wendylady1 (wendylady1) wrote,

Adventures in Croatia 2 : Salona


Amphitheatre 07a

During our two or three days in Split, we made sure we had time to go out to the ancient ruins of Salona, just in the suburbs of the city - and after seeing all the beautiful artefacts in the Archaeological Museum in Split the day before, it was great to put everything we saw there into the context of the place itself.

This was originally a Greek settlement of the Illyrian tribes who populated the area in the 4th Century BC - later they came under Roman rule, and remained so up until they were threatened with invasion from the Slavs and the Avars in 639 AD, long after the Emperor Diocletian had died in his palace at Split...luckily the palace was still there, albeit in a slightly dilapidated state, so the inhabitants of this town fled into the palace, and stayed there in the protection of its huge stone walls.

The town was absolutely sacked by the invading tribes, and all that is left today are the outlines of buildings, bits of broken masonry, many broken tombs along the roadway out of town, and lots of columns and slabs of stone - you can see the line of the roads and the shape of the whole town, and further away, down a short road, there is a fabulous Roman amphitheatre, which was used just like the Colosseum in Rome, for games, contests of strength and races !!
Here's a fine aerial shot of the whole site, so you can see the layout and the main Forum and streets, etc...

aerial 02

Here's a panoramic view of the whole site:-

Salona view 03

Adam studying the information board at the entrance to the town...

Salona view 02

Here I am, strolling ahead, down the road running along the side of the town...

Salona view 04

It was a lovely day, and so that jumper soon came off !! Luckily, I had some sun-cream that I'd bought the day before, in the vague hope of some sunny weather !!

Salona view 07

Salona view 08

Salona view 06

Tricksy Russ on his twin plinths - he just couldn't decide which he liked better...so indecisive !!

Tricky Russ

This photo below was taken five years ago, when we visited this site before - we didn't see this piece of mosaic floor this time, so I think it's probably gone to the museum in Split - we didn't see it there either, but it may have been undergoing some restoration perhaps.


As you can see, there are many, many pieces of broken masonry and toppled columns - many an esplanade came to grief here !!



Interestingly, we could see evidence of as yet uncovered buildings in the undergrowth, and there was at least one little olive grove that obviously belonged to somebody, which had untold riches still waiting to be discovered !!


This is the main street leading up to the forum and the main Christian Basilica, because the Roman Empire, by now was Christian, under the rule of the Emperor Constantine...

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Lines of water tunnels here, in the form of beautiful Roman arches over a water course - the Romans were very good at managing water generally, transporting it over great distances in their aquaducts for washing, drinking, cooking and most of all, bathing !!


Having had a good look around the town itself, it was time to find the Roman amphitheatre, reputed to be one of the finest examples in Europe, which was about half a mile away down a dusty path, lined with the occasional group of tombs and sarcophagi. Half way along was a stream with a beautiful little Roman bridge, with most of its carved stonework intact.
Here are a couple of really big sarcophagi which clearly belonged to wealthy families, as they were right on the side of the roadway and big enough for a whole family - of course, they were empty !! Just beyond them you can see the bridge...

Bridge 05

As you can see, pretty much perfect stonework and very overgrown...

Bridge 06

Bridge 07

Russ decided that a stream was probably the perfect place to find bits of broken pottery and possibly other things perhaps...so nothing daunted, he climbed down to the water's edge, and actually came up with some shards of terracotta with ridges and bits of rim visible - nothing valuable or important, but the fact that they may have been made by an artisan 1800 years ago was important to him.

Bridge 01

He took a photo of the underside of the bridge capping stones and their carved border - beautiful, especially when you consider no-one is likely to see it !! However, we saw it, 1800 years in the future...

Bridge 03

Adam, watching Russ's antics down below ...

Bridge 02a

More coffins - an entire trench filled with a line of stone sarcophagi, buried just outside the town, as was the Roman custom. We also saw much wild animal and plant life while we were pootling about in Salona - these pretty white flowers were everywhere...

