Felix Romuliana, Serbia
III century A.D.

The residential complex near Zajecar. It was built by the Roman ruler Galerius at the place of his nativity and dedicated to his mother Romula. Building of a large fortified palace began in 298, but the complex was never finished. The residence was destroyed by the Huns in the V century and later rebuilt as a Byzantine military fortification. Inside the fortified complex there is the palace with a residence, adorned with colorful mosaics. Among them are some of the most impressive mosaics of the Late Antiquity in Europe. The most valuable of them are kept in the museum in Zaječar. Images of the mystical labyrinth, the god Dionysus and the imperial hunting adorned the great halls of luxury buildings. Galerius’ portrait carved in porphyry is also preserved. Inside the walls there are the remains of two ancient temples and three Christian churches. Outside the walls there is Magura, a place of Galerius’ and Romula’s apotheosis (transformation into divinity) and the remains of their mausoleums. Gamzigrad is on UNESCO's list of world heritage. 

Galerius, who subsequently became the Emperor of Rome and a divinity (293 - 311 AD), was born ca 250 AD in the province of Coastal Dacia, in a place "not too far from Serdica", where he grazed cattle in his youth and therefore wore byname Armentarius - the Herdsman, all his natural life. The most recent result of archaeological research extra muros of the magnificent palace, which Galerius built in the place of his birth and named it after his mother Romuliana, prove that Galerius' birthplace was once a large urban settlement, with numerous luxurious public and private buildings.
Galerius was a personable, robust man, an epicure and an extremely brave soldier, devoted throughout his life to his step-father Diocletian, who was founder of the Tetrarchy, strongly connected to his native land, fellow countrymen and relatives and, above all, to his mother Romula, who was "an ardent devotee of mountain divinities" and a sworn enemy of Christians. It is believed that the massive persecution of Christians by Diocletian was commenced under Galerius' influence, as well as that 4th and most severe Diocletian's Edict against Christians, issued in 304 AD, was entirely Galerius' doing. It is less known, however, that just two years before the famous Constantine's Edict of Milan of 313 AD, Galerius issued an edict in Nicomedia, on April 30th 311 AD, by which the persecution of Christians was ceased.
The court complex in the vicinity of the present day village of Gamzigrad is walled by a unique defensive system: a double fortification, formed from the remains of the older fortification nested into the younger fortification. Galerius was able to start building the older fortification only after his great victory of 297 AD, over Persian Emperor Narseh, while building of the younger fortification started in 305/6 AD.
The pilaster with representation of tetrarchs in medallions testifies that 305 AD, the year in which Galerius was proclaimed Augustus (1st of May), is the year which we can consider as the beginning of building of the palace. The whole complex was probably supposed to be completed by celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Galerius' reign (vicennallia) and his voluntary abdication in 313 AD. Emperor's illness, which progressed unchecked since 310 AD, diverted the course of building from the fortified profane core towards the sacral complex on Magura. Finally, his death in 311 AD undoubtedly represented also the death of his, i.e. the ideological concept of the Tetrarchy.
Iconography of ornaments found in the Gamzigrad palace is the most impressive visual expression of the idea and political concept of the Tetrarchy. Floors of the palace were covered by impressive and high quality mosaics, walls decorated with luxurious frescoes and facings of precious stone, niches filled with sculptures carved of rare and intractable stone, such as red porphyry — all of which being a pledge of eternity. Apart from Hercules, the mythological hero with whom he identified himself, Galerius paid particular respect to Bacchus (Dionysus), using the myth of Dionysus as the foundation for the myth of himself and of his divine mother. The entire decoration of Rcmufiana, as well as the decoration of the Emperor's Royal Palace in Thessalonica, are dedicated to the eternally youthful and constantiy resurrecting God. Impressive material evidence of double apotheosis, Galerius' and Rcmula's, was discovered on the Magura hill, about 1 km (0.6 mi) away from Romuliana's main gate.

Tekst: Maja Živić - Curator
source: muzejzajecar.org