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Well-kept secrets of the Roman Empire presence in Croatia

The Roman Empire left its markable trace around Croatia (Photo credit: TZZO Njivice-Omisalj)

by Tina Kovačiček

Every authentic Croat will tell you that his ancestors came to this area in the 7th century. But there were some interesting things going on before that, actually one of the best-known players on the world history stage – the Roman Empire, left their markable trace around Croatia.

In that time the area was inhabited by Illyrian tribes such as the Delmetae who spoke an Illyrian language, an ancient branch of Indo-European. Illyria was a sovereign state until the Romans conquered it in 168 BC and made it into a province of Illyricum which they subsequently split into the provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia. They stayed very influential until the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD.

This is the reason why today in Croatia we have a lot of amazing sites to show such as Arena and temple of Augustus in Pula, Diocletian Palace in Split, National park Brioni and much more.

A lot of them can be seen on every greeting card but some of them we forget to talk about in public. Even a lot of Croats often forget about these localities and believe us they are worth visiting. Actually, they are perfect for daily excursions depending on what part of Croatia you are at.

Remains of the ancient town of Municipium Flavium Fulfinum from the second half of the 1st century

Omišalj, Island of Krk

Fulfinum, known today known as Okladi (Photo credit: TZZO Njivice-Omisalj)

An ancient town and early Christian complex are located in the bay of Sepen by Omišalj. In the area of Fulfinum (today known as Okladi), there are recognizable remains of different buildings from the Roman period. The recently investigated parts of the forum, the heart of the ancient town with a temple, basilica, and tabernae and parts of a large architectural complex of public buildings are particularly impressive.

(Photo credit: TZZO Njivice-Omisalj)

Although the site has been systematically researched in recent years, the town of Municipium Flavium Fulfinum is mostly still unexplored and has not been completely unearthed. But what is here is easily accessible and a great site to walk around.

(Photo credit: TZZO Njivice-Omisalj)

Southwest of the forum, on the Mirine site, there is a Late Antiquity necropolis containing a row of smaller graves and several larger tombs belonging to the privileged, and also a basilica, probably dedicated to St. Nicholas, which has been preserved to just below the roof. Due to its excellent state of preservation, this church serves as a model of Early Christian sacral buildings.

Archaeological Museum of Narona

Naronski trg 6, Vid, close to the of city of Metković in the Dubrovnik-Neretva County

(Photo credit: Archaeological Museum of Narona)

Archaeological research conducted at the Plećašove štale site in 1995. and 1996. led to a sensational discovery of the remains of a Roman temple – the Augusteum – and 17 marble statues, both outsized and in natural height. Seventeen statues represent Roman emperors and their family members and stand out as the most attractive finds. They inspired the idea of presenting this unique archaeological site in an integral fashion, including both architectural remains and other specimens of the archaeological materials. Above the Augusteum museum pavilion was built and it changed the whole perspective of the small city of Vid.

(Photo credit: Archaeological Museum of Narona)

Some of the outdoor exhibits can be seen on the patio in front of the Museum building, including fragments of architectural temple ornaments as well as functional and decorative parts of the forum’s furnishings.
The main exhibition hall consists of the temple area itself, including the architectural remains of the Roman temple in situ and featuring the statues of emperors and their family members, mounted on a gallery overlooking a black-and-white mosaic floor as the most remarkable exhibits.

In the wider temple area sculpture fragments, coins, glass, pottery, metal and bone artifacts were discovered as well. The exhibition includes a total of roughly 900 finds, allowing us to track the city’s history from the end of the third century BC through the fifteenth century AD.

Narona was formally inaugurated in 2007 as the first in situ museum in Croatia and later on has been triple awarded.

Archaeological Park “ANDAUTONIA” at Scitarjevo

Open May – October 

(Photo credit: Archaeological Park “ANDAUTONIA” at Scitarjevo)

The present-day village of Scitarjevo near Zagreb overlies the remains of Roman Andautonia, the urban center of the broader Zagreb region in antiquity. Andautonia was built along what was then the main course of the Sava River, on the main Roman road from Sisak to Ptuj (Siscia-Poetovio). Inscriptions from the 1st to 3rd centuries, mentioning Andautonia as a municipium and as a republic, show that this city had a prominent legal status, and for 400 years it was the administrative, economic, cultural, and religious center of the broader Zagreb region.

During the Migration Period, at the end of the 4th and beginning of the 5th centuries, the city was apparently destroyed.

The courtyard and the garden of the parish hall in the center of the present-day village have been systematically excavated since 1981, with conservation and restoration of the remains being undertaken since 1984. This resulted in 1994 in the presentation of these excavated structures as the Archaeological Park “Andautonia”.

(Photo credit: Archaeological Park “ANDAUTONIA” at Scitarjevo)

Visitors can view preserved sections of the Roman city in an area of 2500m2, accompanied by tablets offering important information about individual structures and buildings.

The finds of wall paintings, mosaic cubes, stone thresholds, and heating systems indicate very luxuriously outfitted buildings, and the discovered pottery and glass vessels, lamps, bronze and silver jewelry, and other objects of everyday use have further enriched our image of this Roman city.

Excavations have also shown that in the 1st century, prior to the construction of the baths, a city cemetery had been located at the very same spot, but it was destroyed by a flood and later construction.

After viewing the preserved part of the Roman city, visitors can also see the most important stone monuments found in the Andautonia area, the parish church of St. Martin, and also walk through the present-day village of Scitarjevo, where several typical rural farmyards with wooden houses are still preserved.

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