Sirmium

The ancient remains of Roman city of Sirmium repose beneath the streets of modern Sremska Mitrovica.

By Archeological Sites of Serbia

Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

3D reconstruction of the Imperial Palace of Sirmium (2016/2017) by ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

The City of Sirmium was mentioned for the first time in the 4th century BC as a settlement predominantly populated by Illyrians and Celts. The Romans invaded the region in the period between 35 and 33 BC and they had governed Sirmium until 582 AD, when it was taken over by Avars.  Due to its strategically convenient position, Sirmium became the administrative and economic centre of the province of Pannonia, and represented a base for military campaigns against the barbarian tribes. 

Part of the interior, 3D reconstruction of the Imperial Palace of Sirmium (2016/2017) by ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

The most prosperous period for the city was the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century when it became one of the capitals of the Roman Empire. Most of the luxurious monumental buildings date from this period, the most significant one being the Imperial Palace of Sirmium.

The Imperial Palace of Sirmium Visitor Centre (2010-06-22) by Gorana LemajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

The Imperial Palace represents the most important late antique Sirmium archaeological site. The palace was the official residence of Roman emperors.  It was excavated in 1957, after it had been discovered accidentally during the construction of an apartment building.

The Imperial Palace of Sirmium (2016-06-05) by Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

In order to be preserved and protected, the remains of the palace were covered by a modern construction in 2009, and the site is now integrated in the visitor centre visited by thousands of tourists every year. The conserved parts of the palace represent only a segment of the large palatial complex located by the River Sava which occupied the surface of 20 hectares.

The Imperial Palace of Sirmium (2016-06-05) by Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

The archaeological research confirmed that the palace had at least two floors and it was protected by a tall wall which surrounded it. It had formal premises for the emperor’s administrative functions, and the residential part consisting of private premises where emperor and his family lived. A large hippodrome (circus) was built next to the palace.

Archaeological site Sirmium (1th –6th century) by Pavle MarjanovicArcheological Sites of Serbia

The emperors used it to be presented to the citizens of Sirmium at various ceremonies and chariot races. Sirmium circus was a monumental 450-metre long construction with ellipsoid track and seat stands for the spectators around it. It represents the only circus discovered on the territory of Serbia. 

Тhe reconstructed fountain and mosaic floor, The Imperial Palace of Sirmium (2016-06-05) by Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

The archeological findings such as fragments of frescoes, mosaic floors, fragments of statues, fountains, pillars and architectural ornaments made with various kinds of expensive stone such as porphyry and marble imported from different parts of the empire indicate that the palace once had the luxurious interior decoration.

Тhe reconstructed mosaics, The Imperial Palace of Sirmium (2016-06-05) by Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

More than 350 m2 of preserved mosaics belonging to different building phases between the end of the 3rd and the middle of the 4th century were found in the palace. In some parts of the palace there were mosaic floors in several levels, which proves that the palace was redecorated on several occasions.

The technique used in the production of the mosaics was opus tessellatum, which means that they consisted of small cubes of stone (tesserae). The mosaics from the Imperial Palace of Sirmium reached the high quality standards of craftsmanship. Most of the presented mosaics were restored and conserved.

Тhe reconstructed fountain and mosaic floor, The Imperial Palace of Sirmium, Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST Project, 2016-06-05, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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Тhe mosaic representing god Mercury, The Imperial Palace of Sirmium, Marko Todorović, Tech Cool Tour Project, 2014-12-01, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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The decorative motifs on the mosaics in the palace are prevailingly geometric, floral, or various cable and guilloche patterns. The only figural mosaic that was preserved represented the bust of Roman god Mercury.      In the inner courtyard of the palace, there was a monumental structure tetrakionion. It was built with large stone blocks and consisted of four massive column  bases which probably supported a cupola. The remains of late antique porphyry sculpture, which is now on display in the Museum of Srem, was found in this part of the palace.

Furnace (praefurnium), The Imperial Palace of Sirmium (2016-06-05) by Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

The Imperial Palace had the underfloor heating system (hypocaustum) consisting of large furnaces and passages made by short pillars (pilae) supporting the floor.

Part of the central heating system (hypocaustum), The Imperial Palace of Sirmium (2016-06-05) by Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

The hot air from furnaces circulated through the passages under the floor and heated the rooms. The hot air also streamed through the ceramic pipes embedded in the walls therefore heating the rooms upstairs as well. 

The Martyrs of Sirmium, The Imperial Palace of Sirmium (2016-06-05) by Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

In the period of early Christianity, Sirmium was the stage of religious turmoil. Emperor Diocletian (284-305) was determined to have Christians persecuted and some of the Christian proponents were executed during his reign. The most prominent Christians who lost their lives in Sirmium were Saint Demetrius, Saint Irenaeus and Saint Anastasia, all of them known as the Martyrs of Sirmium. 

