1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Spalato

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SPALATO, or Spalatro (Serbo-Croatian Spljet or Split), an episcopal city, and the centre of an administrative district, in Dalmatia, Austria, and on the Adriatic Sea. Pop. (1900), of town and commune, 27,198; chiefly Serbo- Croatian, and almost exclusively Roman Catholic. Spalato is situated on the seaward side of a peninsula between the Gulf of Brazza and the Gulf of Salona. Though not the capital, it is commercially the most important city in Dalmatia and carries on an extensive trade in wine and oil. It is a port of call for the Austrian Lloyd steamers, and communicates by rail with Sebenico, Knin and Sinj. Spalato has a striking sea-front, in which the leading feature is the ruined façade of the great palace of Diocletian, to which the city owes its origin. A large part of Spalato is actually within the limit of the palace; and many modern houses are built against its ancient walls and incorporate parts of them, not only on the inner but also on the outer side. This palace was erected between A.D. 290 and 310. In ground plan it is almost a square, with a quadrangular tower at each of the four corners. It covers 9½ acres. There were originally four principal gates, with four streets meeting in the middle of the quadrangle, after the style of a Roman camp. The eastern gate, or Porta Aenea, is destroyed, but, though the side towers are gone, the western gate, or Porta Ferrea, and the main entrance of the building, the beautiful Porta Aurea, in the north front, are still in fairly good preservation. The streets are lined with massive arcades. The vestibule now forms the Piazza del Duomo or cathedral square; to the north-east Of this lies the temple of Jupiter, or perhaps the mausoleum. This has long been the cathedral of St Doimo or Domnius, small and dark, but noteworthy for its finely carved choir stalls. To the south-east is the temple of Aesculapius, which served originally as a kind of court chapel, and has long been transformed into a baptistery. A beautiful Romanesque campanile was added to the baptistery in the 14th and 15th centuries. Architecturally the most important of the many striking features of the palace is the arrangement in the vestibule by which the supporting arches spring directly from the capitals of the large granite Corinthian columns. This, as far as the known remains of ancient art are concerned, is the first instance of such a method.

The ruins of Salona or Salonae, lying about 4 m. north-east of the palace, were chiefly exhumed during a series of excavations undertaken after the visit of the emperor Francis I. in 1818. Research was carried on regularly from 1821 to 1827, and again from 1842 to 1850. It was afterwards resumed at intervals until 1877, when the excavation committee was granted an annual subsidy by the Austrian government. Many discoveries were made, including the ruins of a theatre, amphitheatre, city walls and gates, baths, aqueducts, pagan and Christian cemeteries, basilicas and many fragments of houses and arches. Professor F. Bulid, who had charge of the work and of the museum at Spalato, reported in 1894 that the collection of minor objects comprised “2034 inscriptions, 387 sculptures, 176 architectural pieces, 1548 fragments or objects of terra-cotta and vases, 1243 objects of glass, 3184 of metal, 929 of bone, 1229 gems, 128 objects from prehistoric times, and 15,000 coins” (Munro, p. 244). These are preserved in the museum. One vase, of Corinthian workmanship, dates from the 6th century B.C.; and many of the early Christian relics are of unusual interest. The so-called “cyclopean” walls, mortarless, but constructed of neatly squared and fitted blocks, are probably of Roman workmanship. Jackson suggests that perhaps, like the long walls at Athens, they were intended to unite the city with its port.

Salona under the early Roman emperors was one of the chief ports of the Adriatic, on one of the most central sites in the Roman world. Made a Roman colony after its second capture by the Romans (78 B.C.), it appears as Colonia Martia Julia and Colonia Claudia Augusta Pia Veteranorum, and bears at different periods the titles of respublica, conventus, metropolis, praefectura and praetorium. Diocletian died in 313; and before long the city became an episcopal see, with St Doimo as its first bishop. The palace was transformed into an imperial cloth factory, and, as most of the workers were women, it became known as the gynaecium. Salona was several times taken and retaken by the Goths and Huns before 639, when it was sacked and nearly destroyed by the Avars. Its inhabitants fled to the Dalmatian islands, but returned shortly afterwards to found a new city within the walls of the palace. Salona itself was not entirely deserted until the close of the 12th century. In 650 the papal legate, John of Ravenna, was created bishop of Spalato, as the new city was named. “Spalato,” or “Spalatro” (a very old spelling), was long regarded as a corruption of Salonae Palatium; but its true origin is doubtful. The most ancient form is Aspalathum, used in the 10th century by Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Spalathum, Spalathrum and Spalatrum are early variants. In a few years Spalato became an archbishopric, and its holders were metropolitans of all Dalmatia until 1033. In 1105 Spalato became a vassal state of Hungary; in 1327 it revolted to Venice; in 1357 it returned to its allegiance. It was ruled by the Bosnian king, Tvrtko, from 1390 to 1391; and in 1402 the famous and powerful Bosnian prince, Hrvoje or Harvoye, received the dukedom of Spalato from Ladislaus of Naples, the claimant to the Hungarian throne. In 1413, after the overthrow of Ladislaus by the emperor Sigismund, Hrvoje was banished; but a large octagonal tower, the Torre d'Harvoye, still bears his name. Spalato received a Venetian garrison in 1420, and ceased to have an independent history. The castle and city walls, erected by the Venetians between 1645 and 1670. were dismantled after 1807.

See T. G. Jackson, Dalmatia, the Quarnero and Istria (Oxford, 1887); and E. A. Freeman, Subject and Neighbour Lands of Venice (London, 1881), for a general description of Spalato, its antiquities and history. A valuable account of the researches at Salona is given in R. Munro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Dalmatia (London, 1900). There are two magnificently illustrated volumes which deal with Diocletian’s palace: R. Adam, Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro, in Dalmatia (London, 1764), engravings by Bartolozzi; and L. J. Cassas and J. Lavallée, Voyage pittoresque et historique de l’Istrie (Paris, 1802). The Dalmatian chronicles, reproduced by G. Lucio in his De regno Dalmatiae et Croatiae (Amsterdam, 1666), include several which deal specially with Salona and Spalato. The most important is the Historia salonitanorum pontificum et spalatensium, by Thomas, archdeacon of Spalato (1200–1268).