Niš is the largest city of southern Serbia and the third-largest city in Serbia (after Belgrade and Novi Sad). Niš is the administrative center of the Nišava District. It is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and Europe, and has from ancient times been considered a gateway between the East and the West.
The Romans occupied the town in the period of the "Dardanian War" (75-73 BC), and set up a legionary camp. The city (called refugia and vici in pre-Roman relation), because of its strategic position (the Thracians were based to the south) developed as an important garrison and market town of the province of Moesia Superior. The Romans built the Via Militaris in the early 1st century AD, with Naissus being one of the key towns. Five roads met at Naissus, from Lissus, Serdica, Singidunum, Ratiaria and Thessalonica (through Scupi). Tombstones of auxiliary units date to the rule of either Claudius (41-54) or Nero (54-68). An auxiliary fort was based to the north, at present-day Ravna, called Timacum Minus. Marcus Aurelius (161–180) promoted the city to municipia. Overall, several family tombstones point that this was an important military region and by the 3rd century a social class of peasants and soldiers emerged. Cohort I Aurelia Dardanorum was based in the city.
In the year 268 AD, during the "Crisis of the Third Century" when the Empire almost collapsed, the greatest Gothic invasion in history took place; the Gothic alliance ravaged Thrace, Macedonia, Moesia and Pannonia. Subsequently, Claudius II managed to defeat the invaders at the Battle of Naissus that took place in the same year, in one of the bloodiest battles of the 3rd century. The Gothic alliance allegedly left thirty to fifty thousand dead on the field. In 272 AD, the future Emperor Constantine the Great was born in Naissus. Constantine created theDacia Mediterranea province of which Naissus was the capital and also included Remesiana of the Via Militaris and the towns of Pautalia and Germania. He lived at Naissus in short periods from 316-322.
The Slavs in the Sclaviniae remained independent for some while; in 785, Macedonia was conquered by Constantine VI, and in 842, with the death of Theophilos, the region was conquered by the Bulgars.
Prince Constantine Bodin was crowned Emperor of Bulgaria in 1072, amid the Bulgarian revolts in Macedonia against the Byzantine Empire. Bodin conquered Niš, but was later captured. During the People's Crusade, on July 3, 1096, Peter the Hermit clashed with Byzantine forces at Niš. He lost a quarter of his men, but managed to march on to Constantinople.
In 1375, after a 25-day long siege, the city fell to the Ottoman-Turks for the first time. The fall of the Serbian state decided the fate of Niš as well. After the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, even though Serbia existed much weakened as a semi-independent state for another 70 years, the Constantinople-Vienna road grew deserted.
In 1443, Niš fell into the hands of Ludanjin. The town itself was given back to the Serbs, while Branković gave it over to Đorđe Mrnjavčević. In the so-called Long Campaign, Christian armies, led by the Hungarian military leader Janos Hunyadi (known as Sibinjanin Janko in Serbian folk poetry) together with Serbian Despot Đurađ Branković, defeated the Turks and repelled them to Sofia. An important battle was fought near Niš, which remained a free city for a whole year after that.
Niš succumbed to Ottoman rule again in 1448 and remained under Ottoman control for the following 241 years. During the period of Ottoman rule, Niš was the seat of the Sanjak of Niš and Niš Eyalet. On September 24, 1689, the Austrian Army captured the city after defeating the Turks at the Battle of Niš, but the Ottomans managed to retake it the next year. In 1737, Niš was seized again by the Austrian Army, in their campaign against the Turks. The war ended in 1739 and Niš fell under Ottoman rule once more.
In 1996, Niš was the first city in Serbia to stand against the regime of Slobodan Milošević. A coalition of democratic opposition parties called Zajedno (meaning "Together" in Serbian) won the local elections in Niš in 1996 and protested for 88 days in the streets until Milošević`s Socialist Party surrendered power. The first democratic mayor of the City of Niš was Zoran Živković.
In the local elections held in May 2008, the Democratic Party, G17+ and coalition assembled around the Socialist Party of Serbia won and Miloš Simonović from the Democratic party became the elected mayor.
|Mosaics at Mediana|
- Niš Fortress Is a complex and important cultural and historical monument. It rises on the right bank of the Nišava River, and is over two millennia old. The extant fortification is of Turkish origin, dating from the first decades of the 18th century (1719–1723). It is well-known as one of the most significant and best preserved monuments of this kind in the mid-Balkans. The Fortress was erected on the site of earlier fortifications - the ancient Roman, Byzantine, and later yet Mediaeval forts. The Fortress has a polygonal ground plan, eight bastion terraces and four massive gates. It stretches over 22 ha of land. On the outside, the Fortress was surrounded by a wide moat, whose northern part has been preserved to this day. Beside the massive stone rampart walls, the southern Stambol Gate and the western Belgrade Gate are pretty well preserved. Partly preserved are the water gates, while there are only partial remains of the northern Vidin Gate and the south-east Jagodina Gate.
- The Skull Tower is a monument to 19th century Serbian rebels. It is situated on the old Constantinople Road leading to Sofia. The monument was built using the skulls of the Serbs killed by order of Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II during the 1809 Battle of Čegar.
The tower stood in the open air until the liberation of Niš in 1878. By that time, much of the tower had deteriorated from weather conditions or from the removal of skulls for burial by relatives of killed rebels. In 1892, with donations gathered from all over Serbia, a chapel designed by the Belgrade architect Dimitrije T. Leko was built to enclose what was left of the tower. Today, only 58 skulls remain, including that of Sinđelić. Skull Tower was declared Monument of Culture of Exceptional Importance in 1979, and it is protected by Republic of Serbia.
- Čegar Is the location where the Battle of Čegar Hill took place. It was first marked on July 4, 1878 with the following inscription:"To voivoda Stevan Sinđelić and his undead heroes who lost their lives on May 19, 1809, in their attack on Niš. Knez Milan M. Obrenović IV and his brave soldiers redeemed them on December 27, 1877 by conquering Niš."Today's monument in the shape of a tower - a symbol of the soldiers' fortification - was erected for the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Niš from the Turks, on June 1, 1927. In 1938 a bronze bust of Stevan Sinđelić was positioned in the semicircular niche of the monument.
- Mediana is an important archeological site from the late Roman period located in the eastern suburb of the city of Niš. It represents a luxurious residence with a highly organized economy. Excavatations have revealed a villa with peristyle, thermae, granary and water tower. The residence dates to the reign of Constantine the Great 306 to 337. Although Roman artefacts can be found scattered all over the area of present-day Niš, Mediana represents the best-preserved part of Roman Naissus. In 1979, Mediana was added to the Archaeological Sites of Exceptional Importance list, protected by Republic of Serbia.
- Serbian Wartime Parliament Building - Birthplace of Yugoslavia. The building of the "Youth Home" Restaurant was erected in 1890. At first, the "Bulevar" restaurant was situated in the building. The Army General Staff bought the building in 1903 and turned it into an Officers' Home, which remained there until 1941. At the beginning of World War I this building was in the focus of public attention as the center of the political life of Serbia. On December 7, 1914 a war session of the National Assembly was held there. On that occasion the Assembly made the "Niš Declaration", which explicitly stated the military objectives of Serbia - to fight for the liberation and unification of the Balkan peoples. On May 6, 1915 the Yugoslav Congress was held in this building. The Congress issued the "Niš Resolution" which once again emphasized the need for national unity.
Remains of the skull tower