Saint Irenaeus was known as the first Archbishop of Sirmium, and Saint Demetrius was his dean. Saint Demetrius is now a patron saint of the City of Sremska Mitrovica and the holiday dedicated to him is celebrated on the 8th of November.    

Roman Emperor Constantius II, The Imperial Palace of Sirmium, Gorana Lemajić, 2019-01-19, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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In the course of the abundant and vivid history of the City of Sirmium, numerous Roman emperors had resided in it. At least six of them were born in Sirmium or its surroundings - Trajan Decius (249-251), Aurelian (270-275), Probus (276-282), Maximianus Herculius (286-305), Constantius II (337-361) and Gratian (367-383).  Emperor Probus was known as the founder of viticulture in Fruška Gora Mountain, being the first Roman emperor who permitted vine to be grown in one of the provinces. Emperor Maximianus Herculius, had his private palace built on the territory of Sirmium, and its remains have recently been partially excavated. Gratian was known as a religious Christian who organized campaigns to repress pagan worship and the first Roman emperor who denied the divine attributes of Roman emperors.

3D model of Sirmium, The Imperial Palace of Sirmium (2010-06-22) by Gorana LemajićArcheological Sites of Serbia

Although The Imperial Palace together with Sirmium Circus represented an immensely significant complex, it was not the only monumental building in Sirmium. The entire city was surrounded by massive defensive wall which protected it from the intruders.  The city had at least two bridges over the River Sava and a more than 24-kilometre long aqueduct which supplied the city with fresh water from Vranjaš spring in Fruška Gora Mountain. 

Grain Market (2016-06-05) by Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

One of the most luxurious buildings in Sirmium was public bath (thermae) built by Emperor Licinius, which was also used as a watchtower being one of the tallest buildings in the city. Sirmium also had a mint founded by Constantine the Great where gold coins and bars were manufactured.   

Archaeological site Sirmium (1th –6th century) by Maja DjordjevicArcheological Sites of Serbia

Some of the remains of Roman buildings are nowadays integrated in the architecture of modern Sremska Mitrovica. There are several outdoors archaeological sites in the city which represent its landmarks, witnessing of its rich history in the period of late antique.  

Urban mansion (villa urbana) (2016-06-05) by Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

There are also the antique Roman remains presented in situ which were integrated within some modern buildings and structures, such as one of the rooms of urban mansion (villa urbana) which is situated in the lapidarium of Museum of Srem, and the ruins of the Early Christian basilica.

Archaeological site Sirmium (1th –6th century) by Maja DjordjevicArcheological Sites of Serbia

The Early Christian basilica of Sirmium was dedicated to Saint Demetrius, one of the Christian martyrs executed in Sirmium. It was located in the centre of Sirmium, near the city square (forum). It consisted of one central nave and two side naves ending with a transept.

Basilica of Saint Demetrius (2016-06-05) by Gianluca Baronchelli, ARCHEST ProjectArcheological Sites of Serbia

There were 25 graves found around and inside the church. Based on the artifacts, the church dates from the first half of the 5th century. The cult of Saint Demetrius was highly significant in the city during the Middle Ages, when the city was named after him - Civitas Sancti Demetrii. The remains of the church are still used for religious ceremonies on some occasions.

One of the landmarks of modern Sremska Mitrovica are the remains of crafts and trade district of Sirmium which are presented on Grain Market Square. The district developed by one of the main city roads which connected the city square (forum) and the west gate of the city. The remains represent parts of the street which had covered pedestrian pathways (porticos), remains of mostly glass and pottery workshops and stores, and a part of the sewerage system.

The interior of the Imperial Palace of Sirmium Visitor Centre, Željko Sinković, 2010-03-21, From the collection of: Archeological Sites of Serbia
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The site was restored and reconstructed in 2018, and it is now used as an amphitheatre for various cultural manifestations. Not only history, but also the modern age is a witness to the immense significance of Sirmium owing to the archaeological excavations and researches, which rescued the remains of that impressive ancient city together with numerous valuable artifacts, now kept in various modern museums, from the oblivion. The ancient Roman city of Sirmium, ‘the glorious and populous mother of cities’ as once referred to by the famous Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus, still lives integrated in the streets, squares and buildings of today’s Sremska Mitrovica.

Logo Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments of Sremska Mitrovica by Protection of Cultural Monuments of Sremska MitrovicaArcheological Sites of Serbia

The Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments

Sremska Mitrovica was founded in December 1961 as a regional institution being in charge of cultural and historical heritage of Srem and the north of Mačva. The prime activity of the Institute is the protection of immovable cultural heritage – cultural monuments, cultural and historical spatial units, archaeological sites and significant places and buildings on the territory of seven municipalities.

Credits: Story

Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Serbia

The Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments Sremska Mitrovica

The narration was provided by: Jelena Šuput, PR manager. 

Institute for the Protection of the Monuments of Culture – Belgrade   

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