Justiniana Prima


Justiniana Prima (Latin: Iustiniana Prima, Serbian: Јустинијана Прима, romanizedJustinijana Prima) was a Byzantine city that existed from 535 to 615, and currently an archaeological site, known as or Caričin Grad (Serbian: Царичин Град), near modern Lebane in the Leskovac region, southern Serbia. It was founded by Emperor Justinian I (527-565) and served as the metropolitan seat of the then newly founded Archbishopric of Justiniana Prima, which became the main church administrative body of the central and western Balkans with jurisdiction from Praevalitana to Dacia Ripensis[1] Justinian Prima was originally designed to become the capital of the prefecture of Illyricum, but for reasons likely related with its status near the Roman frontiers of the 6th century CE, Thessaloniki was preferred. It was abandoned less than 100 years after its foundation.

Justiniana Prima
Native name
Serbian: Јустинијана Прима/Justinijana Prima or Царичин Град/Caričin Grad
Царичин град-Caričin grad 2.jpg
Remnants of the city
LocationPrekopčelica, Lebane
Founded535 AD
Built forArchbishopric, Imperial estate
Demolished17th century
RestoredPartially in the 1930s
Governing bodyRepublic of Serbia

In 1979, the archaeological site of Justiniana Prima (Caričin Grad) was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance-list under official protected status by the Republic of Serbia.


Aeroimage in 1937. Photo archive of the Military Geographical Institute of Serbia[2]

The city was founded by Emperor Justinian I in 535. It existed until 615 and was designed as the seat of the Archbishopric of Justiniana Prima. The arch-priest of the Illyrians ('Ιλλυριών άρχιερεύς) seated in Justinian Prima had jurisdiction over Dacia Ripensis, Dacia Mediterranea, northern Moesia Superior, Dardania, Macedonia Salutaris, Praevalitana and the territory of Bassianae in Pannonia Secunda. [3] The establishment of the Archbishopric is mentioned in Justinian's own Novel XI from 535, when he promotes the Metropolitan to an Archbishop, independent from the Archbishop of Thessalonica. The establishment is seen as part of the feud between Justinian and the Archbishop of Eastern Illyricum, who was a papal vicar.[4] The city was to become capital of Illyricum, but Thessaloniki was preferred and Justinian Prima received jurisdiction over the territories of the Diocese of Dacia. Still, the new foundation was not without importance and Justinian made sure that this city, which was one of his favourite projects, received all the necessary support. In 545 Justinian issued another law underlining the episcopal rights and status of Justiniana Prima, which is also confirmed by letters that were exchanged between Justinian and Pope Gregory I at the end of the 6th century.

The city planning combined classical and Christian elements: thermae, a levantine agorai, and streets with colonnades. Typical Eastern Mediterranean features went along with numerous churches.

"He therefore built a wall of small compass about this place in the form of a square, placing a tower at each corner, and caused it to be called, as it actually is, Tetrapyrgia. And close by this place he built a very notable city which he named Justiniana Prima, thus paying a debt of gratitude to the home that fostered him. In that place also he constructed an aqueduct and so caused the city to be abundantly supplied with ever-running water. And many other enterprises were carried out by the founder of this city - works of great size and worthy of especial note. For to enumerate the churches is not easy, and it is impossible to tell in words of the lodgings for magistrates, the great stoas, the fine marketplaces, the fountains, the streets, the baths, the shops. In brief, the city is both great and populous and blessed in every way."
Procopius' description of Justiniana Prima in The Buildings.

The town was abandoned at around 615. Invading Avars coming from north of the Danube may be one factor, missing political interest in the town after the time of Justinian may be another. Among many other imported finds the presence of 2 pieces of a specific type of fibulae[5] and handmade pottery have been understood as an indication of the presence of Slavs already before the Avar incursion.[6]

Archaeological siteEdit

The huge correlation between the archaeological site and the description by Procopius as well as finds of seals of the bishop of Iustiniana Prima have determined the identification of Justiniana Prima with Caričin Grad.[7] There have been archaeological excavations for nearly 100 years with the participation of French and more recently also German researchers. There is a permanent exhibition in the national museum in Leskovac. At the site itself monuments there are impressive remains of the fortification, the acropolis as well as of several churches and many other buildings.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Meyendorff 1989, pp. 56–57.
  2. ^ The Military Geographical Institute of Serbia
  3. ^ Ivanišević 2014, p. 223.
  4. ^ p. 100, excerpts from his novella
  5. ^ Мано-Зиси 1955: 168–170; 1957: 313
  6. ^ Janković
  7. ^ V. Ivanišević, Caričin Grad (Justiniana Prima): A New-Discovered City for a ‘New’ Society, in: S. Marjanović-Dušanić (Hrsg.), Proceedings of the 23rd International Congress of Byzantine Studies. Belgrade, 22–27 August 2016 : plenary papers (Belgrade 2016) 107–126


