The Roman Ruins at Salona Near Split

The ruins with modern Split in the background.

The ruins with modern Split in the background.

One of the side trips we took while camping in Stobrec was to the ancient Roman ruins of Salona, one of the original settlements that later spilled into the surrounding villages and towns. For most of our adventures little doggo tags along but for our visit to Salona he had to stay and guard the fort, a job he was none too happy about.

Getting to Salona from Camping Stobrec wasn’t too difficult, it involved taking the bus to Split, a transfer to a new bus with a short ride out to the site.  The people on our bus were super helpful as we were a bit confused but our bus driver did some maneuvering to get us in front of the bus we needed to transfer to! The whole ride and transfer was about 45 minutes and in retrospect, pretty easy. It was a short walk from the stop to the site and there was a really helpful Croatian guy that pointed us in the right direction once we got off the bus. (Well sort of, we ended up going in a side entrance rather than the main entrance but it all worked out)

Shani strikes a pose.

Shani strikes a pose.

To quote Lonely Planet “The ruin of the ancient city of Solin (known as Salona by the Romans), among the vineyards at the foot of mountains just northeast of Split, is the most interesting archeological site in Croatia. Salona was the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia from the time Julius Caesar elevated it to the status of colony. It held out against the barbarians and was only evacuated in AD 614 when the inhabitants fled to Split and neighboring islands in the face of Avar and Slav attacks.”

Small bits of columns remain amongst the rubble.

Small bits of columns remain amongst the rubble.

Salona was quite prosperous in its day and even had a mint that was connected with the mint in Sirmium and silver mines in the Dinaric Alps. When the Roman Emperor Diocletian retired, he erected a monumental palace nearby. This massive structure, known as Diocletian’s Palace, became the core of the modern city of Split.

The construction of the Salonitan city walls took several centuries. The earliest part of the city was surrounded by walls as early as the second century BC. During the Pax Romana the city expanded to both east and west. During the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius around 170 A.D., under constant threat of Germanic tribes the east and west suburbs were included in the walls which were fortified with at least 90 towers. Some parts of existing buildings were used in the extensions to the walls thus making them an integral part. Total circumference of the elliptical shape of the walls was approximately 4 km, with varying width from 1.9 to 2.5 meters. (from Wikipedia)

As noted above, the site its self was quite a bit larger than we had expected, though most of it is pretty much rubble at this point (had we read Wikipedia before our visit we might have been better prepared!).  One exception is the amphitheater which is in a bit better shape but not by much.

There are a handful of nice sarcophagi and some columns standing and the site has an informative map showing what the various parts of the village would have been, including descriptions of what was inside the city walls and what would have been left out as the city expanded. Like many Roman cities Salona had built walls, a forum, a theatre, an amphitheatre, public baths and an aqueduct system.

Helpful signage around the site.

Helpful signage around the site.

The remains of the Roman amphitheater indicate that gladiator fights were held in the city of Salona just as in any part of Roman empire, until the fifth century when they were finally banned. Despite its relatively small size, the Salonitan amphitheatre could have been occupied by 15,000 to 18,000 spectators.

The auditorium was divided into three tiers, the lower two with seats and the upper one for standing. In Diocletian’s time the top tier was covered with a porch. By means of poles attached to the outer shell of the building the whole arena could be covered with canvas, giving protection from the sun and rain. During Diocletian’s persecutions of Christians the amphitheatre was also used as a site of executions. (according to Wikipedia)

Remains of the amphitheater.

Remains of the amphitheater.

Most of the detailed carvings and intact pieces have been moved to the museum and its immediate surroundings so that is a must visit if you are into that sort of thing. We skipped going in and opted to just spend our time wandering around and looking at the ruins.

Old and new combined, the lower wall of the 'new' house built into the old wall and amphitheater.

Old and new combined, the lower wall of the ‘new’ house built into the old wall and amphitheater.

We also started at the end and worked our way to the beginning so by the time we got to the museum we had already had our fill. It is worth noting that they are still doing some archeology and reconstructing buildings and the city walls. But by and large you are free to wander about the site with very little restriction.

Still excavating and some reconstruction is underway.

Still excavating and some reconstruction is underway.

Some of the carvings near the museum.

Some of the carvings near the museum.

After our visit to Salona we hopped the bus back to old town Split. Our plan was to grab burgers and fries at a joint we had eaten at before that had gluten free buns and a decent burger. However they were closed for a long holiday and we had to scope out new options. With food allergies in play this can be quite the task as anyone who’s had a meal out with us can attest! Fortunately we found a nice spot inside the city walls at a quaint spot and Shani had a homemade sausage and potato platter and I had a really good burger. So everything worked out just fine.

Just outside the walls of Split.

Just outside the walls of Split.

We had another wander around the old town and then caught the bus back to Stobrec, our Roman ruin adventure complete.  As if we had been gone for weeks, Sebastian was beside himself with joy at our return (he always is!).

Stay tuned as we head south into Montenegro and Albania and re-enter the Schengen in Greece. 

5 comments on “The Roman Ruins at Salona Near Split”

  1. Dad says:

    Very interesting, construction great, a challenge for the times.

  2. Scott says:

    Looks like you had the ruins to yourselves…nice!

    1. Todd says:

      Yes, that is one of the amazing benefits of off season travel!

  3. Raylee Howard says:

    Split is one of my favorite cities. We did miss the roman site. Looks nice!

    1. Todd says:

      Yes, we enjoyed it and are glad we made the effort to get out there. We love Split too!

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