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The town of Split in Croatia - the Diocletian palace

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The Palace of Diocletian (Dioklecijanova palača) was built between the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century after J. - C. by the Roman emperor Diocletian. The palace constitutes the historical heart of the town of Split in Croatia.

The Palace of Diocletian represents the most beautiful example of Roman architecture of the Eastern coast of the Adriatic. In November 1979, it was registered by UNESCO on the list of the World heritage.


The wall of the north of the palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image.The Palace of Diocletian was built on a bay of the southern coast of a peninsula located at 6 km of the Roman capital of Dalmatia, Salona.

The palace occupies, nowadays, the Eastern half of the old town of Split which developed around its walls.

The Palace of Diocletian seen of the sky (author Office Split Tourism). Click to enlarge the image.


The palace that was made build the emperor Diocletian was a synthesis successful between a fortress legionary Roman (castrum) and a luxurious villa patrician. The palace is indeed a massive construction protected by solid ramparts and organized like a Roman camp cut out in four quadrants by the two usual arteries principal crossings with right angle.

The Palace of Diocletian constituted a true small strengthened city because, in addition to the private apartment of the emperor and the barracks of the imperial guard, it comprised residences for the servants, of the thermal baths, a library and at least a temple, devoted to Jupiter.

Reconstitution of the Palace of Diocletian by Ernest Hébrard. Click to enlarge the image.The palace forms an immense trapezoid, with a length of approximately 215 m on its frontages is and western, and a width of 175 m for the northern frontage and of 181 m for the southern frontage. It is built on a typical karstic ground of the area, going down soft inclined towards the coast, and occupies a surface of more than 38,000 m².

The wall of the north of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The ramparts measured from 15 to 20 m height, with an average thickness of 2.10 m, attenuating to 1.15 m in the upper part. They were bored of four doors: the Gold Gate in north, the Silver Gate in the east, the Iron Gate in the west and the Bronze Gate in the south. The walls and the doors were defended by step less than sixteen turns: four square towers with the angles, two others smaller square towers on each terrestrial wall and two octagonal towers defending the terrestrial doors; only the maritime frontage in the south did not have turns of defense. Three of the turns of angle are still visible today - at least partially -; the fourth, with the south-western angle, was destroyed around 1550 after being sapped by the sea.

Except the doors, the low part of the enclosure did not comprise any opening, whereas on the high part appeared, on the southern slope, a visible monumental gantry nowadays still and, on the three other sides, those turned towards the dry land, of the corridors to the large arcades.

The interior of the palace was organized according to a plan in cross, served by two perpendicular ways: the decumanus, a transverse street connecting the eastern gate to that of the west, and the cardo, connecting the northern gate to the peristyle. One finds an interior court in the middle of each side of the palace, which one reaches by the gigantic doors. The most imposing court is obviously the southern court, the superb peristyle, located at the crossing of the decumanus and the cardo and which gives access to the apartments of the emperor.

The northern part of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The northern part of the palace comprised the residences of the soldiers and the servants, as well as warehouses and workshops of clothing where worked of condemned Christian. The southern part sheltered the imperial apartments and the thermal baths, and the places of the imperial and religious ceremonial: the peristyle and the temple.

The aqueduct feeding the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image.The style of construction of the palace was that of the Roman villas of the time, a mixture of stone masonry - mainly of the excellent stone of Brač or that of Trogir, of marble of Italy for the coatings, reported granite columns of Egypt, tufa of the close rivers (Jadro) and of produced brick with Salona, with tiled roofs. The palace and its surroundings were inhabited by a population from 8,000 to 10,000 people.

The supply water of the Palace - in particular of the Thermal baths - was ensured by an aqueduct, mainly underground, bringing spring water of the Jadro river, distant of about ten km, close to Salona; it is estimated that the flow of the aqueduct was of 13 m³ /s. One can see the vestiges of this aqueduct - restored at the 19th century - along the road of Split with Salona.

