Benkovac is a small town in north Dalmatia, 32 km east from Zadar and 15 km northeast of Biograd. It was build up at the point where the rock and scrub of the Bukovica karst region meet the fertile Ravni Kotari plains. Benkovac developing was determinated by its right traffic position where the roads that lead out of Zadar towards Knin meet with the roads that lead out of the region Lika towards the sea.
That position was even more noted in XXth century when the railroad track Zadar-Knin was builded, and especially highway Zagreb-Split; junction Benkovac on a highway is 3 km southwest from the town. The population of Benkovac is 2522 inhabitans. It is well known that Benkovac area was very populated and developed in the time of mediaeval period of Croatian state. Lots of earlycroatian monuments and churches were found in this area. However, and long time before arriving the Croats ancient people were building here theyre settlements and raised theyre monuments. The most noticed cultural and historical monument is castrum Benković – fortress named after croatian nobles who builed it in XV century. With building up this fortress on a hill which dominates surroundings starts the history of town itself. Today in castrum Benković is situated museum.
After the fall of Venetian Republic in XVIII century, Benkovac area is part of the Austria-Hungary Empire. After the first world war there was created kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and soon after that kingdom of Yugoslavia (Karađorđević). Serbian hegemony was felt in this area, and tension beetween Serbs and Croats were getting biger. Rural Serbian population is settling in towns Benkovac and Obrovac. After the second world war these towns are becoming the centers of growing nationalisam and resistance to Croatian ambition for independence. This tragic history of XX century ends by great serbian aggresion and with Croatian War of Independence since 1991. till 1995. in which was destroyed lots of human lives and also cultural monuments. Today, what is most painfully obvious to see is that this is the town which has suffered both war damage and economic problems. From its present appearance you would hardly guess the leading role the town once played in the region. Countless cultural and historical remains in the town itself and the surrounding countryside testify to this role.
At Asseria, near village Podgrađe, 6km east of Benkovac are the remains of an urban settlement almost a kilometre long. Asseria was founded long before the Romans set foot on these lands. It was a powerfull centre of the Illyrian tribe Liburns, whose territories stretched for miles along the eastern Adriatic coast. When the Romans later occupied these lands, Asseria grew to become a municipality with a governing council. The town was inhabited from the Bronze Age right up until the late Roman period. The highest blossom Asseria reached in I and II century. The oldest remains which have been found to date are from V century BC, and show us a town with walls 7m high and 3.2m thick, built as part of the military belt protecting the rich cultural life on the coast from barbarian invasion from inland. Built on the proscribed lines of a Roman city, Asseria had a town square, a water system, public baths and a necropolis where cylindrical gravestones known as „cipus“ have been discovered. The most important Roman monument is a triumphal arch, one of seven entrances into the city, built in 113 AD in honour of Roman Emperor Trajan. Annual archeological digs at Asseria are revealing more and more fascinating layers of history beneath.
Ceramics from the Greek period that predated the Roman settlement here have been unearthed, and also from the age of the Liburnians before them. The golden era of Asseria come to an end when Avar and Slav tribes swept across the plains of Europe, and the Roman Empire crumbled. The last mention of the settlement is from the XI century. The church of st. Martin near Benkovac yielded a few surprises some years ago, when an old storeroom was opened up and found to contain more than 2000 silver pieces from the treasury of King Koloman (or Kalman) of Hungary, part of the riches he used to finance his quest for the Croatian crown. (His quest was successful – as part of a treaty, he way crowned King of Croatia in 1102. in Biograd, the first time in history that the Kingdoms of Croatia and Hungary were joined). In vicinity of Benkovac you can also see remains of medieval fort at village Perušić, and beautiful fort from XV century hiden in idyllic forest at Kličevica. Another important historic site near Benkovac is village Šopot, where a part of the estates of Prince Branimir, historically the most important Croatian ruler, was found – a IX century fragment from a pre-Romanesque basilica with an inscription testifying to his rule and the existence of a Croatian state (dux Croatorum).
Castrum Benković acted as a strategic defence point guarding a county called Luka and its main thoroughfare called „ The Great Road“ (Via Magna), which passed on its way to Ostrovica – an important fort belonging to the noble family Šubić, prominent in Croatian history. On the complete area from Benkovac to Knin there can be found remains of medieval forts which testify about importance of this teritory through history.