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Diocletian's Palace

Last updated on
7 /10

Place overview

Diocletian's Palace
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This monumental palace complex is a main attraction in Split's old town and one of Croatia's most impressive historical monuments.

History

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Emperor Diocletian came to power towards the end of the 3rd Century AD. His rule helped steady the empire after the Crisis of the Third Century. Around the start of the 4th Century, Diocletian commissioned a stunning palace near Salona, one of the largest cities of the Dalmatia province.

A native of Dalmatia, Diocletian was born into a lowly family but never forgot his roots. The palace complex was intended to be Diocletian's retirement home, although it also included a military barracks. Effectively, it was Diocletian's personal fortified town.

Construction began in 295 AD, but sources suggest that it still wasn't finished ten years later when Diocletian officially abdicated. It's possible that building work continued even while Diocletian lived there. The design of the sprawling complex is similar to Roman forts from the 3rd Century. Several materials used to build the grand palace came from the surrounding region. Marble was imported from Greece and Italy, and a series of sphinx statues came from Egypt.

Despite radically overhauling the bureaucracy of the Empire and introducing the Tetrarchy (rule of four emperors) system, Diocletian watched from his villa as disputes between rival successors destroyed much of his work. In 312 AD, Diocletian died, possibly from suicide.

When the Avar and Slavic tribes rampaged through Europe during the 7th Century, the residents of Salona took refuge in Diocletian's palace. Although much of the city was ransacked, the palace remained largely intact. The walls of the complex formed the center of the city that would become modern-day Split. The palace was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Site features

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The sheer size of Diocletian's palace means that it is essentially the heart of Split's old town. Parts of the original palace now house shops and other modern buildings. The four original gates, each named after a type of metal (Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron) can still be admired today.

The Cathedral of Saint Domnius, Split's main cathedral, is an impressive site built around Diocletian's mausoleum. The mausoleum was finished in 305 AD, which means it's the second-oldest foundational structure used by a Christian church.

The Peristyle, once the central square of the palace complex, is located close to the Cathedral. The grand buildings form an impressive vista. Several temples still survive nearby, including the Temple of Jupiter (which is now a Baptistery) and the recently restored Temple of Aesculapius.


Visiting information and tips

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Most of Diocletian's palace is free to enter because the buildings are part of Split's public areas. Admission to the Temple of Jupiter (as a Baptistery) is included in tickets for the Cathedral of Saint Domnius. Some of the surviving buildings and substructure of the palace complex, including the basement, can be visited for small entrance fees.

  • Peristyle – Free
  • Cathedral, Baptistery, and Bell Tower – approximately €5.50 for all three
  • Palace basement – approximately €5.50

Split Airport can be reached from several European countries. Split can be reached from Dubrovnik via a 4 ½ hour bus journey or by catamaran boat services (approximately 4 hours).

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