The impressive palaces of Emperor Galerius and his mother Romula – who Felix Romuliana was named after – were heavily defended by a double fortification system. The first wall was built in 297 AD, after the victory of Galerius over Persians, and the second one, with twenty round and polygonal watchtowers, in 305–306 AD. Works on the emperor’s palace and the palace of his beloved mother started in 305. According to the recent research there used to be a villa rustica on that location, probably belonging to his father and the birth place of Galerius (250 AD). The brave and glorious military emperor got his surname Armentarius (herdsman) because he used to graze cattle in his youth. He died in 311 AD after several military interventions north of the Danube and never saw the finished complex (313 AD): two luxury villas, two temples (one dedicated to pagan mountain gods that his mother was a priestess of), public buildings, frescoes, mosaic carpets, statues. His and his mother’s funeral mound and mausoleum are situated 1 kilometre east of the main entrance gate, on the Magura hill.
Since 1953, the complex has been systematically excavated, but first discoverers were made by German geologist August von Herder (1835) and Austrian natural scientist and travel writer Felix Kanitz (1864). The latter described Gamzigrad as “one of the largest and best preserved monuments of Roman architecture in Europe”. In 2002, the complex archaeological research was done in co-operation with the German Archeological Institute DAI.
The best way to explore Felix Romuliana is to take a guided tour. The guide is the sitedirector Bora Dimitrijević. He will tell you that although neither Galerius nor his mother liked the Christians, it was Galerius who stopped their persecution with his Edict of Toleration of 30 April 311. Check out the small tower museum and the remains of the byzantine church built under Emperor Justinian I after the Huns had destroyed Romuliana in 441 AD.
Felix Romuliana became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. When visiting the Zaječar National Museum, where you can see the outstanding artefacts of Felix Romuliana (porphyry bust of Galerius as Pantocrator (ruler of Universe), the head of Hercules, a wonderful mosaic depicting Dionysus and a mosaic carpet with a labyrinth), check out the hot springs of Gamzigradska Banjadecorated with beautiful mosaics by Mladen Srbinović.
Printed English language guides are available. The town house (konak) of Radul-Bey should also be seen before continuing down the Via Romana, the Serbian Roman Emperors Route.