Italy - Salona
( Originally Published 1910 )
We generally associate the capital of Roman Dalmatia with the name of that distinguished Dalmatian, the Emperor Diocletian, greatest politician since Augustus. He was born at Salona, and when he abdicated in 305 A.D. re-turned here to live as a private citizen in the magnificent castle villa which he built near by, in which the medieval town of Spalato now nestles.
Tucked away in a most unfrequented corner of the world, it is hard for us now to realize that Salona steadily grew until in the fourth and fifth centuries it was one of the largest cities of the Roman world, half as large as Constantinople ; but if the scholars who have haughtily curled the lip at any references to the Roman Salona because they think it a city of the decadence, were to study its ruins without preconception, especially as they are now being laid bare, they would find reason to revise their opinion and recognize a large nucleus of the Augustan age and some remains even of the earlier Greek city, referred to in Dio's history of the civil war.
Salona's history is Greek in its beginnings and is characteristic of the general conditions that governed the pre-Roman period in Dalmatia. The Greek colonists had crept up the coast line from the southeast, settling on the islands and, in a few cases, on the mainland. Pharus, Issa, Epidamnus, Apollonia, Delminium, were among these colonies. From the mother colony on the island of Issa, the cities of Tragurion (modern Trail) and Epetion had been founded, and from them Salona, only a few miles southeast of Tragurion. The road connecting Salona with Tragurion, called the Via munita, with its Cyclopean retaining wall, is the oldest known Dalmatian road. The acropolis of the Greek Salonê can still be traced; its walls, built perhaps at the time of the wars of the close of the third century B.C., between the Illyrians and the Romans, were then unprovided with towers, and Caesar's commentaries show that temporary wooden towers were added for defensive purposes in the civil war. Already in 119 B.C. the consul Cecilius Metellus, in conducting his campaign against the Dalmatians, had made his winter quarters at Salona, showing its importance as a military center. Still, in the vicissitudes of war, Salona fell into the power of the native Dalmatian forces and had to be captured several times by the Romans : in 78 B.C. by Casconius, in 39 by Asinius Pollio, and in 33 by Augustus himself.
After the battle of Philippi in 42, Augustus had received Elyria as part of his share of the West, and it was in the course of the campaigns of his lieutenant, Pollio, to subject it that Salona was delivered from the hostile Dalmatian occupants in 39 B.C. It was either then or toward 33 that Augustus raised it to the rank of a colony under the name of Iulia Martia Salona, and added a Roman city by the side of the Greek, with a wall surrounding the whole and connected with that of the Greek acropolis. Even thus enlarged, the city was relatively small. How it afterwards grew is marked by two successive additional systems of fortifications, one under Marcus Aurelius, in 176, when the army threw up walls to defend the city against the threatened irruption of the Marcomannian hordes, and another in the fourth and fifth centuries, when new bulwarks of exceptional strength and extent were built against the Goths by the Christian emperors.
Of the Augustan city there are almost certainly three relics, and probably others will appear during further excavations. They are : (1) the Porta Caesarea and part of the walls ; (2) the Amphitheater ; (3) the Aqueduct. In the present muddle of the city's topography, when nobody seems to have a tenable hypothesis as to what was the early and what the later portion of the ancient city, I think these landmarks may give the clue. The excavations are now in full swing and of unusual interest, though so modestly done that they receive scant attention. The excavator is the indefatigable Monsignor Francesco Bulic, who is the guardian of Dalmatia's archaeological interests and has done so much to save Diocletian's palace at Spalato from disintegration and is still busy freeing it from modern accretions. Salona was practically unique in the completeness of the preservation of the ancient city not only throughout the Middle Ages, but even, except for the destruction of the wars of the thirteenth century, through the Renaissance. The great Christian basilicas subsisted by the side of the hardly injured theater, amphitheater, and walls of Roman times. In the seventeenth century, however, the Venetians decreed the final demolition of the old city to prevent its use by the Turks! The Venetians, as usual, laid sacrilegious hands on all its splendid buildings, for use in modern structures, even in Venice itself.
