Salona: Home of Diocletian

August 28, 2022
min read

In ancient times Salona (today’s Solin) was a very huge town (it is said it that it had about 60000 people living in it at one point), in fact, it was the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. A place where emperor Diocles grew up and spent his young days. 

Salona’s History

In the first millennium B.C., the Greeks established a marketplace in Salona. Following the conquest by the Romans, Salona became the capital of Dalmatia because it sided with future Roman dictator Gaius Julius Caesar during the civil war against Pompey. 

The early Roman city encompassed the area around the Forum and Theatre, with an entrance, the Porta Caesarea, on the north-east side. 


Martius Iulia Valeria Salona Felix, also known as Salona under Roman rule, flourished between the early centuries AD and medieval times. 

Salona had a mint that was connected with the mint in Sirmium and silver mines in the Dinaric Alps through Via Argentaria.

The continuing prosperity resulted in extensive church building in the fourth and fifth centuries, including an episcopal basilica and a neighboring church and baptistery inside the walls, and several shrines honoring martyrs outside. 

These have made it a major site for studying the development of Christian sacred architecture.

Salona was largely destroyed in the invasions of the Avars and Slavs in the seventh century AD. Refugees from Salona settled inside Diocletian's Palace.

Salona’s Amphitheatre

At the westernmost point of Salona, in the second half of the second century A.D., under the influence of Flavian architectural style, a monumental building was erected. 

The presence of a Roman amphitheater indicates that gladiator fights were held in the city of Salona until the fifth century when they were finally banned. 

The building was ellipsoidal in shape, with three floors on the south side and one floor on the north side, conveniently laid down on a natural hillside. 

Despite its relatively small size, the Salonitan amphitheater could have been occupied by 15,000 up to 18,000 spectators.

How Diocletian’s Palace Came To Be

When the Roman Emperor Diocletian retired, he erected a monumental palace nearby Salona. This massive structure, known as Diocletian Palace was encompassed by Salon and was held 

as a glamorous piece of architecture that even inspires many architects today.

You can learn more about the origin of Diocletian and how the palace came to be on our about page.

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