Ruins of Imperial Palace at Sirmium
Sirmium is located in Serbia
Shown within Serbia
LocationModern-day Serbia (Sremska Mitrovica)
Coordinates44°57′58″N 19°36′38″E / 44.96611°N 19.61056°E / 44.96611; 19.61056
FoundedBefore 4th century BC
CulturesIllyrian, Celt, Roman, Byzantine
Site notes
ConditionIn ruins
Public accessYes
Typearchaeological Site of Exceptional Importance
Reference no.АН 106

Sirmium was a city in the Roman province of Pannonia, located on the Sava river, on the site of modern Sremska Mitrovica in the Vojvodina autonomous province of Serbia. First mentioned in the 4th century BC and originally inhabited by 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 proclaimed one of four capitals of the Roman Empire. It was also the capital of the Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum and of Pannonia Secunda. The site is protected as an archaeological Site of Exceptional Importance. The modern region of Syrmia (Srem or Srijem) was named after the city.

Sirmium purportedly had 100,000[2] inhabitants and was one of the largest cities of its time. Colin McEvedy, whose estimates for ancient cities are much lower than the general consensus, however, put the population at only 7,000, based on the size of the archaeological site.[3] The amount of grain imported between 1 AD and 400 AD was enough to feed 700,000 to 1 million people.[4]


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 (34 mi) west of Belgrade (Roman Singidunum). It was located 30 km (19 mi) west of Bassianae and 145 km (90 mi) of Viminacium, 35 km (22 mi) southwest of Cusum, 35 km (22 mi) southeast of Cuccium and 70 km (43 mi) southwest of Cibalae. Archaeologists have found traces of organized human life on the site of Sirmium dating from 5,000 BC.[5] The city was first mentioned in the 4th century BC and was originally inhabited by the Illyrians and Celts[6] (by the Pannonian-Illyrian Amantini[7] and the Celtic Scordisci[8]). The Triballi king Syrmus was later considered the eponymous founder of Sirmium, but the roots are different, and the two words only became conflated later.[9] The name Sirmium by itself means "flow, flowing water, wetland", referring to its close river position on the nearby Sava.

With the Celtic tribe of Scordisci as allies, the Roman proconsul Marcus Vinicius took Sirmium in around 14 BC.[10][11] In the 1st century AD, Sirmium gained the status of a Roman colony, and became an important military and strategic center of the 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; 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, with Sirmium becoming 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 the Tetrarchy, the Roman Empire was split into four parts; Sirmium emerged as one of the four capital cities (along with Trier, Mediolanum, and Nicomedia), 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 Illyricum, Pannonia (including Sirmium), was detached and joined to the prefecture of Italia assuming the name of Diocese of Illyricum. The eastern part of Illyricum remained a separate prefecture under the East Roman (Byzantine) Empire with its new capital in Thessalonica.

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 East Roman Empire. In 441 the Huns conquered Sirmium; for more than a century it was held by various other tribes, such as the Ostrogoths and Gepids. In 504, Ostrogothic Count Pitzas under Theoderic the Great took Sirmium. For a short time, Sirmium was the centre of the Kingdom of the Gepids and king Cunimund (r.c. 560 – 567) minted gold coins there. After 567, Sirmium was returned to the East Roman Empire. The Pannonian Avars conquered and destroyed the city in 582.

The city was also the location of the Battle of Sirmium that took place in 1167, where a Roman army dispatched by Manuel I Komnenos decisively defeated the forces of Hungary, turning the latter into a satellite state.

Roman emperors

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

Ten Roman emperors were born in this city or in its surroundings: Herennius Etruscus (251), Hostilian (251), Decius (249–251), Claudius II (268-270), Quintillus (270), Aurelian (270–275), Probus (276–282), Maximian (285–310), Constantius II (337–361), and Gratian (367–383).

