Tatjana Koprivica
(History Institute of Montenegro)

Sacral Topography of Late Antique and Early Christian Doclea (Montenegro): The First Modern Preliminary Investigation

Doclea, the second-largest town in the province of Roman Dalmatia, was constructed within the lowland stretching between the place where the Zeta River flows into the Morača River and that where the Širalija Stream flows into the Zeta River (near the present-day Podgorica, Montenegro)1.

The status of a municipium was granted to it at the time of Flavian Dynasty (69-96 C. E.), most probably during the rule of Vespasian2. The first great growth of the town is attributed to the reign of Domitian and Trajan. By administrative division of the Roman Empire in 297, Doclea was detached from the Province of Dalmatia and became the Province of Prevalis and, together with its capital town of Shkoder, its second-largest town by significance3.

Primary sources mentioned Doclea for the first time in the writings of Ptolemy in the mid-second century of the Common Era. Pieces of evidence of Doclea’s existence during the time ranging between the 3rd and the 7th centuries are scarce. It is considered that the East Goths ravaged the town in 489, and it is out of any doubt that it was struck by earthquake in 5184. Archeological excavations have shown that Doclea was reconstructed in the time of Emperor Justinian. The town was destroyed by Avars and Slavs in 6095. As for dating the later existence of the town, while due to rare primary sources, special importance is given to the cruciform church situated in the eastern part of the town. Some scientists relate it to the 9th century, based on which a conclusion can be derived that Doclea continued its existence for longer than two centuries after the ravage and devastation in the early 7th century.

Doclea has been attracting the attention of explorers and travel writers even since the mid-nineteenth century. European scientific circles were acquainted with Doclea in 1873, upon the discovery of the Podgoritza Cup6. It was excavated by an unknown antiquity hunter and sold to the Italian Consul H.E. Perrot, in Shkoder. By further selling, via Paris and the collection of the Russian colonel Basilewsky, it reached The State Hermitage in Saint Petersburg.

Archeological excavations started in January 1890. Prince Nikola Petrović launched the idea, and he decided also the time to commence the excavations7. Montenegro did not have an expert in the field, so the Prince entrusted the works to P. A. Rovinsky, a Russian Slavicist, ethnographer and editor, who was in Montenegro at that time. However, Rovinsky was neither educated nor experienced to cope with the task entrusted to him. Engaging a large number of unskilled workers, who were not instructed properly, along with using inappropriate tools, resulted in permanently undermined ground stratigraphy within the site8. The documents from the State Archive of Montenegro on Doclea explorations that were carried out via three campaigns from 1890 to 1892 contain mainly the financial statements, whereas descriptions, drawings or photographs of the excavated buildings almost do not exist9. Rovinsky left incomplete and imprecise documentation, which is largely useless for the contemporary science. Doclea site explorations led by Rovinsky discovered four temples: The First Temple, The Second Temple, The Temple of Diana, the Basilica on the Forum, as well as the North- West Gate, the Triumphal Arch, the residential building and the remains of a temple, thermae with a palestra and a library10. Significant steps forward in scientific sense were done upon the arrival of foreign explorers. Having the benevolence of Prince Nikola, Doclea was explored by the representatives of three famous schools of that time, i.e. British, Italian and Austrian ones. J. Arthur R. Munro and the group of archeologists from Oxford explored Doclea in 1893 and in 190311. The outcomes of Munro’s work are exceptionally important to getting familiar with and understanding the topography of Doclea — in the eastern part of the town, they discovered medieval churches, i.e. the Basilica A, Basilica B, and cruciform church12.

The Italian explorers Roberto Paribeni and Guido Cora, who were in Montenegro during 1901, paid their attention to studying the epigraphic inscriptions of Doclea13. Piero Sticotti carried out three studies on Doclea: the first one together with Luka Jelić in 1892; the second one together with Ćirilo M. Iveković in 1902; the last one in 190714.

