Diocletian’s Palace History

Diocletian was more than sixty years old, when he settled on the shores of the Adriatic.

He was at power for twenty-one years, made an unsuccessful attempt to revive the glory of the "Eternal Rome".

After leaving his political career he decided to settle down near the sea. The palace was Diocletian’s last refuge: he lived the last 10 years of his life here.

The location of the palace was chosen because the Emperor spent his childhood in the town of Solin, which was located very close to the current Split.

Today one can see the palace and its surrounding buildings in their initial form only in the Archaeological Museum, located in the old city. The initial structure was resembling a Roman military camp with its quadrilateral exterior walls, symmetrical blocks with short and narrow streets.

After the death of Diocletian the city was abandoned, and only in the VIIth century new constructions start unfolding around the palace. Italians called the city - Spalatto, and later Slavic Croatians, who replaced them, in their own way renamed it to Split.

Probably during this period, Diocletian's mausoleum was rebuilt into a Christian church with five-tiered bell tower. In the former palace temple of Jupiter Christians began to perform the ritual of baptism. It is hard to imagine how much antiquities were destroyed since then. Even the sarcophagus of Diocletian disappeared from the mausoleum and its fate is still unknown.

Medieval Split was ruled by Venice and Byzantium, later by Croatian and Hungarian kings. At the end of the XVIII century it was under the control of Austria, and at the beginning of the XIX century - Napoleonic France, then again Austria.

After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Split was a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and since 1929 it belonged to Yugoslavia, currently it is located in Croatia. For more than one millennium the palace was unknown to European architects.

It was introduced to West thanks to the work of Scottish architect Robert Adam, who in 1764 published his work “Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia.”

Since then the palace has been an inspiration for numerous architects and painters. In 1979 it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



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