The last emperor of the united Roman Empire, Theodosius I (378–395), 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 likely, the site of the death of Marcus Aurelius, of smallpox, in March of 180 CE.[12]

Christian bishopric

The city had a Christian community by the third century. By the end of the century, it had a bishop, who was probably the metropolitan of all the Pannonian bishops. The first known bishop was Irenaeus, who was martyred during the Diocletianic Persecution in 304. For the next century, the sequence of bishops is known, but in the fifth and sixth centuries the see falls into obscurity. An unnamed bishop is mentioned in 448. The last known bishop is mentioned in a papal letter of 594, after which the city itself is rarely mentioned and the see probably went into abeyance.[13]

From the time of the first synod of Tyre in 335, Sirmium became a stronghold of the Arian movement and site of much controversy. Between 347 and 358 there were four synods held in Sirmium. A fifth took place in 375 or 378. All dealt with the Arian controversy.[13]

Archeological findings

Julian solidus, ca. 361, from Sirmium mint

At Glac near Sirmium a palace is being excavated,[14] indicated by the luxurious construction materials coming from all over the Mediterranean, such as red and green porphyry from Egypt and the Peloponnese, and marble from Tunisia, Greece and Italy. Some say it is that of Emperor Maximian and according to Aurelius Victor built on the place where his parents worked as labourers on the estate.[15]

During the construction of the hospital in 1971, more than eighty altars were found in a monumental sanctuary to Jupiter, which is the second largest in Europe.[citation needed] Sirmium had two bridges with which bridged the river Sava, Ad Basanti and Artemida's bridges according to historical sources.[citation needed] After 313 Sirmium became an important Christian centre. So far revealed are eight early Christian churches dedicated to St. Irenaeus, St. Demetrius and Sv. Sinenot.[citation needed]

During work on the new Sremska Mitrovica trade centre in 1972, a worker accidentally broke into an old Roman pot, about 2m deep, over the site of an old Sirmium settlement. 33 gold Roman coins enclosed in a leather pouch were found inside a Roman house wall, probably the hidden savings of a wealthy Roman family stashed centuries ago. Of this extraordinary rare find of Sirmium minted coins were 4 Constantius II era coins, considered the most valuable examples from the late Roman Empire of the fourth century AD. Ironically, the worker's name was Zlatenko (meaning Golden, or Golden Man in Serbian, Aurelius in Latin).

Sirmium also had a Roman Hippodrome.[16][17][18] A colossal building about 150m wide and 450m long lies directly under the Sremska Mitrovica town center and just beside the old Sirmium Emperor's Palace (one of just a few Sirmium publicly accessible archeological sites). The presence of the arena has clearly affected the layout of the present town (Sremska Mitrovica is today about 2–4m above ground line of former Sirmium settlement). Recently announced cultural and archeological projects for preserving and popularising Sirmium sites haven't included any activity dealing with the arena, probably due to the extent of the large arena — the entire present town center might have to be excavated.

Famous residents

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

List of emperors

List of prefects

List of bishops

List of saints


  1. ^ "Mesto Sremska Mitrovica, upoznaj Srbiju". Archived from the original on 14 May 2014. 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. ^ Ancient Rome, the Archaeology of the Eternal City, Edited by Jon Coulston and Hazel dodge, 2008, pp. 154-165, ISBN 978-0-954816-55-1
  5. ^ "SREMSKA MITROVICA IN ROMAN TIMES". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  6. ^ "Mesto Sremska Mitrovica, upoznaj Srbiju". Archived from the original on 14 May 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  7. ^ Domić-Kunić, Alka (8 December 2006). "". Vjesnik Arheološkog Muzeja U Zagrebu. 39 (1): 59–164. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  8. ^ "". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  9. ^ Papazoglu 1978, p. 74.
  10. ^ Ronald Syme, Anthony Birley, The provincial at Rome: and, Rome and the Balkans 80BC-AD14, p. 204 Google Books
  11. ^ Alan K. Bowman, Edward Champlin, Andrew Lintott, The Cambridge ancient history, 10, p. 551
  12. ^ McLynn, Frank, Marcus Aurelius, Da Capo Press (2009), p. 417
  13. ^ a b Jacques Zeiller, Les origines chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de l'Empire romain (Paris: E. de Boccard, 1918), pp. 143–48, 598.
  14. ^ "Archaeological Site Glac".
  15. ^ Aurelius Victor, Historia Romana, De Caesaribus
  16. ^ Sirmium. 1971. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  17. ^ Humphrey, John H. (January 1986). Roman Circuses. ISBN 9780520049215. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  18. ^ Mitchell, Laurence (2007). Bradt Travel Guide Serbia. ISBN 9781841622033. Retrieved 1 October 2014.