Doclea Archaeological site

On the extreme north-western part of the Zeta River valley, at the confluence of the rivers of Zeta and Morača and the Širalija stream, woven into the urban tissue of the contemporary capital of Podgorica, there are the remains of the classical site of Doclea and the edifices from the Early Christian and medieval period.

Founded on a limited area in the first half of the 1st century BC, of irregular and polygonal shape, Doclea was a century later first mentioned by Ptolemy in historical reference. Doclea also refers to as “Old Town of Montenegro” by the locals, fully adjusted and adapted to the configuration of the terrain. The Doclea demonstrates the concept of the Roman urban planning, respecting the basic rule of executing two principal streets, cardo and decumanis, perpendicular to each other. Doclea, being a typical Roman town and once the most important urban center of Roman rule in present Montenegro, features a central axis which used to connect still visible and recognizable representative structures, i.e. the Forum with a Basilica, the temples of Diana and Roma, the town spas, the urban villas, the ramparts and many other undiscovered architectural edifices – towers, gates, bridges, cemeteries and others.

Doclea is surrounded by two rivers /Zeta, Moraca and Siralija stream/, which restricted the access by cutting steep canyons into the plain therefore offering natural protection to the Doclea town. The entrances to the town as known today had been located on the gate at the northern and western side with the Triumphal Arch which was destroyed during the World War II. However, the advantage of the surrounding rivers to the town of Docela was not only in providing the natural fortification, but also in providing constant supply of fresh water to the town. The climate in this area is typically Mediterranean, characterized by very hot and dry summers.

Doclea is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the present territory of Montenegro, a grandiose cultural monument in this area. As a municipium, Doclea has been mentioned since the Flavian dynasty, during the reign of the emperor Vespasian in the 1st century AD. Due to its size, importance and position, Doclea became the capital of the newly established province of Prevalis, at the time of Diocletian’s reforms introduced by the end of the 3rd century. In the 5th century AD it was ravaged by the Western and Eastern Goths, and in the year 518 according to some sources, it is assumed to have been struck by a strong earthquake. At the time of Justinian’s reforms and the renewal of the Empire, several representative structures were added to it, i.e. Basilicas ‘A’ and ‘B’ and the town had ecclesiastic organization. At the beginning of the 7th century AD likewie all urban agglomerations of the broader Balkan area, the town of Doclea lost its classical character. It saw its revival in the 9th century, but this time it became the eponymous of a broader area named Doclea after it. In ca 1001 the Bulgarian emperor Samuel captured and burnt the city of Doclea in his campaign to the Byzantine vassal countries in the Balkans along the Adriatic coast with the Serb territories hardly endangered by the expansion of the Emperor Samuel Bulgarian Empire as he occupied Bosnia, Raska-Rascia, Srem, Zeta, Durres, Epirus…,

Within the boundaries of the ‘B’ Basilica, a 9th century cruciform church was discovered, which was confirmed by the most recent revision excavations carried out in the 60’s of the past century. The cruciform church could be the church of Saint Mary in the town of Doclea (‘sepultum est in eclesia sanctae Mariae … in civitate Dioclitiana’), which, according to the author of Bar Chronicles, is mentioned as the crown church of the last Doclean kings.

The name of the state of Doclea – Duklja is most often etymologically derived from the ancient name of the Roman municipium of Doclea in the forms of Dioclea, Diocletian, Slavic Dioclitis. The medieval form of Diocletia is associated with the name of Emperor Diocletian.

Ever since the Christianity was adopted by the Slavic population, there were in Doclea – Zeta created eastern and western religious cults, with the eastern cults that prevailed. So in Kotor, in 809 was established the cult of Saint Trifun – Tryphon, who is said to have been born at Kampsade – Campsada in Asia Minor, and became the protector of the city. Another cult was established in Bojana river area, in the Monastery of Saint Sergius and Vakh, dedicated to those martyrs from the town of Rosafa, in north Syria. King Mihailo was buried in this church in 1081, as well as his son Bodin – the last king of Zeta in 1101. The church in Podi, above Herceg Novi is dedicated to those saints, while the church near Tivat is also dedicated to Saint Sergius, Saint Nicholas and Saint Demetrius, although during time, the cult of Saint Sargius became dominating, so the nearby hill was named Srđevo brdo – the Hill of Sergius. The church in Vranovici in Grbalj area and the church in Sušćepan near Herceg Novi are dedicated to the cult of Saint Stephen.

Docleatae tribe inhabited the valley of the Zeta River and thanks to the fertile plain and favorable geographical and road position it experienced fast economic growth on the territories of present-day southeastern Montenegro, from Kotor on the west to the Bojana River on the east and to the sources of Zeta and Morača rivers on the north. The Slavic tribes successfully ruled the former Roman territories of the southern Dalmatia during the 6th and the 7th centuries, and were called the Ducleans, Travunians and Zachumians after areas they inhabited. The biggest settlement of Docleatae tribe was Doclea, the city situated about three kilometers northwest from today’s Podgorica which was first mentioned by Ptolomy in the 2nd century BC. Duklja – Doclea began by mixed pagan and Christian population south of Dubrovnik-Ragusa and spread down to the Scadar – Shkoder Lake. The town was founded by the Emperor Diocletian, thus the name Doclea – Diocletia – Docleatea and was in terms of the urban point of view adapted to the terrain configuration. Doclea – Diocletia came under the Roman rule in the 1st century, when the town was conquered by Roman legions, after long wars with the Illyrians. It was already well developed settlement to become the center of the Roman province of Prevalis by the emperor’s decision. Trade was well developed with Italy, Dalmatia and the east regions of the Roman Empire, and later with Macedonia and Greece. At that time Doclea was a big city, with some 8 – 10 thousand inhabitants, in which the core urban issues were resolved. A relatively high population density in an area with a radius of just over ten kilometers was conditioned by geographical position, a favorable climate, positive economic conditions and defensive positions that were of great importance at that time. According to some data Doclea settlement had almost 40 thousand inhabitants at that time. The town of Doclea was most possibly ruined when West Goths had passed along in 401, after which it never gained its status. At the beginning of the 6th century Doclea was destroyed by devastating earthquake to be plundered and devastated by Avars and Slavs in 609. It retained its dominant position in Diocletian’s new province of Praevalitana but under Justinian was administered by the Metropolitan See at Justiana Prima (Caričin grad), and, in the early 7th century, fell to the Avars – Slavs. The Slavic inheritance has been preserved during the several centuries life of the Doclea Slovenes, so that kings of the Doclea consider themselves the Slovenes, so as were considered by the Pope within their mutual communication.