The outcomes of his work represent now the most comprehensive monograph on Doclea, with systematized deductions about explorations done by then15. All until the mid-twentieth century, there was no exploration of Doclea; however, devastations took place. During the World War II, i.e. in 1942, upon the order by Pirzio Biroll, an Italian Governor of Montenegro, professor Luigi Crema from Rome was engaged and he came to Montenegro16. The job of the expert was brought down to the selection of exhibits from Doclea for the purposes of Italian museums. Only few years thereafter, in peacetime, Doclea suffered the largest-scale devastation in the 20th century. During 1947 and 1948, in the postwar revival of Montenegro, some 500 m long stretch of Doclea was occupied by Podgorica — Nikšić railway route17. After the break of more than half a century, archeological surveys started in Doclea in 1954. They were being carried out in several campaigns and lasted by 196518. The explorations, which were mainly of revision character, discovered small thermae. During the same period, two necropolises were being explored outside the town walls, one in the south-east of the town, along the River Morača bank, and the other in the north-east of the town, along the stretches called Lovišta and Vranjići19. Southeastern necropolis revealed the tombs dating back to the period between the 1st and the 4th centuries, while the western necropolis revealed the tombs dating back to the time ranging between the 2nd and the 5th centuries 20.

The new revising explorations were carried out in 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2005. Geophysical surveys carried out by experts from The British School of Rome and The Archaeological Prospection Services of Southampton in 2007 launched the identification of private houses in Doclea 21. Significant outcomes were induced by the 2009 explorations, discovering the remains of so-called „Building No. 9 “considered as most probablecentral temple of Doclea 22.

In 120-year time so far, archeological surveys of Doclea have processed only 10 percent of the entire site area. Based on the explorations concerned, the sacral topography of the town distinguishes two wholes, with the western one comprising the First Temple, the Second Temple, the Basilica on the Forum and the Building No. 9 and the eastern one comprising the Basilica A, the Basilica B and the cruciform church (Fig. 1).

The First Temple was located east of via triumphalis, at the distance of 20 m from the Triumphal Arch. The Temple belongs to the group of temples in antis. It is not known to whom it was dedicated. Since the imperial statue and the temple’s tympanum with carved medallion showing the figure of the Goddess Roma on it were discovered at that place, the temple was named after the Goddess — the Temple of the Goddess Roma. According to Sticotti’s opinion, Ara Caesaris, where the Doclea minister served as sacerdos and of which inscription has been preserved, was there. Inscribed pedestals (that served most probably as stands for emperor statues) are abundant there to praise numerous Roman emperors — from Titus to Valerianus23.

On the same side of the via triumphalis, there is the Second Temple. It is a smaller quadrangular building structure. The eastern side of this Temple’s courtyard borders the palace24.

The Temple of Diana, separated by several buildings from the via triumphalis, was entered from the side street since the position of the building is almost west-east. The building structure is also a temple in antis. Next to it, a part of tympanum was found, with the figure of the Goddess Diana on the carved medallion on it, so the Temple was named after that as the Temple of Diana25.

In the central town area, east of the via triumphalis, there used to be the Forum with Basilica covering the whole western side of it. The entrance to the Basilica, in the southwest of the Forum, i.e. south of the very Basilica, is a separate room with three sections facing the main street. The Basilica was entered into from the Forum through three entrances with the epistyle inscribed with the names of the Flavians, the Frontons and the Balbinas. Skirting the lengthwise sides of the main room, in the interior of it, there used to be pilasters associated by arches, whereas in the northern and the southern part of the room there used to be three transverse arches dividing the three bays of the Basilica26.

Next to the Forum with the Basilica, there used to be the Building No. 9. It is a rectangular building structure comprising the atrium enclosed, to the west and south, by the walls of a series of rooms with porch27. It is not known to whom it was dedicated. Regardless the archeological explorations have not been completed, it is assumed that this used to be the major ancient temple of Doclea. The building structure was developed on the earlier archeological layer. As for all the foregoing temples, that are located in the west of the town, there is no precise dating. In the east of the town, at the distance of some 200 m from the Forum, there are three churches: the Basilica A, the Basilica B and the cruciform church. The Basilica A is a three-nave basilica with the apse semicircular in the interior and polygonal on the exterior. Next to the apse, there are the Diaconicon and the Prothesis. The schola cantorum was in front of the apse. Around the apse, the built-in seats with the space for Bishop Chair were arranged. The narthex was in front of the Basilica. Larger number of memorial plates were found in the church and around it. There are remains, most likely, of the Bishop Palace. It is considered that the Basilica A represents the Episcopal Church of Doclea. It dates back to the 5th century, and it shows certain reconstructions carried out during the time of Justinian28.

