Split is a major touristic destination in Croatia and the easiest transit spot for many idilic islands along the coast. Having escaped this super touristy Adriatic Coast summer feeling when I left Dubrovnic for Bosnia, it hit me like a ton of bricks when I came back. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful place and that’s why tons of people go there. I just realized I wasn’t in the mood for it. But, unlike the time I decided I had had enough of Sri Lanka while having lunch in the middle of the country, and had breakfast the next day in Bangkok, this time I did stay the day in Split, plus another day in Zagreb on my way to Slovenia. Here’s a short post about what I saw there.
The main cultural attraction in Split is the former palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The man was born a nobody and through an immensely successful military career, ended up ruling the Empire for over twenty years. He is widely considered to have brought military security and administrative stability to an Empire on the brink of collapse. Not perfect, he also persecuted Christians like nobody before him and introduced a system of price control to bring down inflation, something which is obviously idiotic and never works. But I won’t be too critical, since unlike Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe, Diocletian had the excuse of having had the idea in the year 301. He was also unique in that he was the first Roman Emperor to make the decision to retire, at the age of 61.
The Diocletian Palace was built as his retirement home. This central plaza is known as the peristyle.
Everyday around noon, the former Emperor would appear at this balcony and wave to the crowds, who would salute him in return.
Behind him, this large room with no ceiling. It had been designed so that the mid-day sun would come through and reflect violently on the white marble floor. As the balcony’s doors would be opened, this would blind the people and Diocletian would appear, walking out of light, God-like.
This structure was build as his mausoleum, but at the time of his death, the new Emperor, Constantine the Great, was a Christian (the first one). Constantine forbade the use of Christians as feline nutritional supplements, and eventually the treatment of Christians went from persecution to favouritism. So eventually, this bell tower was built, the mausoleum was converted into a church and Diocletian’s body was replaced with that of some important Christian leader he had ordered executed. The Romans eventually abandoned the Palace, but after a few centuries people moved in again to take advantage of the security the walls offered. At some point, thousands lived within the walls.
Today, most of the residences are nicely renovated hotels and guesthouses. Probably pretty quiet in january. Continue reading