The Bronze Gate (South) of the Diocletian's Ancient Palace in Split, Croatia (Hrvatska)
The Medeni Door (Honey) or the Bronze Gate
Views from the South Side
The Bronze Gate
This southern Gate, Porta Aenea was used as an entry way for the Dicletian's own boat to enter the Palace from its only seaside entrance, not unlike a garage. Like the other three gates: Iron Gate, Silver Gate and Golden Gate - it received its nickname during the Middle Ages - the Bronze Gate, or as some say, the "Honey" gate. We don't know if it was for honey colored bronze, or if there is another hidden meaning.
The smallest of all the Gates, it also offers access to the substructure of the Palace, also known as the Diocletian's "Podrum", or Basement. The substructure is the most well preserved section of the 1700 year old Palace. The substructure offers many valuable hints as to the way that people lived from even before the Diocletian's time to the present.
Under the Palace
In some cases, there have been opportunities to dig BELOW the Palace. Remnants of a civilization dating back to 100 years after Christ have provided some of the most relevant findings to archeologists pertaining to Mediterranean civilizations at that time. Cooking utensils, fishermen's tools and traces of previous civilizations have been found from 1950 and onward. The unfortunate bombarding of the historical, ancient Palace (a UNESCO protected historical site) particularly at the Palace's eastern Silver Gate provided an opportunity to dig below the Palace's foundation.
The Diocletian's serving platter
Scientists and archeologists were beside themselves with joy to discover a menses - or serving platter - which was used in the Diocletian's day, most likely by the Diocletian himself. Formed in a semi-circle, it is ornately decorated. In those days people half reclined while they ate. The platter was used to hold the contents of the meal while family members reclined and served themselves from it.
Once displayed in the Substructure, it can now be seen in Split City Museum located on Papalić Street in the former Papalić Palace.
As far as historians know, the substructure was used as a storage area during the Diocletian's day. Those who tour the area see large holes (which have been filled on the top layer) which served as toilets. Organic and inorganic matter - wooden beams, other stored items - were held here. These items help preserve the walls and beams which are in remarkably good condition for their 1700 years of existence! There are approximately 60 spaces within the substructure, so best to explore with a group. You probably won't get lost, but it is a little like a maze.
Clues from the Past
Nowadays, tour guides lead visitors to the Palace here. Portions of the still intact Western Wall can be seen as well as traces of the ancient canalization system (waterworks) which came from the mountains outside Split to the Palace. It brought 1,100,00 m3 water per day, enough for 170,000 people. Of course, this was too much for the Palace, but much of the water was used in the northern clothing factory which required water for its ancient processing techniques.
Early Christian Influence
Many early Christian churches were created in its recesses after the Milan Edict was handed down by Constantine the Great in 313 A.D.. The architecture of arches and columns was also the inspiration for early church architecture with the sectional "boats" of ancient churches, which has been utilized from ancient times until now.
The Substructure was not used as an area to torture Christians, but the crypts under the Mausoleum were. Today, that same space has been named a church in its own right - Chapel of Saint Lucy (who was herself a martyr during the Diocletian's era in the early 4th century) from the Greek colony of Syracuse.
the Substructure as a Residential Area
As far as historians can tell, the first residents in the substructure were the residents of Salona in the 7th century. Once the Slavs and the Avars invaded and destroyed the ancient city (approximately 15 kilometers to the North of Split), the survivors went to take refuge on the nearby coastal islands. About 30 years later, they moved into the Diocletian's old Palace (which had now become state property). Their leader took residence in the eastern side of the Palace, and the ordinary citizens both lived and worked in the Palace.
Upstairs / Downstairs
The upper sections of the Substructure were used for sleeping and cooking. The lower sections were used for making amphora (ancient pottery bottles with a point at the bottom) - both to hold wine and olive oil, or another type for grain. A separate machine was used to crush the olives using a circular motion and having the oil seep through holes in the wooden infrastructure. Large slabs of rock in a flat circle attest to this.
Ingenious building techniques
Even in the Diocletian's day, builders knew that the area was prone to seismic activity. The layout of the bricks was in a slightly offset manner, so that in case of a small earthquake, just a portion (or a "tooth") of the block would break off, preventing the mass destruction of an entire block wall. Really, quite ingenious.
Signature of the workers
In those days there are some markings from the master builders of the time. In some places these can been seen and even identified, like a master painter or any other artist. Mostly it would be a symbol or just one letter to not be too inconspicuous, most likely.
Saint Juliana was also a victim of the Diocletian's reforms - which largely meant the torture and execution of Christians. She died in 304 A.D., like many others.
She was born of pagan parents and lived in Nicomedia, which was the Diocletian's permanent home until retirement in Split. A Nicomedian senator, Eleuisius fell in love with her, and tried to impress her into marrying him. She had secretly accepted Christianity, and refused to marry a pagan. The senator (now Governor) interrogated and tortured her with pure hatred, but Juliana refused to submit. After much torture, she was beheaded. Unbelievably, her betrothed was killed by a man eating lion when he was shipwrecked on an unknown island! She is the patron saint of the Southern Gate of the Palace.
The Criptus Porticus was a seaside walkway, with 42 windows to the Adriatic Sea (also known as the Jadran). and its neighboring islands, the Diocletian would walk its halls and contemplate the matters of the day. The Split Riva which now exists today was only a tiny strip of land, 2 meters in width between the sea and the Palace. The Palace backed up against the water for maximal security.
The Sentimental Diocletian
Three places along the outer wall are tri-fora - a split window in three sections. Most likely this was done in honor of the Diocletian's family - he, his wife Priska and daughter Valerija who later married one of the Diocletian's "vice presidents", Galerija. It was a political marriage, to be certain. A stone-carved portrait of the Diocletian's wife Priska can be seen in the Split Cathedral of Sveti Duje (Saint Dominus) which is located in the center of the Peristil section of the Palace.
The Split Riva
Life on the Riva
Life outside the Southern Gate
The Split Harbor
In the Split Harbor lie the catamaran directly below. There are connections to the neighboring islands - Hvar (Pharos) Vis (Issa), Lastovo, Brać, as well as seasonal international connections to the Western European destinations of Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Since Croatian independence, new measures towards conservation and ecology have resulted in return of Split Harbor's clear water and fresh air. Containing sulfur, the water has medicinal qualities. There is a good chance that the Diocletian chose this spot, not only for its excellent harbor and location near to Salona, but for the sulfur water used in his roman baths, which he heavily relied upon in order to ease his rheumatism.
The Split Riva
For the residents of Split, meeting friends on the Riva is a daily occasion, and holds great importance. Sunny, breezy and refreshing, the Riva is a way of life. Walking, strolling, conversing, sipping a stiff cup of coffee - conversation and relaxation is an important part of community living in the sociable town of Split.
The Residents of Split
Those who live here have a special character - robust, unsinkable, and patient! They know how to communicate and make light of life. The people here are truly experts at living, survival during the most adverse of circumstances, and having regal attitudes despite a relatively low standard of living compared to the west. Given the choice, the majority of people would almost never think of living anywhere else.
The word Kafić literally means "small coffee" but in reality, it is a coffee shop, large or small. When you agree to meet a friend for "coffee", that might end up being a beer or juice, but coffee remains the local's choice beverage. (It is too expensive for locals to go out to lunch - but a coffee can be managed!) Tiny espressos may be sipped for an hour. The idea is simply to take a load off - take time to smell the flowers. Pull up a chair, exchange greetings with a friend, kill a half hour or an hour, soak in a little sunshine and remember that this is what life is all about - Living.