Niš is the third-largest city in Serbia (after Belgrade and Novi Sad). It is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans and Europe. It has been since ancient times considered a gateway between the East and the West. Niš has been inhabited for more than two thousand years. It was named Naissus by the Celtic Scordisci in 279 BC, after an invasion of the Balkans. The Scordisci were an Iron Age tribe centred in the territory of present-day Serbia. Naissus was an important strategic spot thanks to its extraordinary geographic position at the crossroads. The city was among several taken in the Roman conquest in 75 BC. In 214 AD the Roman Emperor Claudius II was born near Niš.
NOTE: In 3rd and 4th century eighteen Roman Emperors were born in the territory of Serbia. This is 20% of all the rulers of the Roman Empire.
Naissus became one of Rome’s key towns. It was the birthplace of Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor. Constantine the Great (280 - 337 AD) was raised in Naissus. His mother’s name was Helena and his father was Flavius Valerius Constantinus Hlorus. Constantine the Great ruled the Roman Empire from 306 to 337AD. He made Naissus (Niš) an important economic, military and administrative centre. World history remembers him also as the person who pulled Christianity out of the 'catacombs and gladiator arenas'.
As a powerful Emperor, Constantine did not forget his birthplace. He erected a majestic residence in one of the luxurious suburbs of Ancient Niš - Mediana, where he often resided and attended to state affairs. It was constructed as a luxury residence and used Roman emperors while they were visiting Naissus. Mediana occupies 40 hectares and still exhibits the remnants of the estate.
Roman emperor Contantine III was born in Niš and ruled from 421 AD. Niš almost burnt down during Attila's campaign and was ravaged by the Huns. Niš was besieged, raided, sacked, ravaged and burned to the ground several times in its long and turbulent history. In 450 AD Byzantine Emperor Justinian I was born near Niš. He needed to rebuild Niš again.
NOTE: In 2013 Niš will host the Ecumenical Assembly of Christian Churches which will mark 1700 years of Constantine’s Edict of Milan.