Danube Virtual Museum

Diana/Zanes-Station on Cataracts

Statio cataractarum Diana/Polichnion Zanes

Today, a Roman fortress and castle is located about 2 km downstream of the HPP Đerdap I, along the modern-day road from Belgrade to Tekija and Kladovo, on the rocky, slightly lofty bank of the Danube known as Karataš (Black Stone).

About 12 km downstream, next to the Pontes fortress at Trajan's bridge, there is one of many river bank fortresses/military technical installations which have, thanks to a natural position and fortunate coincidence, remained protected from the high waters of Đerdap accumulations.

Fortress Diana, as well as Pontes, is one of the archetypal Roman fortresses. With an area of over 3 acres, it was certainly one of the largest auxiliary fortresses/castrums on the Roman limes.

The fortress Diana is one of the best explored fortresses of the Roman limes of the Upper Moesia. Together with Pontes, it has the status of a monument of great significance for the Republic of Serbia because of its historical importance and preservation. The wider area of the fortress has been included in the preservation process. As a part of the Roman Empire limes, the fortress is, potentially, on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list, along with the Trajan Plaque and the Bridge – the fort Pontes.

Fortress Diana, as well as a number of locations downstream, has been included in a long-term heritage protection Project named Đerdap-Project Diana by systematic archaeological research and excavations. From the start in1978/79, these works have been carried out continuously to the present day, with short intermissions of various periods. The project is led by J. (Rankov) Kondić, an adviser of the National Museum in Belgrade and a director of the Archaeological Museum of Đеrdаp since 1996.

Only one third of the total area of the fortress, with a small part of the surroundings and settlements with necropoli, had been explored by 2012.
The question of the exact name and location of the Diana Station - Zanes Town / Polichnion Zanes (referred to in early Byzantine sources) was definitely resolved when the votive base, with an inscription to the Egyptian God Thoth, was discovered in 1981. Besides the inscription, the full name of this place is mentioned as well - STATIO CATARACTARUM DIANA – DIANA STATION CATARACTS.

Diana is a name of Roman origin, linked to the name of the Roman goddess. In addition to the epigraphic inscriptions and sources, Diana - DA (ACIA) R (ipensis) DIANA appears on the seals of many Roman bricks, found and produced here since the third century onwards.

Diana on the cataracts of the Danube Iron Gate was constantly occupied as a military position, for 600 years in continuity, since the turn of eras, the period of August / Tiberius. After the construction of Trajan's Canal in 101 AD, it became an essential intersection of the main river-land roads.

According to archaeological data, it was found that the military garrison of Diane was composed of combined troops, infantry units, cavalry (and fleet), detachments of Roman Moesian legions - V Macedonica, VII Claudia, IIII Flavia, XIII Gemina. Also, auxiliary troops, VI Thracum and V Gallorum, have been confirmed by descriptions.

During systematic campaigns of archaeological excavations and research of the Roman fortress Diana, complete and accurate data on the developmental stages and techniques of construction were obtained, as well as all elements necessary for reconstruction of the general (urban) plan of all phases of this auxiliary position. The first and the oldest castle (T I) is almost quadrangular, with ramparts of compact clay, stone, with a wooden palisade. It was reinforced with wooden skeleton and storey towers, framed with two external, spitz – trenches. The fortress was built during the setting of Roman boundaries and making of the military road route on the Danube, the detachments of the first Moesian legions - IIII Scythica and V Macedonica (Juleus-Claudian-Flavius position).

The second and a larger quadrangular fortress (T II), was built on the same site, based on the similar classical fortification scheme of dividing interior space. It was divided with axis into three unequal parts, in accordance with the new architectural program at the time of Trajan’s renewal of the limes (998/9 - 105/6). This basic plan, with reconstructions, was retained over the next centuries, both during the rule of immediate successors and during the late Roman, and also partly through the early Byzantine period, when the fort area was increased to over about 3 hectares by adding a fortified annex to the edge of the plateau (4th to 6th century).