The Reconstitution of the Palace
Plan of the Palace of Diocletian by Ernest Hébrard (North-South orientation). Click to enlarge the image.It is difficult to imagine with what the Palace of Diocletian at the time of its apogee could resemble, because of centuries of additions and transformations which it underwent; the inhabitants of the Palace altered according to their needs the primitive aspect for the imperial buildings, the enclosing walls and the turns of defense: one estimates at 900 the number of residences arranged inside the walls of the palace from the Middle Ages, these buildings medieval, these stores and these offices having been built mainly with stones and recovered columns of the original buildings of the Palace of Diocletian. Only certain monuments, the such cathedral, which were in the beginning the mausoleum of Diocletian, and the baptistry, which was formerly the Jupiter temple, were about preserved in their form of origin.

Illustration of the work of Robert Adam. Click to enlarge the image.Even the Roman structure of the palace is not easily recognizable. It remains little of things of the imperial apartments in the southern part of the Palace, but one can have an idea of the plan of these apartments by visiting the underground rooms of the palace, whose layout is the mirror of that of the higher stages; these rooms were cleared partly of the refuses which had been accumulated there during centuries. In the same way, after the Second World War, decayed constructions which hid the walls north and is Palace were demolished to reveal their aspect of origin.

The first attempts at knowledge of the Palace of Diocletian were those of the Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728-1792) and of the French architect Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721-1820) at the 18th century; they remained in Split during five weeks to study the palace in 1757. Robert Adam published the results of their research in his work “Ruins of the de luxe hotel of the Emperor Diocletian At Spalato in Dalmatia”.

This knowledge was thorough later by work of the Austrian Georg Niemann and the French Ernest Hébrard, carried out at the beginning of the 20th century. Ernest Hébrard published his work in his work of 1912 “Spalato, the Palace of Diocletian”. Since the years 1950, more systematic excavations and more important work were undertaken in order to as a whole study this single architectural complex in its kind.

The Northern Gate or Golden Gate (Zlatna vrata)
The Gold Gate (Porta Aurea) located on the wall of the north of the Palace of Diocletian was most important of the four doors of the Palace because it was that which discovered in first the visitors of the ex-emperor coming from the capital from the Roman province from Dalmatia, Salona. Today still, it is the most impressive door because one can step back to admire it; anarchistic constructions which occulted the northern wall were demolished after the Second world war.
The Gold Gate of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image.The wall of the north of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The wall of the north of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image.
The Gold Gate had been designed as a door very richly decorated, in particular of statues of tétrarques the Romans, starting with Diocletian itself and that of its “coemperor” Maximien; the niches of the lower stage sheltered the statues of their two successors: césars, Galley and Constancy-Chlorine. At the top of wall, one sees the base of four bases where were to draw up the statues of the tétrarques ones. The wealth of its carved decoration, consoles, capitals, niches, makes some most remarkable of the four doors.
The Gold Gate of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image.The Gold Gate of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image.The Gold Gate of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).
The Gold Gate of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).The Gold Gate (Zlatna Vrata) was also a strategic door of importance to defend the palace against enemies coming from the grounds. It was a rectangular door defended by two octagonal towers; these turns disappeared today, but one still guesses the site of it; one also clearly sees the layout of windows now walled. Porta Aurea was walled at the 14th century by fear of the Turkish attacks; on the interior side, the Gold Gate is backed up with a kind of hopper, a small strengthened court which improved defense of the palace; also was condemned to the Middle Ages. The Gold Gate was rediscovered only at the 19th century.
Drawing of the Gold Gate of the Palace of Diocletian by Ernest Hébrard. Click to enlarge the image.Reconstitution of the Gold Gate of the Palace of Diocletian by Ernest Hébrard. Click to enlarge the image.The Gold Gate reconstituted of the Palace of Diocletian (Kaiser87 author). Click to enlarge the image.
With the 6th century, a chapel was built above the Gold Gate - on the level of the covered way - the chapel Saint-Martin; saint Martin was the guard of the soldiers and venerated in the old world at the time of the emperor Justinien (527 - 565); after christianization, the Gold Gate was dedicated to him. This tiny chapel with the barrel chapel was on several occasions altered; it was restored and contains a black Virgin and superb a chancel préroman of the 11th century out of stone, decorated geometrical reasons and interlacing (pleter); this balustrade of furnace bridge has an inscription dedicated to saint Martin and the Happy Virgin Mary. One can also see a lintel of door with an inscription of the priest Dominique.
Cardo and Decumanus
In any Roman city, or Roman military camp, one found a way called the cardo (the “pivot”) directed in the direction of the southern and northern cardinal points. The Palace of Diocletian does not escape this rule: the cardo was the artery which connected the Peristyle of the Palace to the Gold Gate, in north; it is nowadays occupied by the Street Diocletian (Ulica Dioklecijanova).

