Belgrade is the capital city of Serbia and has a population of around 1.7 million. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has since ancient times been an important crossing of the ways where the roads of eastern and western Europe meet. The city lies on two international waterways, at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, which surround it on three sides. Because of this position, Belgrade is fittingly referred to as the Gateway to the Balkans and the Door to Central Europe.
The oldest archaeological finds in this area date from the 5th millennium BC. The prehistoric site of Vinča, which preserves traces of a prehistoric human material culture (Neolithic plastic art), is located on the banks of the Danube. Celtic tribesmen founded Singidunum in the 3rd century BC, and the town is also mentioned in classical sources. The territory was later conquered by the Romans and became part of the Byzantine Empire when the Roman Empire split in 395.
The Slavs crossed the Danube in increasing numbers during the 6th century and permanently settled in this area, erecting their settlement – the White City (Beli Grad) – on a rocky outcrop rising above the mouth of the Sava. Between the 16th and the 19th centuries, Belgrade was called by many names in different languages: Alba Graeca, Alba Bulgarica, Bello grado, Nandor Alba, Griechisch Weissenburg and Castelbianco, all of which are translations of the Slavic word Beograd. The name Belgrade was mentioned for the first time in 878, and during its long and turbulent history the city has been occupied by 40 different armies and rebuilt from its ashes 38 times.