Diocletian’s Palace – retirement home built as Roman castrum
Diocletian’s Palace is ancient Roman palace situated in Split (Spalato), Croatia and was bult by the Roman Emperor Diocletian between 295 and 305 AD. The Palace was actually Emperor’s place of retirement (he renounced the imperial crown in 305 and lived in Split until his death in 316). Diocletian’s Palace has features of castrum (military settlement or camp) and villa. About half of it was for Emperor’s personal use, and the rest was intended for military.
Structure and legacy of the Diocletian’s palace
The palace lies in a bay which is four miles far from Solin (Salona; Diocletian’s birthplace), the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. It is irregular rectangle (approximately 160 meters x 190 meters) and covers an area of 3 hectares (7 acres). There were 16 towers (of which 3 remain) and 4 gates: Porta Aurea (Golden Gate) in the north – it was the main entrance from Salona; Porta Argentea (Silver Gate) in the east; Porta Ferrea (Iron Gate) in the west; and Porta Aenea (Bronze Gate) in the south. The palace is devided with two vertical avenues 11 metres (36 feet) wide called Cardo Maximus (central north–south-oriented street) and Decumanus Maximus (central east- west-oriented street). Both main avenues lead to central square called the Peristyle which formed the northern access to the imperial apartments. It also gave access to Diocletian’s mausoleum on the east (now Cathedral of St. Domnius), and to three temples on the west (two circular temples which are now lost, and the third temple of Jupiter or The Small Temple, now a baptistery).
The whole Palace was decorated with numerous 3500-year-old Egyptian sphinxes, but today only three have remained. Guards, solders, and servants were accommodated in the northern part of the palace, but the imperial apartments, religious, and other private and public buildings were in the southern part. Diocletian built a substructure beneath the southern part of the palace in order to straighten the ground because of the sloping terrain on that side.
Today Diocletian’s Palace represents a part of the historic center of Split, and it is also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.