The "Palace" of Diocletian at Split

A Unique Structure from the Later Roman Empire

by Michael Greenhalgh.

The Palace at Split

The city of Spalato, which means "little palace", was founded by the emperor Diocletian; he made it his own dwelling-place, and built within it a court and a palace, most part of which has been destroyed. But a few things remain to this day, e.g. the episcopal residence of the city and the church of St Domnus, in which St Domnus himself lies, and which was the resting-place of the same emperor Diocletian. Beneath it are arching vaults, and to cover over the city throughout, and to build his palace and all the living quarters of the city on top of those vaults, which used to be prisons, in which he cruelly confined the saints whom he tormented. The defence-wall of this city is constructed neither of bricks nor of concrete, but of ashlar blocks, one and often two fathoms in length by a fathom across, and these are fitted and joined to one another by iron cramps puddled into molten lead. In this city also stand close rows of columns, with entablatures above, on which this same emperor Diocletian proposed to erect arching vaults, to a height of two and three stories, so that they covered little ground-space in the same city. The defence wall of this city has neither rampart nor bulwarks, but only lofty walls and arrow-slits. (Citation from the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogennetos [ref 3])

Please pass the great gate and enter the palace