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MY ISTRIA GUIDE

Diocletian´s Palace

Diocletian´s Palace

Once a palace, today a city

If you dream of a holiday where ancient and modern times meet, Split might be the ideal place for you. In our holiday villas with pool in Split you will have all the luxury of modern times but still be close to the biggest living ancient monument in Croatia.

On the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea lies the second biggest city in Croatia - ancient Split. In the centre of the Old Town one of the oldest and most valuable Croatian monuments can be found: Diocletian´s palace.

The Palace was built for the Roman Emperor Diocletian between 295 and 305, only six kilometres from Salona - the capital of the Roman province Dalmatia and the emperor´s presumed birth place. The person on which idea the Palace was built is not known, but engraved Greek names and characters suggest that Diocletian brought along masters form the East to build the Palace. The limestone and marble came from the island of Brac, tuff was taken from the thought of nearby rivers, whereas decorative details like sphinxes and sculptures were brought from Egypt, Italy and Greece. The brick for the Palace was made in nearby Salonian workhouses.

The Palace was built to serve as the Emperor´s summer residence, but its massive, fortified walls and irregular rectangular shape leave the impression of a Roman military camp. The walls are approximately 216x175-181m big with four entrances and massive towers on each corner. The two main streets Cardo and Decumanus crossed in the middle of the palace. On all four ends of the streets entrances, also known as gates, were located. In the North there was the Golden Gate (Porta Aurea), which was also the main entrance to the palace, on the East The Silver Gate (Porta Argenta), on the West The Iron Gate (Porta Ferrea) and on the South The Brass Door (Porta Aenea) that led to the sea. The three mainland gates were fortified with two octagonal towers and their walls with additional two towers. That makes it 16 towers in total. The lower part of the facade walls was massive and simple, without any openings, while the upper parts were open with grand arch windows and a monumental porch on the south wall. The style and function of the southern sea gate differs from the other three. Its style is modest and simple and leads directly to the sea.
It is thought that it was originally intended to serve as the emperor´s private access to the sea and the gate ensured the possibility of a flee by the sea in case of an attack on the Palace from the mainland. The gate was perhaps even intended as a service entrance. The outer walls of the palace, except for the west wall, have remained largely preserved to this day. Good fortification was indeed needed because of the danger of a Barbarian attack from the North.

The street Decumanus linked the eastern and western entrance and divided the Palace into two halves: the northern part were buildings for the Imperial guard were located - for the military, servants and storage and the more luxurious southern part with the emperor´s private apartments and religious buildings. The street Cardo started at the North Gate and led to the Peristyle - the main square in front of the emperor’s chambers surrounded by arcades. On the left side of the Peristyle the Cathedral of St. Domnius was built with the intention to serve as the Emperor´s mausoleum. On the right side, there were three temples, of which only Jupiter´s temple was preserved. Today the Peristyle is the place where the cultural life of the city takes place. Thanks to its acoustic and preservation it is a popular place where often opera classics and great works of literature are performed. The inhabitants of Split consider it to be the centre of their city.

The place before the emperor Diocletian´s apartment is called the Vestibule. From the outside it is a rectangular building, but from the inside it features a circular ground plan. Decorated with niches with statues and a large cupola with mosaic, the Vestibule was used to enter the private rooms of the emperor.

The sloping terrain on which the Palace was built, meant that there were differences in level. In order to level the ground beneath the southern residential chambers with the rest of the palace, substructures were built. They served as the foundation for the rooms built above them and are a faithful replica of them. They remained very well preserved to this day and thanks to them it is possible to exactly reconstruct what the Emperor´s chambers looked like. Today they are considered to be one of the best preserved antique complexes of this kind in the world. They are open for sightseeing and serve as an exhibition space today.

Diocletian gave up the throne in 305 and lived up until his death in 316 in the Palace.
After his death, the Palace provided shelter to exiled members of his family, and after the destruction of the city of Salona in the 7th century, the towns residents also found shelter inside the walled Palace. As time passed by, the residents of the Palace adapted the buildings to their needs so that the buildings inside the walls, the city walls themselves the and towers changed their original appearance, but the outlines of the Palace are visible to this day. Even today it is possible to find restaurants, shops and homes within the walls of the Palace.

Diocletian´s Palace is one of the best preserved antique palaces in the world. Because of its great beauty, level of preservation and enormous historical value, the Palace was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979. It is the world most complete Roman palace.

Rent a holiday villa with pool in Split, take a stroll through the 1700 years old streets and see the spirit of ancient times come back to life.


Monika Pranjic

13.4.2018
+385 1 222 70 50