Singidunum (Serbian: Сингидунум/Singidunum, from a Celtic *Sindi-dūn-) is the name for the ancient city in Serbia which became Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It was recorded that a Celtic tribe, the Scordisci, settled the area in the 3rd century BC following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans. The Roman Republic conquered the area in 75 BC and later garrisoned the Roman Legio IV Flavia Felix there in 86 AD. It was the birthplace to the Roman Emperor Jovian.
For singi- there are several theories, the two most widely circulated being that it is a Celtic word for circle, hence "round fort", or it could be named after the Sings, a Thracian tribe that occupied the area prior to the arrival of the Scordisci. Another possibility is that it is a composite name the first part of which (Sin-gi) means "Old prayer" ("sean guí" in modern Irish), implying that this was originally a site of Celtic religious significance, in addition to becoming a fortress (dun). This would also fit in with the ancient Celtic burial practice remnants there.
There is only limited archaeological evidence of the city's foundational period, including some burial sites with grave goods.
The Romans first began to conquer lands surrounding Singidun during the 1st century BC. In 75 BC, Gaius "Quintus" Scribonius Curio, the proconsul of Macedonia, invaded the Balkan interior as far as the Danube, in an effort to drive out the Scordisci, Dardanians, Dacians and other tribes. The Romans had victories during these campaigns, but only stayed briefly, leaving the area outside of Roman control. Thus, very little is known about these operations or when the area was organized into the province of Moesia. It wasn't until the rule of Octavian, when Marcus Licinius Crassus, the grandson of the Caesarian Triumvir and then proconsul of Macedonia, finally stabilized the region with a campaign beginning in 29 BC Moesia was formally organized into a province some time before 6 AD, when the first mention of its governor, Caecina Severus, is made. Singidun was Romanized to Singidunum. It became one of the primary settlements of Moesia, situated between Sirmium (modern Sremska Mitrovica) and Viminacium (modern Kostolac), both of which overshadowed Singidunum in significance, and just across the Sava River from Taurunum (modern Zemun) in Pannonia. Singidunum became an important and strategic position along the Via Militaris, an important Roman road connecting fortresses and settlements along the Danubian limes, or border.
Singidunum reached its height with the arrival of Legio IV Flavia Felix in 86 AD. The legion set up as a square-shaped castrum (fort), which occupied Upper Town of today's Kalemegdan. At first, the fortress was set up as earthen bulwarks, but soon after, it was fortified with stone, the remains of which can be seen today near the northeastern corner of the acropolis. The legion also constructed a bridge over the Sava, connecting Singidunum with Taurunum. The 6,000-strong legion became a major military asset against the continuous threat of the Dacians just across the Danube. Another step the Romans took to help strengthen Singidunum was the settlement of its legion veterans next to the fortress. In time, a large settlement grew out from around the castrum.
Hadrian granted Singidunum the rights of municipium during the mid 2nd century. Singidunum later outgrew this status and became a full-fledged colony. The Roman Emperor Jovian who reestablished Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire was born in Singidunum in 332. Singidunum and Moesia experienced a peaceful period, but that was not to last, due to the growing turmoil not only from outside the Roman Empire, but also from within.
The Roman Empire began to decline at the end of the 3rd century. The province of Dacia, established by several successful and lengthy campaigns by Trajan, began to collapse under pressure from the invading Goths in 256. By 270, Aurelian, faced with the sudden loss of many provinces and major damage done by invading tribes, abandoned Dacia altogether. Singidunum found itself once again on the limes of the fading Empire, one of the last major strongholds to survive mounting danger from the invading barbarian tribes.
The town took on a rectlinear construction, with its streets meeting at right angles. The grid structure can be seen in today's Belgrade with the orientation of the streets Uzun Mirkova, Dušanova, and Kralja Petra I. Studentski Trg (Students' Square) was a Roman forum, bordered by thermae (a public bath complex whose remains were discovered during the 1970s) and also preserves the orientation the Romans gave Singidunum. Other remnants of Roman material culture such as tombs, monuments, sculptures, ceramics, and coins have been found villages and towns surrounding Belgrade.
Area covered by Singidunum today spreads over 5 municipalities of Belgrade. Castrum occupied part of today's Belgrade Fortress. Civilian zone spread from the Kralja Petra Street, over the both Sava and Danube slopes, till Kosančićev Venac. Extending in a series of necropolises from Republic Square, along the Bulevar kralja Aleksandra all to the Mali Mokri Lug. Modern boulevard was a sarting section of the 924 km (574 mi) long Via Militaris, which connected Singidunum and Constantinople, and in more local terms, Singidunum with fortresses and settlements along the Danube border of the Empire, like Viminacium. Built in the 1st century AD, the road was six meters wide, with rows of shops, forges and arsenals, while Romans were buried along the road in stone sarcophagi. Archeological remnants of the Roman road can still be seen below the "Depo", former depot of the city’s public transportation company. Majority of boulevard's course is part of the "Ancient Singidunum" archeological locality.