In the same way, the transverse way of the Roman city, the decumanus, directed is towards the west, connected the Silver Gate and the Iron Gate, and divided the Palace between the luxurious imperial districts in the south and the districts of service in north; it is occupied today by the Street Krešimir (Ulica Krešimirova). The cardo and the decumanus in the beginning were bordered of arcades.

The Eastern Gate or Silver Gate (Srebrna vrata)
The Silver Gate of the Palace of Diocletian (author Samuli Lintula). Click to enlarge the image.The Silver Gate (Porta Argentea) is open in the middle of the rampart is Palace of Diocletian; it leads to the Peristyle while crossing the “plain of king Tomislav” (Poljana Kralja Tomislava) located in front of the Mausoleum.

The rampart of the east of the Palace of Diocletian to Split (Kpmst7 author). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).One can still see this rampart of the east over all his length (215 m) by going up the street Hrvoje (Hrvojeva Ulica) which skirts current Marché to the Fruits. On the other hand, the two enormous octagonal towers which framed the Silver Gate disappeared at the 18th century. At the time Christian woman, the eastern gate was dedicated to saint Apollinaire.

The north-eastern tower of the Palace of Diocletian to Split (Kpmst7 author). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The south-eastern tower of the Palace of Diocletian to Split (Kpmst7 author). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).This rampart of the east still preserves its two square turns of angle:
  • The square tower of the North-East was transformed into dwellings at the 18th century; she preserves only the first stage of origin; she faces the Contarini Bastion.
  • The tower with the south-eastern angle is preserved in its entirety, including its windows, even if those of the stages were walled, but remain clearly visible. The tower comprised four levels, that is to say one moreover than the tower of the North-East. With the Middle Ages, the archbishops of Split had incorporated this tower in their episcopal palace.


The Silver Gate of the Palace of Diocletian (author Hedwig Storch). Click to enlarge the image.The Silver Gate of the Palace of Diocletian (author Office Split Tourism). Click to enlarge the image.At the time of the disturbed medieval period, when the Turkish attacks were feared, the Silver Gate (Srebrna Vrata) was walled; a small door, a little north of the Silver Gate, was open in the rampart to the 18th century, after the disappearance of the Turkish threat. The Silver Gate itself was reopened and rebuilt only between 1932 and 1934.
The Western Gate or Iron Gate (Željezna vrata)
The north-western tower of the Palace of Diocletian to Split (Kpmst7 author). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The Iron Gate of the Palace of Diocletian to Split (Ikrokar author). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The Iron Gate (Porta Ferrea) on the western frontage of the Palace became, as from the 16th century, most important of the four doors of origin when the Venetian suburb developed west of Palais. This door then constituted the point of passage between the old city located inside the walls of the palace and the new external dwellings; today the Iron Gate leads to the National Place.

Reconstitution of the Iron Gate of the Palace of Diocletian by Ernest Hébrard. Click to enlarge the image.As from this time, the Iron Gate (Željezna vrata) was buried under Gothic houses and Rebirth, as well as the gantry of the wall of the west which became almost unrecognizable; the door however preserved its hopper of safety at double entry. The guards placed above the external door. The Iron Gate was dedicated to saint Theodore (sveti Teodor), the guard of the Byzantine army; inside the body of guard of the door the church Saint-Theodore (Our-Lady-of-Belfry) dating from Xe century is.

With the Middle Ages, the Door of the west was only, with the Bronze Gate located on the port, not to be walled.

The square tower of the North-West still remains, whereas that of south-west was demolished after being sapped by the sea.

The Peristyle (Peristil)
The peristyle of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image.The Peristyle is the central court which is in the middle of the Palace of Diocletian. The peristyle is at the end of the cardo coming from the Gold Gate, immediately after its crossroads with the decumanus. It is on this court which all circulation coming from the four doors of the Palace converged that one could see since the peristyle; the two ways were then almost as broad as the peristyle itself.

The peristyle of the Palace of Diocletian (author Hedwig Storch). Click to enlarge the image.The peristyle is a rectangular court of 27 m length and 13.5 m broad which are bordered of colonnades with arcades on three on its sides (peristyle comes from the Greek words περι ́ “around” and στύλος “column”). These columns, of 5.25 m Corinthian style and high, are out of red granite of Egypt for twelve of them, and out of marble for the others.

