One of the best examples of how we in Croatia poorly treat our rich heritage is the ancient city of Salona. Once, one of the most important Roman cities with over 60 000 inhabitants, it is now merely a group of interesting ruins spread on a large piece of land surrounded by the modern developments and fields.
Because of its economic and strategic importance, Salona was made the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. The city flourished as a center of trade and administration. P. Cornelius Dollabella, a governor of Dalmatia, started the construction of five roads to connect Salona with its hinterland, and with the frontiers of the province. By the second century C.E., Salona was a city of 60,000 people. In the year 295, the Emperor Diocletian, himself a native of Dalmatia, willingly passed on his throne to a pair of heirs, and retired to the magnificent palace he had built for himself five km out of Salona. Diocletian was a successful Emperor, but the days of the Roman Empire were numbered.
Christian grave yards with basilicas grew on pagan necropolis. The oldest basilica is the one known as “the basilica of the the martyrs” on Kapljuc next the city walls. The most complex is the one on Manastirine, the starting point of most walks through Solin. The most interesting in view of new architectural solutions, is the Early Christian necropolis on Marusinac. Two large basilicas (geminae) stood in the new Christian centre of Salona. Most of the movable monuments from Salona are kept in the Archaeological Museum, in Split which was founded in 1821.
One of the most interesting monuments still visible is the base of the ancient amphitheater further to the west from the main city area. The Amphitheater at Salona was designed to hold eighteen to twenty thousand people at any one time. One notable feature of the Amphitheater, not found in other Roman amphitheaters, is the underground channels. Many theories have been put forward as to their usage but the most commonly accepted explanation for the underground channels was for the presentation of mock naval battles. The sad fact is that the amphitheater was almost intact by the 17th century when the Venetians destroyed it in fear that the Turks may return and use it as a quarry for fortifications. So they destroyed it…
The high point of its expansion was during the time of Diocletian when it received the honorary title Valeria, which as a family name belonged to the emperor himself. In the period between the 5th and 6th centuries Salona became an important center of Christianity. It fell before the onslaught of the Avars and Slavs around the year 641.
Salona is still a fascinating place but keeps me amazed that we cannot find the funds to start REAL excavations on this place that will show many more treasures. Hopefully the next generations will know better… Admission is 20 Kn, no refreshments available but a lovely museum building houses some of the treasures unearthed.
Just recently, while expanding local road, several magnificent sarcophagi have been discovered with very detailed and elaborate ornaments! These can be seen at the very entrance to the site.
Contact us to arrange a guided tour of this wonderful site!