Romans were extracting stone from the quarry located in the modern neighborhood of Tašmajdan and used it for the building of Singidunum, and for many surviving sarcophagi. An aqueduct used to conduct water from the modern Kumodraž area. At some point it was joining the aqueduct from the Mokri Lug and then continued further to the castrum. Both Mokri Lug and Kumodraž are hills, so the natural inclination allowed for the water to flow downhill to Singidunum. Modern area of Cvetkova Pijaca was a location of three additional water systems. Aqueducts passed through the modern center of Belgrade, Terazije, and the main pedestrian zone, Knez Mihailova Street, which was one of the main access roads to the city and today still follows the original Roman street grid.
Tricornium (Latin for three-horned fortification), modern Ritopek, had an important military camp Castra Tricornia. Name originated from three distinctive hills dominating the landscape, one of which sank or was simply washed away into the Danube later. The settlement gave name to the Romanized Thracio-Celtic tribe of Tricornenses. A 258 AD ceremonial breast plate with stylistic illustrations belonging to Legio VII Claudia soldier Aurelius Herculanus has been found and many other artifacts of the Roman period such as silver coins that were washed ashore once the Đerdap Dam was constructed.
Top of the Avala mountain proved to be suitable for building, so the Romans built an fortified outpost, probably on the foundations of the older Celtic one. Apart from guarding and controlling the access roads to Singidunum, the outpost was also important for the protection of the numerous mines on the mountain, which were exploited by the Romans. They were extracting lead, zinc, silver and mercury, close to the modern Ripanj. The outpost was some 100 m (330 ft) below the top of the mountain. The outpost was a base for the future medieval fortress of Žrnov.
The neighboring mountain of Kosmaj was also rich in ores which were excavated by the Romans. In July 2000, during the excavations for the new sports complex in Babe, a spring was discovered in the valley of the Pruten creek. The new Pruten spring has a capacity up to 40 l/s (530 imp gal/min) and by 2011 a waterwork was constructed which supplies the villages of Babe, Stojnik and Ropočevo, so as the complex itself, with the water from this spring. Moreover, during the excavation, a hidden entry into the vast complex of Roman mines was discovered, too, being obscured for centuries. There are evidence of the extraction of silver, iron and lead. In the 3rd century AD, the Kosmaj mines were one of the most important in the Roman Empire, and were administered by the Roman procurator Babenius, whose name is preserved in the name of the Babe village. In the 1970s and 1980s, experts from the National Museum in Belgrade explored the area and discovered many mining necropolis, centered around the villages of Babe, Stojnik and Guberevac. It is estimated that there are some 100 ancient mining shafts on Kosmaj, which go 2 km (1.2 mi) below the ground and are 25 km (16 mi) wide. After the Roman period, mining activities ceased, only being revived in the Medieval Serbia.
In 1963, a tractor which was plowing the land in the neighborhood of Zemun Polje, in the vicinity of Školsko Dobro's central building began digging up on the surface the old coins, head of a sculpture, pottery pieces and numerous other objects. The National Museum in Zemun was notified and archaeologists examined the site. It was concluded that it was a Roman fort on the former Sirmium-Singidunum road. Previously unknown settlement was squarely shaped with the sides of 3 km (1.9 mi) and, at the time of discovery, was the largest known "outer suburb" of Roman Singidunum.
Late Antiquity, Byzantine rule and Migration PeriodEdit
Although continuing to be overshadowed by Sirmium, during the 4th century the city remained an important military outpost. It also became a bishopric, and was a major center of Arianism until late in the century, with its bishops Ursacius and Secundianus leading local resistance against Nicene Christianity until the First Council of Constantinople in 381.
In the 5th and 6th centuries, Moesia and Illyricum suffered devastating raids by the successive invasions of the Huns, Ostrogoths, Gepids, Sarmatians, Avars, and Slavs. Singidunum fell to the Huns in 441, who razed the city and fortress, selling its Roman inhabitants into indentured servitude. Over the next two hundred years, the city passed hands several times: the Romans reclaimed the city after the fall of the Hun confederation in 454, but the Sarmatians conquered the city shortly thereafter. In 470 the Ostrogoths seized the city around, expelling the Sarmatians. The city was later invaded by Gepids (488), but the Ostrogoths recaptured it in 504. Six years later the Eastern Roman Empire reclaimed the city according to a peace treaty.
