Split: Diocletian’s Palace
Site of historic interest (Roman Palace) Walk
Diocletian’s palace is one of the must see gems of the Roman world and a World Heritage Site (designated in 1979). Do not expect a typical archaeological monument however, the palace is part of a larger living city and as well as tourist attractions and historical monuments includes businesses of all kinds. The best way to see it is to wander through the tight streets that follow the Roman palace plan and look out for little architectural gems (features, doors windows etc) that have survived 1700 years of use, re-use and remodelling as well as visiting the larger attractions within its confines.
Diocletian was the emperor of Rome from 284 AD until he retired in 305 AD. He was born and raised on the Dalmatian coast in the Roman town of Solana (now Solin) and after a period as a cavalry officer was appointed emperor upon the death of Carus. Diocletian planned for retirement by building a sumptuous palace on a headland to the west of Salona where he took up residency in 305 AD and remained until his death in 311 AD.
The place was constructed as a square building fortified on its three landward sides but not on its forth side facing the back of the bay now known as Gradski Luka. Built from limestone and marble quarried on Brac, but with some decorative stone from other sources (granite from Egypt) the interior can broadly be divided into tow areas. The southern half of the place included the Emparor’s personal apartments (which looked over the bay) an open square and then to the east a mausoleum where Diocletian intended (and was) to be buried.
To the north in the second area of the palace were two large courtyarded structures that are believed to have been accommodation for Diocletian’s retinue, soldiers and servants. These were surrounded by streets that separated them from the defensive walls.
The palace had three landward gates (one in the centre of each wall) and also access directly to the sea on its southern side. Numerous other rooms and buildings have been constructed into the walls though many of these must have developed during later occupation.
After Diocletian’s death (possibly suicide) the palace was abandoned and remained empty until the 7th Century AD when it was occupied by residents of nearby villages seeking defence against raids by barbarians along the Adriatic coast. Since that time a medieval and Venetian city has built up around the palace and many of the buildings in its interior have been modified or re-used. Several of the Roman shrines and also Diocletian’s mausoleum were converted to be churches. The Mausoleum is now the Cathedral of St Dominus.
Today the only way to visit the site is on foot, it can be accessed from any of its 4 sides: the west and the later medieval town (the Iron Gate), the east and the market (the Silver Gate), the north and the park with statue of Gregorious of Nin (the Golden Gate) and from the south, on the Riva through the catacombs (the Bronze Gate).
The palace forms part of the modern street plan and is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week
Split: in the very centre of the City facing on to the Riva and Gradski Luka, located just to the west of the market.
Inside the walls is effectively an extension of the old town to the west, with shops, cafes, restaurants and houses as well as the remains of the Roman palace and the best way to see it all is to discover it as you wander through the streets: Highlights include:
1.Diocletian’s Mausoleum (Cathedral of St Dominus)
2.The Golden Gate (see the photo above)
3.The City Museum
4.The Baptistry (a former Roman shrine to Janus or Jupiter)
5.The Peristyle (or central courtyard)
6.The catacombs and Bronze Gate
The walls (viewed externally)
The walk is short and unstrenuous almost entirely on the flat.
Sunday, 12 June 2011