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At last, after about half an hour's gentle stroll, what with all the bridge exploring we had done, we came upon the amphitheatre - which is indeed one of the best ones I've ever seen, and I've seen a few !!
Here's a really fine aerial photo of the amphitheatre which really shows how big it is:-

aerial 01

The Amphitheatre at Salona was designed to hold eighteen to twenty thousand people at any one time. One notable feature of the Amphitheatre, not found in most other Roman amphitheatres, is the underground channels. Many theories have been put forward as to their usage but the most commonly accepted explanation was that they were for the presentation of mock naval battles, where the whole theatre centre would be flooded with water and small ships would fight it out !! .

Here's one of Russ's panoramic shots, taken quite close in...

Amphitheatre 01

Amphitheatre 10

Amphitheatre 06


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As you can see from this photo, there are many very industrial factories and a huge road just beyond this place, which means that there are many Roman buildings that have been lost as a result of modern industrialisation !!

Amphitheatre 04

Amphitheatre 03

Theatre 01

We had a really lovely day out at Salona, and the fact that we saw it all laid out here, after seeing what the archaeologists have discovered there made it all the more interesting - so here is what we saw in the museum the day before:-

The day before, it had rained continuously, so instead of going to Salona as planned, we chose to investigate the Archaeological Museum of Split instead - we didn't get to see this amazing collection when we came before, so it was new to us as well as Russ !!
I have decided to put everything into categories, as there is loads of stuff - and it's easier to see what's there when they're grouped by type. So let's start with glass...

Glass was present in nearly every aspect of daily life in ancient Rome. Glass unguentaria, balsamaria and other small bottles and glass boxes were used to contain the various oils, unguents, perfumes, and other cosmetics used by nearly every member of Roman society. Small glass boxes often held jewellery with glass beads, cameos, and intaglios fashioned to imitate semi-precious stones. Traders packed, sold and transported all sorts of food-stuffs and other goods across the Mediterranean in glass bottles and jars of all shapes and sizes. Therefore, it's not so surprising that there's so much of it about, when it comes to a site like Salona...

There was so much beautiful glass here, in the form of tiny bottles and flasks, used for perfumes and unguents - these little bottles are only about 6 or 7 cms high...and they look like a heavy Venetian influence to me, with all those colours swirled about !!


These two green glass bottles were lovely - the one on the right is especially interesting as it's a rare double-chambered flask, possibly for salad dressings of oil and other flavourings, wine vinegar perhaps, or other Roman specialities...

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A selection of cobalt blue and aqua-green glass bottles for cosmetics, lotions and potions - I particularly liked the teensiest of the lot - the pearly white round flask with tiny handles, and only about 2 cms high - no. 29 !!


The jar on the left was considerably bigger, standing about 18 inches high, and the one on the right magically changed colour when it was photographed, from a real sea-green to this aqua-blue shade - we thought it might be something to do with the greeny glass case it was in, which the camera wouldn't have registered...

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These two photos are of great interest too - the left one shows the most beautiful twisted glass hair ornaments (69) and also very fine glass lotion dibbers, for getting lotion out of a slender flask - they think these were too fragile for practical use, and as they were buried in a dead woman's tomb, they were likely to be specially made grave goods, representing her status as a wealthy woman of fine taste !!
The weird white bottle on the right was also found in a funerary pyre, and would have contained perfume of some kind that would mask unpleasant smells when the body was burned !! Hence the fact that it is all melted...there was a whole selection of these, but this was the best as it had a face on it !!

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This beautiful little glass bead, with a face depicting the head of Medusa, is a particularly fine example of Roman glass - found in one of the few unlooted graves in the Western necropolis...


A beautiful selection of Venetian glass beads...you can buy similar beads in a modern bead-shop today !!


Beautiful blue glass unguentaria - small bottles containing ointments, or unguents, for healing superficial wounds and the like...


Two particularly fine glass bottles - I liked both of them very much !!

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Of course, there was also many earthenware pots, jars, flasks, and oil lamps, with fine details and carvings too...I loved this amazing pointy-bottomed amphora on the left, which would have contained olive oil or wine - it's a perfect example and not a single chip or crack anywhere. However, it never ceases to amaze me why this shape was ever considered a good one for something like liquids, or anything, come to that. It was considered to be a good shape for stacking in the hold of cargo ships, but the impracticalities of the shape elsewhere surely outweighs that advantage ?!!

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Lots of little clay and terracotta oil lamps - the Ancient Roman equivalent of our tea-light holders today...