In those uncertain times, the structures of the fortress were destroyed in conflicts with other peoples and various tribes from the middle of the 3rd, through to the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th centuries. In this period, Gothic and German tribes, Huns, Avars, Slavs and others, were coming from the hinterland of the left bank of the Danube from the rims of Roman Empire borders. From the second half of the 4th century to the 6th century, after being severely destroyed, stone structures were thoroughly reconstructed, while the remaining well-preserved parts of the ramparts were reinforced on the inside. In this period, solid multi-storey towers of various shapes (square, horseshoe, rectangular, polygonal) were added on the outer walls of ramparts. This is typical of the late Roman Empire and the early Byzantine period (from Aurelian, Diocletian and Constantine I, the heir to the throne, to Justinian's great and thorough restoration of the Roman/late Roman limes (527-565).

Numerous aspects of the fortress have been discovered through systematic archaeological works till 2012: its strong, well-preserved arched stone ramparts, with 19 quadrangular inner towers (out of 22 in total); all four main gates set on all sides of the fortress - porta praetoria, decumana, principalis sinistra and dextra; one of two main streets; main headquarters buildings (principium), with a portico in the center of their intersection (via rraetoria-via principalis); a warehouse for storing food (horreum) at the end of the North main gate (porta praetoria); late Roman military barracks (contubernia) alongside the South gate (porta decumana); sanitary facilities-public bath / latrinum, balneum with drain ditch below the rampart (northwest corner of the fortress); a number of furnaces; workshop points (from different periods), and two representative large buildings with a semicircular conch / apses on the narrower sides used for special purposes. They were made by repairing / renovating older structures during the late Roman period (4th – 5th century). One of those has preserved a central heating system (oriented north-south), while the other, with research in progress (oriented east-west), has extremely well-preserved capacity for liquid water/pools (4), with intact lead and clay pipes of different intersections. Outside the immediate zone TII (north of the North Gate), a solidly built and well-preserved underground crypt /crypt with four opposite niches (a Christian temple in the last phase) was discovered. The above-ground structure is not preserved while only partially, the lowest parts of the upper ramparts’ foundation are still visible and a parapet panel is also preserved.

This early Roman, late Roman and early Byzantine auxiliary fortress/castle, Roman statio/station was surrounded by a large and important settlement, a pier and necropoli. Both natural and strategically advantageous position was crucial to develop an urban village, mentioned as the town Zanes / polichnion Zanes in Byzantine sources. Although its large parts were destroyed by rapid industrialization, researches have so far located the main roads and necropoli, while, according to locations of some of the findings, it is possible to see the whole size of this castrum in its widest limits – from the northern point of Trajan's Canal (upstream of HPP Đerdap I ), to Kladušnica (Kladovo), with gravitating, mountainous hinterland and the islands.

This sector of the limes on the cataracts of the Danube Iron Gate, downstream and upstream from the Diana by Trajan’s Canal, was also defended from several fortified Roman military positions and installations - at the mouth of Đevrinski stream, Kašajna and Kosovica; on the island Adakale / Adakaleh and Bansko / Banului (Transdiana); then downstream, in Kladovo Shipyard (Carine / Butorke) and Skela Kladovska (on the left, Romanian coast), identified on the right Serbian, based on literary sources, such Ducis Pratum, Caput Bovis, Transdiana ...

Decades of research of the Diana have given exceptionally large and valuable archaeological material. Diana is known for finds of extraordinary artistic creation and beauty, some of which are world museum rarities. This rich archaeological collection, which has been collected by systematic excavations (Iron Gate Project-Project Diana), is now kept and exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Đerdap in Kladovo, while part of the collection is, unfortunately, still in the Negotin Museum).

Parts of architectural elements can be seen on the fortress Diana, the site which has been maintained regularly and is open to visitors.


Ј (Rаnkоv) Kоndić (text in preprint); for the previous results compare the last, detailed illustrated report of the head of works, Ј. (Rаnkоv) Kоndić, Stаnicа Diаnа nа Dunаvskim Kаtаrаktаmа, Zbоrnik Nаrоdnоg Мuzеја XIX, 2009, 367-402, with a summary in English and provided literature.

(Text: National Museum in Belgrade – Archaeological Museum Đerdap)