It was mentioned later on for a long time but since the 10th century the new name of Zeta appeared instead of the name Doclea. Dioclea was first recorded by this name in the middle of the 10th century, in the writings of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, where the name of the Roman town of Doclea was linked to the name of Emperor Diocletian. It is also known by this name in Serbian sources from the 13th century, and is later generally known by the name Pomorje (Littoral). The name Zeta can also be found from the 11th century onward. Those are names that, in the broadest sense, match the boundaries of ancient Prevala (Prevalis, Prevalitana). In Latin sources there is no separate country in this region – but always Sclavonia, Servia, Rassa, Rascia and so forth. Priest Dukljanin was a priest of Dioclitanae ecclesiae, the Church so called after the town. In the popular tradition of the people of Podgorica, Dukljan was Satan himself, the devil. Djordje Jankovic – Serbian Maritime from 7th to 10th century

Duklja was at first a vassal of the Eastern Roman Empire until it became a part of the Serbian Principality of Rascia in the 9th century, under the Vlastimirović Dynasty. After the Byzantine annexation of Rascia in the late 10th century, Duklja was briefly under Byzantine rule but managed to liberate itself and emerged as the most powerful province, and became the seat of the Serbian realm throughout the 11th century, ruled by the Vojislavljević Dynasty. The archont Petar was the first Doclea – actually the Serbian ruler who ruled from 971 until 1000 and was recorded in reliable historical sources. The lead seal of Archont Petar which contains inscription ‘Petar archont Duklje, Amin’ was found 1884 by French researcher Léon-Gustave Schlumberger. Father of archont Petar was Hvalimir who ruled the Serbian regions of Travunia, Zahumlye and Doclea, which included the areas of Zeta and Podgorje. As the oldest son, Petrislav, inherited Zeta, the middle son Dragomir ruled in Travunia and Zahumlye, while the youngest son Miroslav ruled the area of Podgorje. After the death of Miroslav, Petrislav took the reign in Podgorje, and ruled until the end of his life, to be suceeded by his son Jovan Vladimir. Petrislav is buried in the church of the Holy Virgin Krajinska, on the territory of Bar Municipality. 

The Vlastimir dynasty continued to rule their lands in Doclea – Duklja, which now became the main Principality of the Serbs. The prince Jovan Vladimir emerged as the most powerful ruler of the maritime Zhupas, Illyria and Dalmatia. With his court centered in Bar on the Adriatic coast, he had much of the Serbian Primorje (‘maritime’) under his control including Travunia and Zachumia which was ruled by his uncle Dragimir. His realm may have stretched west- and northwards to include some parts of the Zagorje (inland Serbia and Bosnia) as well. Vladimir’s pre-eminent position over other Slavic nobles in the area explains why Emperor Basil approached him for an anti-Bulgarian alliance. With his hands tied by war in Anatolia, Emperor Basil required allies for his war against Emperor – Tsar Samuel, who ruled a Bulgarian Empire stretched over Macedonia. In retaliation, Samuel invaded Doclea – Duklja in 997, and pushed through Dalmatia up to the city of Zadar, incorporating Bosnia and Serbia into his realm. After defeating Vladimir, emperor Samuel reinstated him as a vassal Prince of Duklja and the northern part of the Durres area and married his daughter Kosara to him. Prince Jovan Vladimir a wise and merciful ruler, and a benefactor of the Church was beheaded in Prespa in 1015 by a rival king Vladislav, Samuel’s brother and successor but his relics are venerated to this day. The last prominent member of his family, his uncle Dragimir, was killed by some local citizens in Kotor in 1018. That same year, the Byzantines had defeated the Bulgarians, and in one masterful stroke re-took virtually the entire Balkans. In the time of the largest extension of the Serbian state of Doclea, during the reign of King Bodin [1081-1116], it included the whole area of the present day northern Albania, all areas in Prokletije Mountains north of Drim River, but also the vast area south of this river, including all small zhupas of Shkoder [Balec, Drivast, Sard, Danj, Sapa, Sas, Sveti Srd and Vakh], as well as the mountainous area in the upper course of the Fani River – later Pilot area. In 1060 the Vojislavljević liberate Rascia, and when Constantin Bodin dies in 1101, Rascia once again becomes the seat of the realm, the two principalities exist side-by-side (the period is characterized by constant changing of allegiance) until 1148 when Duklja was reinstated as a crown-land of the Grand Principality of Serbia – Rascia and is since referred to as Zeta and remained so until the fall of the Serbian Empire, when it subsequently becomes semi-independent in 1362 as the Lordship of Zeta, under the House of Balšić.

Some 3 km north-west of Podgorica lay the ruins of the interesting archaeological site of Doclea which can be seen today.