Augusteum of Narona

Narona was an ancient city located in the Narenta Valley in present-day southern Croatia near the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina. The valley, home to the ancient Illyrian tribe, served as the route for the exchange of goods between the Mediterranean, the Adriatic Sea and the Illyrian hinterland. Narona became a major Roman stronghold and had a Roman temple building dedicated to Augustus known as an Augusteum.

Coordinates: 43°04’49.4″N 17°37’41.4″E

The harbour settlement of Narona began its life in the Late Classical period. It was first mentioned by the Greek geographer Pseudo-Skilak in the 4th century BC who mentions an emporion 80 stadia from the sea.

And from Nestians is the Naron river: and the voyage into the Narona is not narrow: and even a trireme voyages into it, and boats into the upper trading town, being distant from the sea 80 stades.” – Pseudo-Skylax, 24.

Narona developed into an urban settlement in the Late Roman Republic and remained an administrative centre until its abandonment in the 7th century following the Avaro-Slavic invasion. It served as a centre for several Roman military campaigns against the Delmatae and other Illyrians whose trading community was established there in the late 2d century BC. Narona became part of the Roman province of Dalmatia and reached its peak of prosperity and strategic importance in the Augustan age when it became a major Roman stronghold and received the status of Colonia (Colonia Iulia Narona).

Archaeological research conducted in 1995 and 1996 led to a sensational discovery of the remains of a Roman temple – the Augusteum – and seventeen monumental marble sculptures of Roman emperors and their family members. The Augusteum seems to have been built in about 10 BC and was later dedicated by Publius Cornelius Dolabella, the governor of the province of Dalmatia.

Reconstruction drawing of the Augusteum.
Reconstruction drawing of the Augusteum.

The Augusteum had four columns across the front supporting a triangular pediment and a single chamber (cella) with a mosaic floor. At the beginning of the temple history, the Augusteum had only a small podium on which were placed statues of Augustus and his wife, Livia Drusilla (and perhaps Marcus Agrippa, Augustus’ right-hand man). After Augustus’ death in 14 AD, Publius Cornelius Dolabella, the governor of Dalmatia, added two more statues of the imperial couple and one of Tiberius. There were further additions over the next decades (Claudius, Vespasian), and the podium was extended along two more sides of the cella. Most statues’ heads are missing, but those of Vespasian and one of the Livia still survive. The head of Livia was acquired by British archaeologist Arthur Evans in 1878, who carted it back to the Ashmolean Museum (see picture here). The head was reunited with its body at an exhibition in Oxford in 2004 (source: Guardian). The statues were vandalized in the 4th century AD when Christianity replaced paganism as the Roman Empire’s official religion.

The remains of the Augusteum, with its gallery of imperial sculptures, became the core of the Narona Archaeological Museum. Built on the ruins of the ancient town, the museum opened to the public in 2007 and is the first museum in Croatia located in situ. The museum contains other finds discovered during the excavations in the area around the temple; sculpture fragments, coins, glass, metal and bone artefacts, pottery and oil lamps. The exhibition includes roughly 900 finds, allowing us to track the city’s history from the end of the 3rd century BC through the 15th century AD.

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The remains of the Augusteum and fifteen marble sculptures exhibited on a platform.
The remains of the Augusteum and fifteen marble sculptures are exhibited on a platform.
Statue of Emperor Augustus.
Statue of Livia.
Statue of Germanicus.
Statue of emperor Tiberius.
Inscription honoring the emperor Augustus, erected by Publius Cornelius Dolabella, the governor of the province of Dalmatia, 1st half of 1st century AD.
Inscription honouring the emperor Augustus, erected by Publius Cornelius Dolabella, the governor of the province of Dalmatia, 1st half of 1st century AD.
From left to right: Lucius Caesar, Gaius Caesar, Julia, Agrippa and Antonia Minor.
From left to right: Lucius Caesar, Gaius Caesar, Julia, Agrippa and Antonia Minor.
From left to right: Germanicus, Drusus, Claudius, Agrippina the Elder, Agrippina the Younger, Vespasian.
From left to right: Germanicus, Drusus, Claudius, Agrippina the Elder, Agrippina the Younger, Vespasian.
Honorary inscription for the emperor Vespasian.
Honorary inscription for the emperor Vespasian.
The mosaic floor of the Augusteum's cella.
The mosaic floor of the Augusteum’s cella.
The remains of the Augusteum and fifteen marble sculptures exhibited on a platform.
The remains of the Augusteum and fifteen marble sculptures are exhibited on a platform.
Archaeological museum of Narona at Vid, Croatia.
Archaeological Museum of Narona at Vid, Croatia.
Archaeological museum of Narona.
Archaeological Museum of Narona.

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Verige Roman Villa

The Verige Roman Villa is a villa rustica located in the bay of Verige off the coast of Istria, within Croatia’s Brijuni National Park. The Brijuni archipelago includes 14 small islands famous for their scenic beauty. In Roman times, numerous villae rusticae adorned the coast of these islands, referred to by Pliny the Elder as Insulae Pullariae. The villa’s construction began in the 1st century BC, reaching its heyday in the 1st century AD. Some parts of the estate were used until the 6th century.

Coordinates: 44°54’35.5″N 13°46’25.9″E

The fall of the Illyrian capital of Nesactium in 177 BC marked the onset of a long period of Roman rule, which brought considerable economic, social and cultural changes to the entire Istrian peninsula, including the Brijuni Islands. The Roman navy found on the Brijuni Islands a safe and natural shelter. The Romans built many luxurious summer residences and palaces where they could relax and live from the products they produced.

The senatorial Laecanii family owned the villa and probably came under imperial ownership in the 2nd half of the 1st century AD. It is said to be among the three most luxurious villas in the Roman Empire, alongside a Villa in Pompeii and another one on the island of Capri. The villa consisted of several buildings of residential and economic character situated in different parts of the bay. The villa also had a library, three-level terraces and huge gardens. The whole complex covered an area of over six hectares.

Along with the luxurious villa, constituent parts of the complex also included three temples (to the sea god Neptune, the Capitoline Triad and the goddess Venus) and a palaestra. All these buildings were connected by colonnaded promenades stretching one kilometre along the sea, in harmony with the landscape. The other areas dedicated to production activities and the thermae were on the other side of the bay.

This villa was lavishly decorated with mosaic floors, frescoes, stucco decorations, and precious marble.

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1924 artistic reconstruction of the Roman Villa in the Bay of Verige.
1924 artistic reconstruction of the Verige Roman Villa.
Roman Villa in the Bay of Verige
The foundations of the Verige Roman Villa.

Brijuni coastal villa and residential area reconstruction (BEGOVIĆ DVORŽAK, 1990).
Brijuni coastal villa and residential area reconstruction
(BEGOVIĆ DVORŽAK, 1990).
The Temple of Venus.
The Temple of Venus.

The ruins of the Temple of Venus.

The Temple of Venus.
The Temple of Venus.
The columns of the Temple of Venus.
The columns of the Temple of Venus.
The ruins of one of the monumental porticoes facing the bay.
The ruins of one of the monumental porticoes facing the bay.
The production part of the Villa.
The production part of the Villa.
The Thermae.
The Thermae.
The Thermae.
The Thermae.

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