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Jasna Jeličić-Radonić ; Filozofski fakultet u Splitu

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With the familiar observation that in Salona it is “uncommonly difficult to discover any traces at all of pagan temples” Dyggve concluded that this clearly tells of the fundamental obliteration of the evidence of pagan cult buildings. In contrast to the few temples discovered to date, the many inscriptions dedicated to various deities or fragments of sculptures of individual patron deities show a reverence for the ancient cults. Votive monuments are sometimes found detached from their original context – cult buildings and the actual shrines the traces of which are rarely preserved.
A tetrastyle temple on a high dais was put up in the oldest part of the city, the so-called Urbs vetus. This is the only cult building fully explored to date.
Opposite the front elevation of the temple, a theatre was later built. Before the erection of the theatre, in the central part of the city there were a few more smallish temples observed during investigations. In the immediate vicinity of the theatre, Dyggve uncovered the forum, where in the northern part he determined the foundations of the first temples. Double temples of the common prostyle type on high built pedestals very likely derived from the time of Augustus. Apart from these temples in the oldest urban core of Salona – Urbs vetus, Dyggve discovered and partially excavated in 1931 one more temple in the new eastern part, the Urbs orientalis. Since he did not complete his investigation, he published an interim report on the excavations:
“Within the town-wall stands another temple the masonry of which
unfortunately is badly ruined. I have, however, succeeded in laying bare a number of details from rich marble decorations The building is of particular religiohistorical interest as it is certainly the last pagan temple that was erected in the town of Salona. It dates back to about the same time as the Palace of Diocletian,” Dyggve’s archives still retain a sketch of the discovered parts of the temple, in which one can recognise part of the longitudinal wall of the building, and a square base in front. Because of the place of the find, Dyggve called the pagan cult building found “Tempel ver Porta Andetria”. To these architectural sketches and notes, two photographs of the architectural sculpture of the temple were attached, and these have been published.
According to the archival photographs, it can be noticed that some of the architectural sculptures were made of marble, such as the acroterion of the roof of the temple and the very refined and rich ornamentation. Perhaps the capitals too were marble. which cannot be determined for certain from photograph documentation but this would tend to be confirmed by a large fragment of acanthus leaf, which very likely belonged to one of the capitals. Although only parts of corners with volutes and the beginning of the acanthus decoration and part of a simply moulded abacus are extant, the type of capital can be determined.
They are very likely Corinthian capitals of the Asiatic type, similar to those of Proconnesian marble recently discovered from the Temple of Jupiter renovated at the time of Diocletian and located in the forum in the centre of Urbs orientalis.
They are of the same time as the marble capitals that are today to be found in the Church of St Stephen on Sustipan, originally belonging to the so-called Small Temple in Diocletian’s Palace.
Other architectural decorations, as one can conclude from the documentation, imposts, friezes of frames and cornices of the doors of the temple were probably made out of local limestone, as in the temples in Diocletian’s Palace. An invaluable specimen for the identification of the architectural sculpture of the previously found modest fragments of the Salona temple, according to the form and appearance of the ornamentation, is given almost entirely by the uniquely preserved Small Temple. It is not only a matter of the same type of architecture but of architectural decorations that came out of the same stone-carving workshops of domestic craftsmen, or imported imperial ones. This is supported by the employment of the same Corinthian capitals of the Asiatic type of Proconnesian marble used in the pagan cult buildings created in the same workshops and clearly commissions of the same time. This shows the incontrovertible connection of building activity between the imperial palace and Salona at the time of Diocletian.
In the vicinity of the temple uncovered a marble sculpture of Venus Victrix with Cupid was found; it is placed on an oval pediment with the prominent inscription VENER(I) VICTR(ICI). Since the goddess’s sculpture was found west of Porta Andetria, like the temple, Dyggve recorded it with the question mark “Venus Tempel?” He must then have hypothesised that the sculpture might have belonged to this cult building or that the temple might have been dedicated to Venus Victrix, although only the first traces of architecture and fragments of sculpture had been unearthed.
In the Archaeological Museum in Split one more sculpture of Venus is
displayed. Although only the lower part of the marble sculpture with a support in the form of a dolphin is extant, the characteristic iconography of Venus pudica can be recognised, of the same kind as the Salona statue of Venus Victrix. Because the sculpture was found in Split, city that sprang from Diocletian’s Palace, its origin can be guessed at. In the imperial residence there were several temples, and probably numerous sculptures of the various deities, and imperial statues too, almost completely vanished by now, alas. North of Diocletian’s residence, i.e. the imperial palace in the true sense of the word, there were several temples.
According to historical sources, the temples were consecrated quite variously. The Temple of Jupiter was the biggest building, and is also considered the imperial mausoleum. The same titular is ascribed the prostyle temple built opposite, but Aesculapius and Janus have also been suggested. In the literature, the Small Temple is sometimes just called the Temple, as distinct from the Mausoleum of Diocletian, since some authors thought it was the only temple in the palace. In front of this uniquely preserved building of the perpendicular prostyle type on a raised dais, two temples of circular form were put up. According to the description of Antonius Proculianus the southern temple was consecrated to Cybele and was circular (in figura spherical et circulare), and the northern Venus temple was hexagonal (angulare hessagona). Perhaps the marble sculpture of Venus pudica with dolphin and Cupid was originally disposed as a cult statue of the Temple of Venus in Diocletian’s Palace. In this context one should definitely point out the similarity of the choice of the Venus pudica type for the Salona sculpture of Venus victrix, which was probably the cult statue of a temple built at the time of Diocletian in the north east part of Urbs orientalis. The Salona temple of Venus Victrix put up by Porta Andetria shows some considerable connection with the cult edifices of the imperial palace. Not only do the architectural sculptures derive from the same stone-carving workshops, but similar types of statues of the deities might have been placed in them.
Venus Victrix, symbol of the absolute supremacy and prosperity of the
Roman Empire, was particularly revered in the official religion of the Empire. Her political importance was highlighted in the civil wars that preceded the creation of the Empire, and she figures all the way until Late Antiquity. This is confirmed by the clear symbolism of the Salona temple with the cult statue of the Victrix, and perhaps the same type of cult statue was in the Temple of Venus of the imperial palace. In this context, it is important to reconfirm Dyggve’s statement that Diocletian’s Palace needs looking at from the angle of Salona, because of the tight connections it had with Salona, which will undoubtedly be borne out by future investigations into the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia.

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