  • William Bowden (2003), "Theory and practice in late antique archaeology", pp. 207–220, BRILL.
  • Bulić, Dejan (2013). "The Fortifications of the Late Antiquity and the Early Byzantine Period on the Later Territory of the South-Slavic Principalities, and their re-occupation". The World of the Slavs: Studies of the East, West and South Slavs: Civitas, Oppidas, Villas and Archeological Evidence (7th to 11th Centuries AD). Belgrade: The Institute for History. pp. 137–234. ISBN 9788677431044.
  • Curta, Florin (2001). The Making of the Slavs: History and Archaeology of the Lower Danube Region, c. 500–700. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139428880.
  • Curta, Florin (2002). "Limes and Cross: the Religious Dimension of the Sixth-century Danube Frontier of the Early Byzantine Empire". Старинар. 51 (2001): 45–70.
  • Curta, Florin (2006). Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500–1250. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521815390.
  • Hendrik W. Dey (2014). The Afterlife of the Roman City. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107069183.
  • J. A. S. Evans (2002). The Age of Justinian: The Circumstances of Imperial Power, pp 96–97, 189, 227-228. ISBN 9781134559763.
  • Joachim Henning (2007). Post-Roman Towns, Trade and Settlement in Europe and Byzantium: Byzantium, Pliska, and the Balkans. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110183580.
  • Vujadin Ivanišević, Caričin Grad / Justiniana Prima (Serbia) – excavations in a Byzantine city of the 6th century A.D.
  • Ivanišević, Vujadin (2014). "Late Roman fortifications in the Leskovac basin in relation to urban Centres". Starinar. 64.
  • Janković, Đorđe (2004). "The Slavs in the 6th Century North Illyricum". Гласник Српског археолошког друштва. 20: 39–61.
  • A. D. Lee (2013). From Rome to Byzantium AD 363 to 565: The Transformation of Ancient Rome. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748668359.
  • Meyendorff, John (1989). Imperial unity and Christian divisions: The Church 450-680 A.D. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. ISBN 9780881410556.
  • Mócsy, András (2014) [1974]. Pannonia and Upper Moesia: A History of the Middle Danube Provinces of the Roman Empire. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9781317754251.
  • Tamara Ognjević. THE SHEPHERD AS THE PERSONIFICATION OF RULER AND PRIEST An iconographical analysis of a scene from an early-Byzantine floor mosaic in the southern basilica of Caričin Grad (PDF).
  • Petrović, Vladimir P. (2007). "Pre-Roman and Roman Dardania: Historical and Geographical Considerations" (PDF). Balcanica. Balkanološki institut SANU. 37: 7–23.
  • Popović, Radomir V. (1996). Le Christianisme sur le sol de l'Illyricum oriental jusqu'à l'arrivée des Slaves. Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies. ISBN 9789607387103.
  • John Rich (2002). The City in Late Antiquity. Routledge. ISBN 9781134761364.
  • Sarantis, Alexander (2016). Justinian's Balkan Wars: Campaigning, Diplomacy and Development in Illyricum, Thrace and the Northern World A.D. 527-65. Prenton: Francis Cairns Publications Ltd. ISBN 9780905205588.
  • Sarris, Peter (2006). Economy and Society in the Age of Justinian. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139459044.
  • Turlej, Stanisław (2016). Justiniana Prima: An Underestimated Aspect of Justinian's Church Policy. Krakow: Jagiellonian University Press. ISBN 9788323395560.
  • Zeiller, Jacques (1918). Les origines chrétiennes dans les provinces danubiennes de l'Empire romain. Paris: E. De Boccard.

External linksEdit

  • Caričin Grad – Iustiniana Prima, archaeological site - UNESCO
  • 3-D animation Justiniana Prima
  • Justiniana Prima on YouTube
  • Zooarchaeology: Bones of Camel Discovered at site of Caričin Grad - Justiniana Prima (In Serbian) on YouTube

Coordinates: 42°57′11.69″N 21°40′11.90″E / 42.9532472°N 21.6699722°E / 42.9532472; 21.6699722