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Published: August 20th 2016
Although the city of Split was founded as a Greek colony in about 400 BCE, all that we know of it currently comes from the fact that Diocletian was the first Roman emperor to retire from rule, and did so when he moved to a new palace he had constructed at Split. The palace had walls that were 50-70 feet high and enclosed about 9.5 acres. With abundant water supplied by an aqueduct from the Jadro spring, and with the palace fronting on the sea to allow easy escape in case of attack, it represented a safe and secure place for refuge. The palace was finished in 305. Following the death of Diocletian in 311, the palace was apparently virtually abandoned, but was later reoccupied by Flavius Julius Nepos, the last emperor of the western half of the Roman empire.
What makes the palace so interesting today is that way that the city has built into it. In many places it is difficult to tell where ancient walls stop and more modern walls begin. Stalls of souvenir sellers are in the old entrance passage. St. John's Church is a repurposing of the old Temple of Jupiter, and the niches for
the Roman gods are still lining the apse. In some ways, the usage of the palace makes it difficult to visualize what the original was like, but in other ways, it is a satisfying extension of the ancient past.
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