections in the new capital, Constantinople. In his wish to adorn it, he ordered the big number of ancient monuments to be brought from the main cities of Greece and Asia Minor, as it was also the case at Mediana.

Asclepius. (2015) by Željko CajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

In that way, classical education enabled the owner of the villa at Mediana, while at the same time looking at sculptures and mosaics and comparing them with literary culture, to create a harmonious relationship with foundations of the living Roman tradition and many virtues that participated in its creation. Thus coexistence of the pagan and Christian ideas has been shown in the best way, especially in regard to the works of art.

Marble sculpture of the goddess Higie. (2015) by Željko CajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

Last pages of the late antique history had been written in the late 4th and early 5th century, by bringing the Gothic foederati to the imperial estate, where they established their settlement. Low level of construction techniques knowledge and secondary used building material from demolished antique walls indicate reduction and change of use of certain parts of the existing residential complex.

Marble head of the goddess Venus. (2015) by Željko CajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

It has to do with construction using pebbles in dry stone wall or mud mortar and combining it with wooden construction. In that period of life at Mediana, it is also expressed Christian appurtenance of the newly arrived population, which is clearly reflected in architectural remains of two small single-nave Early Christian churches.
Both churches have been erected over the remains of the older antique horizon. The churches are oriented east-west, with the altar apse in the east.

Villa (2015) by Goran JerinkićArcheological Sites of Serbia

They are leaning against one of the rooms in western military barracks. In architecture of the churches, building material from demolished antique buildings was used secondarily, combined with wooden architecture that has traditionally been known to the new users. Regarding the typology, those are two smaller single-nave buildings with apse in the east.

Mediana. Early Christian Church 2. (2007) by Gordana MiloševićArcheological Sites of Serbia

Mutual chronological relationship of the two churches is not completely clear, but it can be assumed that the northern church is slightly younger. The southern church has narthex of accentuated long shape and smaller rectangular nave (3 x 4. 10 m). Narthex is almost two times higher than nave, which would indicate a bigger number of anabaptized and yet smaller number of Christians - foederati.

Floors in the rooms are paved by secondarily used Roman bricks in the narthex and well-polished mortar floor in the nave. At the place of ambo there is a mosaic field with representation of Christogram. The mosaic, 60 x 50 cm dimension, is made in opus tessellatum technique of stone tesserae in white, red and gray colors.

Mediana. Early Christian Church 1. (2006) by Gordana MiloševićArcheological Sites of Serbia

Composition consists of white rectangular field inside which motif of the Christ’s monogram is inscribed with double row of red tesserae and framing bordure in the form of wider band made of gray tesserae. The northern church is located at eight meter distance and has smaller dimensions. There are clear traces of seats in the apse (synthronos), which presumably was made of wooden structure.

Crossed (military) fibula from Mediana (2015) by Željko CajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

The altar area is slightly higher than the nave floor, while de-leveling of the floor is accentuated by a series of arranged fragments of antique brick. Along northern facade of the nave, some space was built that could serve both as proscomidia and diaconicon. In that room, along the nave wall, fragmented pottery used for the liturgy purpose was found.

Excavations. (2000) by Nenad MladenovićArcheological Sites of Serbia

THE BRONZE RAILING

Refinement of taste and attitude towards art is best illustrated by finding of the bronze railing fragments in the hoard discovered about 250 m northwest of the villa with peristyle. The railing consisted of panels (cancelli), between which stood hermae with statues of deities. In the hoard have been preserved three panels, one half of the panel cast together with herma, herma with a bust of Asclepius and herma with the bust of Luna.

Mediana. Bronze fence with hermes. (2000) by Nenad MladenovićArcheological Sites of Serbia

The railing was constructed in the way that it could be disassembled into parts. Each of the panels along their longer side had two outlets which fitted into bearings on the hermae. Due to the fact that one such bearing waspreserved on half of the panel with herma, one can conclude that it stood in the passage to the reception room and that enclosure was divided into two halves. On herma on half of the panel, we can observe edge of the garment which we also find on herma with Luna.

In that way, on the right half of the railing there would stand femail deities while on the left half would stand male deities. According to position of the bust of Luna, we can conclude that it occupied central position, while the bust of Asclepius stood at the left end of the left half end and was facing the central herma.

