|Skyline of the Sava's bank of Ušće by night, seen from the Kalemegdan fortress. The hilltop Roman-Byzantine fortress commanded a panoramic view of the Danube.|
Singidunum - Roman Serbia
The Danube Limes
Along the Danube from Bavaria to the Black Sea there is a frontier system with fortresses and fortlets built by the Roman army such as Carnuntum (Austria), Aquincum (Budapest, Hungary), Viminacium (near Belgrade, Serbia) or Novae (Svistov, Bulgaria). Together with hundreds of watchtowers and large urban settlements they are part of an impressive military machine.
The river itself was the most dominant element of the frontier system, used as a demarcation line against the Barbarian world to the north and as a fortified transport corridor.
The forts, situated mostly on the right side of the river, acted as check-points to control traffic in and out of the empire. Their ruins, above and below ground, visible or non-visible, are often in remarkable shape and well integrated in the landscape.
The Fortress of Singidunum was one of the limes strongpoints.
Singidunum 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 Empire conquered the area in 75 BC and later garrisoned the Roman Legio IV Flavia Felix in 86 AD. It was the birthplace to the Roman Emperor Jovian. Belgrade has arisen from its ashes 38 times.
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 and Viminacium, both of which overshadowed Singidunum in significance. 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.
|Roman Empire around 600AD|
The Fortress of Singidunum was one of several strongpoints
on the Danube Limes defense system.
Belgrade Fortress consists of the old citadel (Upper and Lower Town) and Kalemegdan Park on the confluence of the River Sava and Danube, in an urban area of modern Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.
Belgrade Fortress is the core and the oldest section of the urban area of Belgrade. For centuries the city population was concentrated only within the walls of the fortress, and thus the history of the fortress, until most recent times, equals the history of Belgrade itself.
The first mention of the city is when it was founded in the 3rd century BC as "Singidunum" by the Celtic tribe of Scordisci, who had defeated Thracian and Dacian tribes that previously lived in and around the fort. The city-fortress was later conquered by the Romans, was known as Singidunum and became a part of "the military frontier", where the Roman Empire bordered "barbarian Central Europe". Singidunum was defended by the Roman legion IV Flaviae, which built a fortified camp on a hill at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava rivers.
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 thecastrum. 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. 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 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 Byzantine Period
|Statue of Eastern Emperor Justinian I.|
The Emperor rebuilt the fortress in 535 AD.
In the period between AD 378 and 441 the Roman camp was repeatedly destroyed in the invasions by the Goths and the Huns. Legend says that Attila's grave lies at the confluence of the Sava and the Danube (under the fortress).
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.
The Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I rebuilt the fortress around 535. In the following centuries the fortress suffered continuous destruction under the Avar sieges.
The Slavs (Serbs) and Avars had their "state union" north of Belgrade with the Serbs and other Slavic tribes finally settling in the Belgrade area as well as the regions west and south of Belgrade in the beginning of the 7th century.
The name Belgrade (or Beograd in Serbian), which, not just in Serbian but in most Slavic languages, means a "white town" or a "white fortress", was first mentioned in AD 878 by Bulgarians.
The fortress kept changing its masters: Bulgaria during three centuries, and then the Byzantines and then again Bulgarians. The fortress remained a Byzantine stronghold until the 12th century when it fell in the hands of the newly emerging Serbian state. It became a border city of the Serbian Kingdom, later Empire with Hungary.
The Hungarian king Béla I gave the fortress to Serbia in the 11th century as a wedding gift (his son married the Serbian princess Jelena), but it remained effectively part of Hungary, except for the period 1282–1319. After the Serbian state collapsed after the Battle of Kosovo in 1404, Belgrade was chosen as the capital of the principality of Despot Stefan Lazarević. Major work was done to the ramparts which were encircling a big thriving town.
Belgrade remained in Serbian hands for almost a century. After the Despot's death in 1427 it had to be returned to Hungary. An attempt by Sultan Mehmed II to conquer the fortress was prevented by Janos Hunyadi in 1456 (Siege of Belgrade), saving Hungary from Ottoman dominion for 70 years.
|Think of the word "Porous"|
The Danube Limes was not a solid wall defending the Empire's frontier. Rather it a was a series of fortified cities, small forts and watchtowers. The Limes was porous with assorted invading Slavs, Huns or Avars pouring through on raids dedicated to looting or conquest. In theory the Roman/Byzantine strongpoints would slow down invaders allowing for troops stationed close by to push the enemy back over the border..
See: The Danube Limes - Protecting the Roman Balkans
(Belgrade) (belgradepass) (voiceofserbia.org) (Singidunum)
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