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The Governor’s Palace in Salona

Jasna Jeličić Radonić ; Fakultet hrvatskih studija Sveučilišta u Zagrebu

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 938 Kb

str. 313-329

preuzimanja: 173


Puni tekst: engleski pdf 938 Kb

str. 313-329

preuzimanja: 274



Following up on an accidental discovery of a column that had on it the inscription SCRIB COS, scrib(a) co(n)s(ularis) back in 1916, Frane Bulic located the office of the governor’s secretary, in other words, the palace of the governor of Dalmatia. In this place several layers of mosaics were found, Bulić focusing on those with depictions of Apollo, Triton and Orpheus, but in spite of all his efforts, he did not manage to buy the land. During World War II, Italian archaeologists carried out excavations in the palace during 1942 and at that time, extracted numerous mosaics, today partially exhibited in the Archaeological Museum in Split. Unfortunately, no accounts of the results of the Italian excavations were ever published, and it is only recently that Emilio Marin has provided part of the documentation of this research.
Only a preliminary account of the governor’s palace revealed in the Ilinac neighbourhood (Zubanovac, cadastral parcel 3551/1) has been published. Hence it is not possible to comprehend the totality of this monumental public building, or the unique stratigraphic relation of the individual mosaic fields with figural depictions or those with geometrical ornamentation that also formed a considerable part of the whole of the arrangement of the flooring.
However, through an analysis of the architectural and photographic documentation made during the excavations known so far, it is possible to distinguish the basic shape of the building. It is a classic type of Roman villa with a central atrium. At first glance it is possible to make out the considerable remodelling of individual rooms and halls of the basic corpus of the 2nd century AD palace that took place over the course of time. The entry was on the northern façade, and then through the vestibule there was access into the atrium, the central space with porticos, around an impluvium enabling access to the other rooms. One the west side of the atrium is a series of four rectangular rooms, while on the eastern side was a room of much bigger dimensions with built square pylons regularly distributed around the central pylon. These are structural elements, i.e., bearers of the cross vaults that spanned the largest hall and on the floor above it was a room of the same size. The main hall was decorated with floor mosaics with rich floral ornamentation. These elements show the final renovation of the grand hall in Late Antiquity, undoubtedly influenced by the architecture of Diocletian’s Palace. Belonging to the first layer is a mosaic showing the mythical singer Orpheus, over which is a mosaic with Triton, in the extension of which was a mosaic featuring Apollo. According to archival photography, mosaics with Triton and Apollo are above any of the other mosaics and probably belong to the last renovation of the mosaic floors of the governor’s palace. The question here arises as to whether the placing of the figure of Triton is to be linked with inscriptions of a college from the time of Diocletian: sailors who served on ships called tritons, the names of which are written on altars during the annual ceremonies of Kalendis febr(aris) menestravinus at Tritonis.
The governor’s palace was much renovated, like other public buildings, in the time of Emperor Diocletian. Although for the moment only modest remains of his well known architectural activity have been confirmed in Salona, the emperor’s gentile name in the official name of the city is stated in the relief of the Salona Tyche, confirming this beyond a doubt. Since the relief belongs to the arcuate decoration of the monumental gate, and is found by what are called Five Bridges, it has been assumed that it was originally placed on the nearby city gate, Porta Caesarea. But in the immediate vicinity of the site of the discovery of the arcuate relief there was the governor’s palace.
What was actually shown on the keystone of the arch beside the relief of the Salona Tyche? In a study dedicated to monuments of Minerva, D. Rendić-Miočević provides the information that together with the relief of Salonitan Tyche there was a relief found that had a depiction of a bust of Minerva or Roma on the arch stone of one of the gates in Salona. This relief of Roma is also displayed in the lapidarium of the Archaeological Museum, but is wrongly entered into the museum inventory (Cat. D 480), which has entirely suppressed its origins in Salona.
That it belonged to the decorative parts of the same arch is shown beyond a doubt by the identical lines of the moulding around similarly formed niches and the stylistic characteristics of the female deities. It was above the main entrance into the governor’s palace that there were prominent relief depictions of Roma, personification of the Roman state, and Salonitan Tyche, patroness of the city. This correlates very well with the context of the propaganda and religious programme of the residence of the governor of the province of Dalmatia.
Over the main entrance, then, were displayed the official symbols of Roman rule. From this point of view it can be hypothesised what there might be on the third relief, which undoubtedly flanked the goddess Roma on the other side. Since in the name of Salona there was Diocletian’s gentilicium, Valeria, which is an essential element for the time of the origin of the relief, that is, the decoration over the entrance of this important building for the government of the whole province, one should assume there was some symbol of the ruler, i.e., the emperor. It is an open question whether in this place one is to look for the figure of the ruler so present in and responsible for the renovation of not only this public building but of the whole of the capital, Salona, whence, when he stepped down from the throne, he was able still to take part in the government of the Empire.

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