A City That Wrote History

During my visit to the ruins of the city of Asseria, I was captivated by the wealth of history and culture from ancient Rome. The resilient walls and every stone revealed tales of an ancient civilization.

The monumental city gate, dedicated to Emperor Trajan in 113 AD, and the irregularly shaped fortified city with restored ashlar walls made a lasting impression. Archaeological digs unveiled a Roman forum and basilica, bearing witness to the wealth and prosperity of this city.

A remarkable aspect was the absence of any mortar in the wall construction, highlighting extraordinary craftsmanship. The precision of the stone walls was such that not even a piece of paper could be inserted between the blocks!

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Beyond the walls, the site holds a significant number of Liburnian funerary monuments known as cipus (photo on the right). All locally crafted, indicating a longstanding tradition of stonemasonry in Benkovac! They boast a distinct cylindrical shape, leaning towards the phallic, it’s worth noting. A substantial collection of cipuses is on display at the nearby Benkovac museum. The cipus concludes with a skull adorned with scales. The exterior features an inscription field detailing essential information about the deceased, including name, social standing, public roles, the deceased’s family, magical incantations, curses, expressions of gratitude, and more. At the apex of the cipus, a regularly carved pine cone or pine adorned the structure. The pine cone symbol is prevalent in nearly all global cultures, representing perpetual youth and immortality. In Roman religious practices, it frequently surfaces in various cults, particularly in Anatolia, and its symbolic significance often graces Roman gravestones. It was believed to ward off evil influences and protect the deceased’s body from decay.

Watch Out for the Road!

The journey to Asseria from BUQEZ was an adventure in itself. Navigation tends to choose the shortest route. After a half-hour drive from BUQEZ towards the village of Vrana, crossing the highway, you will reach the town of Benkovac. Navigation led us onto an unpleasant road off Route 56.

The road is filled with large stones, and it could pose a problem for vehicles without off-road equipment.

I highly recommend the following route:

1. Benkovac

2. Bukovic

3. Podgrad


Besides reducing stress, this route allows you to immerse yourself in the scenery and ambiance of the nearby villages. Although it might be a bit longer, trust me, it’s worth it. You’ll not only save time but also experience a more serene and enjoyable journey.

In summary, the visit to Asseria was a memorable journey into history, offering more than just a glimpse of the remains of an ancient city. It instilled admiration for the technical and artistic expertise that crafted it.

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