Doclea used to be the Episcopal See in the Province of Prevalis29. It is not known when the Episcopate was established. Some archeologists assume that the first known Doclea Bishop Basus was appointed in 325 or 32630. Based on the primary and secondary sources, it has been found that the Bishop Constantine of Doclea for sure took part in the Council of Ephesus in 431 and that the Bishop Evander of Doclea took part in the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The last known Bishop of Doclea was Nemezian, who, at the beginning of the 7th century (in 602), replaced the Bishop Pavle.

The second basilica in eastern part, i.e. the Basilica B is situated below the cruciform church dating back to a later period. It was constructed on the site of the former building structure, most probably on the desecrated one, which could have been demolished during the earthquake in 518. The three-nave basilica has the apse semicircular on both the interior and exterior. Narthex of the Basilica is flanked by the Prothesis and the Diaconicon. It dates back to the period ranging between the 4th and the 6th centuries. The cruciform church has the design of a free cross with somewhat shorter transept31. The ancient motifs, which were taken over from the local architecture, have been preserved in its porch, whereas the compact composition and designs of the building structure indicate that it belongs to early medieval architecture32. The church is famous for the inscription telling about Deaconess Ausonia33. Its dating refers to the long span, i.e. to the period between 4th and the 9th centuries. It is identified with the Church of St. Mary, which is mentioned in Chapter 9 of The Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja and which used to be the coronation church for Doclea Kings 34.

Since the appearance of Sticotti’s writings on Doclea in 1913, no other comprehensive monography on Doclea has been developed so far. Significant steps forward made by science in getting familiar with Doclea have taken place only in certain fields, such as that of surveying necropolises.

The study of the Late Antiquity and the Early Christianity has advanced significantly within the contemporary science. In the light of the all foregoing, an opportunity to reinterpret the outcomes of former surveys of Doclea has been opened. The most comprehensive documentation on Doclea is kept with the Montenegro Center for Archeological Surveys, in Podgorica. However, the archeological evidence stored there comprises mainly findings from the archeological campaigns that have been carried out for the 50 years so far.

Due to the devastation of the site, studying Doclea gives importance to finding any single unpublished photograph, drawing and description that have remained within the documentation. That was the reason for carrying out an examination of documents originating from the writings of scientists who had dealt with Doclea — such as Rovinsky, Munro, Sticotti and the institutions that carried out studies in Podgorica, Cetinje, Trieste, Rome, St. Petersburg and Vienna.

Besides the items that have been recorded and placed in museums and other institutes in Montenegro, significant part of those movable findings from Doclea — such as coins, glass objects and sculptures — were stolen or destructed. In order to judge a more complete image of Doclea, it is required to examine all the findings of Doclea provenance kept with the European museums and private collections — which is a great difficulty since those items have been rarely attributed as originating from Doclea. That would be a very complex task with an uncertain outcome, even in case there is available data thereon. For example, we found records in Rome concerning bringing some sculptures from Doclea during 1942, among which there was a tympanum with the figure of Goddess Diana on it; however, the sculptures concerned were not found. As we all know, the Podgoritza Cup is in Saint Petersburg; however, that is not the only item that arrived there. In 1879, Rovinsky sent ten Doclea coins to his friend to forward them to the Slavic Museum or Geographical Association to be examined there and to keep them for himself thereafter, as well as one gemstone and a fragment of another gemstone and a small jewel from Doclea as a gift for his friend’s daughter 35.

For a comprehensive understanding of Doclea, it is required to develop the corpus of the architectural fragments that would encompass both those ones that are in situ and those ones kept in museums, as well as the ones built-in and used in the neighborhood of and in the very town of Podgorica. Doclea explorers and numerous travel writers who had visited Doclea left the pieces of evidence thereon and on a variety of devastation forms, such as: taking away architectural fragments from the site for the construction of the nearby church, as well as for the construction of the stairways for the local school or houses around Doclea or memorial plates and alike 36. The architectural fragments were taken away from Doclea site for reconstructing the St. George Church in Podgorica, as well as for constructing the bridge across the River Zeta. One piece of evidence has induced a suspicion that, upon the order given by Prince Nikola, the stone from Doclea was taken away for the construction of his Palace on the Kruљeva Hill Head in Podgorica 37.

