The Northern Croatian Littoral in the context of an antique defence system

Within the area of the northern Croatian Littoral there are two defence systems from antiquity, of different strategic functions and construction: the first is the late antique defence system Claustra Alpium Iuliarum, in the interior of North Liburnia (in the literature this section of the Claustra in the Northern Croatian Littoral is called the “Liburnian Limes”), while the second one is a Byzantine fortification system developed as part of Justinian’s Reconquest. In order to understand how the entire antique defence system functioned in the Northern Croatian Littoral it is crucial to distinguish its purpose and organizational structure. No less important are also the causes for occupying certain strategic positions, as well as their relationship to communication routes, both continental and maritime. It is precisely within these preconditions for the functioning of the defence system that we may observe also the basic differences between the Liburnian and Byzantine late antique systems. One of the aims of the project is to define all the forms of architectural heritage of the antique defence system. The research within the project aims at determining whether there is a continuity in the choice of the same strategic positions in different periods of antiquity, as suggested by several cases in the area of the Liburnian defence system, at the sites in the interior of the Northern Croatian Littoral. A spatial continuity is also observed in the case of several late antique Byzantine fortifications along the coast, whose building phases often include an Early Roman one. A contrasting situation exists in the case of the Byzantine fortifications on the islands, which due to their inaccessibility were ill-suited for habitation during the earlier phases of antiquity. Special attention within the project is dedicated to the study of the causes of survival of minor civilian settlements in the immediate hinterland of the defence system, which did not stop to function during the periods of crises in late antiquity, when refuge sites acquired the role of temporary—but sometimes also permanent—settlements. A part of the answer, we believe, lies in their economic function of the suppliers of the defence system. By integrating contemporary methods in the research, such as interpreting aerial photographs and GPR sensing, as well as applied research from other disciplines, we acquire a comprehensive understanding of the research topic. The results obtained in this way may be used as the basis for research on the same body of issues in a broader area.

Goranka Lipovac Vrkljan


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