Fischer, Samira
#Milinković, Mihailo
#Byzantine Empire
#Eastern Europe
#Hilltop Settlements
#Late Antiquity
Milinković, Early Byzantine settlements in Serbia and surroundings
Annotation author: Fischer, Samira
Book author: Milinković, Mihailo

Mihailo Milinković, Early Byzantine settlements in Serbia and surroundings, Belgrade 2015

Михаило Милинковић, Рановизантијска насеља у Србији и њеном окружењу (Београд 2015)

Mihailo Milinković, Early Byzantine settlements in Serbia and surroundings (Belgrade 2015)


Mihailo Milinković’s monograph, published in 2015, deals with early Byzantine settlements on the territory of present-day Serbia and its surroundings. These are the former late Roman provinces of Pannonia Secunda, Dalmatia, Moesia Prima, Dacia Ripensis, Dacia Mediterranea, Dardania and Praevalitana. The chronological focus lies in the 6th and early 7th century.

In the 6th century, a change in the settlement pattern can be observed in northern Illyricum. Newly founded settlements are now located in the mountains. Late Antique and Early Byzantine hilltop settlements and fortifications on the Balkan Peninsula have become the focus of archaeological attention since the 1980s. In the introductory chapter, Milinković presents the research history and the state of research on settlements in modern Serbia. The real breakthrough came with archaeological investigations in Novi Pazar in south-west Serbia. These drew attention to hilltop settlements of the early Byzantine period, which until then had been dated to the High and Late Middle Ages.

The next chapter deals with the historic background in northern Illyricum (p. 29-42). Milinković gives a brief insight into the population structure before the Roman conquest, the “Romanization”, the Roman period, the Christianization, as well as the subsequent so-called migration period.

After an overview of the geographical and climatic conditions in Serbia (p. 43-46), the main part of the work is devoted to the settlements. One chapter examines the possibilities of categorizing the various settlement forms (p.46-49), taking into account the complex problem of defining different types or categories of settlements. In the 6th century, the boundaries between town, village, and fort became fluid. This is also complicated by the lack of large-scale excavations.

The following chapter, one of the two main chapters, deals with the principles of early Byzantine fortification in the North of Illyricum (ПРИНЦИПИ РАНОВИЗАНТИЈСКЕ ФОРТИФИКАЦИЈЕ НА СЕВЕРУ ИЛИРИКА, p. 49-108). Milinković shows the different fortification elements such as towers, ramparts, walls, masonry techniques, gates, and bastions. He demonstrates that the ground plans were consistently adapted to the local terrain and its irregularities. It is argued that these complexes were permanently inhabited settlements with a rural character – villages that were the basic settlement unit in Illyricum.

Milinković subsequently focuses on places with a “central function”. First, he provides an overview of the continued settlement in the existing Roman towns, such as Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica), Singidunum (Belgrade), Viminatium and Naissus (Niš). After the “Hun invasion” under Attila in the 440s, a reduction of the settlement area in these towns is detectable. New dwellings were built, which Milinković calls “poor huts”. In many places in Serbia, new settlements were built in mountain regions in the 6th century, some with a “central function”. The author concentrates on the presentation of the two best excavated settlements: Caričin Grad (Iustiniana prima?) and Jelica-Gradina (p. 143-249). After outlining the history of research and the findings, especially churches and necropolises, Milinković compares the architecture of the two complexes.

This is followed by an excursus on early Byzantine Gamzigrad (Romuliana) in north-eastern Serbia, a chapter on villages, and a conclusion with a look at economic forms.

Since the 1980s, several hundred early Byzantine settlements have been discovered through archaeological surveys and excavations in Serbia and its surrounding countries. A comprehensive publication of the sites has not yet been undertaken. Milinković’s work represents a first important compilation of the diversity of early Byzantine settlements in northern Illyricum. The study offers an overview with examples, though unfortunately without a catalogue. The monograph is in Serbian with a 2 1/2 pages German summary.