In the time of the Roman Empire, 17 centuries ago, the Serbian city of Sremska Mitrovica, then called Sirmium, was one of the four capitals of the great Empire. In the 4th century, it was the administrative center for the territory from today’s Budapest to Crete, and the city had some 100 thousand citizens. The part of Vojvodina between the Sava and Danube rivers was named Srem, after Sirmium.
Sremska Mitrovica belongs among oldest cities in Europe, where people have been living for almost 7,000 years. Thanking to Roman emperor Diocletian, in the short time Sirmium had become a rich and extravagant residential and administrative center of the Empire, with many palaces, baths, temples, streets and squares. Archaeological research was commenced in the city on the Sava in late 1960s, when the remains of the emperor’s palace (Palatium Imperiale) were excavated, located on the crossroads of two streets. Inside that building of fascinating dimensions, where Roman emperors used to dwell, the pipes and heating system for the palace were found. There was also the system to bring the fresh spring water from the nearby mount of Fruska Gora to the city. Interestingly enough, some of those water systems are still in use today in the agricultural compound, say the citizens of Sremska Mitrovica.
In that location, the archeologists have found another imperial mosaic from the antiquity, as they underline, more beautiful than any other so far. It was half a meter deeper in the ground from the mosaic that was dug out three decades ago, and its area is estimated to almost 20 square meters, so certain parts cannot be accessed, since they are under the building of the Sremska Mitrovica brewery. After the decision of the Serbian Government, a crypt of approximately 2,500 square meters in size is being built here, to host and display the antique treasure of Sirmium.
Today’s looks of the town date back to the beginning of the 19th century, and the name Mitrovica is derived from Dmitrovica, which dates back to the medieval times, in memory of Sirmium deacon St Dimitris, who was killed during the anti-Christian pogroms in the times of the Roman Empire. There once was the basilica of St Dimitris in the city, but today it is the name of the church, known for its iconostasis from the 17th century, which once fascinated the visitors at the World Expo in Paris.
The world had the opportunity to see valuable items from the locality of Sremska Mitrovica at various exhibitions in London, Naples and Vienna as well. The most precious ones, i.e. numismatic collections, have never left the windows of the Srem Museum. You can imagine the examples of those coins if we remind that in early 4th century Sirmium was the only city in Europe where gold coins were minted.
All so-called Pannonia emperors were born in Sirmium – Traianus Decius, Aurelian, Probus, Maximianus Heraculius and Constantius II. They all had short lives, and those who did most for their city were Aurelian and Probus. The former because he minted money with symbols of the Sirmium architecture, while the latter is mentioned to this days as the originator of vineyard cultivation. It was his merit that the first vine was planted outside Italy, on the slopes of the Fruska Gora Mountian, in the vicinity of Sirmuium. Emperor Traianus used to spend winters in this town when waging wars on Thracians, while Galerius spent there his time until the abdication and departure to Gamzigrad.