A superb collection of Roman dice, and a very risqué little oil lamp indeed !! I thought this deserved a photo of its very own...
The Romans were refreshingly unconcerned by matters of nudity and sex - they enjoyed both, and considered the phallus a symbol of fertility - there are many phallic drawings and paintings in existence, and even carvings round doorways, and mosaics on the floors of Roman houses in Pompeii and elsewhere !!

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I loved this beautiful little shallow bowl, in terracotta with a spiral pattern in the bottom - very attractive !!


This was clearly a hoard of amphora rescued from a shipwreck off the coast of Split, I should think - they were all encrusted with barnacles and looked a little worse for wear !! The giant earthenware pot beside them was fabulous though !!



Lots of metalwork, especially tools, as in the photo below - clippers, hammer and axe-heads, even plumb-lines for getting an upright straight !!

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Exceptionally fine brooches and clasps with inset stones of gems and faïence (a sort of glass paste which could be dyed different colours to represent gemstones) - and on the right - a mystery object !! What is this strange thing...guesses in the comments column please...

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Bronze buckles and bracelet links - I'd like a bracelet of dolphins like this !!


I was going to make this another mystery object, but it's a bit obvious really - this is a brand - for marking your ownership of horses, cattle, or maybe even slaves !! Wicked days...


This is the case that some of the glass bottles were in, as you can see, but I've included this shot as it has all the myriad collection of hair ornaments, bone needles and even a silver hair-pin - no. 38.
Interestingly, just above the row of hairpins are two small glass bottles, the back one of which is a white bottle with a face which looks exactly like an unused version of the melted one above.


All kinds of signet rings, and other bits and pieces, including a fine gold necklace finial with two loops...



Of course, the trade in miniature gods and goddesses that you could carry round with you for protection was absolutely roaring, up until Christianity took hold...


These triangular pieces of engraved silver were exceptionally interesting as they are stunningly beautiful, and are clearly a stock of items from the maker's workshop - and I've never seen anything like these before !! So these are my other mystery objects - I'll give you a bit of a clue - they are in an as yet unassembled state..and they're not pieces of a necklace either !!


Bronze belt fixings - buckles and straps - and a really big stash of fibula - cloak-pins that didn't really change their design much right up until cloaks went out of general use...





Of course - as you are all aware - I love a bit of mosaic, and it's inevitable that I will get to see lots of the stuff whenever we come to an Ancient Roman site like this...
This gorgeous mosaic panel was hanging on the wall of the museum entrance, and is clearly of very high quality indeed...it depicts Apollo as a beautiful youth, with his head wreathed in laurel, and playing his lyre - do take note of the rusty-red leaf design running round the edge of the circle - we will see that edging design again and again - my theory is that it was a favourite design of a certain mosaicist in the region - perhaps a sort of well known trademark pattern which was very desirable amongst the wealthy important clientèle !! It's very pretty anyway...
What I do know is this - this mosaic, and the other two huge ones later on, were all from the Governor's Villa in Salona - therefore it's possible that he may have ordered this pattern for all his mosaics !!



This mosaic was found on the grave of a nine year-old boy named T. Aurelius Aurelianus, as the writing tells us - isn't it beautiful ?!!



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Here's a similar leafy border, in rust and cream again, but it's a rather bigger scale and very fine indeed - I like this a lot !!

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You don't really see free-form flowers very often in mosaics - lots of animals and birds of course, but freely growing flowers like this are a bit rarer !!

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A really great example of a rope border - very common perhaps, but always a pleasure to see !!


This is the first of the two really huge floor mosaics from the Governor's Villa in Salona - this one depicts Triton, the son of Poseidon - the Greek god of the sea - with all manner of sea creatures entangled in his hair and round his neck !! This mosaic also has that thick border of leaves in the same design as before !!

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Here's the other huge floor from the Governor's Villa - this one depicts the youthful Orpheus who is taming the wild animals round him with his song...



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Lots of stonework of course - hundreds of sarcophagi have been discovered there, of course, and loads of beautifully carved tombs and headstones, and also panels, statues and busts.

