Risan – the oldest settlement in Boka Bay


    The capital of Boka used to be Risan. The entire bay was called Risanski zaliv, after the oldest settlement.

    In Risno, the Illyrian queen Teuta found shelter from the Romans in 228 BC, who encouraged the development of settlements at this location. According to legend, she committed suicide in Risno due to her inability to resist the Romans. She found death in the sea. After the Illyrians, this area was ruled by the Romans.

    In Roman times, Risan had about 10,000 inhabitants. Today it has 2048 inhabitants (according to the 2011 census).

    The fact that Illyrian, Greek, Roman, Slovenian, Turkish, Venetian, Russian, French and Austro-Hungarian cultures intertwined in the area of Risan speaks volumes for how interesting Risan is in terms of history. Evidence of prehistoric man's life was also found in Risno.

    In addition to numerous interesting stories that Risan can tell us, here we will highlight Risan as an important archaeological site.

    Roman mosaics

    The Roman mosaics in Risno are the remains of a villa from the 2nd century AD. Typologically, the villa urbana belonged to the type of city villas and is the most representative example of Roman architectural creativity on this coast of the Adriatic.

    "The villa was found in 1930 by Dušan Vuksan, then director of the State Museum in Cetinje. Considering that the ancient Roman city was located on the right bank of the river Spila, and according to the configuration of the terrain that changed significantly over the centuries, due to earthquakes alone, he came to the conclusion that it reached all the way to the cape called Rtac. 

    Consequently, there could have been a certain number of monumental buildings on that location, as evidenced by the archaeological remains of a city that was completely destroyed by a strong earthquake at the end of the 6th or the beginning of the 7th century AD, during which a large part of it sank into the sea" - Aleksandra Simeunović tells us , art historian and head of the OJ "Rimski mozaici". 

    The building was rectangular in shape with 14 rooms on the ground floor, made according to the system of entering from one to the other, with an atrium in the middle and a back yard in the eastern part. It is believed that it had a floor in the back part, that it had richly decorated walls in the al fresco technique, on which, according to the fashion of the time, motifs from mythology and the genre of the scene were depicted.

    The floors were decorated with mosaics, of which seven have been preserved, and of which the decoration of the cubicles (private rooms) is the best preserved.

    "On the floor of what is thought to have been a bedroom is a representation of Hypnos, the god of sleep. In the medallion in the middle, bordered by black tesserae, Hypnos is represented as a half-naked young man in a half-recumbent position with his legs crossed, and folded wings can be seen behind both shoulders. The cult of this deity originated from Greek mythology, and it was believed to be a beautiful winged young man who touches the eyes of tired people with a branch dipped in the river of oblivion and puts them to sleep," explains Simeunović. 

    In addition to the mosaics, the remains of the lararium, the sanctuary of the lars - the guardian spirits who were depicted as two dancing young men holding cornucopias in their hands, are also visible.

    Part of the ancient heritage of Rizon, the remains of the monumental buildings of the forum, is exhibited in the former back yard of the villa.

    If you are heading to Risan or are passing through, be sure to stop by and visit the Roman mosaics, but also see what the oldest settlement in Boka looks like today. 

    by @staze.boke/ Share Montenegro


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