On the Trace of a Lost City
Timacum Maius appears on the ancient Roman ”Peuntinger’s Map” in the vicinity of Niš, but the disputes about its real location have been going on for more than 150 years. The explorations in the area of the Svrljig village of Niševac will probably resolve many dilemmas. Up to now, the borders of the city were resolved (it covered more than five hectares), remains of the road leading through the settlement were discovered, as well as part of the system for wastewater drainage. This autumn, in the third year of the explorations, a luxurious villa from the early II century was discovered, a unique discovery on the Serbian soil

NR Press

Early October morning in the Svrljig Timok valley. Fog everywhere, temperature only a bit over zero. Near the town of Svrljig, in the Niševac village area, we come across a hard working team of archeologists from the Serbian Academy of Science and Art (SANU) Institute for Balkan Studies. At this spot, they are looking for one of the Roman cities mentioned in the Roman road map called Peutinger’s Map (Tabula Peutingeriana).
– It is a Roman road station Timacum Maius, located in the map immediately after Niš, as the first station on the Roman Naissus-Ratiaria road, i.e. Niš-Arčar, on the Danube in present Bulgaria – says for National Review Vladimir Petrović, PhD, from the SANU Institute for Balkan Studies, head of the archeological explorations in Svrljig. – Disputes about the exact location of two Roman cities Timacum Maius and Timacum Minus, located in the mentioned map immediately after Niš, have been going on in our science for 150 years. While for Timacum Minus we can now claim for certain that it is the well preserved fortification Ravan near Knjaževac, the location of Timacum Maius has always been somehow vague, it moved by 50 kilometers from one spot to another and remained unknown to the very day.


– The archeological explorations in the area of Niševac near present Svrljig began three years ago. Up to now, remains of a Roman road leading through the settlement were discovered, as well as part of a wastewater drainage system – explains Petrović. – Also determined were the borders of the city which covered an area of over five hectares. This year’s archeological explorations campaigns, as well as the previous one, were financed by the Ministry of Culture of Serbia and the Municipality of Svrljig, while the field work was organized by the SANU Institute for Balkan Studies and the Heritage Museum Collection within the Cultural Center in Svrljig.
This year, continues the head of the project, a remarkably luxurious building from the beginning of the II century A.D. was discovered, a unique object with preserved ceramic pipes used for wall and floor heating. Such an edifice has never been discovered in Serbia before. It had a large room under which there was a canal through which warm air flowed and transferred heat through hollow ceramic pipes to the floors and the walls of the object. The firebox was under the ground next to the building. Especially interesting is that, besides the pipes, also discovered were small ceramic ”plugs” for closing the holes, obviously used for reducing and increasing heating. The edifice was destroyed in the late IV century, during the great invasions of barbaric tribes. Coins from this period, almost all exposed to big fires, testify about it. The edifice probably belonged to the city manager or some high official of the Roman administration at the time.
– All explorations up to now – adds archeologist Vojislav Filipović, MA – indicate that there was a big and important settlement in the vicinity of Niševac. The Roman milestone of Emperor Philip the Arabian was found in the neighboring village of Plužine, while a Roman road built into the rocks was registered in the Timok Gorge, leading towards the Svrljig city fortification, where remains of the Roman culture were also discovered. Under the fortification, in a place called Banjica, a large early Christian church was registered with tombs typical for that period.
Dr Vladimir Petrović says that, after all the knowledge gained, it can be claimed with a high degree of probability that the Roman Timacum Maius was located in the area of the village of Niševac.


The local authorities and manager of the Heritage Museum Collection of the Svrljig Cultural Center Slaviša Milivojević, who has been participating in the archeological explorations every year since their beginning, have been a great support to the explorers. Milivojević says that for many years Svrljig has been a black hole in the archeological map of Serbia, however year after year, this has been rapidly changing.
– The Municipality of Svrljig (led by its president) and the Cultural Center recognize the significance of these explorations and have been supporting it to such an extent that we can call them joint explorations. They are actively participating in promoting and protecting the cultural heritage of this area. Also we are planning the founding of a special exhibition space in the very center of Svrljig for the exhibits from these archeological sites, and the Municipality has promised us that we will get a whole building for our needs – says Filipović. – Besides Timacum Maius and abundant material from this site, the Municipality of Svrljig has a lot to offer to the tourist and cultural community of our country. This includes the Prekonoška Cave, inhabited by the Neanderthals, as well as many other prehistoric, antique and medieval sites we have located which still await more serious archeological explorations due to lack of financial means. It is also important that Timacum Maius has its place in the tourist map ”Down the Roads of Roman Emperors” issued by the Serbian Ministry of Culture, together with the most significant sites such as Sirmium, Gamzigrad, Ravna, Niš...
The explorations here have actually only begun, emphasizes Dr Vladimir Petrović.
– We hope that during next year we will manage, together with a French university, to initiate an official international project, so further explorations here would be wider and longer. We have actually only scratched the surface of this site. We believe that the main things and even more significant findings are only to be discovered.


– It is important that the museum and the exhibition in Svrljig are ready before the completion of large hotel complexes on Babin Zub – says Slaviša Milivojević, manager of the Cultural Center in Svrljig for National Review. – Our city is the closest large town to this future ski center in Stara Planina. If we first wait for the tourists to come to Babin Zub and only then begin developing our tourism offer, I think we will miss a great opportunity for Svrljig, now one of the most underdeveloped municipalities in Serbia.


Treasure Hunters
– Besides the museum, we have an idea to make an archeological park in the area of Niševac, looking up to other antique sites around – says Vojislav Filipović, MA. – Together with the experts from the National Museum in Niš and Institute for Protection of Monuments of Culture from the same city, we began the preservation of the site. Furthermore, local ”treasure hunters” are also a big threat to the site, because they destroy, even mine the local fortifications, caves and churches. The locals promised us that they will preserve this site and report any unexpected activities to the local authorities and police.


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