Due to very few primary and secondary sources concerning Doclea, it is important to bring epigraphic materials from Doclea together and assign them their respective precise dates.

All the foregoing archival material gathering, recognizing the items from Doclea site but captured in the European museums and collections, as well as filed activities in the very Town and its neighborhood, represent only a preliminary stage of the overall reconstruction of Doclea.

Any further activity is required to approach to the interpretation of architecture of the Late Antique and Early Medieval Doclea. There should be an attempt to give a more precise interpretation of the ruins of Doclea complex and to assign them their respective chronological dates, as well as to elucidate them from the point of view of their respective functions. The architecture of the Late Antique and the Early Medieval Doclea should be observed in a broader sense and in parallel with the similar urban cores. For getting a more complete image of Doclea, it is required to open a discussion on the cults cherished in Doclea, starting from their emergence and origin through their spread. Particular issue in a further research should be that of funeral ceremony related issues, as well as issues of piety of women. It is also required to consider the relationship between the tradition and the innovation — continuity of traditions and the life in the Town after the shift to the new organization upon receiving the Christianity. To solve certain of the foregoing issues, of a huge importance is to consider the fresco paintings, mosaic decorations and movable findings (such as coins, fragments of ceramic, glass and alike).

The completed explorations have shown that Doclea is one of the most important urban cores of the Late Antique, i.e. of the Early Christian period within the Balkan Peninsula.

Studying the urban, i.e. the sacral topography of the Town of Doclea and the approach to the urban cores of the Central Balkan (primarily Caričin grad) and other cores of the early Byzantine Empire that are conceptually opposite to it, such as Thessalonica, Jerusalem and the towns located on the west coast of Anatolia (Asia Minor), will definitely contribute to a clear overview of the methods of dispersing and receiving Christianity within a broader area, as well as the modes of its visual expression.

Fig.1 Plan of Late Antique and Early Christian Doclea.

Копривица Татьяна
(Институт истории, Черногория)

Сакральная топография позднеантичной и раннехристианской Дуклии (Черногория): первое современное предварительное исследование

Предметом данного исследования является архитектура позднеантичной и раннесредневековой Дуклии. Дуклия, второй по величине город в римской провинции Далмация, был построен на равнине, простирающейся от впадения Зеты в Морачу до впадения Ширали в Зету (близ современной Подгорицы в Черногории).

Цель работы — установить новые факты посредством пересмотра и переосмысления материалов исследований прошлых лет и археологических раскопок 1954–1964, 1999 и 2005 гг., в сравнении с данными последних исследований аналогичной тематики, для того, чтобы составить адекватное и детальное представление о сакральной топографии города. Наши задачи — представить части городского ансамбля Дуклии, уточнить их соотносительную хронологию и попытаться выяснить их функциональное назначение.
Архитектура позднеантичной Дуклии рассматривается в более широком контексте, в сопоставлении с аналогичными городскими поселениями. Мы попытаемся выявить методы перенесения таких архитектурных схем. Еще одна из задач исследования — выявление деталей архитектурного декора и других небольших архитектурных элементов, происходящих из Дуклии, перемещенных и использованных в качестве строительного материала в более позднее время. Поскольку комплекс подвергся разрушению и сейчас находится в худшем состоянии, чем на рубеже XIX и XX вв., когда его посещали путешественники и специалисты, другой нашей задачей является поиск неопубликованных записей, материалов и фотодокументации более ранних исследований Дуклии в архивах Триеста, Вены и Рима.


1 On its three sides, the natural guards of Doclea town were the basins of the Zeta and Morača Rivers and the Širalija Tributary. The sole eastward access to the town from the inland was specially fortified. The town had irregular geometric shape because the town walls were along the banks’ edges. Due to that, the deviation from the common positioning of streets to intersect at the right angle had to be approached to. Bridges were constructed across Morača and Širalija to link the town with an important Roman road, i.e. with Narona — Shkoder road. The town was supplied with water by means of the aqueduct, through which the water from the Cijevna River was taken thereto; P. Sticotti, Die Romische Stadt Doclea in Montenegro, in Schriften der Balkankommission Antiquarische Abteilung VI, Wien 1913 (= P. Sticotti, Rimski grad Duklja u Crnoj Gori, Podgorica 1999, pp. 13-26).

