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Split is located in southern Croatia and is the chief port city of Dalmatia. It sits along the beautiful Adriatic Sea, and is known for being a bustling commercial and transportation city.
That’s not the only thing Split is known for…
As its name implies, Split has been a city that has changed hands many times—split between one country’s rule and then on to the next.
Curious to know more? Let’s deep dive into the history of this Dalmatian city that just might have something to do those black and white spotted pups. Let’s see what surprising facts we can unearth!
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Split is just the city’s modern name. The Romans named it Spalatum, which changed to Spalatro during the Middle Ages. The Italians called it Spalato. The city briefly went by Spljet in the 19th century before settling, hopefully permanently, on the name Split. Talk about an identity crisis!
Back in 812, Split was a major Byzantine city. In 998, Venice invaded, followed by Croatia in 1069. Then Hungary-Croatia took over the city. From 1420 to 1797 Venice took the city back, and the Austrians took a turn from 1797 to 1918. Yugoslavia snatched the reins in 1918. Croatia was finally independent in 1992. Phew! Sounds like a game of ping pong!
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We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that the Dalmatian breed of dogs genetic ancestry can be traced back to the region of Dalmatia! The ancestors of the 101 Dalmatians might have once called Split home!
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The imperial-city Palace of Diocletian was built in the 4th century and occupies miles and miles of land. The palace is more like a city in and of itself! Also, it resembles a fortress. Half of the palace was made to be a retirement home for the emperor, and the rest was built as a military garrison.
Within the palace’s walls, there are 220 buildings! Today there are 3,000 people living inside the territory of Diocletian’s Palace. Can you imagine calling an ancient, enormous palace home? Sign me up! For reference, in the past, it was documented that the territory housed 9,000 people.
The Palace of Diocletian was made from a whole lot of stuff! Primarily limestone, granite, marble, tufa, and brick. The city’s four gates each have names that correspond with a particular metal: the Golden Gate, Bronze Gate, Silver Gate, and Iron Gate. Each gate allows entrance from one of the cardinal directions.
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After the Roman Emperor Diocletian stopped a rebellion in Egypt in 297, he took twelve sphinxes from them as penance. Or perhaps as trophies or souvenirs! Either way, twelve sphinxes ended up in Split back in the day. Only one survived the years and still stands within the city’s walls.
With the arrival of Christianity to Split, things got a little frenzied and feverish. In such tempestuous times, things might have got a little out of hand. And some things lost their heads! That would be the 12 sphinxes we are talking about! All of the sphinxes lost their heads but one of them, and no one knows why one was spared.
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The highest god in Ancient Rome was Jupiter, the god of sky and thunder. Jupiter also shared a name with Emperor’s Deocletian’s father. Apparently, Diocletian held the belief that he was the reincarnation of Jupiter. He basically believed he was a god. Talk about a power trip!
The Temple of Jupiter used to reside next to two other temples, The Temple of Kimble and the Temple of Venus. However, the other two were destroyed while Jupiter stood the test of time!
The Temple of Jupiter has been converted into the cathedral of St. Domnius’ baptistery. Luckily, much of the temple is still intact, but the statute of Jupiter has been replaced with a big bronze statue of St John the Baptist. Same building with a big statue swap!
Croatia is amazing! You can see more of it with these great day trips from Dubrovnik!
Hajduk is the beloved football team of Split. It was founded in 1911 by four students from Spilt. The four students were attending university at the university in Prague, and they were having some drinks at the famous tavern known as U Fleků. Boom! The Hajduk was born!
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Hajduk translates to “freedom fighter.” Another translation is: “renegade.” The club’s founders decided on that name in honor of Croatia’s struggle for freedom. The club has been proud to bear this name ever since its’ founding day!
Hajduk is one of two fan-owned sport’s teams in Croatia! It has over 31,000 members who have invested in the team, and the majority of the stock is owned by the City of Split. It is the second most popular club in all of Croatia, totaling over 1 million fans!
Want to go deeper? These great museums in Split are perfect for learning a little more.
The Cathedral of Saint Domnius is regarded as the oldest Catholic cathedral in the world that is still in use in its original structure. That’s right, it’s still in use to this day! It was built in 305 AD to serve as the Mausoleum of Diocletian. However, it was consecrated as a Cathedral right at the turn of the 7th century.
Interested in Dubrovnik? Read up on the history of Dubrovnik!
The Cathedral of Saint Domnius is actually split into two parts, the church of the Virgin Mary and the bell tower of St. Domnius. Why St. Domnius you ask? It was because he was the bishop of Salona, which was the Roman capital of Dalmatia, during the 3rd century. His relics are still housed in the Cathedral to this day!
Short on time? One of these tours in Split is the best way to see the most!
Jews settled in the nearby city of Salona in the 2nd century and migrated to Split into Diocletian’s Palace in the 7th century. In 1573, a synagogue was built in what used to be a Jewish ghetto. This synagogue is still in use and is one of the oldest synagogues in all of Europe!
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We split our facts about Split in seventeen bits. We admit that we had omitted some misfit facts that didn’t fit in a list of facts about Split.
At least we got to rhyme a little.
However, we didn’t even get to cover the World Picigin Championships that are held every year in Split. Nor the fact that Split is the city with the most amount of Olympic medal winners per capita.
Split is a city with a history that feels tossed and turned, as it’s taken so many different names and been under the rule of so many different countries.
Anyways, Split. There you have it. We hope we’ve shed some light on some of the surprises this city has tucked away in its nooks and crannies!
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Lily Allen-Duenas is a wandering yoga instructor, massage therapist, and reiki healer. For the last two years she’s been journeying around the world, teaching yoga on island resorts in Cambodia, surf hostels in Sri Lanka, and wellness centers in the Phillipines. Lily loves building her life around her passions, health, wellness, and travel. You can follow her journey at wildyogatribe.com or get social with her @wildyogatribe