Split is a Mediterranean city on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea, centred around the ancient Roman Palace of the Emperor Diocletian and its bay and port. Split is by far the largest Dalmatian city and the second-largest city of Croatia. Spread over a central peninsula and its surroundings, Split's greater area includes the surrounding seaside towns as well. An intraregional transport hub, the city is a link to numerous Adriatic islands and the Apennine peninsula, as well as a popular tourist destination.
While the beginnings of Split are often connected to the construction of Diocletian's Palace, the city was founded earlier as a Greek colony of Aspálathos. The Greek settlement lived off trade with the surrounding Illyrian tribes, mostly the Delmatae, who inhabited the (much larger) nearby city of Salona. In time, the Roman Republic became the dominant power in the region, and conquered the Illyrians in the Illyrian Wars of 229 and 219 BC. Upon establishing permanent control, the Romans founded the province of Dalmatia with Salona as the capital, and at that time the name of the nearby Greek colony Aspálathos was changed to "Spalatum".
Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476, Spalatum became a part of the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantium. It grew very slowly as a satellite town of the much larger Salona. However, around AD 639 Salona fell to the invasion of Avars and Slavs, and was razed to the ground, with the majority of the displaced citizens fleeing to the nearby Adriatic islands. Following the return of Byzantine rule to the area, the Romanic citizens returned to the mainland under the leadership of the nobleman known as Severus the Great. They chose to inhabit Diocletian's Palace in Spalatum, because of its strong (more "medieval") fortifications. The palace was long deserted by this time, and the interior was converted into a city by the Salona refugees, making Spalatum much larger as the successor to the capital city of the province. Today the palace constitutes the inner core of the city, still inhabited, full of shops, markets, squares, with an ancient Cathedral of St. Duje (formerly Diocletian's mausoleum) inserted in the corridors and floors of the former palace. As a part of the Byzantine Empire, the city had varying but significant political autonomy.
The Medieval period in Split's Dalmatia province is marked by the waning power of the Byzantine Empire, and by the struggle of the neighboring powers, namely the Venetian Republic, the Kingdom of Croatia, and (later) the Kingdom of Hungary, to fill the power vacuum. The arrival of the Croats in the 7th century profoundly influenced the area. The hinterland and the islands were predominantly populated by the Croats, who began influencing the city itself. The early Medieval Croatian state (later the Kingdom of Croatia) founded neighbouring littoral cities (such as Šibenik), and encompassed the vast majority of the hinterland. In the following centuries Split developed an increasingly Croatian character, which can be seen in the architecture (particularly of churches) in the city and its surroundings. The city's Romance population increasingly mingled with the surrounding populace. The city was for the first time fully integrated within the state by Peter Krešimir IV in 1069, and again in 1075 by Demetrius Zvonimir.
To the north, the Venetian Republic began to influence the Dalmatian region from the 10th century, using its growing economic influence to gain control over the islands and the coastal cities. It gained control over the city during several periods, due mostly to the temporary weakness of the Croatian or Hungarian state. With the decline of the Byzantine Empire, the Kingdom of Croatia held de-factosuzerainty over the city, granting it significant autonomy due to the state's feudal character. In the year 1102, Croatia was forced into a personal union with the Kingdom of Hungary by its King, Coloman. The city however maintained its significant degree of independence, and in 1312, it issued statutes as well as currency of its own.
Split was ruled by the Venetian Republic up to its downfall in 1797. After a brief period of Napoleonic rule (1806–1813) when was even part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, the city was allocated to the Empire of Austria by the Congress of Vienna. Large investments were undertaken in the city during that period, new streets were built and parts of the ancient fortifications were removed.
During the period of the Austrian Empire Split's region, the Kingdom of Dalmatia, was a separate administrative unit. After the revolutions of 1848 as a result of the romantic nationalism, two factions appeared. One was the pro-Croatian Unionist faction (later called the "Puntari", "Pointers"), led by the People's Party and, to a lesser extent, the Party of Rights, both of which advocated the union of Dalmatia with Croatia-Slavonia which was under Hungarian administration. This faction was strongest in Split, and used it as its headquarters. The other faction was the pro-Italian Autonomist faction (also known as the "Irredentist" faction), whose political goals varied from autonomy within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to a political union with the Kingdom of Italy.
The political alliances in Split shifted over time. At first, the Unionists and Autonomists were allied against the centralism of Vienna. After a while, when the national question came to prominence, they separated. Under Austria, however, Split can generally be said to have stagnated. The great upheavals in Europe in 1848 gained no ground in Split, and the city did not rebel.
After the end of World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, the province of Dalmatia, along with Split, became a part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (which in 1929 changed its name to Kingdom of Yugoslavia). Since both Rijeka and Zadar, the two other large cities on the eastern Adriatic coast, were annexed by Italy, Split became the most important port in Yugoslavia. In the new country, Port of Split became the seat of new administrative unit, Littoral Banovina. The Lika railway, connecting Split to the rest of the country, was completed in 1925. After the Cvetković-Maček agreement, Split became the part of new administrative unit (merging of Sava and Littoral Banovina plus some Croat populated areas), Banovina of Croatia in Kingdom of Yugoslavia.
In April 1941, following the invasion of Yugoslavia by Nazi Germany, Split was occupied by Italy and formally annexed one month later. Italian rule met heavy opposition from the Croat population as Split became a centre of anti-fascist sentiment in Yugoslavia. Between September and October 1941 alone, ten officials of the Italian fascist occupation were assassinated by the citizens.
In September 1943, following the capitulation of Italy, the city was temporarily controlled by Tito's brigades with thousands of people volunteering to join the Partisans of Marshal Josip Broz Tito (a third of the total population, according to some sources). A few weeks later, however, the Partisans were forced into retreat as the Wehrmacht placed the city under the authority of the Independent State of Croatia a few weeks later. In a tragic turn of events, besides being bombed by axis forces, the city was also bombed by the Allies, causing hundreds of deaths. Partisans finally captured the city on October 26, 1944 and instituted it as the provisional capital of Croatia.