2 М. Гарашанин, Црна Гора у доба Римског Царства, in Историја Црне Горе, I, Титоград 1967, pp.194-195.

3 J. Ковачевић, Црна Гора у доба Римског Царства — Oд оснивања провинције Превалис до VIIвијека, in Историја Црне Горе cit. pp. 241-243.

4 Ibid., p. 254.

5 Ковачевић, Црна Гора cit., pp. 253-254.

6 The Podgoritza cup, in The Heythrop Journal 4, (1963), p. 55; P. C. Finney, The Invisible God. The Earliest Christians on Art, Oxford University Press 1994, pp. 284-286, fig. 7.4.

7 Prince Nikola was motivated to commence the Doclea site survey by a need to employ several hundred workers during the year in which small Montenegro suffered from a severe economic crisis. Hence, it was more about public works and less about scientific venture. See: ГласЦрногорца 8, недјеља, 18. фебруар 1890, p. 2.

8 The site was explored by 150-300 workers on a daily basis. They used primitive and inappropriate tools, so Rovinsky asked, in March 1891, a blacksmith to be employed in order to forge specialized tools, wheelbarrows and pulleys that would better serve the purpose; Državni arhiv Crne Gore (=DACG), Ministarstvo unutrašnjih djela (=MUD), 1891, fasc. 78, dok. 624; [State Archives of Montenegro (=SAM), Ministry of Home Affairs (=MHA), 1891, File No 78, doc. 624]; P. Rovinski, Otkopavanje stare Dioklije (prevod A. Lainović), Arhivsko-memoarski fond biblioteke Istorijskog instituta Crne Gore, fasc. 458, str. 14. [Archive and Memorial Stock of the Library of Historical Institute of Montenegro, File No. 458, p. 14]

9 Available documents refer to the number of workers engaged in Doclea site excavations; the number of daily wages and in-kind wages; malversations with regard to payments; the workers around the site and alike. DACG, MUD, 1892. godina, F 67, dok. 995, str. 1. [SAM, MHA, 1892, File No 67, doc. 995, p. 1].

10 П. А. Ровинский, Раскопка древней Диоклеи, произведенная по указанию и на счет его высочества черногорского князя Николая (От 22-го января до 11-го февраля 1890. г), in Журнал Министерства народного просвещения, С.- Петербург 1890, pp. 1-17; Id., Предложение раскопкидревней Диоклеи (От 16-го апреля до 8-го мая 1890 г.; рабочих дней 13), in Журнал Министерства народного просвещения, С.- Петербург 1890, июль, pp. 17-22; Id., Предложение раскопки древней Диоклеи (От 22. 02 до 12. 05. 1891), in Журнал Министерства народного просвещения, С.- Петербург 1891, pp. 15-34; П. А. Ровински, Црна Гора у прошлости и садашњости, IV, in Државни живот (1851-1907)- Археологија, Цетиње-Нови Сад 1994, pp. 348-370.

11 DACG, MUD, 1893. godina, F 72 (88), dok. 1255, str. 3 [SAM, MHA, 1893, File No 72, doc. 1255, p. 3.]; С Дукље, Глас Црногорца 34, субота, 21. август 1893, p. 4; С Дукље, Глас Црногорца 39, субота 25. септембар 1893, pp. 3-4; J. A. R. Munro, W. C. F. Anderson, J. G. Milne, F. Haverfield, On the Roman Town Doclea in Montenegro, Westminster 1896, pp. 1-60.

12 Ibid., pp. 9-10, 23-30.

13 DACG, Ministarstvo inostranih poslova, 1901, F 91, dok. 1432; [SAM, Ministry of International Affairs, 1901, File. 91, doc. 1432]; DACG, MUD, 1901, F 91, dok. 1402, str. 1; [SAM, MHA, 1901, File. 91, doc. 1402, p. 1]; ГласЦрногорца45, субота, 3. новембар 1901, p. 3; R. Paribeni, Iscrizioni Romane di Doclea e di Tusi, in Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma4 (1903), Roma 1904, pp.3-8; DACG, MUD, 1901, F 90, dok. 1152, str. 1 [SAM, MHA, 1901, File. 90, doc. 1152, p. 1].