Modern excavations were carried on under Lanza (1821-1827) and Carrara (1842-1850), who uncovered parts of the theater, the Porta Caesarea, the Porta Andetria, the wall circuit, the amphitheater, and a small part of the Christian antiquities. In 1874 excavations were resumed and had been continued intermittently and with small means before Bulic's energy found a better way. Until recently the chief results have been the uncovering of an imposing group of Early Christian monuments of all sorts belonging to the age when Salona had grown to be a metropolis. The greatest known open-air Christian cemetery with its multitude of stone sarcophagi and inscriptions was found, with a Iarge basilica as its center. This, of course, was outside the city walls ; then there was uncovered the episcopal basilica within the city, with all its annexes—baptistry, confirmation hall, episcopal palace, and hospice.
But now the earlier ruins are claiming renewed attention, and for two seasons the main center of work has been the city gate called Porta Caesarea, a structure already partly cleared in Carrara's excavations of 1849, but soon reinterred without thorough investigation. The east face and part of the passage have been freed, and several fragments of an Augustan inscription were found, as well as so many parts of the memberment that I hope to be able to re-construct the design of this important structure. Far from being a work of the decadence of Roman art, this gate can now be proved to be in the style of the other large Augustan gates at Nîmes, Turin, Aosta and Verona, most of which I have described. It is a small fortress with a central court. The gateways themselves are triple on each face, and the outside, or east face, is flanked by two large projecting circular towers, which have caused great confusion in the minds of archaeologists because they were separate from the walls in construction, were used as aqueduct reservoirs, and projected into the interior of the city. But what became the interior in the time of Marcus Aurelius, when the new and larger wall circuit was erected to inclose the east suburb, had been the exterior in the time of Augustus, when the city was less than half its later size. The city had expanded eastward in these two centuries of pax romana, when the old Augustan practice of fortifying the colonies had been totally abandoned. It was only when the great onslaught of the Marcomanni and Quadi came in 169 that it was necessary to re-fortify this northern bulwark of the empire, inclosing the suburbs. The army itself has left inscribed records of how and when it did this work.
In the new circuit the place of the old Porta Caesarea was taken, much farther eastward, by the gate, of which a part still remains, called Porta Andetria, through which the principal highway, the Via Gabiniana, entered the city. The new wall followed the line of the Augustan (or Caesarean?) aqueduct, which had ended by hiding itself in the bowels of that part of the primitive Augustan wall stretching on both sides of the Porta Caesarea, whose great defensive towers henceforth served merely as reservoirs, and the gate itself merely as a spectacular access to the acropolis from the interior of the city.
As for the aqueduct, which was connected both with the Porta Caesarea and the amphitheater, its lead pipes bear the significant names of the makers, Julius Eucarpius and Caius Julius Xantus, proof enough, in the mere use of the name Julius, of the Augustan age for its original construction, which is of superb masonry of early type. Not enough can be seen of the theater or the public Thermae for me to offer any conjecture as to their age, but the excavations may soon provide more data. The Augustan city, even though of small size, had already become of great strategic importance as the center of the network of new roads planned by Augustus for connecting the seaboard with the valley of the Danube, and this with the Italian highways. Why was this of special value in the formative period of Caesar and Augustus? The stretch of coast from the Venetian lagoons to the borders of Montenegro seems always to have been a debatable land. Should it or should it not be reckoned as part of Italy? For over a generation it has been a rallying cry for the Italian Irreconcilables, the partisans of Italia Irredenta, who want it wrested from Austria. In the Middle Ages it belonged to Venice, a semi-Oriental power, who received it from the Emperors of Byzantium. Still earlier, in Roman times, it was for a while, under Augustus, ad-ministered as if it were part of Italy, and then shifted from the pacific administration of the Senate to the direct military rule of the Emperor, as being a bulwark of Italy, and either in or near a war center, becoming finally the province of Illyrium.
