Romans arrived here around the time when Christ was born, making Viminacium (450 hectares) one of the earliest Roman settlements on the Danube. A Roman camp (castrum; 442 x 385 metres) was built here in the early 1st century AD and the first masonry fortress, Porta Praetoria, in mid-1st century by VII Claudia Legion. Near the confluence of the Mlava and the Danube, Viminacium flourished as a capital of Upper Moesia, the military headquarters and a navy base of the Danube Imperial Fleet. Nearly every Roman emperor visited Viminacium, including Trajan, Hadrian and Constantin the Great. Hadrian came here twice to grant Viminacium city status and to see the prosperous civil settlement growing next to the military fort. People had running water, a good market and a high standard of living. Remains of the baths (thermae), which were in use for more than three centuries, can still be seen today. One kilometre of a 9-kilometre-long aqueduct, built by two Roman legions in the 1st century AD has been excavated as well, and the plan is to excavate further 1,800 metres. Constantine the Great visited Viminacium on 25 May 321 AD.
Caracalla was acclaimed Emperor in Viminacium. In 239 AD, Emperor Gordianus III granted full civil rights to the upgraded Colonia Viminacium and allowed minting copper coins. A nearby basilica (30 x 40 metres) and cemeteries with14,000 graves and many sarcophagi, unique for the ancient Upper Moesia province, testify the wealth of this ancient community.
Disasters did strike the thriving city. After emperors Decius and Herennius were killed in a battle against the Goths, Emperor Hostilian, who stayed here from June to November 251 AD,died of plague. His mausoleum (20 x 20 metres), plundered after 312 AD, is one of Viminacium’s main attractions. The columns of the mausoleum were recycled into tombs in the 4th century. Viminacium also suffered during the unsuccessful coup by a high Roman official Ingenuus, who tried to overthrow Gallienus in 255/256 AD. Citizens and troops were severely punished. Another plague struck during the reign of Aurelian (270–275), drastically reducing the population of Viminacium.
Even after Atilla the Hun conquered Viminacium in 441 AD and destroyed it, the place managed to become a bishop’s seat before completely vanishing.
High quality glassware, abundance of jewellery, coins and ceramics (vessels, lamps, bricks, and pipes for water supply) demonstrate the high standard of the Roman way of life. The most popular are the fresco paintings in pagan and Christian tombs (4th century). See Cupido, the Chi Rho christogram and a Mona Lisa-style wall fresco.
The National Museums of Belgrade and Požarevac keep 30,000 artefacts from Viminacium, 700 of them made of gold or silver. Unfortunately, illegal diggers have recently destroyed parts of the ancient Roman theatre looking for gold treasures.
As archeological excavations continue there are new discoveries too: in 2009, a skeleton of a 5-million–year-old mammoth was discovered. When the arena was excavated in June 2012, the bones of bears and camels were found. A Roman cemetery (2nd and 3rd century AD) was brought to daylight on 21 June 2012 together with beautiful pieces of jewellery and oil lamps. Finally, a scientific and research centre and an archaeology museum opened in Domus scientiarum Viminacium, a beautiful Roman villa-style building. Guided tours in English (45 min) are provided for foreign visitors (every hour on the hour). A complete visit to the archaeological park takes about two and a half hours.
If you get hungry, go to Viminacium Tavern. It serves hot and cold refreshments and classic Roman dishes for lunch and dinner (they must be pre-ordered three days in advance).Viminacium is on the Serbian Roman Emperors Route.