Sunday, May 18, 2014

Before visiting Belgrade, it is good to know something about his history.

Before visiting Belgrade, it is good to know something about his history.

Ancient Belgrade, or Singidunum as it was known then, was founded and built by the Celtic tribe Scordisci in 3th century BC. Their town was concentrated, most likely, in the area of present Zvezdara or in Visnjica.
At the beginning of the last century before Christ, the Romans built the first fortress on the same location where Kalemegdan stands today. In the 1st
Century AD, that castrum was to become the
The Victor, Kalemegdan, Belgrade
The Victor, Kalemegdan, Belgrade
seat of two well-known Roman legions, the 
Fourth (Scynthian) and the Fifth (Macedonian).
Between the walls of the lower city was the port of the Roman flotilla. A civilian settlement was to develop around the important frontier fortress with
a very powerful military unit. Chronicles recorded
a big settlement in the western parts of the town inhabited by tradesmen and artisans. A number of scripts prove evidence of the advancement, and even of a flourishing city that had been brought back to life. The roads brought to the city many celebrated people, including the Roman emperors Tiberius, Septimius, Severus, Valerian, Claudius II, Diocletian and others. 
In the middle of the 4th Century A.D., from the misty steppes of Pannonia, emerged warrior tribes who attacked the walls of Singidunum like turbulent waves. The city was destroyed and conquered successively by the Goths  (378) and Hunts (441). The ruined and besieged city was renovated in the 6th Century by the same Byzantine emperor who had built the church of St. Sofia in Constantinople (Istanbul), Emperor Justinian I. Belgrade regained something of its former splendor, but devastations continued, with the Avars in 584 and the Bulgarians in 829 causing the heaviest damage. Later records of the city, many of which are questionable, noted that in the course of the Avarian and Bulgarian attacks came "the Slovens in the 7th century, and entered the devastated Byzantine fortress".
The Slavic name Belgrade was mentioned in written documents for the first time in the papal bull signed by Pope John VIII in 878. In a special way, that would be the name day of the Serbian capital.
Belgrade became the Serbian capital for the first time not by means of the sword, nut the charter. In 1284, two years after Dragutin Nemanjic abdicated his throne to his brother Milutin and moved to the north, his father in law, the Hungarian King Bela IV, granted him Belgrade, Macva, Srem, Jadar and Usora in Bosnia.

Serbia during the rule of Prince Stefan Nemanja and his son Stefan II Prvovencani, cca 1150-1220
Serbia during the rule of Prince Stefan Nemanja and his son Stefan II Prvovencani, cca 1150-1220.
 Belgrade was demolished once again when the "Hungarian army took a revengeful attack, conquering and burning Belgrade to the ground". 
84 years passed until the fortress above confluence returned to Serbian hands. In 1404 Despot Stefan Lazarevic got Belgrade as a diplomatic award from the Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxembourg. Until Despot Stefan's death, Belgrade was the capital of the Serbian State and "a meeting place of the noble and honorable Europeans. After his death, Belgrade became the Hungarian property again.
Belgrade 16th century
Fortress of Belgrade as it looked in the middle ages. The lower and upper town with the palace are visible.
Peace only lasted for three decades, however, and then the history of conquest of Belgrade continued. In 1440 the Turkish Sultan Murat II attacked the city in a siege that lasted several months, but was without success. While retreating, as a reminder that the siege of Belgrade hadn't ended yet, Murat built the Turkish fortress Havala on Avala hill near Belgrade, where the Serbian fortress Zrnov once stood. Only four years later, Mehmed II, the conqueror of Constantinople, assembled an army of 150,000 soldiers and attacked Belgrade in a battle that didn't turn out as the sultan expected. The defenders of Belgrade, although much smaller in numbers than Turkish army won in a decisive and unanticipated counter attack. Mehmed II was injured  as his army withdraw, leaving thousands of dead Turkish soldiers behind. 

Despite all previous military and political calculations, the Turks only managed to conquer Belgrade in 1521, during a siege led by Suleiman The Magnificent. 
Belgrade Fortress Eastern Gate II drawing
Belgrade Fortress Eastern Gate II drawing, late XVIII century.  
At the end of the 17th century began a series of especially dramatic and far-reaching conquests of the city by the Austrians and Turks, in a century overflowing with wars. The most significant took place in 1717, when the famous Eugene of Savoy led an Austrian conquest of Belgrade. Under Austrian rule, over the next 22 years, Baroque Belgrade was built, including the Belgrade fortress that was designed and built by the Swiss General Nicolas Docsat de Morez. Once more, Belgrade became the spiritual and national center of Serbian life.
Unfortunately, that period didn't last long enough. The Turks took back Belgrade without a fight, after a siege that resulted in "The Belgrade pace agreement". Soon afterwards the Baroque Belgrade disappeared, taking with it places, churches and streets, its spirit, proportions and shapes.
Belgrade in 1821. Drawing by J. Alt, lithographing by Adolph Kunike
Lithography from 1821 shows, boat pulling in Belgrade.
A beginning of the end of Turkish rule in Belgrade was near though, starting with the Serbian siege led by Karadjordje in 1806. Actually, the Turks returned to Belgrade in 1813 after the failure of the First Serbian Uprising. But after the rebellion, nothing was to be the same again. Soon, in 1814, the rebellion of Hadzi-Prodan was organized, and in 1815 the Second Serbian Uprising occurred. This was marked by a series of victories for the insurgents and followed by successful  negotiations, prior to a Turkish counter-attack. Following this was fifteen years of a sensible peace and economic strengthening. In 1829, the Turkish Sultan signed the famous "hatiserif": "we obtained, in one day, the state, the capital and the dynasty".
Wiev on The Knez Mihajlova street, Belgrade
Wiev on The Knez Mihajlova street, Belgrade 1906
In March 1867 Prince Mihailo acquired an agreement in Istanbul that guaranteed a Turkish surrender of Serbian cities to Serbs. The symbolic handing over of keys to the city gates happened in Belgrade on April 6th, during a ceremony that was turned into a great national celebration. The last Turkish military units left the fortress of Belgrade on April 24th, while their military orchestra performed the famous "Nizam breakup".
From this day on, not including the years of occupation during two world wars, Belgrade has remained under Serbian rule.

Terazije in Beograd, 1934 postcard
Postcard from 1934 shows Belgrade main square Terazije

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