This was the main living center for the Illyrian Delmaeti tribe and in the Greeks used it for trading over many centuries in BC. The Romans continued that trading commerce that covered much of the inland regions. The creation of Christianity got a foothold here in 200-300AD, and many churches were erected without much disturbance by the Romans for the most part, even though they had to keep the profile low key. However, by 300-500 AD there were some enormous churchs built here. German Ostrogoths destroyed much of the town in the 4th century, and by that time the population was over 60,000 and covered at least 1 square mile. The Slavs and Avars ravaged the town in 641, and completely destroyed it for what reason? That forced Solin residents to take refuge in the nearly abandoned Diocletian palace in Split, so they had some protection with the walls as defense.
The main areas are called Manastrine that was the little church outside the main town that was first built in 300's. After that over 300 years there were 3 main additions to the church to what the outline is today. The amphitheater held 18,000 people and is from 2nd century. The old town center in the middle was in a valley and the layout today to imagine it is fantastic. There are outlines of two churches, and many huge buildings of old. Excavation of the ruins started in about 1840's and the main digs was by F. Bulic, archaeological specialist in 1929-1940's. He studied much of the ruins and a great deal is located in Split museums today.
Certainly the most impressive remnant of the city that was Salona is its 2nd century amphitheatre. It's quite a long walk from the entry (a downhill stroll to get there - harder coming back on a hot day). It was built to seat 18,000 and initially it was used for gladiatorial games (there is a wonderful small model of a gladiator in the Archaeological Museum in Split) and it's thought this ampitheatre was the first to be used for Christian executions as the persecution that began with Diocletian grew. Those horrors ended once Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of Rome and after the Emperor Justinian banned gladiator fights it was probably used for Christian festivals.
Salona was sacked by the Avars and Croats in 614. With its citizens driven to seek refuge within the walls of the abandoned imperial palace, the following centuries saw the amphitheatre and the city quarried for the vast quantities of dressed stone it provided. What wasn't destroyed by time was finally demolished by the Venetians in the 16th century to prevent the Ottoman Turks, who were moving ever closer to the coast, from gaining shelter there.
Excavations began in the late 19th century but there is still much to be discovered.
Look out for the aqueduct by the road from Split. Once it ran for 9km from the source of the River Jadro to bring water to the palace on the seashore.
If you're spending more than a day or two in Split, a visit to Solin is something to consider. Not that you're going there to see the modern town - here, on the outskirts of Split are the ruins of Roman Salona, in its day the most important city in all Rome's Dalmatian territories. Founded by Greek-Illyrians in the 4thC BC, the 1stC BC saw the city taken by the Romans and the population grow to 60,000. Salona must have been an impressive sight with its dramatic backdrop of mountains and the sea spreading out below. Now it is an abandoned ruin, sleeping quietly on its hillside, visited by very few - we had the place to ourselves the whole time we were there.
It's a huge site and very exposed - my advice if you're visiting in summer, is to go early in the day before it gets too hot, bring a hat and a bottle of water.
Tour groups often visit the amphitheatre - bypassing the official entrance (and avoiding paying at the same time). This is a real shame on two counts - 1. because the whole site is both important and interesting and 2. because it starves the site of the small but much-needed revenue that entry fees provide.
If you do make your way to the top of the site and enter through the main gate, the first area you'll pass through is the - the focus of early Christian life in the city. The martyred Bishop Domnius - who had met his fate along with all the other Christians in the city when Diocletian ordered the execution of the entire Christian population in 304AD - was buried here and, with the custom of burial close to such saintly figures, the necropolis grew larger and larger. The city's first basilica was built on the site in the late 4th century.. More churches, and burials, were to follow and now their ruined outlines and huge stone sarcophagi form much of what there is to be seen as you explore the site.
Open daily - Summer 7-5, winter 9-3
Salona is only 5km from Split. If driving, look for the signs to Solin and then follow more signs to the site.
Buses leave Split every 30 mins from Trg Gaje Bulata
Moving through the site, the small house just past the Manastirine was built in 1898 as the headquarters for archaeologists working on the site. Called the Tusculum, it's now the museum. Inscribed stones and other pieces from the site were used in the building of the facade. Although it's supposed to be open when the site is open, this isn't always the case - it was closed the day we were there and we couldn't find anyone who knew when - or if - it would open that day.
Next to the Tusculum there's a pretty shaded garden dotted with columns, capitals and other pieces retrieved from the site. A long cypress-shaded path leads from here down to the rest of the site. You'll appreciate the shade given in both these places when you get further out into the exposed areas!
You could spend hours exploring Salona. Well-defined baths can be found in the eastern section of the site as well as the outline of an early Christian basilica, and other religious buildings.
In summer, the site is open from 7am to 7pm. Winter hours are 9-3.
Entry fee: 10kn
The Museum of Salonae preserve the most valuable exibits found here. A number of the exibits you can see in the museum's courtyard, but those of greater value and importants are preserved inside the museum.
On the other side of the museum, nearby the sea-shore, there are remains of a huge Roman theatre.
In the civil war between Caesar and Pompey the inhabitants joined the Caesar's side and since he has won the town became a Roman colony with the honourable title "Colonia Martia Julia Salonae".
See this drinking-fountain from ancient Salonae which is situated in the garden next to the Muesum. In the central position of the fountain there is a men's head which looks like well known "bocca della verita"
The remains of the water-supply, according to its capacity, is counted that Salona at the time of Diocletian had about 60.000 inhabitants. According to the standards, it was considered as a very huge town in the Roman times.
Manastiriae is one of the greatest Early-Christian cemeteries under the open sky (sub divo).
The kind of the tombstone, you see on the picture, we call "stecak" and it is possible to find them all around Dalmatia and nearby Herzegovina which is a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Here were found the lovely head of a young woman with a characteristic hairstyle, one of the most valuable remains from the Roman period found in Croatia, and now exibited in the Archaeological Museum of Zagreb.
In Salonae, the early Christian age left an immense archeological treasure, without which the history of European Christianity would be unimaginable. On this picture you may see the remnants of an hugeTemple.
In the ancient times Salonae was a very huge town, infact, it was the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. The remnants of its old glory lies today at the outskirts of the town of Solin which is in the close surroundings of Split.