Serbia – a small country with a rich heritage – has five cultural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. One of them is Felix Romuliana – the Roman imperial palace. The palace was built in the 3rd century, as a residence of Emperor Caius Valerius Galerius Maximianus, and it was named Felix Romuliana, after his mother Romula. This archaeological site is also known as Gamzigrad, and it is located in eastern Serbia, close to the city Zaječar.
Roman Emperors Route
Felix Romuliana – the home of Roman Emperor
The site is impressively big and it spreads on 10 acres. In fact, there are 2 palaces. Like every imperial court, Felix Romuliana is a fortification, with 20 defense towers. It contained rooms, baths, fine mosaics, and impressive gates and columns, which can also be seen today. Further, there are temples, shrines, and crypts on site. And also, the graves of Emperor Galerius and his mother Romula are in the vicinity as well. If the name “Galerius” rings any bells – let us remind you! The famous arch in the center of Thessaloniki, Greece – the Arch of Galerius – was built by the same Emperor.
Interestingly, until the discovery of those items, the common belief was that the site is just a Roman military camp. Then, in 1984, archeologists found a table with the inscription “Felix Romuliana”. Also, the archaeologists found many other important artifacts and details here. Important mosaics of gods Dionysos and Medusa are in excellent condition. They also found a collection of gold coins, jewelry, and household items. Perhaps the most important foundings are portraits of Roman emperors, carved in the Egyptian purple stone (porphyry). With help of those artifacts, the scientists were able to date the palace and to learn more about its purpose. Some parts of the complex are still a mystery, and there are plans to continue the research of them, too. We are yet to see what other secrets this palace hides!
The best way to get there is of course, by car. Felix Romuliana is around 240 km away from Belgrade, 110 km from Niš, and only 10 km away from Zaječar. In low season (from November 1st until April 30th) the site works every day from 8:00 until 16:00. In high season (from May 1st until October 31), the working hours are from 08:00 until 20:00, every day (guides are available from 10:00 until 18:00). The admission fee is 300 dinars (2,40 EUR/$3 USD) for palace only, or 400 dinars (3,20 EUR/$4 USD) with admission to the museum and Radul Bey’s mansion included.
If you intend to visit the Felix Romuliana site, you should definitely visit the museum National Museum in Zaječar as well. Due to security reasons and to protect them from weather impact, many items from the site are in the museum. And while you are there, use the chance to walk around the biggest city of eastern Serbia. See the old Turkish Mill, and Radul Begov konak (Radul Bey’s Mansion), which was the inn for Ottoman merchants and travelers. Of course, stop for a coffee or lunch in one of the many cafes and restaurants of Zaječar.
The open-air configuration of the site allows the proper implementation of covid prevention measures. It is possible to keep up the safe distance, and the number of visitors declined with colder weather. Hence, the visit to this site is perfectly safe. Stay healthy and see you in Serbia!