This panel below is known as a stele, which mean a memorial stone - Stelae were also used to publish laws and decrees, to record a ruler's exploits and honours, to mark sacred territories or mortgaged properties, as territorial markers, or to commemorate military victories.
This one below is fascinating in that the stylised leafy border and the flower carving at the top are both very fine indeed, but the actual script is absolute rubbish !! It's very badly executed, with wobbly base-lines and even runs out of space at the end of one line...out theory is that this is actually a pre-made panel that one could purchase and engrave yourself with whatever you had to say !! Perhaps the person was learning to do this or maybe he was a cheapskate who didn't want to pay a professional to do what he couldn't do very well himself !!


The fabulously beautiful sarcophagus carved with cherubs, birds and grapes, and even a grasshopper or two - enchanting !! The carving was exceptionally well-preserved, and looks as sharp as the day it was carved.




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Here's the outer corridors of the museum in Split - as you can see, there is a long passage-way which runs all round the garden in a quadrangle, returning to the main house, which houses all the biog stuff !! Coffins, sarcophagi, busts and stele, and two massive floor mosaics propped up against the wall, either side of the gateway !!


Here, they have reconstructed the missing bits of this carving in plaster, so that we can see what it would have looked like when it was in actually in use. The cross means it's probably from a Christian church or Basilica...


These carved sea-shells, fish and dolphin possibly come from a bath-house...sea-creatures were a favourite motif wherever water was in play !!



Here's another, rather unexpected three-quarter statue of Venus, accompanied by a rather diminished figure of Priapus, with his well-known affliction on show...this amused us greatly, mainly because of the difference in size between the enormous Venus and the tiny Priapus, and the fact that he holding his robe up to show the world how he feels !!

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Another statue, this one much bigger, depicting Priapus below, sadly isn't complete !! Priapus was a favourite god of fertility, good luck and rather strangely, the sea and fishermen too...


Here's an oddity - this is a stone mould for making plaster or metal casts of the makers name and symbols - note that everything is backwards !! These are rarely seen and almost always broken when they are found, so to see a complete one is a treat !!


Here's a whole doorway, with the remnants of the original paintwork still visible - it is odd to think that almost every surface was highly decorated and very colourful back in Roman times...we forget this because we only have the plain stone left after two thousand odd years !!

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We loved this huge stone sarcophagus as the two men depicted on its lid were such characters, especially the left hand one with his huge jug ears !!
Apparently, the long lock of hair over his right ear denotes that he was a follower of the cult of Isis...


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This was the stele in memory of a beloved wife and mother, with all the thimgs she loved and used on a daily basis depicted across the top - pins and needles, pots and a jewellery box perhaps, in the middle...



All that's left of a colossus, a huge statue of a man, perhaps a god or an Emperor  maybe - and on the right, Russ is delighted to have found an original stone from the tomb of the Emperor Diocletian !!

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Before we browsed round the quadrangle with all its official treasures, we had a sneak preview of the unofficial ones - there was a doorway left open into the back yard of the museum, with porta-cabins where all the archaeological study work took place, and all round the whole garden were huge amounts of stuff as yet unclassified. We had a good look round before the curator saw us and beckoned us back into the front quadrangle. He was very friendly actually, and apologised for leaving the door open - we didn't mind at all ...just look at all the stuff we discovered !!


A friednly lion with his feline chum stood near the doorway...and beyond were huge quantities of stone and masonry grouped together by type, or in houses or streets, I would guess so that they kept track of where it was from !! Large units with tiled roofs and shelves to take all the similar things together when they had been classified - all very methodical and orderly...but piles and piles of the stuff !!



There were several rows of these units, housing the smaller things - bits of pots and small stele etc...


A choice bit of Egg & Dart moulding, just lying round in the grass...


A soldier's gravestone, I should think ...


Several stele with all kinds of inscriptions leaning up against the museum back wall...


Groups of finds with numbers denoting which house they came from, I should think...



A really beautiful couple of columns with unusual carved decorations, from a whole set, I should think !!


Our stay in Split was short, but very interesting and it's definitely a place I would recommend visiting, especially if you have an interest in Ancient Roman stuff !! Apart from that though, it's a lovely romantic and friendly place to wander round.
The next day, we packed our things up and made tracks for the South of Croatia - my next post will be all about Dubrovnik !!

Tags: croatia, travelling in central europe
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