We can assume that on the left half was the central herma with representation of Sol, as counterpart to Luna, while on the right half we should expect herma with bust of Hygeia, as a counterpart to Asclepius. On the panels there is a motif of crossed laths and their intersections are decorated with heads of lions and medusas. The panels end up in the form of spikes stylized in the shape of lily.

Mediana. Religious monuments. (2015) by Željko CajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

EPIGRAPHIC MONUMENTS

Until present, no inscriptions that would explicitly validate that the Mediana complex was orientated as the imperial estate, however, two inscriptions indirectly point to that possibility. One inscription was found in warehouse/horeum and was used secondarily. The inscription mentions Aurelius Ampelius, tribunes Batavorum. 

The inscription reads:

I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) / Co(ho)rtali  / Aurel(ius) Ampelius trib(unus) Bat(avorum) / cum filio suo Ampeliano / ob dedicationem domus / et salute suam suorum/que omnium votum po/suerunt. [To Jupiter, the Best and the Greatest Protector of cohorts - Aurelius Ampelius commander (tribune of the units) of Batavi, with his son Ampeliano, in honor of consecration of the house and his health and (health) of his (family) have set (the) covenant].

The third inscription from Mediana (the second one that was found in warehouse/horeum), had the text in just two lines: Deo Imvicto (to the Invincible God), which is the most common epithet for the god Mithras or god Sol.

Lamp. National Museum of NIS, Željko Cajić, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Glass - Cup., Željko Cajić, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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The second inscription, in fragmented condition, was used as building material for the southern church construction. The inscription fragments are too small in order to make some specific conclusions or to reconstruct the inscription, but the two words there are characteristic. The first preserved line contains the word “domi[-nus, -ini, -orum]“ (“master”: the title of Emperor), and in the second line there is the word “providentiae” behind which could stand augustae (-i) meaning “the imperial providence”. The aforementioned leads us to hypothesis that the inscription was related to a certain emperor.

Freska., Željko Cajić, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Fresco., Željko Cajić, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Painted decoration was an integral part of the wall treatment in villa with peristyle, as indicated by preserved fragments of fresco paintings on the walls of the peristyle porch, northern rooms, within smaller ancillary room of the stibadium B, as well as in the space of thermae. The largest number of frescoes was discovered in secondary position, while in situ are preserved parts of the lower wall zone decorations in the northwest rooms of the villa  (w-1, w-13, w-22 and w-23). On the preserved frescoes one can clearly observe imitating in painting the marble parapet panels, partition ribbon and battens. Findings of the fresco fragments in demolition layers inside the said rooms indicate that ceiling in those rooms was also painted

History of Niš - Ancient period, 2nd episode (2020) by RTS-Radio Television of Serbia and film director: Stefan Krasić, screenwriter: Dejan Stoiljković, narrator: Svtozar CvetkovićArcheological Sites of Serbia

Mediana. Mosaic from the Early Christian Church 1., Vesna Crnoglavac, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Mediana. The mosaic of villas with konham., Željko Cajić, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Mediana. Mosaic from "A"., Željko Cajić, 2015, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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In accordance with general artistic aspirations of the late antiquity pagan elitism, the villa with peristyle and villa with octagon are decorated with geometric or figural mosaics as well as with sculptures with mythological themes. It was necessary to show refined taste of the owner and their knowledge of antique mythology and philosophy. No wonder that the villa, which belonged to the Christian rulers, was decorated with pagan motifs. As already emphasized, those were primarily sculptures and mosaics that served purely decorative purpose, rather than religious items. They could carry also philosophical messages, because the antique deities often received allegorical interpretations close to the Christian religion. It is not unusual that desire for collecting sculptures that adorned villas of the emperors and aristocracy, appeared during the 4th century

Credits: Story

Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia
National museum Niš
Institute for the Protection of the Monuments of Culture – Belgrade
 
The narration was provided by: Vesna Crnoglavac, museum advisor archaeologist, Dr. Miloje Vasić, archaeologist, Dr. Gordana Milošević, architect, Dr. Nadežda Gavrilović, archaeologist. 

Video credit: RTS-Radio Television of Serbia

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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