Roman Legion Camp Novae

The remains of this military camp are situated 3 km far from the town of Svishtov, on the Danube river bank. ...

City: Vidin

Country: Bulgaria

Svishtov (population: 35,900) is the southernmost port on the Danube. It can be crossed 24/7 by a Ro-Ro ferryboat operating between Svishtov and Zimnicea (Romania).

According to Ptolemy, this was originally a Roman camp and a colony called Novae. It was a camp of the famous VIII Augusta Legion since 45 AD, and of Legio I Italia 25 years later. Extremely important for the defense of the Danube Limes, a series of military campaigns started here to push back invaders from the north. It played an important part in the Maurice’s Balkan campaigns (591–602 AD). It was destroyed around 613 AD, most likely by the Slavic tribes.

Originally covering 17 hectares, the camp was later extended by additional 10 hectares. The camp was rectangular (485 x 365 metres) and it consisted of the legion’s headquarters, a military hospital (Valetudinariam, built under Emperor Trajan, could treat up to 300 legionnaires at a time) with the Asclepius and Hygia Temple. There were officers’ residences, a spa, barracks and civilian settlements outside the walls. Each side had a fortified gate – the Northern Gate opened up to the port. The most important building was the principia (headquarters), where statues, a portrait of Emperor Caracalla and Roman coins were discovered. The Ostrogoths under Teodoric the Great made it their capital (476–488 AD), after they conquered Singidunum (today: Belgrade, Serbia) in 471 AD.

There is evidence of early Christianity in town, as it became bishop’s seat in the late 5th and early 6th century AD. The archaeological exhibition presents collections of crockery, glassware, bronze artefacts, coins, jewellery, architectural details, inscriptions, marble sculptures. The well-equipped Visitor Centre provides more information on the exhibits. Do not miss the annual festival of ancient heritage, The Danube Eagle, held at the end of May. Visit the birthplace of the Bulgarian novelist Aleko Konstantinov and the Мanastira (monastery) 5 kilometres southeast of the city.

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