The former Dalmatian Capital and Diocletian’s Birthplace near Split
Among the most famous and spectacular historical draws in Croatia today is the finely preserved and UNESCO protected Diocletian’s Palace in Split, a C4th Roman marvel
However, of lesser fame and often overlooked by traveller’s visiting the Dalmatian coast is a site without whose existence we would not be able to marvel at Diocletian’s great work of art today.
The remains of the city of Solin – known to the Romans as Salona – lie just a few miles north-east of modern day Split. Solin belonged to the Illyrian Delmatae tribe before being drawn into the rapidly expanding Roman empire as it reached out across the Adriatic.
Salon’s importance grew quickly and the town became established as the centre of the Roman province of Dalmatia and the cosmopolitan centre of the Adriatic. Diocletian – Emperor between AD284 And AD305 – was born here, giving the town its honorary title of Valeria, which as a family name belonged to the emperor himself.
Unfortunately as the town’s status grew so did its risk of attack from Rome’s enemies. Salona held out until the early C7th when its remaining inhabitants decided to flee from Slav attacks to nearby Spalatum (Split), earlier chosen by Diocletian for the site of his new home and grand palace. Split has remained a seat of power ever since.
Meanwhile Salona was razed to the ground by invaders and for more than 1,300 years has remained in its present ruinous, but fascinating state.
The layout of the organised Roman settlement remains very much in evidence at Salona. Visitors can wander along more than a kilometre of city wall past a C1st city gate complete with visible worn grooves in the stone from where chariots once passed through.
The remains of a C2nd amphitheatre lie at the western end of the site, while a baths complex, covered aqueduct, living quarters and forum area are identifiable. The town became an important early centre for Christianity and contains a burial site – the Manastirine – for martyrs before the religion was legalised.
Nestled at the feet of the Dinaric Alps and surrounded by modern Solin, now a bustling suburb of Split, the remains of Salona have remained undisturbed and largely protected by the dry climate. They offer a valuable insight into a settlement whose history is intertwined with that of Diocletian and Split.
Salona can easily be reached from Split for a half day excursion around the site. City bus 1 runs in the direction of Solin regularly from the city bus stop at Trg Gaje Bulata. Alternatively buses bound for Sinj departing from Split’s main bus station run past the site.
There is an admission price of 10 Kuna (€1.34) and a small museum at the entrance provides a map of the site. Split is well served by the Jadrolinija ferry route, helpful for transport up and down the Dalmatian coast.