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Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments Sremska Mitrovica

Serbia Sirmium

Institute for Protection of Cultural Monuments Sremska Mitrovica

The archaeological remains of the ancient town of Sirmium are situated under the present-day city of Sremska Mitrovica. The settlement existed before the Roman conquest of Pannonia when it was inhabited by the native communities of Amantinеs and Sirmiensis, after whom the latter town was named. Its history began at the end of the 1st century BC and lasted until the Avars’ conquest in 582.

Sirmium was the center of the province Pannonia Secunda, and after the reforms of Diocletian (after 293) it became one of the most important towns of the Roman Empire. During long-term systematic archaeological research numerous monumental buildings were discovered, among which are the remains of the imperial palace complex and merchants' and crafts’ quarter presented within the inner historical centre of the modern city.

Sirmium was the center of the diocese and the place of suffering of many Christian martyrs, whose cult was partly maintained during the medieval period. The preserved remains of the city's basilica from the first half of the V century, which is associated with St Demetrius, the most famous Sirmium saint and protector of Sremska Mitrovica remind us of that period. In 2009 a new visitor’s center is opened in order to provide information about history and archaeology of Sirmium and to make its cultural heritage accesible to the wide public.

The imperial palace – hippodrome (circus) complex was built at the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century. It was located in the southeastern part of the town along the Sava River and occupied an area of ​​about 20 hectares. The remains of the imperial palace give us a testimony of the role of Sirmium as the imperial capital and administrative center during late Roman period. Today, only a part of the site under protective shalter is presented. Some of the best preserved mosaics of Sirmium were found on it, frescoes and architectural decorations, as well as installations of underfloor heating systems (hypocaust).

The remains of the city basilica, which dates back to the first half of the 5th century, are presented within the basement of a modern building. The basilica, which was identified as a church dedicated to St. Demetrius, was located in the very center of Sirmium, in the immediate vicinity of the square (forum). It consisted of one central and two side naves with a transept and a semicircular apse with a raised platform on which an altar and seats for priests were placed. The cult of St. Demetrius was of great importance during the Middle Ages, when the settlement was named after this saint, Civitas Sancti Demetrii, but also for the modern city of which he is the patron saint.

A part of the trade and crafts’ district of Sirmium, which was built during the times of the greatest prosperity of the city, is today presented within the „Žitna pijaca“ square. Workshops and shops (tabernae) were discovered on the site. They were situated around one of the main roads that led from the western city gate to the imperial palace. A defensive wall was found in the southern part of the site. Its construction is related to the second half of the 4th century.

Within the lapidary of the Museum of Srem, there is one of the most representative rooms of the building defined as a urban villa (villa urbana) located within the residential area of ​​Sirmium. The presented room with a mosaic floor probably served as a hall for formal receptions, ie. feasts. The mosaic that adorns it is one of the largest mosaic floors ever discovered in Sirmium. It consists of various geometric patterns which are characteristic motifs for the floor decoration of the fourth century.

In the park area near the Sirmium Hotel, there are remains of the western part of the imperial palace complex. A part of the southern city wall with a corner tower and an economic building were presented at the site. The building consisted of two tracts with a series of smaller opposite rooms separated by a paved courtyard. Construction of large facilities for the storage of grain (horreum), oil, wine and other foodstuffs testifies the need to ensure a regular supply of the emperor, army, administration, officials in the palatial complex and during the travel.

Autor of photos Gianluca Baronchelli.

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