In Serbian, the town is known as Сремска Митровица or Sremska Mitrovica, in Rusyn as Сримска Митровица, in Croatian as Srijemska Mitrovica, in Hungarian as Szávaszentdemeter or Mitrovica, in German as Syrmisch Mitrowitz, in Latin as Sirmium, and in Turkish as Dimitrofça.
The name of the city during the reign of the Roman Empire was Sirmium. Beginning in 1180 AD the name changed from "Civitas Sancti Demetrii" to "Dmitrovica", "Mitrovica", and finally to the present form - "Sremska Mitrovica".
Sremska Mitrovica is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Archaeologists have found a trace of organized human life dating from the 5000 BC onwards. Ionian jewellery dating to 500BC was excavated in the city. When the Romans conquered the city in the 1st century BC, Sirmium already was a settlement with a long tradition.
In the 1st century, Sirmium gained a status of a colony of the citizens of Rome, and became a very important military and strategic location in Pannonia province. The war expeditions of Roman emperors Traian, Marcus Aurelius, and Claudius II, were prepared in Sirmium.
Since the 4th century, the city was an important Christian centre, and was a seat of the Episcopate of Sirmium. Four Christian councils were held in Sirmium.
At the end of the 4th century, Sirmium was brought under the sway of the Goths, and later, was again annexed to the Eastern Roman Empire. In 441, Sirmium was conquered by the Huns, and after this conquest, it remained for more than a century in the hands of various Barbarian tribes, such were Eastern Goths and Gepids. For a short time, Sirmium was the center of the Gepide State and the king Cunimund minted golden coins in it. After 567, Sirmium was again included into Eastern Roman Empire. The city was finally conquered and destroyed by Avars in 582. This event marked the end of the period of late Antiquity in the history of Sirmium.
11 luxurious golden belts of Avar handicraft dating to the 6th century was excavated in the vicinity.
For more than two centuries the fate of Sirmium was unknown. At the end of the 8th century, Sirmium belonged to the Frankish State. The historical role of Sirmium increased again in the 9th century, when it was part of Bulgarian Empire. Pope Adrian II gave St. Methodius the title of Archbishop of Sirmium. After having adopted Christianity, the Bulgarians restored in Sirmium the Christian Episcopate, having in mind old Christian traditions and the reputation this city had in the ancient world.
In the 11th century, Sirmium was a residence of Sermon, a duke of Syrmia, who was a vassal of the BulgarianSamuil. After 1018, the city was again included into the Byzantine Empire, and since the end of the 11th century, Sirmium was a subject of a dispute between the Byzantine Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary, until 1180 when the Byzantine Empire gave up Sirmium, surrendering it to the Kingdom of Hungary. In the 11th century, an Byzantine province named Theme of Sirmium had its capital in this city.
For a while, about 1451, the city was in possession of the Serbian despot Đurađ Branković. In 1521 the city came into Ottoman hands and it remained under the Ottoman rule for almost two centuries. According to Ottoman traveler Evliya Celebi, Mitrovica had been conquered by the Bosnian sanjak bey Husrev-bey. She was renamed as "Dimitrofça".
The name of the mayor of the city was Dimitar and since the middle of the 16th century, the city was mostly populated with Muslims. According to the 1566/69 data, the population of the city was composed of 592 Muslim and 30 Christian houses, while according to the 1572 data, it was composed of 598 Muslim and 18 Christian houses. According to the 1573 data, the city had 17 mosques and no Christian church. During the Ottoman rule, Sremska Mitrovica was the largest settlement in Syrmia, and was the administrative center of the Ottoman Sanjak of Syrmia. It was temporarily occupied by Austrian troops between 1688 and 1690. They finally took it in 1717 and took possession of it after signing Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718.
With the establishment of the Habsburg administration in 1718, the Muslim population fled from the city and was replaced with Serbian, Croatian, and German settlers. According to the 1765 data, the population of the city numbered 809 people, of whom 514 were Serbs and 290 Catholics.
Sremska Mitrovica was part of the Habsburg Military Frontier (Slavonian Krajina). In 1848/1849, it was part of the Serbian Voivodship , a Serb autonomous region within Austrian Empire, but in 1849, it was returned under administration of the Military Frontier.
With the abolition of the Slavonian Military Frontier in 1881, Sremska Mitrovica was included into Syrmia County, which was part of the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia within Austria-Hungary. According to the 1910 census, the population of the city numbered 12,909 people, of which 8,793 spoke the Serbo-Croatian language (4,878 of those spoke Serbian and 3,915 spoke Croatian) and 2,341 German. The municipal area of the city (which did not included the city itself) had 32,012 inhabitants, of which 28,093 spoke Serbo-Croatian (27,022 of those spoke Serbian and 1,071 spoke Croatian) and 2,324 German.
Most of the settlements in the municipality have an ethnic Serb majority. Ethnically mixed settlement with relative Serb majority is Stara Bingula. The main concentration of ethnic minorities is in the town.
In the early 1970s American archeologists sponsored by the US government made an offer to the citizens of Sremska Mitrovica to completely rebuild the town on another location so that the town could be excavated. The town government refused the request immediately, under pressure from the then hard-socialist Yugoslav government.
During work on the new Sremska Mitrovica trade center in 1972, a worker accidentally broke into an old Roman pot, about 2m deep, over the site of an old Sirmium settlement. 33 gold Roman coins enclosed in a leather pouch were found inside a Roman house wall, probably the hidden savings of a wealthy Roman family stashed centuries ago. Of this extraordinary rare find of Sirmium minted coins were four Constantius II era coins, considered the most valuable examples from the late Roman empire of the 4th century AD. The young worker whose shovel brought this significant discovery to light was never rewarded.
The only known unexcavated Roman horse racing arena in the world is in Sirmium. A colossal building about 150m wide and 450m long lays directly under the Sremska Mitrovica town center and just beside the old Sirmium Emperor's Palace (one of just a few Sirmium publicly accessible archeological sights). The presence of the arena has clearly affected the layout of the present town (Sremska Mitrovica is today about 2-4m above ground line of the former Sirmium settlement). Recently announced[when?] cultural and archeological projects for preserving and popularising Sirmium sights haven't included any activity dealing with the arena, probably due to its size — the entire present town center might have to be excavated.
The last emperor of the united Roman Empire, Theodosius I (378–95), became emperor in Sirmium. The usurpersIngenuus and Regalianus also declared themselves emperors in this city (in 260) and many other Roman emperors spent some time in Sirmium including Marcus Aurelius who might have written parts of his famous work Meditations in the city.