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For the village of the same name in Bulgaria, see Emona (Burgas).
"Aemona" redirects here. For other uses, see Aemona (disambiguation).
Porolissum-porta-praetoria-icon.png Colonia Iulia Aemona
Emona in ljubljana osm.jpg
Location of Emona within present day central Ljubljana
Emona is located in Slovenia
Location within Slovenia
Alternative name(s) Emona, Aemona
Type Castrum, Colonia (after 43 AD)
Place in the Roman world
Province Italia
Administrative unit Venetia et Histria
Limes Claustra Alpium Iuliarum
Directly connected to PoetovioSisciaAquileia (via Nauportus)
— Stone structure —
Built 35 BC
Size and area 540 m x 430 m (23.2 ha)
Shape Rectangular
Stationed military units
Place name Ljubljana
Town Ljubljana
County City Municipality of Ljubljana
Country Slovenia
Site notes
Condition Ruined
Exhibitions City Museum of Ljubljana
Website City Museum of Ljubljana
Media related to Colonia Iulia Aemona at Wikimedia Commons

Emona or Aemona (short for Colonia Iulia Aemona) was a Roman castrum, settled by colonists from northern part of the ancient Roman province of Italy. The Emona itself was the region's easternmost city,[1] although it was assumed formerly that it was part of the Pannonia or Illyricum, but archaeological findings from 2008 proved otherwise. It was located in the area where the navigable Ljubljanica came closest to Castle Hill.[2] The river played an important role as a transport route for the trade between the city and the rest of Roman empire. From the late 4th to the late 6th century, Emona was the seat of a bishopric which has had intensive contacts with the ecclesiastical circle of Milan, reflected in the architecture of the early Christian complex along the Erjavec Street in present-day Ljubljana.

Visigoths camped by Emona in the winter of 408/9, the Huns inflicted themselves on it during their campaign of 452, the Langobards passed through on their way to Italy in 568, and then came incursions by the Avars and Slavs. The ancient cemetery in Dravlje indicates that the original inhabitants and invaders were able to live peacefully side by side for several decades. After the first half of the 6th century, there was no life left in Emona.[2] The 18th-century Ljubljana Renaissance elite shared the interest in Antiquity with the rest of Europe, founding the Ljubljana creation myth on image of Jason and the Argonauts.[2] In 2014, it is the 2000-year anniversary of the first written mention of Emona. Other ancient Roman towns located in present-day Slovenia include Nauportus (now Vrhnika), Celeia (now Celje), Neviodunum (now village of Drnovo) and Poetovio (now Ptuj).


During 1st century BC a Roman military stronghold was built on the site of the present Ljubljana, below castle hill. Construction of the Roman settlement of Emona, fortified with strong walls, followed in 14 AD. It had a population of 5,000 to 6,000 people, mostly merchants and craftsmen, and was also an important Early Christian centre with its own goddess, Equrna. Emona’s administrative territory or ager stretched from Atrans (Trojane) along the Karavanke mountains towards the north, near Višnja Gora to the east, along the Kolpa in the south, and bordered to the west with the territory of Aquileia at the village of Bevke.

After few months of occupation in 388, citizens of Emona saluted Emperor Theodosius I entering the liberated city after the victorious Battle of the Save where Theodosius I defeated the army of Roman usurper Magnus Maximus.

In 452, Emona was virtually destroyed by the Huns, led by Attila. Its remaining inhabitants fled the city; some of them made it to the coast of Istria where they founded a "second Emona", Aemonia, now the town of Novigrad[citation needed] (meaning "New City"), in Croatia.

Historical descriptions[edit]

Reconstructed inscription (presumably talking about building town walls), dated in time between autumn 14 A.D. and spring 15 A.D. Inscription holds names of Emperors Augustus and Tiberius. Grey part was discovered in 1887, the rest is reconstruction. Presumably, this artifact was built in wall above one of the town gates. From collection of National Museum in Ljubljana.[5]

According to Herodotus, Emona was founded by Jason, when he travelled through the country with the Argonauts, and named by him, in honour of his Thessalian homeland.

According to the 18th century historian Janez Gregor Dolničar, the original predecessor of Emona was founded cca 1222 BC. (The date, although based on legend and poetic speculation, actually fits in both with Herodotus' account and the date of the earliest archeological remains found so far.)[citation needed]

According to 1938 article by the historian Balduin Saria, Emona was founded in late 14 or early 15 AD, on the site of the Legio XV Apollinaris, after it left for Carnuntum, by a decree of the Emperor Augustus and completed by his successor, Emperor Tiberius. Later archeological findings have not rejected nor clearly confirmed this hypothesis and is currently (as of 2014) most widely accepted.[6]

Location and layout[edit]

Roman cup of multi-colored glass, made in the millefiori technique. It was discovered in one of the graves of Emona.

The location of Emona overlaps with the SW part of the old nucleus of the modern city of Ljubljana. In a rectangle with a central square or forum and a system of rectangular intersecting streets, Emona was laid out as typical Roman town. According to Roman custom, there were cemeteries established along the northern, western and eastern thoroughfares into the city – from the directions of Celeia, Aquileia and Neviodunum. The wider area surrounding the town saw the development of typical Roman countryside: villages, hamlets, estates and brickworks.[2]

Archaeological findings[edit]

Location within Roman province of Italia.

