By: Bojana Jankovic
Uzice, March 20, 2010 (Serbia Today) - In the vicinity of a town Zajecar, in the Eastern part of Serbia and South of the river Danube, as a part of the ancient Roman imperial palace Felix Romuliana, an archaeological site Gamzigrad is located. It represents the residence of the Roman Emperor Gaius Valerius Maximianus. Since June 29, 2007, Gamzigrad is under the protection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and officially one of the seven natural and cultural wonders of Serbia since October 18, 2008.
In mid-nineteenth century, Gamzigrad was rated as a very large and exceptional archaeological site, but its purpose was not yet specifically determined. The riddle of Gamzigrad was solved only in 1984, when in the southwestern part of the palace, in a building with mosaic floors and walls painted with frescoes, an archivolt is found made of sandstone on which the inscription FELIX ROMULIANA was carved. That label introduced Gamzigrad in the history entering the big door and placed it in the group of imperial constructions, in the category of monuments of Roman Castle architecture. This label enables mutual adjustment and supplementation of history and archeology. Relief decoration on archivolt, where the inscription was carved, denotes that the first word Felix has a purely religious and ideological meaning, expressing some kind of consecration and alludes to something that is sacred and eternal. The leaves of ivy, laurel wreath and peacocks as well as decorative elements that surround this label are symbols of consecration and apotheosis, as well as symbols of eternal life. Between 1985 and 1989 in the Eastern part of Gamzigrad, an area in front of a large temple was found and the East gate of the older and younger fortification. Parts of a colossal marble statue was found in front of the temple, which represent Jupiter with an eagle on his extended right hand, while in the ruins of the Eastern facade of the gate of that younger fortification, many architectural elements with relief performances were discovered. That is indicative that the whole Romuliana was built in honor of members of Jupiter, his family and their system of ruling the world. In addition to these ,on the portal of Romuliana’s main gate are presented scenes from afterlife and imperial apotheosis; and so the archivolts, consoles, pilasters and panels are abundant in vines, ivy, laurel branches, grape gathering, eagles and laurel wreathes adorned by peacocks. To the apotheosis allude the displayed sculptures of divinities and pictures of Dionysus,
Hercules and Asclepius on the mosaics discovered in the Imperial Palace next to a large temple. All the important checkpoints inside the city walls of Romuliana were explored archaeologically until 1990. Even the first researchers of Gamzigrad have noticed that the space outside the walls was covered with remains of various buildings from Roman times, especially on the Magura ridge that rises east of the main gate Romuliana, at a distance of about 1000 meters. Archaeological research has shown that the Magura is a specific holy hill, “Mons Sanctus”,that even in prehistoric times was a holy place of greatest respect and is the place where Romulus and Galerius were buried and ascended among the gods. Magura is a high, elongated reef built by marl, sandstone and volcanic rocks, and through its northern ridge led a main road for Romuliana. At the highest point of the ridge were discovered remnants of tetrapilon, a monumental gate with four entrances. That was a crossroad: the east-west direction from tetrapilon descended towards the main gate of Romuliana, and to the south changed slightly towards the top of Magura, where between 1989 and 1993, two giant tumulus and remains of two mausoleums were excavated.
Although they were destroyed long time ago and covered in a thick oak forest, religious monuments and tumuli silhouettes, even today are a point that can clearly be sees on the horizon, which means that once they have been far more visible. From the mausoleum’s square foundation on the North side, only a part remained with a grave in its center. A few stone blocks in the site and architectural elements found in the ruins, allowed to perform the reconstruction of the mausoleum. In the middle of a giant natural amphitheater Romuliana was built in the area which was inhabited since prehistoric times. During the excavation of the palace in its northern part, remains of settlements from the Bronze and Iron Age were found. Tombs with urns from the Early Iron Age were discovered at Magura, below the consecration monuments. From the moment the building of Romuliana began, all about it and around it became sacred, and every building is designed in order to convey a certain message or become a symbol. Felix Romuliana is one of the most important late Roman localities in Europe. Gamzigrad is included on the popular tourist offer “On the way of Roman Emperors”. Gamzigrad offers also comfortable accommodations and two kilometers away is a famous water spa with a source of thermal water.