Byzantine emperor Justinian I rebuilt Singidunum in 535, restoring the fortress and city to its former military importance. The city saw a brief peaceful period of about fifty years, but was then sacked with the arrival of the Avars in 584. During Maurice's Balkan campaigns, Singidunum served as a base of operations, but it was lost again in the early half of the 7th century when the Avars sacked and burned Singidunum to the ground. Around 630, the Slavs settled in the area.
After its fall to the Avars in the early 7th century, the ancient city ceases to be mentioned, and its fate on the subsequent centuries is obscure.
The Slavic Beligrad, the "white city" (named for the color of the stone it was built from), had been established by the 9th century on the site of Singidunum, within the First Bulgarian Empire. It is first mentioned in a letter written on 16 April 878 by Pope John VIII to Bulgarian prince Boris I Mihail. With its new name, Beograd would eventually be restored to its earlier strategic significance.
Later development of Belgrade destroyed over 80% of the cultural layer within the today protected zone of the Ancient Singidunum, that is, of the civilian settlement and necropolises. Only three sections were dug, conserved and reburied: Akademski Park, Park Proleće and Tadeuša Košćuškog Street. In July 2016 city administration announced the complete reconstruction of Studentski Trg and construction of the underground garage. Construction of the two-level underground garage is criticized both by the public and experts, as the archaeological locality beneath the park has not been properly explored, historically or archaeologically, and now all the Roman and later Byzantine remains will be permanently destroyed. It was the first among the most important urban zones of old Belgrade and is especially important as the locality of ancient Singidunum which developed along the Terazije ridge. The area of the square was described as having the deepest "cultural and historical sedimentation" in the city and as the original source of the urban culture of Belgrade.
Northern section of the Academy Park, on Studentski Trg, was excavated in 1968 in the project of building a furnace oil tank for the boiler room of the Belgrade's City Committee of the League of Communists located nearby. Under the lawn, the remnants of the ancient Roman thermae were discovered, including the frigidarium (room with the cold water), laconicum (room with the warm water where people would sweat and prepare) and caldarium (room with the two pools of hot water). The site became an archaeological dig in 1969 and 8 rooms in total were discovered, including the remains of the brick furnace which heated the water. It was a public unisex bath dated to 3rd or 4th century. The entire area of the park is actually within the borders of the "Protected zone of Roman Singidunum". It is situated in the area that used to be the civilian sector of the city, outside the fortress. The remnants were visible until 1978 and due to the lack of funds to continue excavations or to cover it with the roof or a marquee, the remains were conserved and buried again. Remains of another thermae on the nearby Faculty of Philosophy Plateau are still visible and used as benches.
In 2004 digging for the future shopping mall in Rajićeva Street began, next to the Knez Mihailova. Remains of the antique and late antique layers were discovered, so as the remains of the southwest rampart route and double trench in the direction of Kralja Petra. The trench from the 3rd century was buried and full of coins, lamps, ceramics and jars. Next to this locality, at the corner of Knez Mihailova and Kralja Petra, an area paved with the cobblestone dating from the 2nd century was discovered. It was a public space right before the entrance into the fortress.
During almost every construction in downtown where digging is involved, remains are being discovered. In 2007, on the location of the former kafana Tri lista duvana at the corner of Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra and Kneza Miloša street, several necropolises were found. Just across, in Pioneers Park, there is Archaeological Site Pionirski Park. When the underground garage was dug, 19 tombs were discovered. In 2008 in Čika Ljubina Street remains of the house from the 4th century was discovered, which included the part of the floor and doorstep of the main entry door. Part of the walls was decorated with frescoes. Similar findings are discovered in Kosančićev Venac and Tadeuša Košćuškog. Also in 2008 remains from the late Antiquity were found, while at the corner of Takovska and Kosovska streets. Roman tombs were discovered.Remnants of the Roman castrum from the 2nd century were discovered beneath Tadeuša Košćuškog during the reconstruction in June 2009, They were conserved and reburied. In Cincar Jankova Street, five graves from the late 1st century were discovered so as three canals. Archaeologists expected to find a southeastern route of the castrum ramparts, but due to the mass wasting in the area and the leveling of the terrain, the route was destroyed in time.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Singidunum.|
- Official Site of Beograd: Ancient Period
- Official Site of Beograd: Byzantine Empire
- Ancient Worlds: Singidunum
- Belgrade Fortress: History
- Inscriptions de la Mésie supérieure
- http://www.pks.rs/abc/Countryprofile/Belgrade/tabid/1136/language/en-US/Default.aspx [clarification needed]
- http://www.beograd.rs/cms/view.php?id=201172 [clarification needed]
- http://www.beogradskatvrdjava.co.rs/start/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=378 [clarification needed]
- Necropolises of Roman Singidunum