Archaeological findings have been found in every single construction project in the center of Ljubljana. Intensive archaeological research of Emona dates back 100 years, although it was portrayed from the 17th century on. Numerous remains have been excavated there, such as parts of the Roman wall, residential houses, statues, tombstones, several mosaics, and parts of the paleochristian baptistry, etc. that can be still seen today.[6]

Regarding its location within Roman province of Italia, in 2001 a boundary stone between Aquileia and Emona was discovered in the vicinity of Bevke in the bed of the Ljubljanica River. The stone is made of Aurisina (today Nabrežina) limestone. Since similar stones were only used to demarcate two communities belonging to the same Roman province and since it is not disputed that Aquileia belonged to the Roman province of Italy, it means that both towns belonged to Italy and that Emona had never been part of Illyricum (or, later, of the province of Pannonia).[1]

Archaeological parks and preserving of the heritage[edit]

Famous architect Jože Plečnik redesigned the remains of the Roman walls: he drilled two new passages to create a link to Snežniška and Murnikova Streets, and behind the walls he arranged a park displaying architectural elements from Antiquity, with a lapidarium in the Emona city gate. Above the passageway to Murnikova Street he set up a pyramid, which he covered with turf. After the WW II, attempts were made to embed references to Emona grid into the modern Ljubljana with the Roman forum becaming a part of the Ferant apartment blocks and trace of the rotunda located along the Slovenska Street.[2]


There was a Christian bishopric named Aemona, whose bishop Maximus participated in the Council of Aquileia, 381, which condemned Arianism. After the destruction of Aemona in the 7th century, the bishop's seat was transferred to Novigrad (in Italian Cittanova). In Latin the name "Aemona" continued to be used for the diocese. Originally a suffragan of the Patriarchate of Aquileia, in 1272 it was attached instead to the eccleiastical province and patriarchate of Grado, a patriarchate that in 1451 passed to Venice. In 1828 Pope Leo XII abolished the see as a residential diocese with effect from the death of the then current bishop, Teodoro Lauretano Balbi, who died on 23 May 1831. Its territory then passed to the diocese of Trieste-Capodistria. The Second World War brought about a change of political borders and what had been the territory of the diocese of Aemona or Cittanova became in 1977 part of the Croatian diocese of Poreč and Pula.[8][9][10]

No longer a residential bishopric, Aemona or Cittanova is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[11]

Because of the connection of this Aemona with Istria some have questioned whether the episcopal see is to be identified with the Emona or Aemona whose site is now occupied by Ljubljana. It has even been argued that there were in fact three cities called by the same or similar names, the one that Pliny the Elder speaks of as a colonia in the province of Pannonia;[12] another in the province of Noricum;[13] and a third in Istria.[14]

Emona in literary fiction[edit]

Emona is the setting of a 1978 novel titled "Stranger in Emona" (Slovene: Tujec v Emoni), written by Slovene writer Mira Mihelič.

Emona is mentioned in Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel The Historian.



  1. ^ a b Šašel Kos, M. (2002) "The boundary stone between Aquileia and Emona", Arheološki Vestnik 53, pp. 373–382.
  2. ^ a b c d e Exhibition catalogue Emona: myth and reality; Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana 2010
  3. ^ a b "Roman Emona". Culture.si. Ministry of culture of the republic of Slovenia. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Emona, Legacy of a Roman City". Culture.si. Ministry of culture of the republic of Slovenia. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Template:Navedi splet
  6. ^ a b Šašel Kos, Marjeta (September 2012). "2000 let Emone? Kaj bomo praznovali?" [2000 Years of Emona? What Will We Celebrate?]. Ljubljana: glasilo Mestne občine Ljubljana [Ljubljana: The Bulletin of the City Municipality of Ljubljana] (in Slovene) XVII (7): 28–29. ISSN 1318-797X. 
  7. ^ "Emonski vodovod". DEDI. Ministry of higher education, science and technology of the republic of Slovenia. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Konrad Eubel, Hierarchia Catholica Medii Aevi, vol. 1, p. 74; vol. 2, pp. XII, 81; vol. 3, p. 96; vol. 4, p. 70; vol. 5, pp. 70-71; vol. 6, p. 68
  9. ^ Pius Bonifacius Gams, Series episcoporum Ecclesiae Catholicae, Leipzig 1931, p. 770-771
  10. ^ La Diffusione del Cristianesimo e le diocesi in Istria
  11. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 838
  12. ^ "Ad septemtriones Pannonia vergit: finitur inde Danubio, In ea coloniae, Aemona, Sisca" ([http://books.google.ie/books?id=Slh2bLEec00C&pg=RA1-PA101&lpg=RA1-PA101&dq=%22Rhaetis+iunguntur+Norici%22&source=bl&ots=7uhRAj3OZY&sig=CmQYhH3COoQIi8PZlz8FphJOhEM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Mi0PVPHLBu7o7Aaj7YDYDA&ved=0CCEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22Rhaetis%20iunguntur%20Norici%22&f=false Natural History Book III, chapter 25 (28)
  13. ^ In accordance with one reading of the preceding chapter of Pliny
  14. ^ Stankovic, Delle tre Emone (Venice 1835)
  15. ^ Bernarda Županek (2010) "Emona, Legacy of a Roman City", Museum and Galleries of Ljubljana, Ljubljana.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°2′51.7″N 14°30′3.32″E / 46.047694°N 14.5009222°E / 46.047694; 14.5009222