Viminacium Ancient City and Military Camp
(…) In my lifetime, albeit short, I have not seen a town which has such a good location. Roads leading to the south to Naissus and Hellas diverge there; to the east, the via Lederatea, leads to the land of the Dacians. Rivers here are wide and navigable. Travelling along the Danube we would quickly reach Pannonia, Noricum, Raetia, or Dacia. Wherever you look, you see orchards, tilled fields, forests. People are all over the fields, working diligently; one would say that everything is under control. And then, in a moment, when your gaze falls on the ruins of the camp of the Legion VII Claudia and the devastated great temple of the Capitoline Triad, you become aware of the recent destruction. And the military camp was a wonder to behold! Nearly as large as the legionary bases in Castra Regina, or Vetera. Even now, the mighty stone towers can be seen in the distance. And what to say about the Porta Praetoria! Imposing architectural features! I have never seen anything like them!
In the town itself lived a very old master-painter … I cannot remember his name, but I know that in painting frescoes for villas and grave memorials he surpassed his spiritual teacher, the famous Flavius Chrysantius. I felt the sorrow of Caius in the past, and I started to console him with the idea that the town would soon recover fully and that he would enjoy again everything that a man of his knowledge and culture can appreciate.
The military camp at Viminacium certainly came into existence when the Roman Empire spread to the Balkans, probably during the early decades of the 1st century AD when the Romans first reached the Danube. The discovery of a Celtic necropolis at the “Pećine” site at Viminacium clearly attests to its beginnings on the territory of the Celtic Scordisci. The size and importance of the base originated from a number of factors, among which should certainly be mentioned the rich agricultural hinterland in the Mlava River valley where Viminacium is situated and its important strategic location within the defensive system of the northern frontier of the Empire and also in regional communications and trade networks. Also important was the location of the legionary camp, and later the city, at a junction of roads linking the northern part of the Balkan peninsula with other parts of the Empire in all directions. One road led south in the Balkan Peninsula through Moesia Superior towards Macedonia and Greece. A second road, starting in Pannonia, extended along the Danube to the mouth of the river at the Black Sea. Another road connected Viminacium to the north with the Roman province of Dacia through the neighboring camp at Lederata, the modern village of Ram. Although the primary function of these roads was military and strategic in nature, they were also in constant use by commercial travelers c throughout antiquity and certainly contributed to Viminacium’s role as a prosperous trading and manufacturing center.
There was virtually no Roman emperor who did not pass through Viminacium or spend some time there. Significantly enough, when the Roman Empire started to decline, Viminacium gained in importance, and from the end of the 2nd to the end of the 4th century, for almost two hundred years, Roman emperors even more frequently visited and sojourned at Viminacium because of its exceptional strategic importance. Numerous times in its six hundred year history, for example at the end of the 3rd century, Viminacium played a key role in resolving questions of the disposition of ruling power in the Empire. Among visits by Roman emperors, mention should certainly be made of Hadrian’s residency when hunts were organized for him at Viminacium on two occasions; the Emperor Septimus Severus visited twice; later on other emperors stayed there: Gordian III, Phillip the Arab, Trebonius Gallus, Hostilian, Diocletian, Constantine The Great, Constans I and Julian. Gratian was the last emperor known to have visited Viminacium.
Viminacium and the European Public
European cultural circles were informed about Viminacium early in the 18th century when Count Marsigli passed through this area; in 1726 in the Hague he published his impressions of his travels in his famous work Danubius Panonico-Mysiscus observationibus and included sketches of Viminacium. The distinguished Count, who was first employed in the service of Vienna and later of Venice, traveled along the Danube in the last decades of the 17th century and left us valuable testimony about and the first map of the ancient city and military camp at Viminacium.