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Published: October 2nd 2019
"If you could show the cabbage
that I planted with my own hands to your emperor, he definitely wouldn't dare suggest that I replace the peace and happiness of this place with the storms of a never-satisfied greed."
A quote from Diocletian, stated when he was begged to return to the throne. (Aurelius Victor, Epitome de Caesaribus39.6)
Diocletian was born around 244 to a poor family in what is now Croatia, and worked his way up the ranks in the Roman army. He became Emperor in 285, after defeating a rival in battle. His reign unified the Empire, and he eventually decided to appoint three other rulers, dividing responsibility for the empire among them. This arrangement is called the tetrarchy, from a Greek
term meaning "rulership by four".
This worked very well for awhile, but by 305 Diocletian was ill and tired. He abdicated and retired to his palace in his homeland, in a heavily fortified compound located by the small town of Spalatum ( now Split) on the shores of the Adriatic Sea
, and near the large provincial administrative center of Salona
. He lived on for four more years, spending
One of the sphinxes brought from Egypt
They were already ancient when brought here!
his days in his palace gardens. He saw his tetrarchic system fail, torn by the selfish ambitions of his successors. Diocletian died or perhaps committed suicide due to his ill health and distress in 312.
"The historian A.H.M. Jones
observed that "It is perhaps Diocletian's greatest achievement that he reigned twenty-one years and then abdicated voluntarily, and spent the remaining years of his life in peaceful retirement." Diocletian was one of the few emperors of the third and fourth centuries to die naturally, and the first in the history of the empire to retire voluntarily." wikipedia
His palace was eventually abandoned in the centuries following his death. In the 7th century nearby Salona was destroyed by invaders, and some of the refugees found shelter in the still standing walls of the palace. They began to built structures within the walls, and slowly a city grew. "In the period of the free medieval commune, between the 12th and 14th centuries, there was a greater architectural development, when many medieval houses filled not only Roman buildings but also a large part of the free space of streets and docks. The construction of the Romanesque bell tower of the Cathedral of Saint Domnius
, incorporating the
Mausoleum of Diocletian into its architecture, dates to that period." wikipedia
Amazingly, between the 15th and 18th century, Europeans knew nothing of the Palace or city. In 1764, a French and Scottish collaboration produced a book with drawings, and the Palace was back in the spotlight.
"Today, the palace is well preserved with all the most important historical buildings, in the center of the city of Split, the second-largest city of modern Croatia
. Diocletian's Palace far transcends local importance because of its degree of preservation. The Palace is one of the most famous and complete architectural and cultural features on the Croatian Adriatic
coast. As the world's most complete remains of a Roman palace, it holds an outstanding place in Mediterranean, European, and world heritage." wikipedia
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