The peristyle (Peristil) is bordered by the frontages of three monuments: the porch of the monumental hall of the apartments of the emperor in the south, the porch of the Mausoleum in the east, and the Jupiter temple in the west.

The hall of the Palace of Diocletian (watercolour of Rudolf von Alt, 1841). Click to enlarge the image.Southern part the peristyle gives access by some steps to the hall of the imperial apartments. The peristyle takes the shape of a porch (prothyron) monumental preceding the hall by the palace; this porch of entry consists of four columns of red granite surmounted by Corinthian capitals which support a pediment and an architrave, which one thinks that it supported a quadriga. The porch was decorated with three statues of which one represented the Diocletian emperor, the another Jupiter god, while the third remainder unknown factor.

The Peristyle of the Palace of Diocletian (author Office Split Tourism). Click to enlarge the image.The access to the porch since the court was done by two flights of steps leading to the side openings, while space between the central columns was barred by a balustrade, giving to the porch the aspect of a platform from where the Diocletian emperor addressed to the people at the time of the celebrations. One can imagine Diocletian, undoubtedly flanked of a guard and worn a richly decorated silk toga, and his topics prosternant itself in front of the autoproclamé Jupiter descendant.

Under the porch a staircase went down towards an arched door giving access to the basement from the hall, and beyond to the Bronze Gate opening on bay.

To the Rebirth (16th century), two small vaults were added in the side entrecolonnements of the porch of entry. One (Our-Lady-of-the-Girdles (Gospa od Pojasa), 1544) shelter today a small art gallery and the other (Our-Lady-of-the-Design (Gospa od Začeća), 1650) a service of guides of tourism.

The peristyle of the Palace of Diocletian (watercolour of Rudolf von Alt, 1841). Click to enlarge the image.The peristyle of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image.The western colonnade of the peristyle separates the esplanade from the mausoleum of Diocletian (which is the cathedral today).

A sphinx of the Palace of Diocletian (author Adam Jones). Click to enlarge the image.The colonnade shelters a splendid black basalt sphinx brought back by Diocletian of its victorious countryside of Egypt, into 297-298 after J. - C., just like of many architectural elements integrated into the various parts of the palace. This sphinx dates from the reign of Thoutmosis III (1505 -1450 before J. - C.); it holds between its legs a sacrificial vase.

This sphinx is one of the two only survivors of the eleven brought back sphinges of Egypt by Diocletian; the second - who faced him on other side of the entry of the Mausoleum - was transferred in front of the temple from Jupiter. All the others were decapitated by the Christians come to take refuge in the palace at the time of the destruction of Salona.

The Luxor coffee inserted in the peristyle of the Palace of Diocletian (author Beyond Silence). Click to enlarge the image.On the west coast the peristyle bordered the crowned zone of the temples of Jupiter, Venus and Cybèle.

With the Rebirth, the palace of Grisogono-Cipci, allotted to Nicolas the Florentin (Nikola Firentinac/Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino, 1418-1506), was harmoniously integrated into the western arcade of the peristyle. Today the ground floor is occupied by a historical coffee named Luxor - restored in 2006; its frontage Rebirth date completion of the 15th century, but, inside, one identifies well the circular foundations of the small Venus furnace bridge discovered during a restoration of the coffee.

The Mausoleum (Mauzolej)
Reconstitution of the mausoleum of the Palace of Diocletian by Ernest Hébrard. Click to enlarge the image.The cathedral Saint-Domnius of Split. Click to enlarge the image.The mausoleum of Diocletian is east of peristyle whose arcade is form the frontage of the mausoleum. The mausoleum outside presents an octagonal form of 7.60 side m; it is surrounded by a gantry of 24 columns carrying of the Corinthian capitals, and it is covered by a roof of tiles. Almost all the porch of entry of origin disappeared, in consequence of the construction of the bell-tower of the cathedral between the 13th century and the 17th century.

Reconstitution of the mausoleum of the Palace of Diocletian by Ernest Hébrard. Click to enlarge the image.The walls of almost 3 m thickness shelters a circular room 13 m in diameter and a 21 m height in its center; it is capped with a formerly covered hemispherical cupola mosaics. A plank borders the base of the cupola; it is decorated intact medallions representing the busts of Diocletian and the Prisca empress, carried by loves, as of the scenes of hunting.