After World War II, Split became a part of the Socialist Republic of Croatia, itself a constituent sovereign republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. During the period the city experienced its largest economic and demographic boom. Dozens of new factories and companies were founded with the city population increasing three times during the period. The city became the economic centre of an area exceeding the borders of Croatia and was flooded by waves of rural migrants from the undeveloped hinterland who found employment in the newly-established industry, as part of large-scale industrialization and investment by the Yugoslav Federal Government.
|The Cathedral of Saint Domnius|
When Croatia declared its independence again in 1991, Split had a large garrison of JNA troops (drafted from all over Yugoslavia), as well as the headquarters and facilities of the Yugoslav War Navy (JRM). This led to a tense months-long stand-off between the JNA and Croatian National Guard and police forces, occasionally flaring up in various incidents.
The most tragic such incident occurred on November 15, 1991, when the JRM light frigate Split fired a small number of shells at the city and its surroundings. The damage was insignificant but there were a few casualties. Three general locations were bombarded: the old city center, the city airport and an uninhabited part of the hills above Kaštela, between the airport and Split. JRM Sailors who had refused to attack Croat civilians, most of them Croats themselves, were left in the vessel's brig. The JNA and JRM evacuated all of its facilities in Split during January 1992. The 1990s economic recession soon followed.
In the years following 2000, Split finally gained momentum and started to develop again, with a focus on tourism. From being just a transition centre, Split is now a major Croatian tourist destination. Many new hotels are being built, as well as new apartment and office buildings. Many large development projects are revived, and new infrastructure is being built. An example of the latest large city projects is the Spaladium Arena, built in 2009.
- Diocletian's Palace. After he nearly died of an illness, the Roman Emperor Diocletian (ruled AD 284 to 305), great reformer of the late Roman Empire, decided to retire from politics in AD 305. The Emperor ordered work to begin on a retirement palace near his hometown, and since he was from the town of Dioclea he chose the harbour near Salona for the location. Work on the palace began in AD 293 in readiness for his retirement from politics. The palace was built as a massive structure, much like a Roman military fortress. It faces the sea on its south side, with its walls 170 to 200 metres (570 to 700 feet) long, and 15 to 20 metres (50 to 70 feet) high, enclosing an area of 38,000 m² (9½ acres). The palace water supply was substantial, fed by an aqueduct from Jadro Spring. This opulent palace and its surroundings were at times inhabited by a population as large as 8,000 to 10,000 people, who required parks and recreation space; therefore, Diocletian established such outdoor areas at Marjan hill. The palace was finished in AD 305, right on time to receive its owner, who retired exactly according to schedule, becoming the first Roman Emperor to voluntarily remove himself from office.
- The Cathedral of Saint Domnius known locally as the Saint Dujam (Sveti Dujam) or colloquially Saint Duje (Sveti Duje), is the Catholic cathedral in Split. The cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Split-Makarska, headed by Archbishop Marin Barišić. The Cathedral of St. Duje is a complex of a church, formed from an Imperial Roman mausoleum, with a bell tower; strictly the church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the bell tower to Saint Duje. Together they form the Cathedral of St. Duje. The Cathedral is composed of three different sections of different ages. The main part is Emperor Diocletian's mausoleum, which dates from the end of the 3rd century. The mausoleum was built like the rest of the palace with white local limestone and marble of high quality, most of which was from marble quarries on the island of Brač, with tuff taken from the nearby river Jadro beds, and with brick made in Salonitan and other factories. Later, in the 17th century a chorus was added to the eastern side of the mausoleum. For that purpose the eastern wall of the mausoleum was torn down in order to unify the two chambers. The Bell Tower was constructed in the year 1100 AD, in the Romanesque style. Extensive rebuilding in 1908 radically changed the Bell Tower, and many of the original Romanesque sculptures were removed.
- The Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments located at Meštrovićevo šetalište, is the only museum in the country dedicated to researching and presenting cultural artifacts of the Croats in the Middle Ages, between the 7th and 15th centuries, particularly the time of the early medieval Croatian state from 9th to 12th century. Originally founded in Knin in 1893, the museum was moved first to Sinj, then Klis and finally to Split where today the collection is displayed in a purpose-built museum complex, opened in 1976.The holdings consist mainly of jewellery, weapons and items of daily use, and include a large number of stone artifacts that once belonged to the old Croatian church interiors. The collection of early medieval wicker, clay figurines, and old Croatian Latin epigraphic monuments is the largest collection of its kind in Europe.
- Temple of Jupiter At the end of the street Kraj Sveti Ivana is the Temple of Jupiter, later converted into a baptistry. The temple once had a porch supported by columns, but the one column you see dates from the 5th century. The headless sphinx in black granite guarding the entrance was imported from Egypt at the time of the temple's construction in the 5th century. The walls of the temple support a barrel-vaulted ceiling and there's a decorative frieze around the other three walls. Below the temple is a crypt, which was once used as a church.
- Marjan (pronounced "MARyan") is a hill on the peninsula of the city of Split. It is covered in a dense Mediterranean pine forest and completely surrounded by the city and the sea, making it a unique sight. Originally used as a park by the citizens as early as the 3rd century, it is a favorite weekend excursion destination and a recreational center for the city. It is also the setting for numerous beaches and jogging trails as well as tennis courts and the city ZOO, all surrounded by the scenic forest. The tip of the peninsula houses the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries. Marjan is 178 m tall and offers a view of the entire city, the surrounding islands, and the nearby mountains of Mosor and Kozjak