Soon after Rome had found it necessary during the last century and a half of the Republic, to push her conquests into this region, her settlers began to follow, and to congregate at the trading ports, especially in the Greek cities of the islands and the coast. The protection which they required and the sympathy with the Greek settlers in their contests with the natives, involved Rome more and more.
When in 59 B.C., this region became the province of Illyrium, Julius Caesar was made its first proconsul, with his capital at Salona, in Central Dalmatia, which then became an oppidum civium Romanorum, but not yet a colony. Caesar him-self stayed here long enough in 57-56 and in 54 B.C. to exercise his fascinating influence and secure the loyalty of the Salonitans in his future struggle, though one of his armies was annihilated in marching through to Macedonia. From Caesar and Dio we learn how Dalmatia became one of the main storm centers in the civil war, and how Salona was unsuccessfully besieged by the Pompeians. In Julius Caesar's plans for Roman supremacy this region held a distinct and important place. He had seen that the direct routes between Rome and the Danube lay through the difficult hinterland back of the Istrian and Dalmatian coasts, beginning with that which led eventually from Aquileia to Vienna (Vindobonum). In the campaign which he planned but never carried out against the new and dangerous Dacian power, Caesar probably expected to use these routes. The work which was to be carried to its logical completion by Trajan's conquest of Dacia was already fore-shadowed. Augustus himself as a boy had actually seen, under Caesar's tuition, the lay of the land, and he was so persuaded of the importance of this part of his legacy of Caesarean political ideas that he made it the scene of his first independent operations, and in the attack of its strongholds, in what seems to us a petty warfare for the future Emperor, wiped out the stigma of personal cowardice that earlier military events had attached to him. The gradual abandonment by Augustus, in his maturer years, of the Caesarean scheme, made it unnecessary to push the conquest of the interior and the building of the military roads to their ultimate conclusion.
No wonder, then, that Salona is yielding antiquities as early as the Augustan age and that it grew steadily in importance.
Fragments of the dedicatory inscriptions of the Porta Caesarea have come to light, some in the excavations of Carrara (1849) and many more during the past years. It had long been known that the gate was restored under the Emperor Constantius, between 337 and 350, by his governor of Dalmatia, Flavius Rufinus Sarmentius, but I should judge that the restoration was a slight one, affecting perhaps only the upper section. What is far more important than this late inscription in small letters is the finding of numerous fragments, mostly minute, of characteristic, large Augustan characters from the original dedication. I shall not attempt to re-construct it now, because new fragments are appearing, and in any case it would not be fair to Monsignor Bulic, but I can safely reproduce enough of the letters to prove their Augustan character : IMP [Caesar, divi. f. A] VG [usto po] NTI [fici maxi] Mo [t] RIB [p] O [t] I. I am expecting shortly to return to Salona, as the gate is entirely cleared, and in the passageway and in the west side more of the Augustan inscription must have been recovered. The entire structure is in good-sized, carefully cut, blocks of stone; the moldings are simple, the Corinthian capitals of excellent facture, the proportions quite imposing.
It is with considerable diffidence that I venture to claim the amphitheater for the reign of Augustus. It was in 1850 that the excavation was begun, and the digging went in some parts to a depth of over twenty feet. Its major axis is 65 m., its minor 47 m., which makes it slightly larger than Pompeii. *The probability is that the seats were entirely of wood: their ashes were found by the excavators. Monsignor Bulic asked me to consider carefully the style of the amphi-theater. No inscription has been found that would give any clue to its age. It stands at the west end of the primitive part of the city, and is so small that it was evidently planned for a city of quite limited area, certainly far smaller than Salona had become in the age of the Antonines, as we are constrained to judge from the area in-closed in the walls of Marcus Aurelius., This indication of an early date would be inconclusive if it were not for the primitive style of the arcades, their heavy proportions, and the absence of the tooling or boss-work familiar to us after the time of Claudius. On the other hand, the amphitheater at Pola is a good example of Flavian or early Antonine work in this region, perhaps of Trajan's time, and a comparison with its developed forms makes the Augustan age seem exceedingly probable for the amphitheater of Salona. The majority of critics will be exceedingly skeptical, I know, of so early a date, and loth to recognize here a link between the solid pre-Caesarean type of amphitheater, as represented by those at Pompeii and perhaps at Sutri, and the open-arched Imperial type of the Claudian and Flavian era, as shown at Capua and the Colosseum. But I think that the work tells its own story fo an expert in architectural history.
