Ruins of Imperial Palace at Sirmium
Shown within Serbia
Location Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia
Region Pannonia
Coordinates 44°59′N 19°37′E / 44.983°N 19.617°E / 44.983; 19.617Coordinates: 44°59′N 19°37′E / 44.983°N 19.617°E / 44.983; 19.617
Type Settlement
Founded Before 4th century BC
Abandoned 582
Cultures Illyrian, Celt, Roman, Byzantine
Site notes
Condition In ruins
Public access Yes

Sirmium was a city in Pannonia, an ancient province of the Roman Empire. First mentioned in the 4th century BC and originally inhabited by the Illyrians and Celts,[1] it was conquered by the Romans in the 1st century BC and subsequently became the capital of the Roman province of Pannonia Inferior. In 294 AD, Sirmium was pronounced one of the four capitals of the Roman Empire. It was also the capital of the Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum and of Pannonia Secunda Province. Sirmium was located on the Sava river, on the site of modern Sremska Mitrovica in Vojvodina province, northern Serbia. The Republic of Serbia declared its site an Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance in 1990. The modern region of Syrmia (Srem) is named after it.

Sirmium had 100,000[2] inhabitants and was one of the biggest cities of its time. Colin McEvedy, however, put the population at only 7,000, based on the size of the archaeological site.[3] Ammianus Marcellinus called it "the glorious mother of cities".


Golden Roman helmet found near Sirmium; it has been exhibited in the Museum of Vojvodina in Novi Sad.
Map of the praetorian prefecture of Illyricum, 318–79, with its capital in Sirmium.
A scale model of Sirmium in the Visitors Center in Sremska Mitrovica.

Remains of Sirmium stand on the site of the modern-day Sremska Mitrovica, 55 km west of Belgrade (Roman Singidunum) and 145 km away from Kostolac (Roman Viminacium). Archaeologists have found traces of organized human life on the site of Sirmium dating from 5,000 BC.[4] The city was firstly mentioned in the 4th century BC and was originally inhabited by the Illyrians and Celts[5] (i.e. by the Pannonian-Illyrian Amantini[6] and the Celtic Scordisci[7]). The Triballian King Syrmus was later considered the eponymous founder of Sirmium, but the roots are different, and the two words only became conflated later.[8] The name Sirmium by itself means "flow", "flowing water", "wetland", referring to its close river position on the nearby Sava, Latin Savus.

With the Scordisci as allies, the Roman proconsul Marcus Vinicius took Sirmium in around 14 BC.[9][10] In the 1st century AD, Sirmium gained a status of a colony of the citizens of Rome, and became an important military and strategic center of Pannonia province. The Roman emperors Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, and Claudius II prepared war expeditions in Sirmium.

In 103 Pannonia was split into two provinces: Pannonia Superior and Pannonia Inferior, and Sirmium became the capital city of the latter.

In 296 Diocletian reorganized Pannonia into four provinces: Pannonia Prima, Pannonia Valeria, Pannonia Savia and Pannonia Secunda, and Sirmium became the capital of Pannonia Secunda. He joined them with Noricum and Dalmatia to establish the Diocese of Pannonia, with Sirmium as its capital also.

In 293, with the establishment of tetrarchy, the Roman Empire was split into four parts; Sirmium emerged as one of the four capital cities (along with Trier, Mediolanum, and Nicomedia) of the Roman Empire, and was the capital of emperor Galerius. With the establishment of Praetorian prefectures in 318, the capital of the prefecture of Illyricum was Sirmium, remaining so until 379, when the westernmost Diocese of the Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum, Pannonia (including Sirmium), was detached and joined to the Praetorian prefecture of Italia assuming the name of Diocese of Illyricum. The eastern part of Illyricum remained a separate prefecture under the East Roman Empire with its new capital in Thessalonica.

From the 4th century, the city was an important Christian center, and the seat of the Bishop of Sirmium. Five church councils, the Councils of Sirmium, took place in Sirmium. The city also had an imperial palace, a horse-racing arena, a mint, an arena theatre, and a theatre, as well as many workshops, public baths, temples, public palaces and luxury villas. Ancient historian Ammianus Marcellinus called it "the glorious mother of cities".

The mint in Sirmium was connected with the mint in Salona and silver mines in the Dinaric Alps through the Via Argentaria.

At the end of the 4th century Sirmium came under the sway of the Goths, and later, was again annexed to the Eastern Roman Empire. In 441 the Huns conquered Sirmium; it remained for more than a century in the hands of various other tribes, such as Eastern Goths and Gepids. For a short time, Sirmium was the centre of the Gepid State and King Cunimund minted gold coins there. After 567, Sirmium reverted to the Eastern Roman Empire. The Avars conquered and destroyed the city in 582.

Roman emperors

Three golden helmets found near Sirmium, "kept" by 80 Roman legionnaires, Museum of Vojvodina in Novi Sad

Ten Roman emperors were born in this city or in its surroundings:

The last emperor of the united Roman Empire, Theodosius I (378–95), became emperor in Sirmium. The usurpers Ingenuus and Regalianus also declared themselves emperors in this city (in 260) and many other Roman emperors spent some time in Sirmium including Marcus Aurelius who might have written parts of his famous work Meditations in the city. Sirmium was, most plausibly, the site of the death of Marcus Aurelius, of smallpox, in March of 180 CE. McLynn, Frank, Marcus Aurelius, Da Capo Press (2009), p. 417.

Archeological findings

Julian solidus, ca. 361, from Sirmium mint

Famous residents

Traianus Decius, first romanized Illyrian that became Roman Emperor (249–51), born in village Budalia near Sirmium

See also


  1. "Mesto Sremska Mitrovica, upoznaj Srbiju". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  2. "SREMSKA MITROVICA IN ROMAN TIMES". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  3. McEvedy, Cities of the Classical World, (London: Allen Lane, 2011), p.346.
  4. "SREMSKA MITROVICA IN ROMAN TIMES". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  5. "Mesto Sremska Mitrovica, upoznaj Srbiju". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  6. "". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  7. "". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  8. Fanula Papazoglu, The central Balkan tribes in pre-Roman times, Hakkert, 1978. ISBN 90-256-0793-4. p.74.
  9. Ronald Syme, Anthony Birley, The provincial at Rome: and, Rome and the Balkans 80BC-AD14, p. 204 Google Books
  10. Alan K. Bowman, Edward Champlin, Andrew Lintott, The Cambridge ancient history 10:551 Google Books
  11. Sirmium. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  12. Roman Circuses. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  13. Bradt Travel Guide Serbia. Retrieved 1 October 2014.

Further reading

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