Treasures of the old Roman road in Slovenia
Treasures of the old Roman road in Slovenia
Almost 2000 years ago, a very important Roman road ran through numerous Slovenian towns, from Aquileia through Emona all the way to Celeia and Poetovio (Oglej–Ljubljana–Celje–Ptuj) and then further north to the Baltic and south to the Balkans. But the ancient paths and roads are just as exciting today as they were in times past.
Following the path of Aquileia–Emona–Celeia–Poetovio
Almost 2000 years ago, a very important Roman road ran through numerous Slovenian towns, from Aquileia through Emona all the way to Celeia and Poetovio (Oglej–Ljubljana–Celje–Ptuj) and then further north to the Baltic and south to the Balkans. But the ancient paths and roads are just as exciting today as they were in times past. The network of paved major roads, which primarily served military and economic purposes, opens up a number of questions and provides answers about ancient Roman history, which was written by Slovenian places as well.
On the left bank of the River Ljubljanica, the Romans set up their colony of Julia Emona, the first urban predecessor to today’s capital of Slovenia. A venerable 2000 years have passed since Emona was first mentioned in writing. It is this year that the city of Ljubljana celebrates its anniversary. On this occasion the City Museum of Ljubljana and Slovenian Wikipedia authors prepared a presentation of Emona in Wikipedia. The museum offered the popular web encyclopaedia 46 pictures related to the ancient history of Ljubljana, thus joining a number of museums around the world that offered a part of their digital archives for free use. Emona as a well-oiled machine, connected with other towns and the capital Rome, propelled a grand empire, which is why the City Museum is working on another project. The exhibition Emona: the town in the empire, which will be open to visitors from the end of May onwards, will creatively place Emona on the map of the vast Roman Empire.
Old Roman roads bring back many stories from the territory of present-day Slovenia in Roman times. Celeia – a town beneath today’s town certainly is a special archaeological site. Beneath the court of princes in Celje, archaeologists have discovered the most beautiful remains of the Roman town of Celeia, and visitors can see the largest section of a paved Roman street in Slovenia. The restored street, a little over six metres wide or fourteen metres when counting sidewalks and gutters, once connected important strategic points of Roman towns in the area of modern-day Slovenia. The Celje underground town also hides Roman frescoes, which attest to the many colours of antiquity and are reminiscent of those in Pompeii due to the use of red paint. In the time when Mediaeval Celje was beginning to grow on the ruins of Roman Celeia, the famous traveller Paolo Santonino referred to it as "Troia secunda" – Little Troy and thus placed it on the pedestal of history.
Not far from Celje stands another cultural monument. Roman noblemen and the magistrates of Celeia had their tombs built in the Roman necropolis in Šempeter. This is an interesting story as the necropolis was discovered by sheer chance when in 1952 works in an orchard unexpectedly revealed a statue of a seated woman. Not long after the excavations were finished, the Roman necropolis archaeological park was opened. Today visitors can see many exceptionally well-preserved tombs of Romans there. The Romans had a custom of burying their deceased by the roads outside fortified towns or cities. Over a hundred tombstones are decorated with relief images, crafted by great masters. To this day, each tomb tells its story about the Romans and depicts ancient mythology.
The Roman Road connected Celje with Ptuj. Roman writers often mention Poetovio, one of the biggest Roman towns in Slovenia, in connection with important events dating back to the time of Emperor Vespasian and the political activities of the grandfather of the last Western Roman Emperor Romulus. These writings mark the beginning of the historical period of Ptuj, which, around 103, became Colonia Ulpia Traiana Poetovio, a colony with over 40,000 inhabitants. Among them were as many as 8,000 legionaries, which is why it is not unusual that preserving the thousand-year-old tradition is still a mandatory part of Ptuj’s cultural life. Each year in the second half of August the town holds Roman games and attracts more than a thousand people. The inhabitants of Ptuj have an invitation for everyone wishing to experience the life of legionaries and emperors for a day or two: “Join the empire and taste the sweetness of fame!”