Duklja – The Origin of Montenegro

History of Duklja

In the first decades of the first century A.D., the settlement and eventual township of Duklja (Doclea; present day Podgorica) was formed by the Docleatae. This was an Illyrian tribe. The Romans quickly took control.

This early Roman settlement was built to conform to the surrounding land. It rested in the safety of a valley with natural defenses. The surrounding mountains and three rivers proved invaluable.

The settlement grew to be great in size. It encompassed parts of present day Albania, Herzegovina, and even the most southern portion of coastal Croatia. Duklja remained under Roman control until the tenth century when it was freed from Byzantine influence. The new leadership brought a new identity. Montenegro’s oldest ancestors were Romans, Illyrians, and Slavs.

duklja, montenegro - meanderbug

The transition of power and identity also brought a transition of religious tradition. Through the 1100s Dukljans remained Catholic as a majority. However, after the fall of the Vojislavljevic dynasty in the twelfth century, Orthodox Christianity began to spread. Some historians describe this spread as forced conversion. Invasions and the destruction of Nemanja of Raska impacted the area. (See writings by Pavel Rovinski.)

The Birth of the Zeta Region

Duklja would become known as Zeta. The area began to reassert its sovereignty after the Serbian kingdom crumbled under Turkish weight. The process of continually defending itself (with the help of some rugged terrain) against invasion was exhausting for the area and her citizens.

Zeta continued to ebb and flow as a growing economic force throughout the next centuries. Later it would struggle with foreign invaders, natural disasters, and political strife.

city ruins, duklja, podgorica, montenegro - meanderbug

This reflects the layout of the oldest part of the settlement of Duklja.

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I think I’m reading the numbers across the bottom right and dating this to 1450. If I’m wrong, please correct. ūüôā

duklja, montenegro - meanderbug

Artifacts from Duklja

Some of the work that is intact is amazing. The site of Duklja is one of the most studied sites in the Roman region of Dalmatia. It has also been added to the UNESCO world heritage list for its importance to the region.

Most of the artifacts recovered have been relocated to the museum in Podgorica. While some of the most valuable ones have ended up in St. Petersburg, Russia or Belgrade, Serbia. Some pieces of history have likely ended up in private collections.bath house, duklja, montenegro - meanderbug

The bath house area is still situated among the remains. It is awesome to see the natural preservation that has taken place in this area. More people need to discover Duklja and learn about this area as it plays such an important part to the formation of the culture.

roman columns, duklja, montenegro - meanderbug

Rows of Roman columns have a presence among the ruins across the site.

The relatively small site does not do justice to the story that needs to be told here. Duklja cannot be remembered only as a geographical place, but it stands for an identity and a nation that continues to draw from its past. A past which began among these stones, yet has survived at times and thrived at others to stake a claim in history.

duklja, montenegro - meanderbug

Directions to Duklja Near Podgorica

The Roman ruins of Duklja are situated about 3 kilometers outside of Podgorica. If you take the road headed towards Danilovgrad, you’ll go about 2 kilometers passing some apartments and nicer looking houses across the river as well as a walking bridge. There’s a bridge on the right side that you will take. After crossing the bridge, follow the signs. You’ll cross over some railroad tracks and about 50 meters or so see the ruins on the left. Pretty easy to find, and if you get lost, ask a local. You may even get a good story out of it.

Places to Stay Near Duklja

To experience more of the culture and traditions of Montenegro, check out these local farm stays near Podgorica.

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