The ground of the room was paved at the black and white marble origin. Under the mausoleum is an arched crypt.

The mausoleum is the monument best preserved palace of Diocletian, mainly thanks to its later transformation into church cathedral of Split and with its restoration between 1880 and 1885.

The Jupiter Temple (Jupiterov Hram)
Reconstitution of the mausoleum of the Palace of Diocletian by Ernest Hébrard. Click to enlarge the image.A court (téménos) of approximately 44 m length located west of peristyle, between the decumanus and the private apartments of the emperor, was reserved for the religious buildings; it dealt with the Mausoleum, on the other side of the peristyle. Diocletian, which was claimed the Jupiter descendant, there made build a small traditional temple dedicated to the Father of the Gods of the former Romans.

The entry of the Jupiter Temple to Split (author ISAWNYU). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The Jupiter temple was a rectangular building built on a podium, with four columns of Corinthian style forming a porch; there remain nothing the porch and of its columns, but the closed part of the temple (concealed) is well preserved. Its entry is turned towards the Peristyle in the east; the main door is richly carved: in the middle of a foliage of the children grapes gather while birds flutter around them. Two consoles with volutes support a Corinthian cornice decorated with will mascarons representing two tritons, Hélios, Hercules (Héraclès), Apollon, a not identified human head, two Victories (Nike) winged and an eagle.

The Jupiter Temple of the Palace of Diocletian (author Ratomir Wilkowski). Click to enlarge the image.The room of the temple is covered by a very elaborate barrel chapel cased, made of three lines of flagstones carefully adjusted, and carved to form a coffered ceiling: the decoration is carved human heads and rivet washers.

At the entrance of temple, one of the brought back sphinges of Egypt by Diocletian assembles the guard. This sphinx - unfortunately damaged - is the twin of that which is drawn up at the entrance of Mausolée; he faced him formerly, before being transported in front of the Jupiter Temple.

Two other round temples of less size, or simple furnace bridges, the temples of Venus and Cybèle, were discovered at the time of excavations in the years 1960; there remain only the foundations about it.

The Jupiter temple was transformed into baptistry of the cathedral at the beginning of the Middle Ages (fine of the 9th century).

Vis-a-vis the mausoleum of Diocletian, one finds a narrow lane obscure, the dead end Saint John (Kraj Svetog Ivana), open in the western arcade of the peristyle, which goes down towards the temple from Jupiter.

The schedules of visit vary; it is to better get information with the cathedral; in theory of 8:30 to 20:00; tariff: 5 kunas.

Thermal baths
Thermal baths were located on both sides of Vestibule, the ones between the Jupiter Temple and the west of the private apartments of the emperor where the bedrooms were, and the others between the zone of the Mausoleum and is imperial apartments where was the dining room.
The Hall
The hall of the Palace of Diocletian to Split (to auteir Isa Valor). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).The Hall was the anteroom of the imperial apartments where the visitors waited to be put in the presence of the ex-emperor. It was a building of square form located immediately behind the porch of entry at the south of the Peristyle. Inside, the hall was presented in the form of a large rotunda, 12 m in diameter and 17 m height, which was initially covered with a cupola, now disappeared, and entirely decorated with mosaics and marbles.

The hall of the Palace of Diocletian (author Roberta F.). Click to enlarge the image.The masonry of the walls is typically Roman, with a brick and stone alternation. Four semicircular niches open on both sides of entries north and south of the part, which was enlightened at the origin by small high windows. In the angles, inside the thick walls, staircases in spiral led to the levels superior and inferior. The level in basement of the hall was equipped with access on its four sides, towards the thermal baths is and western, the peristyle and the basements of the apartments. In line with peristyle, a door leads hall to what was a central room serving the imperial apartments.

Imperial Apartments
Reconstitution of the southern frontage of the Palace of Diocletian to Split by Ernest Hébrard. Click to enlarge the image.The imperial apartments were in the southern part of the Palace, on 40 m of width behind the maritime frontage which measured 181 m length.

