Many people come to Split without getting to know its history, and even some of the locals don't know these facts. So here are some of them!
1. The oldest cathlic cathedral in the world
The Cathedral of Saint Domnius, consecrated in the year 700, is the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that remains in use in its original structure. When it was built as the Mausoleum of Diocletian, in 305 AD, it was also the second oldest structure used by any Christian Cathedral.
2. The origin of the name Split
When you see yellow flowers on the hills around Split in spring, this is more than just an introduction to a warmer part of the year. The flower is called brnistra in Croatian, Spanish broom or weaver's broom in English, and legend says it's the origin of the city's name.
The clue for the riddle lies in its old Greek name aspalathos—also a name for the first Greek settlement that once existed on the same spot before the Romans came in. From Aspalathos, today's city's name was derived through Spalatium—Spalatum—Spalato and finally Split.
The other theory is much less romantic, and temptingly simple; accordingly, the name came after Diocletian's Palace had been already built and connection is palatium [palace].
A famous Roman road map dating to late 4th century mentions Spalato. Thus it's up to you which version you would prefer. And those yellow flowers are beautiful anyway!
3. The place where the last legal Roman emperor was killed
On April 25, 480, Julius Nepos, the last legal emperor of the Western Roman Empire was killed on the streets of Diocletian's Palace. A street in Split bears his name and a mural with his biography is one example of how citizens take steps to preserve their heritage.
Julius Nepos ruled from 474 to 475 when he was overthrown by 12-year old Romulus Augustulus and fled to Dalmatia. However, Romulus was never recognized as legal ruler by Constantinople which never stopped considering Julius Nepos as their only legal ruler in the west.
He continued to rule in Dalmatia as Emperor until 480 when he was killed by his own soldiers.
4. The city with the most Olympic medal winners per capita
Split is known for its sportspeople and sporting success. From Wimbledon winner Goran Ivanisevic to the semi-religious phenomenon of Hajduk, to more than seventy Olympic medal winners, Split's sporting stars are celebrated on the city's Walk of Fame on West Riva. Beside all this, let's not forget one of my favourite sporting facts: local basketball club Jugoplastika was declared by FIBA as the best team of the 20th century. Yes, Split is the Croatian capital of sport!
5. 18 Morpurgo, the third oldest bookstore in Europe
Split's Morpurgo bookstore is one of the oldest bookstores in Europe, founded in 1860 by Vid Morpurgo. It's on the main square and only in Paris and Lisbon can you find older ones. It was renovated a few years ago with old-style doors put back on. Also, there's no fear that it will move out—this venue is protected by city law and selling books is the only business allowed. The same goes for Split's oldest cinema, opened in 1908: Karaman!