Salona - capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia

Salona - capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia

Our time at the Klis fortress was so long that we decided to drive to the ruined city of Salona as dusk was already approaching. As usual, loaded with a lot of information along the way, we returned to Solin and stopped at the ruins of the Roman amphitheatre, which, at least on the ground floor, were excavated and left an extremely impressive impression on us.

But more on these details later, also in the following blog.

Civil war between Caesar and Magnus Pompey

salona 01As already mentioned, Salona was around the 4th century BC. was founded. Originally there was a settlement and port of the Dalmatians, an Illyrian tribe. The Greek colonies of Tragurion (Trogir) and Epetion (Stobreč) were already in the immediate vicinity, which we will also discuss later.

During this time, the first Greek colonists and some Italians lived in Salona alongside the local Illyrians. After the civil war between Caesar and Magnus Pompey in 47 BC. In the 4th century BC, Salona received the status of a Roman colony and became the metropolis of the Roman province of Illyria. After the last uprising of the Illyrians was thwarted, the city of Salona grew very quickly thanks to Roman "investors" and experienced its heyday.

salona 03The city grew and many public buildings were built during this time. In the southeastern part of the city, a forum was built with the Capitol as the centre of public, political and religious life. The theatre was built very close to the forum and had space for 3,500 spectators.

There is an image of Salona on Trajan's Column in Rome, where you can see the theatre. There was an earlier built temple to the south of the theatre. Outside the city walls, along the streets that led out of the city, the necropolises were built according to Roman tradition. Near the amphitheatre is the Gladiators' Cemetery. Some old sarcophagi are still preserved.

The most famous is the western necropolis, in horto Metrodori, it was located next to the road to Tragurion and was known for the “cyclopean” border walls of the tombs. In the 1st century B.C.

split viadukt 2In the 4th century BC the city began to expand east and west. Because of the dangers posed by invaders from Germanic tribes, the city walls were expanded to fortify the newly cultivated areas. The city took on an elliptical shape with a 1.6 km long east-west axis and a 700 m long south-north axis.

Probably the most important time for Salona was the time in which Emperor Diocletian reigned (284–305). He had a magnificent palace (Diocletian's Palace) built not far from Salona, where he retired after his abdication in 305. The next morning we want to visit Deocletian's Palace.

At that time, Salona was already a densely populated city with a population of almost 60,000 including the surrounding area.

Aqueduct bridge that supplied fresh water to Diocletian's Palace

split viadukt 1Since the construction of the city walls had to be done quickly due to complex threats, some buildings simply became part of them. Also the one above ground, in the 1st century BC.

The irrigation system built in the 1st century BC was integrated into the wall, as was Salona's most monumental building, the amphitheatre. Also noteworthy is the very well-preserved aqueduct bridge that supplied Diocletian's Palace with fresh water. The Danish archaeologist and architect Ejnar Dyggve, who spent many years excavating Salona, suggests that the amphitheatre was built in the second half of the 2nd century BC.

It was built in 200 BC and had room for at least 15,000 spectators. Fights between gladiators and wild animals took place in the arena. This also explains the presence of two sanctuaries found in the substructure of the building, which were dedicated to the goddess Nemesis.

In Hellenism, Nemesis was also considered the goddess of the Agone (the goddess of all kinds of competitions) and was worshiped in the amphitheatres and racecourses in Roman times.

split viadukt 3Christians later converted the sanctuaries into chapels to commemorate Christian martyrs who died in the arena. Below the places of honour, part of an inscription “RP DONO DEDIT” was found, which means that the Saloniters owed the construction of the amphitheatre to a wealthy fellow citizen.

During the Gothic War (535-554) the amphitheatre was slightly modified to protect itself from the enemy. The arena survived the decline of Salona, only to be destroyed by the Venetians in the 18th century to prevent the advancing Turks from finding shelter there.

The remains of the arena, only the lower parts of the massive walls, are well preserved, and so Dyggve was able to make the well-known reconstruction.

split viadukt 4Twilight had already begun when we arrived at the amphitheatre. What initially looked like a sunset at the amphitheatre quickly turned into a hazy, dark afternoon that suddenly became noticeably cooler - November of course.

We decided to postpone our further exploration of the amphitheatre until the next few days. Because of the many insights into the historical complications and connections to Aquileia and Stobi, we were so “filled” with knowledge that the first notes were urgently needed.

However, it slowly became clear what an interesting concept they were following in Solin in cooperation with the museums, archaeologists and travel companies.

Please read as well:

Archaeological Excavations of the settlement of Siculi in 2015

Adnan Maral and "Sultanines" from Berlin as highlights

Porta Caesarea - a city gate of Salona


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