Since the Peristyle, one penetrated in the apartments by the porch; after having crossed the hall, one reached the principal hall of the Palace. This principal hall was in the prolongation of the southern door of the hall; it was a large rectangular part in the architectural continuity of the peristyle. This part, lit by high windows, connected the hall to north with the long gallery of the southern frontage, the only access to the private apartments.

With the left of the central hall, in half is apartments, was an immense octagonal part equipped with niches: the dining room principal, the triclinium, of a Latin word whose Romans indicated the settee that they used to eat in a semi-lengthened position. The dining room comprised also three other smaller rooms. This wing of the apartments of Diocletian shelters from now on the ethnographic Museum.

With the right-hand side of the hall was the largest room of the Palace, the room of reception, or courtroom. The room of reception was of form rectangular; its vaults in crossing rested on six massive pillars. One reached it by three doors giving on the gallery. After the room of reception the properly private apartments of the ex-emperor were, located in the south-western angle of the Palace; they were a set of fourteen small various pipe fittings, including six bedrooms (cubiculuma).

There remain practically nothing the imperial apartments, so much later constructions deteriorated them, but their surface and their provision corresponded to those of the underground rooms.

Cellars of the Palace of Diocletian (Podrumi Dioklecijanove Palače)
Cellars of the Palace of Diocletian (Alecconnell author). Click to enlarge the image.The apartments of Diocletian rested on a mezzanine which compensated for the declivity of the ground on which the Palace was built; there existed only under the southern part of the palace where were the imperial apartments. This mezzanine was at the time with the sea level; it consisted of a set of cellars (podrumi) arched a height being able to reach 8 Mr.

These cellars are particularly interesting because they did not change since the creation of the palace: their provision makes it possible to imagine the interior configuration of the imperial apartments which were just above, because the two plans on the ground were similar.

One entered the podrum by the Bronze Gate; a broad corridor led towards north to an imposing driving staircase to the peristyle, while passing under the porch of the Palace. It was since the peristyle that daylight penetrated. By traversing this central alley nowadays, one can observe there in detail the methods of construction, the work of masonry, the harmony of the vaults and the incredible thickness of the walls.

Corridor of the basement of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image.Another corridor, perpendicular to the central corridor extended from is in west, on both sides of the Bronze Gate, along the southern frontage; this corridor, named cryptoportic (cryptoporticus) corresponded to the gantry of the imperial apartments, located above, where one imagines Diocletian walking to breathe the breeze of sea. The arched big room, at the Western end of this corridor, was under the courtroom of Diocletian; while at the Eastern end of the corridor the cruciform group of rooms was under the dining room or triclinium.

The podrum was the logistic center of the palace, where the personnel of service cooked the meals for Diocletian and his guests and from day to day maintained the equipment the palace; it is supposed that these underground rooms sheltered also the residences of these slaves.

According to the Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrogénète VII (905-959), Diocletian used also these cellars as prison where “it held the saints cruelly which it tormented”.

Basements of the Palace of Diocletian to Split (LenDog64 author). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).With the Middle Ages, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Palace of Diocletian was transformed into dwellings; one carried out important demolitions and one used the basements as refuse tip to throw rubble there. The ceiling was bored openings by which the inhabitants of the palace threw their refuse and rubbish. The basement was thus little by little filled waste until the height of the vaults.

The first to be been interested in the basement of the Palace was the Scottish architect Robert Adam, at the 18th century. In spite of the interest that several archeologists lent later to the basement, clearing and the excavations started only in 1956. The archeologists had to release from the tons of remains accumulated during more than one millenium to reveal the harmony of the vaults and the astonishing thickness of the walls.

Nowadays, the basement became partly a formless museum where sculptures and columns of the old palace are accumulated. In the part is, which corresponds to the dining room upper floor, one can see an old Roman marble table, in the shape of half-ellipse. The central part became a center of craft industry filled of merchants and craftsmen selling of the jewels, of the charts, and other memories of Split.

The Southern Gate or Bronze Gate (Mjedena vrata)
The wall of the south of the Palace of Diocletian to Split. Click to enlarge the image.The Bronze Gate (Porta Aenea) opened in the southern frontage of the Palace directly on the unloading dock of Spalatum: it was by this door that the trading vessels which accosted in the port supplied with various goods the palace of Diocletian. The door did not make it possible to reach the Palace, but only in the basement: the goods were stored in the cellars under the imperial apartments. The Bronze Gate (Mjedena Vrata) was a functional door, much smaller than the others, and without decoration.

