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Niš (Ниш, the Roman Naissus; see below) is a city in Serbia and Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia), 43.3° N 21.9° E, on the river Nišava , 2004 population 374,300, according to the World Gazeteer (see external link). The city covers the area of about 597 square kilometres, including the city of Niš itself, the Niška Banja spa and 68 suburbs. Konstantin Veliki Aerodrom (Constantine the Great) is its international airport with destination code INI.
Situated at the crossroads of Balkan and European highways, connecting Asia Minor to Europe, Niš is one of the oldest cities in the Balkans, and has from ancient times been considered a gateway between the East and the West.
Niš is a university center. There are about 14 000 university students at Niš university , which comprises 10 faculties. Niš is also one of the most important industrial centres in Serbia and Montenegro, a center of electronics industry, industry of mechanical engineering, textile industry and tobacco industry.
During the time of German occupation in WWII, the first Nazi concentration camp in Yugoslavia was near Niš. In 1942 an armed revolt led to an escape. The escapees were guerillas from Tito's movement who was captured by German forces during the Battle of Kozara . This escape is featured in Miomir Stamenkovic's film Lager Nis , 1987.
The climate of the Niš area is moderate and continental, with an average temperature of 11.2°C. July is the warmest month of the year, with the average of 21.2°C. The coldest month is January, averaging at 0.2°C. The average of the annual rainfall is 567.25 mm/m˛. The average barometer value is 992.74 mb. There are 123 days with rain and 43 days with snow. On the average, the wind force is just below 3 Beaufort.
The city's early name under the Roman Empire remained Naissus ("city of the nymphs"). Niš is a possible location of Nysa, a mythical place in Greek mythology where the young god Dionysus was raised. Naissus was considered a place worthy of note in the Geography of Ptolemy of Alexandria. The Romans occupied the town in the period of the "Dardanian War" (75-73 BC), and the city developed as a strategic crossroads, garrison and market town.
In AD 268, during the "Crisis of the third century" when the Empire almost collapsed, the greatest Gothic invasion seen to date came pouring into the Balkans. The Goths' seaborne allies, the Heruli, supplied a fleet, carrying vast armies down the coast of the Black Sea where they ravaged coastal territories in Thrace and Macedonia. Other huge forces crossed the Danube in Moesia. An invasion of Goths into the province of Pannonia was leading to disaster. The Emperor Gallienus halted the Goths' progress by defeating them in battle in April of 268, and then that September, he came upon the main Gothic force at Naissus and defeated them at the carnage called the Battle of Naissus, the bloodiest battle of the 3rd century, which left thirty to fifty thousand Goths dead on the field. The battle earned Gallienus' chief general Marcus Aurelius Claudius his surname "Gothicus", although the cavalry commander Aurelian was the real victor. The battle of Naissus ensured another two centuries for the Empire in the West.
Four years later, the son of a military commander and an innkeeper's daughter born here, in 272, was destined to rule, as Emperor Constantine the Great. Remains of the 4th century Imperial villa at Mediana are an important archeological site located close to Niš. Mosaic floors and other traces of luxury are preserved in the archaeological museum on the site. Other aristocratic suburban villas are clustered nearby
The 4th century Christian basilica in Niš is one of the oldest Christian monuments. Though the emperor Julian strengthened the walls, the very prosperity of Naissus made it a target and it was destroyed by Attila in 443. When Priscus passed through in 448 on his way to Attila's court, Naissus offered a grim spectacle:
- When we arrived at Naissus we found the city deserted, as though it had been sacked; only a few sick persons lay in the churches. We halted at a short distance from the river, in an open space, for all the ground adjacent to the bank was full of the bones of men slain in war.
In the 9th century the Bulgarians became masters of Naissus, the Hungarians in the 11th century, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I reconquered it once more in 1173, and towards the end of the 12th century the town was in the hands of the Serbian prince Stephen Nemanya, who received hospitably the German emperor Frederick Barbarossa and his crusaders.
In 1375 the Ottoman Turks captured Naissus for the first time from the Serbians. A large city fortress from the first decades of the 18th century is well preserved. An important monument from early 19th century Serbian uprisings against Turkish reign is the Skull Tower (Ćele kula), a tower built on human skulls, a monument likely unique in its design.
- www.nis.org.yu - official city web site
- Niš University
- Narodno pozorište Niš - National Theatre of Niš
- World Gazeteer; population of Nis
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