Burnum – Croatia’s most recent Roman amphitheatre www.secretdalmatia.com

Probably some of you did not know where the image in the header of this blog was taken. It was back in the 2006 when I took my friend Miljenko Hegedić (a professional photographer whose portfolio can be seen here) on a photo shoot for my web sites. One of the sites I wanted to see in the evening and have the rays of the setting sun fall down upon was this: entrance gates to the commander’s quarters of Burnum military camp. Located on the main road from Šibenik to Knin, these are the only standing remains of the once glorious legion camp and later town.

The remains of Burnum

Today, all that is left includes a praetorium and the foundations of several rooms. Only two of the original five arches have been preserved although at the end of the 18th c. Alberto Fortis mentioned three of them. The very foundations of Burnum can still be seen on Google Earth and, from my friends, the archaeologists, I know that another town of the same dimensions has been found nearby and, across the Krka river, remains of the Delmat town can still be seen.

But Burnum is best known for it’s arena…

Arena at Burnum, from the air (NP Krka photo)

The Burnum legion camp gained its final shape during the reign of Claudius around 50 A.D. Legio XI Claudia Pia Fidelis left the camp some times between A.D. 42 and 67, probably A.D. 56-57 and was succeeded by Legio IIII Flavia Felix and the arena was a gift of Vespasianus. This Roman Legion was featured in the beginning of theGladiator where Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russel Crowe in the film) was the Legion commander, leading the campaign in Germania against the Marcomani.

The plaque comemorating Vespasian and the year when the arena was built

Although Dalmatia and Croatia are rarely, in common knowledge, associated with Roman Empire (not like the Gaul, Spain and even Germany), this area gave birth to numerous important Roman emperors, officials and generals. Since this region was just across the Adriatic from the Roman mainland, many political and military events were shaped in this region.
Same happened in 42. AD when the troupes were gathered to march to Rome right where the arena is standing today. Some say the legionaries marched, some say they stayed sick of fighting but the road connecting Burnum and Scardona (modern day Skradin) is still there: lost in the fields and bushes of Bukovica… See one other Roman road clearly visible here.

Arena is still being excavated and I have been there on many occasions interested in the progress. The former huge ring of piled rocks and stones was recognized as arena after some people looked more closely on the aerial images taken of the NP Krka. As soon as they started removing excess material, the arena started shaping. Nearly 2000 years of neglect clearly showed and the archaeologists are still not done. However, I don’t like the reconstruction they are doing…

Arena back in 2005

The stone the arena has been built from is of a poor quality. It got really damaged over the centuries but most damage is happening as we speak. The limestone of Croatian hinterland is composed of “leaves” and it chips easily. Especially when the water freezes between two layers…
Most of the stone blocks have been replaced and the arena looks very new… Not good.
Also, this was a military arena and not something like the Coloseum with numerous ornaments and stone seats. The simple arena had the wooden seating area and some parts have been discovered. The arena was big enough to accommodate up to 8000 people and most of the fights were probably with wild animals or prisoners of war. Bones of wild boars prove that.
Overall, arena is a must for everyone into Roman history. Something like this you don’t see every day!
I have been taking clients there quite often and it is an impressive site.

Rebecca and Rupen in Burnum, Summer of 2009

The entrance tickets, if going on your own, is 40 Kn and you can spend some time watching the archaeologists on location. You get a small brochure as well. But soon, the museum complex will open in nearby Ivoševci exhibiting years of excavation on this very interesting site.

Tour of Burnum is included in our Lost Roman Cities tour.


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  1. sa tebon se potpuno slažem…ali eto arheolozi radidu po svome…ovi tvoj tour Lost Roman Cities je prava stvar…

  2. Fala! Tija san ljudima pokazati koje su sve divote odma iza brda. Malo je ljudi svjesno da je nekad bilo jako opasno živit uz more pa se sve dešavalo u unutrašnjosti. Bit će još postova na tu temu!

  3. Rada says:

    Imamo preburnu prošlost i kada pričamo, malo u detalje, svi se iznenade koliko se toga dogodilo na ovom malom prostoru, u svakom pogledu!!! Zajedno smo jači!!!

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