Only the sumptuous southern frontage, that of the imperial apartments, was not defended by turns but was not occupied by a long elegant gallery of 42 arcades delimited by 44 columns; the monotony of this gallery, located at 9 m of the ground, was broken by three loggias - two with the ends and one in the medium - which one can still see the columns. Two other intermediate arcades are characterized by a greater width: they correspond to the openings of the two principal big rooms of the higher level of the imperial apartments, the courtroom in the west and the dining room in the east.

The Gate of the south of the Palace of Diocletian to Split (Kpmst7 author). Click to enlarge the image in Flickr (new tab).With the Middle Ages, at the time of the progressive transformation of the Palace into dwellings, the vacuums were walled and of small windows inserted into the place. At the 19th century, shops - always present - were built at the bottom of wall by the German architect Keller, instead of medieval constructions.

The wall of the south of the Palace of Diocletian (author J.P. Néri). Click to enlarge the image.At the time Christian woman, the Bronze Gate was dedicated to saint Julien.

If one wants to begin the visit of the Palace with the door of the south, it should be discovered between the numbers 22 and 23 of Riva; steps go down towards the basement from the palace, whereas it is thought that in the beginning the door was on the sea level which undoubtedly licked the southern wall of the Palace. Windows in the wall of the palace, along the street Severova, offers an ideal point of view to observe the animation of Riva.

History and traditionsHistory, literature, arts, traditions, legends, religions, myths, symbols…

The Emperor Diocletian
Bust of Diocletian (Jebulon author). Click to enlarge the image.Diocletian was born towards 244 after J. - C. in a modest family living close to Salona, the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. It engaged in the Roman army and climbs little by little the levels; it became ordering cavalry of the Carus emperor. After the death of Carus and its Numérien son during a program in Persia, in 284, Diocletian was proclaimed emperor.

Copper coin bearing the effigy of Diocletian. Click to enlarge the image.After its accession with the power, Diocletian put an end, into 286, with the political crisis of the third century by appointing coemperor another officer - who was his subordinate - Maximien Hercules; it more shared still its power by naming, into 293, two césars, Galère and Constancy-Chlorine. Each coemperor of this Tétrarchie, reigned on a quarter of the Empire.

From 294, Diocletian ordered, with the architects Filotas and Zotikos - whose names are engraved in Greek on the walls of the palace - the construction of an immense palace on its native coast. In 305, in Nicomédie (today İzmit, in Turkey), he kept his promise to leave the power after 21 years of reign and withdrew himself in his splendid almost completed palace (already the retirement at 60 years…).

A few years later, a group of Roman senators came to the palace from Diocletian, and they asked the former emperor to return to Rome to help them to solve the increasing political problems of the Empire; Diocletian refused and, showing them its garden, tells them that it could not give up its beautiful garden which it had created of its own hands.

Diocletian died on December 3rd, 311; his Prisca wife followed it in the tomb (the Mausoleum of Diocletian) in 315. The body of Diocletian would have rested in the Mausoleum during 170 years before its sarcophagus is transported in one of the turns of the palace; one lost the trace at the 11th century of it.

After the death of Diocletian, during decades which followed, several Roman leaders used the palace as retirement, and the penultimate Roman emperor of Occident, Julius Nepos, lived there after being reversed into 475; the palace was also used as building for the administration of the Empire. However, towards the end of the 6th century, it had fallen into the abandonment.

At the beginning of the 7th century, in 615, it was used as refuge for the inhabitants of Salona, when Avars and the Slavic ones attacked and destroyed the capital of Dalmatia.

The successive sovereigns, Croatian emperors byzantins, kings, kings hungaro-Croatian, and, later, the Venetian ones built buildings inside and outside the palace, by modifying it so much that it lost its Roman character.

In 1926, date on which the medieval or modern habitat built in the palace still existed, the population will intra muros was of 3,200 inhabitants. At this time, the zone of the palace was not the part of the city more enviable to live there: it was called the “get” (the ghetto) and was given up with the poor; it became synonymous with loose morals and equivocal business.

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The town of Split in Croatia - the museum of the Navy
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The county of Split-Dalmatie in Croatia - Booklet Dalmatian Zagora (pdf)
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The town of Split in Croatia
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