Split is located in the heart of Dalmatia and it is the largest city on the east coast of the Adriatic. The city itself has about 180,000 inhabitants and the wider metropolitan area has about 300,000.
The old core of the city is protected by UNESCO as a part of world heritage and the most important site is surely the Diocletian’s Palace. There are also the City Museum, Etnographic museum, Archaeological Museum, Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments, Gallery Mestrovic, market and fish market. A special attraction is the park forest on the peninsula Marjan, also protected by law as a park area, Marjan and several other parks in the city are the lungs of the city. Near Split is the archeological site Salona, the ruins of an ancient town dating from the Roman time and the fort of Klis.
The History of Split
The Building of the Palace
Every city has an interesting story or legend linked to its’ foundation, with Split it is something entirely different. The commencement of the building of Split reminiscent more of the great moments of architecture and urbanism, such as the establishment of Constantinople, or more recently the construction of the capital of Brazil.
The construction and realization of the monumental Diocletian’s palace is in its infancy was the culmination of the city. Everything that followed in the later centuries, was only a pale attempt at upgrading and catching up with the initial large imperial idea.
The monumental dimensions of the two main streets in the palace, the Cardo and Decumanus suggest the visionary idea of the Roman emperor who was born in Salona. These are more than jut two of the main streets of the new Roman city of Split, they are the crossroad of future major streets of the large city that was to take over the role of the capital of this part of Europe, the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, that role previously held by Salona.
If we set the zero year to be the year of the beginning of the construction of the palace, than we can set the Peristil to be the zero point of the imaginary city. The emergence of Split is the realization of the vision and ambition of one of the most important emperors of the Roman Empire, Diocletian, who’s project was supposed to inscribe his name in the history of civilization. The palace has celebrated his name, but it’s also the idea that was never fully realized.
In the coming century when the fortified palace with ease took over the urban attributes of the Salone, after its’ arson and destruction in the early 7th century; it was confirmed how his plan was logical and grounded. Split than fully assumed the role of religious and political capital of Dalmatia and existed for centuries within a given framework in the Roman fortress that the enemies could not conquer.
The Transformation of the Palace into the City
By arrival of the Diocletian, the Delmat from Salona to power in 284th AD, until than unstable Roman empire was now under the firm hand of the reformer ruler that created a new foundation for the domination over the Mediterranean area. The tetrarchy as a key element of Diocletian’s political reforms is visible in the architecture and shape of the palace in Split as well. The construction began in 295th year AD and finished 305th year AD. That year, the Emperor abdicated and moved to the palace, but his political reform in that moment really was on the verge of failure. The struggle for power over the next ten years until the end of the concept tetrarchy diminished the potential for non-violent transition of power.
Therefore, the assertion about the peak time of the new town being at the very beginning is logical, as the life and happenings inside the monumental walls during the next ten centuries was only survival on the ruins of antics, like in all of medieval Europe. Residents of the monumental fort were the refugees from Salona, the illegal builders who fit the palace to their needs, with only realistic achievements they transformed it into a safe haven in those uncertain times. Only later, in the Gothic-Renaissance times, great men like Juraj Dalmatinac and Marko MaruliÄ‡ created new values worthy of Diocletian’s vision. In the later centuries, as well as before on several occasions the happy combination of brilliant individuals resulted in the upgrading of the city and the spiritual identity, let us mention for example, Toma Arhidjakon, Danijel Rodrigo, Markantun de Dominis and don Frane Bulic.
The Spirit of the Metropolis
The monumental architecture that still dominates over all structures of the city combined with a strong personality and prominent individuals have breeded a specific spirit and character of the city which, despite the isolation on the edge of contemporary Europe, fosters the metropolitan self-confidence in the wake of Diocletian’s visions of the Illyric metropolis.
Although the source of historical information about the Diocletian are the writings of the Roman historians that date to about 100 years after his death at the time when the Roman empire was under complete domination of early Christianity, and he therefore was labeled as a persecutor of Christians, his reformist projects and visions have outlived those hard times and Split is today largely characterized by his spirit and vision.
During the 19th and 20 c. on several occasions the city of Split had a new major uprisings following in the footsteps of the great beginning of the city, for example, at the time of Antonio Bajamonti or in the years that preceded the preparation for the organization of the Mediterranean Games that took place in Split in 1979.