2000 years of Roman city of Emona

Photo: Dunja Wedam/Visit Ljubljana

Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia. It is the largest city and home to 280,000 Slovenians, as well as the political, business, educational, cultural and geographical centre of Slovenia. Its history is long and impressive. Archaeological findings from the Bronze Age are proof that as early as 2,000 BC, fishermen and hunters lived in pile-dwellings on the lake which once covered the Ljubljana basin.
Roman legionaries erected fortresses alongside the River Ljubljanica, which subsequently grew into the walled Roman settlement of Julia Emona. That was 2000 years ago.

Emona: A City of the Empire

According to a building inscription discovered in Ljubljana, a major public construction was erected by the Roman Emperors Augustus and Tiberius in 14 or 15 AD in the City of Emona, the first city in the area of present-day Ljubljana. Archaeologists believe this imperial grant involved impressive and monumental city walls. Based on this archaeological find, Ljubljana is marking 2,000 years since the construction of Emona this and the following year.

On the occasion of this prominent anniversary, the City Museum of Ljubljana is displaying the central exhibition Emona: A City of the Empire. 

Photo: Andrej Peunik

“The attention paid to the marking of this prominent anniversary of the first city to occupy the territory of present-day Ljubljana is really remarkable, bearing witness to how important it is to know our past and learn from it for the future. Taking into account the significance of the Emona 2000 pan-city project, the central museum exhibition Emona: A City of the Empire is the result of our successful co-operation with several Slovenian and foreign institutions and experts,” said Blaž Peršin, Director of the Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana about the significance of both the Emona 2000 project and the exhibition Emona: A City of the Empire.

Photo: Andrej Peunik

The exhibition’s substantive focus is on the city as the key element facilitating the functioning of the vast Roman Empire. With its universal layout, architecture, the way of life, legal system and the values it stood for, Emona – like other Roman cities – instructed its inhabitants to become loyal Roman citizens. Its rituals, rules and everyday practices were used for consolidating the shared political, ideological and cultural identity.

“It was during the Roman period that the first cities built according to a plan were constructed in the territory of today's Slovenia, changing the way of life of the people inhabiting it. Similar to other Roman cities, in its territory Emona was a centre of power and privilege, culture and knowledge, a setting for the power and magnificence the Empire was displaying to its subjects,” said the exhibition curator Dr. Bernarda Županek.

In addition to looking back 2,000 years, the exhibition also aims to shed light on the more recent past: it presents the heritage of Emona that had started to appear in the 17th century, fully consolidating itself in the 20th century. The exhibition thus partly addresses the extensive archaeological excavations of the second half of the 20th century and a host of objects, companies and projects named after Ljubljana’s Roman past. “The most popular Ancient names include Emona, Ilirija, Evropa along with Merkur and Hermes. It is by way of these names that the Roman period has become anchored in the awareness of Ljubljana’s inhabitants,” said the creator of this part of the exhibition, the curator Irena Žmuc, M.A.

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue and a series of interesting events.

The show will be on display until 31 May 2015.

More on exhibition here 

Photo: Andrej Peunik