The development of inland highways, which seems to have been discontinued for a while after Augustus had given up the idea of a Dacian war, was carried forward again after the great Dalmatian insurrection under Bato in 69 A.D. had shown how dangerous it was to allow the native levies time to come together and prepare while the Roman armies were hampered in their powers of observation and rapid movement.
In order to make this impossible in the future, Tiberius, who had himself crushed the rising, which had threatened Italy itself, then carried the early Augustan road scheme practically to completion. In this system there were four main arteries, military or commercial, centering at Salona. The west branch first utilized the old Via Munita to Tragurion and then touched at all the seaports till it reached Aquileia and joined the Italian network and the northwest route to Vindobonum. The second road was that directly northward by way of Clissa and Andetrium over the mountains. It was called Via Gabiniana. The eastern artery passed Via Aequum and the Save to join the future Pannonian road system. At Pons Tiluri it sent out an offshoot into the Balkan fastnesses, while another branch turned southward to old Narona. The least important was the southeast coast road by way of Epetion. The Dalmatian milestone inscriptions indicate that, as we should judge by historic records, very little was done to the Dalmatian roads between Tiberius and Trajan. Vespasian decided to transfer some of the Dalmation legions north-ward to Pannonia, and so diminished the military importance of these highways. But under Trajan they became a paramount preoccupation in preparation for his Dacian wars.
Some years ago an international Congress of Christian Archaeology met at Spalato, in order to give lovers of early Christian monuments an opportunity to study the ruins of the churches at Salona. If at Ravenna and Parenzo we see the early Christian basilica almost untouched in its architecture and the main lines of its decorative mosaics, better, in fact, than anywhere else in the world, it is to Salona that we must come to study the accessories and surroundings of the early churches.
Salona possessed two very large basilicas, both of which have been thoroughly excavated. One was the city cathedral, the Episcopal church; the other the suburban basilica around which was grouped the great cemetery. We find stray traces elsewhere of the open-air burial places which succeeded the Catacombs, but only here in Salona can we see one in all its extent and arrangement. Scattered about in trenches or entirely exposed on a level lower than the ancient soil we can study a multitude of the heavy stone sarcophagi then in use, devoid of decoration or beauty, as well as a quantity of slab-covered tombs and sepulchral chambers. At the same time, we can find in the museum at Spalato a number of beautifully carved marble sarcophagi of the same age, with scenes of Bible history and Christian symbolism, similar to those in the Lateran museum in Rome.
In both basilicas numerous columns, capitals mosaic pavements, cornices, parapets and screens, dating from the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries, give all the necessary elements for re-constructing the artistic appearance of the interiors.
The walls are destroyed almost to the ground level, so that the architecture cannot be certainly revived except in plan : but this plan is what makes both buildings so unusual.
The urban basilica has the usual nave and two aisles. On either side of the apse are the two sacristies, the prothesis and diaconicon,—which afterward were replaced by the side-apses. From the left aisle opens up the group of three annexes of which the center is formed of the circular baptistery, out of which opens the consignatorium or chapel for the administration of the chrism. Its symbolic floor mosaic of the stags drinking from the sacred fountain with its inscription is uniquely apposite. I think that this confirmation hall is the most perfect known. There are other charming mosaics, in the apse and aisles. On the right side, near the apse and opening up both into the aisle and the city street, are the episcopium and hospice. A rather unusual feature on the front is a long narthex in place of an open atrium.