14 P. Sticotti, Ueber die Ergebnisse einer Reise nach Doclea, Juli 1907, in Anzeiger der Kaiserliche  Akademiae der Wissenschaften, Philosophische-historische Klasse XLV (1908), Wien 1908, pp. 51-55.

15 P. Sticotti, Die Romische Stadt Doclea in Montenegro, Schriften der Balkankommission Antiquarische Abteilung, VI, Wien 1913.

16 Roma, Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Tutela artistica nel Montenegro (Roma, 22. ottobre 1942.), fasc.
2041, doc. 1827, p 2.

17 100 godina Željeznice Crne Gore, ed. S. Burzanović, Podgorica 2009, p. 80.

18 The explorations were carried out by the Archeology Institute of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts, Institute for Protection of the Cultural Monuments of Montenegro and the Country Museum Titograd.

19 А. Цермановић-Кузмановић, О. Велимировић-Жижић, Д. Срејовић, АнтичкаДукља. Некрополе, Цетиње 1975, p. 12 et passim.

20 The south-eastern necropolis revealed also one Jewish tomb; cf. Цермановић-Кузмановић, Велимировић-Жижић, Срејовић, АнтичкаДукљаcit., pp. 43-45.

21 L. Pett, Doclea, Podgorica, Montenegro, Geophysical Survey Report, October 2007, in Nova antička Duklja, Podgorica 2010, p. 16.

22 M. Baković, Arheološka istraživanja na lokalitetu Duklja 2009. godina Objekat IX, in Nova antička Duklja, Podgorica 2010, pp. 69-75.

23 Гарашанин, ЦрнаГораудобаРимскогЦарстваcit., pp. 203-204.

24 Ibid., p. 204.

25 Ibid., p. 204.

26 Ibid., p. 205.

27 Baković, Arheološka istraživanja cit., pp. 69-75.

28 Sticotti, Rimski grad Duklja cit., p. 139.

29 The church of the Province of Prevalis was subjected to the Archbishop of Justiniana Prima as of 536, upon the order of the emperor Justinian. Later in 545, Justinian revoked the independence of the Archiepiscopate with its See in Justiniana Prima and subjected it to the Roman Pope; cf. Ковачевић, Црна Гора у доба Римског Царства cit., pp. 257-263.

30 Monumenta Montenegrina I, Arhiepiskopija Duklja i Prevalitana. Acta metropolitana, ed. V. Nikčević, Podgorica 2001, p. 9 et passim; Monumenta Montenegrina I/2, Duklja i Prevalitan do 400 godine, ed. V. Nikčević, Podgorica 2005, pp. 18-36.

31 J. Ковачевић, ЦрнаГораудобаРимскогЦарства-OддосељавањаСловенадокраја XII вијека, in: Историја Црне Горе I , Титоград 1967, pp. 376-377.

32 В. Кораћ, Архитектура раног средњег века у Дукљи и Зети. Програм простора и порекло облика, in Између Византије и Запада. Одабране студије о архитектури, Београд 1987, p. 27.

33 Sticotti, Rimski grad Duklja cit. , pp. 144-145, sl. 83.

34 Ковачевић, Црна Гора у доба Римског Царства cit., pp. 376-377.

35 Letter by P.A. Rovinsky to Aleksandar Nikolaevic Pipin, dated August 05, 1879, П. С. Радусиновић, Павле Аполонович Ровински, Подгорица 1996, pp. 261-262.

36 The protection of Doclea was included as an item on the agenda of the Montenegrin Assembly session, in 1908, cf. Стенографске биљешке о раду Црногорске народне скупштине сазване у редовнисазив 8. новембра 1907. г. (од I претходне до XLVII редовне сједнице), Цетиње 1909, pp. 835, 972-974.

37 DACG, MUD, 1892. godina, F 66 (82), dok. 423, str. 2. [SAM, MHA, 1892, File No. 66 (82), doc. 423, p. 2].