Salona was an ancient city and the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. The first mention of the name Salon originates about 7th century BC as an Illyrian settlement. It is the largest archaeological park in Croatia, whose size is attested by the monumental ramparts with towers and gates, a forum with temples, an amphitheater and cemeteries with Salonian martyrs (Manastirine, Kapljuč, Marusinac).

Salona was a town with over 60 000 inhabitants and, according to the legend, the birthplace of Emperor Diocletian. In the first millennium BC the Greeks set up an emporion (marketplace) there. After the conquest by the Romans, Salona became the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia. Salona was founded probably after the Roman civil wars under Julius Caesar. The early Roman city encompassed the area around the Forum and Theatre, with an entrance, the Porta Caesarea, on the north-east side, The walls were fortified with towers during the reign of Augustus. The early trapezoidal shape of the city was transformed by eastern and western expansion of the city. The city quickly acquired Roman characteristics: walls, forum, theatre and amphitheatre as well as public baths and an aqueduct. Many inscriptions in both Latin and Greek have been found both inside the walls and in the cemeteries outside, since Romans forbade burials inside the city boundaries. A number of fine marble sarcophagi from those cemeteries are now in the Archaeological Museum of Split. All this archaeological evidence attests to the city's prosperity and integration into the Roman Empire.

Salona's continuing prosperity resulted in extensive church building in the fourth and fifth centuries, including an episcopal basilica and a neighboring church and baptistery inside the walls, and several shrines honoring martyrs outside. These have made it a major site for studying the development of Christian sacred architecture.

Salona was largely destroyed in the invasions of the Avars and Croats in the seventh century AD, though the exact year of the destruction still remains an open subject between archaeologists. Refugees from Salona settled inside Diocletian's Palace.

Although Salona is one of the largest archeological sites of the Roman Empire, the park is underutilized and is not preserved, and few visitors know that Salona was one of the largest cities of the Roman Empire. Also, the site is not being guarded and thefts have been reported, but recently renovations and new excavations have commenced.

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Founded: 7th century BCE
Category: Prehistoric and archaeological sites in Croatia

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