The inscription in the mosaic pavement of the apse with the expression: nova post vetera coepit Synferius, Esychius eius nepos cum clero et populo fecit, is a most interesting building record, proving the rebuilding of the basilica in about 400, probably owing to the greatly in-creased demand for space by the population.
There are two basilicas outside the ancient walls ; one at a site called Marusinac, the other and more important at a site called Manastirine. At Manastirine the basilica, dedicated to SS. Doimus and Anastasius, was undoubtedly the sacred center of Dalmatian Christianity. The church was in the center of a large group of mortuary chapels of great antiquity in or under which were buried the most noted martyrs and bishops, beginning with Doimus, the first bishop, supposed to be of the post-apostolic age.
There are here three superposed layers of Christian tombs. The earliest belonged to the country estate of L. Ulpius, a noble convert of the close of the first century, who arranged to bury in his property the bodies of S. Doimus and other early Christians. Then began the construction of mortuary chapels, cellae memoriae, and the development of a cemetery for Christians when the property came, perhaps by testament, into the ownership of the Christian church. Clustered closely around the chapels and encroaching even on their interiors came the subsequent crowd of burials, anxious to be close to the sacred bodies.
The basilica itself was built over a small church and numerous graves ; and was made to open into a few of the mortuary chapels, while it caused the ruin of others. The most historic-ally interesting is that of S. Anastasius, in the form of a small basilica, built by the matron Asclepia, as we read in the acts of S. Anastasius, martyred with many other Salonitan Christians, under Diocletian. Asclepia herself was probably buried in a sarcophagus with the relief of the Good Shepherd now in the museum at Spalato. The cemetery extends for several hundred yards in every direction around the church.
Nearly everything that cannot be seen in situ, is distributed in the various houses in Spalato, where antiquities are most uncomfortably sheltered but not arranged. An early text of the fourth century calls the cemetery Legis sanctae christianae coemeterium.
The barbarian invasions of the fifth century, during which everything outside of the fortifications was devastated, resulted in the destruction and desecration of this sacred spot. The basilica whose ruins we see was built in the age of Justinian on the devastated site and this explains the apparent disrespect for the primitive tombs. Burials were then continued here until the capture of the city in about 630; so that we can follow Christian rites for over five centuries.
Salona comes rightly by its Christian monuments, because it is noted for its early converts, during the first and second centuries, and for its martyrs. From it the gospel spread throughout Dalmatia and when the episcopal basilica was built in the fourth century it was given a place of honor on the summit of the old acropolis. Rome itself preserves a unique record of these early leaders in the chapel of S. Venanzio at the Lateran, which was built or transformed to con-tain their relics brought from Salona by a special mission in 640 after its capture and desecration.
While Augustus was fortifying and enlarging Salona he was also, during the years just be-fore and after 30 B.C., establishing a continuous line of new colonies along the coast from Tergeste (Trieste) to Narona, near Montenegro, and surrounding them with fortifications. His troops had only recently reconquered Dalmatia, and he was still enthusiastic to carry out Caesar's scheme for making this region the starting-point for the concerted advance on the valley of the Danube. I shall describe what is left of three of the most important of these colonies, now represented by the modern cities of Trieste, Pola, and Zara.
Ancient Tergeste is now the modern busy sea-port of Trieste, main outlet of the Austrian empire on the Adriatic, seat of the Austrian Lloyd Steamship Company. It is so absolutely mod-ern that it seems almost hopeless to attempt to trace any of its Roman life. And yet what we do find that is ancient is peculiarly precious, be-cause so much of it dates from the time of the foundation by Augustus. It is possible that Tergeste was colonized as early as 41 B.C., when the great distributions of land to veterans after Philippi took place ; but the city walls came a few years later. What their date was appears from an inscription, part of which is preserved in the Lapidary Museum, reading : IMP. CAESAR COS. DESIG. TERT, III. VIR. R. I. C. ITER. MVRVM TVRRESQVE FECIT. This statement, on one of the early city gates, shows that the walls, towers, and gates were built by Augustus and completed at the close of his Second Consulship, after he had been nominated for a third term. This gives the date 32 B.C., making it, I believe, the earliest dated civic Augustan inscription. What has become of these gates and walls? Even the location of the two main gateways—Praetoria and Decumana—is unknown. They were probably pierced with two or three arcades, as in other Augustan cities of medium or small size.
