Located in the Dalmatian hinterland on the clear river Cetina, only 30 km from Split, Trilj is a small and picturesque town of rich historical heritage whose origins date back to the ancient times, at the intersection of Roman roads from Salona (today Solin) to Narona (place Vid) and Argentaria (Bosnia and Hercegovina)
Historians date the arrival of the Romans to the Trilj area at the beginning of the new era, and since then military units have resided here until the middle of the 3rd century, for whose daily life there were a number of other facilities in addition to administrative buildings. Namely, in the center of the village Gardun on the top of the hill of the same name, above today’s Trilj, lay the Roman legionary camp Tilurium, one of the most important military centers of the Roman province of Dalmatia, which was built in the middle of the 1st century, and part of the bastions (ramparts) of which is still today clearly visible on the western and northern sides of the camp.
Spread over a little more than 12 hectares, the Roman military camp occupied an excellent strategic position which, due to the increased altitude, enabled control of communications across the Cetina, and surveillance of roads leading from the ancient Salona through this area to the interior of the Roman province of Dalmatia. in its strategic basis it retained an important military and traffic function until late antiquity. It was probably built when the 7th Roman Legion with about five thousand soldiers was stationed here, which played a key role in breaking the conspiracy launched by Lucius Aruntius Camille Scribonian, governor of the province of Dalmatia, against Emperor Claudius in 42. For this reason they were honored with the title ‘ Claudia pia Fidelis’ (Claudia faithful and loyal) as a token of the gratitude.
The architecture of the Roman camp consists of administrative and defense facilities and a number of other facilities in the function of everyday life, such as a cistern or a military dormitory. Research has confirmed the existence of a six-centurion assembly that made up a whole to accommodate one legionary cohort of about 480 men. Each building received one centurion, 80 men deployed in ten contubernia, that is, divisions of eight legionnaires. The soldiers had two rooms in the permanent camp for preparing food, grinding grain and baking bread.
The Romans brought their economic and cultural achievements to this area over the years, and thus were the drivers of progress, such as the rapid construction of a system of roads from Salona to the interior of the province of Dalmatia during the imperial governor Dolabella between 14 and 20 A.D. Abandoning Salona, the mentioned road went over the pass of Klis, stretched along the Dugopolje plateau and near the hamlet of Kapela turned towards the veteran Colonia Claudia Aequum (village Čitluk near Sinj), and then northeast towards the Roman bridge on the river Cetina. In the system of these traffic routes, Pons Tiluri (today’s Trilj) was a significant traffic hub from which branched two main routes of great economic importance for Roman Dalmatia and the Empire in general. One led to the Argentaria (today Srebrenica) mining area in the eastern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the other headed southeast to the trading port of Narona (Vid) in the Neretva River Valley in Croatia.
All in all, it is not surprising that more than 300 artifacts characteristic for Roman military settlements have been found in this area, especially pieces of offensive and defensive military and cavalry equipment. We can single out, for example, the indispensable military belt (cingulum militare), which was used to carry weapons. On the front of the cingula hung leather ribbons reinforced with metal fittings, which, in addition to protection, also had a decorative purpose.
Everyday items were also found here: jewelry, money, sculptures, and even medical instruments. Since medicine was extremely developed in the ancient world, medical aids originated in Tilurium and were used in their unaltered form throughout the period of the Roman Empire. Numerous ceramic fragments found belong to amphorae that were used in the Roman world to store and transport oil, wine, fish products and dried fruit. But archaeologists have also recorded imports of pottery from western Asia Minor and present-day Tunisia. From the collection of tableware for serving food and drinks from the 1st century B.C. a thin-walled pottery is particularly significant. While clay and ordinary dishes are characterized by a red and orange tones, the more solemn and much more refined ones were grey, red or yellow colour. And its surface was decorated with a tiny grains of sand.
Such attention paid to pottery since antiquity indicates that Trilj, apart from its rich historical and cultural heritage, is also recognizable for its gastronomic specialties. Namely, indigenous dishes intertwine local ingredients with historical culinary influences of the East and the West. This trump card has been recognized in recent years by a local caterers, so with the help of the cookbook Re coquinaria, written in the 1st century by the Roman gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, many of them are trying to revive Roman ancient dishes. These are mainly meat and fish dishes spiced with honey, dates, almonds, figs and different spices.
Therefore, if you visit Trilj, you will be able to try, for example, lucani (Lucani) meat sausages spiced with honey or trout marinated with a various toppings. Also, Libum (sacrificial bread) made from five types of cheese, eggs and seasoned with laurel will go well with any dish, and gourmets will be able to round off the meal by enjoying dumplings made of cow’s cheese, honey, olive oil and poppy seeds.
So, if you are a fan of history, especially the Roman period, the right place for detour and visit is definitely Trilj, a town on the river Cetina, where you can see, explore and learn a lot of about Roman heritage, but also go back to the ancient times by tasting ancient delicacies.