But I believe I have identified one of the minor Augustan gates, one of the outlets of the Cardo, the main cross street, in the so-called Arco di Riccardo, which still stands on the descending slope facing the port. One of its ends is hidden in the wall of a modern house, and its piers are half-buried under the present street pavement, so that its proportions are terribly dwarfed and its effectiveness quite lost; but its pure and simple solidity, the Corinthian order of its façade, the style of its moldings, and the size of its constructive units, are all indications of its early age. That it was a gate in the city walls, and not a free-standing arch, is evident from the unfinished state of its exposed end; and excavations would doubtless bring to light the base of the city walls on a line with it. Its single arcade is framed by a pair of Corinthian half-columns supporting a frieze and attic, both of which had plain, uninscribed surfaces. Had this been one of the principal gates it would certainly have had a dedicatory inscription—a du-plicate of the one I have just quoted. For all its simplicity, it would repay excavation. I recommend it to the care of the Central Archaeological Commission in Vienna as probably one of the earliest known structures of the first emperor. I hardly think that they appreciate its early date or historic importance, for, except by Graef, it has never been ascribed, that I am aware, to the time of Augustus.
Are there also possibly in Trieste any traces of the Colony Arch which was the indispensable concomitant of the foundation of a Roman city, or any further records of the city gates? When the cathedral of the converted city was built in the fifth century, and when it was added to in subsequent centuries, the site of the old Capitolium, or main temple of the Roman Tergeste, was used, and its ruins were built into the church. Parts of other ancient monuments came into use as building material when the bell tower was put up, and the main portal of the church was formed out of an antique sepulchral monument. In this farrago, and among the many fragments in the neighboring Museo Lapidario, I was de-lighted to discover parts of both the main Augustan gates and the Colony Arch. To the Arch I attribute two sections of a narrow frieze with a decoration of arms and armor in low relief above a double architrave. It belongs to the same type as the friezes that still remain in place in the other early Augustan arches of Pola and S. Remy (Southern France), built in the same decade. To the same arch may belong a section of cornice with an early form of egg-and-dart, dentil and anthemion decoration, a bit of frieze with foliated scrollwork, and some slabs with arms and armor and further frieze fragments, built into the campanile, though I am inclined to ascribe the latter to some military sepulchral monument similar to that found at Gardun in the interior of Dalmatia.
On the other hand, to the gates, which were always of simpler design than the arch, belonged two colossal heads, in very bold projection, of guardian deities of the city, one a form of Jupiter Ammon, with rams' horns, the other a Medusa-like genius with snakes decorating its cheeks. They can be compared to the heads on the keystones of the Augustan arches of Rimini, Fano, and other city gates in Italy, and to the heads on the Augustan gates at Pola and on the recently discovered memorial gate of Trajan at Asseria, in Dalmatia itself, which I shall describe later. These heads have never been identified, but I believe my suggestion is the only tenable explanation. Their prototypes can be seen on Etruscan gates ; I have already described those at Perugia and Falerii.
An interesting and also unrecognized Augustan monument in Trieste (restored between 50 and 60 A.D.) is the principal temple, which was used for the earliest cathedral basilica. It had a double pronaos, with pilaster responds, which formed the primitive portico of this basilica, and which in the Middle Ages was used for the foundations of the campanile which projects beyond one end of the church façade. Hidden within the lower, hollow part of this campanile we can study what still remains of the columns and pilasters of pure early workmanship. It certainly was the Capitolium of the Augustan colony.