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Temples in Diocletian’s Palace and the Veneration of Egyptian Deities

Ivo Babić

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 938 Kb

str. 387-407

preuzimanja: 190


Puni tekst: engleski pdf 938 Kb

str. 387-407

preuzimanja: 467



The Egyptian artefacts in Split have long drawn attention. They have been variously interpreted, mainly through Diocletian’s inclination for Egypt and its religions and his tendency towards Egyptomania. As far as I know, the Egyptian element in Split has not yet been interpreted to suggest the possibility that some, or perhaps all, of the temples in the palace were connected with Egyptian deities. The sphinxes in the palace indicate the cults of Egyptian deities. Because of the opinion prevalent since the beginning of the 20th century that the polygonal building like an eight-sided prism (in which Split Cathedral is housed) was Diocletian’s mausoleum, the Split sphinxes are also attributed a funereal character. But in the Graeco-Roman era, as Plutarch explains (De Iside…IX), as does Clement of Alexandria (Strom. VI, 5), sphinxes watch over temples. This is one of the arguments supporting the idea of connecting the temples in the palace with the cult of the Egyptian (and Alexandrian) deities Isis and Serapis. In Diocletian’s Palace there are temples at the eastern and western sides of the Peristyle, the central open space. The temple on the eastern side is a polygonal building that has been repurposed as Split Cathedral.
To the west of the Peristyle are three temples: one, mainly well preserved, was remodelled into the baptistery of the city of Split, in colloquial terms, the Little Temple, in front of which, on the northern and southern sides, were two small temples shaped like cylinders. The temple transformed into the baptistery of Split, the Little Temple, is of the prostyle type, common in Roman religious architecture. The naos and pronaos are on a high stylobate which is accessed by steps. The entry into the crypt at the rear of the temple is small and narrow, more like a window than a door. Both temples, in their ground plan of the central type, with about the same dimensions across, had, it is hypothesised, pillars – a portico, around the naos, under which is a crypt (a well?). From the temple on the south east side of the temenos a partially preserved stylobate has remained, with multiple mouldings, visible in the ground floor of the Luccari Palace (a palace with a façade on the SW side of the Peristyle). The temple on the NE side is in existence only at the level of the floor adumbrated in the ground floor of the Grisogono-Cipci Palace (today the Luxor Café). It is important to point out that in the crypt of this temple, water welled up during the excavations.
An analogy to the spatial disposition of three temples, one of which has a rectangular and the other two circular ground plans, is provided by the complex of the Red Basilica, so called (Kizul Avlu) in Pergamon (Bergama) dedicated to the Egyptian gods. Unlike the temples in Diocletian’s Palace, those in Pergamonare of colossal sizes.The crypts and the water in the Split temples in Diocletian’s Palace are indications that the Egyptian gods were probably worshipped in them. The veneration of the holy water of the Nile is the central element in the cult of Isis and Osiris/ Serapis. A head of pink granite (fragment of a statue of a pharaoh or perhaps a sphinx) was found in front of Diocletian’s Palace where the channels of the aqueduct branch out.
All four temples in Diocletian’s Palace had crypts. The crypts below the
Little Temple (baptistery), Temple of Cybele and the octagonal one (i.e. the cathedral) are also connected with water. Particularly interesting is the crypt below the polygonal temple (the cathedral) in which there is a well. The crypt is dedicated to St Lucy. But as well as the existing well there was another, smaller, well alongside a former altar in the crypt, by which in the ground there was a rectangular claypipe from Roman times. The steps and the corridor that give access to the crypts of the Greek and Roman temples in which Egyptian deities were venerated are often joined at right angles.
Access into the crypt of St Lucy does not lie in the axis of the temple, ratherlaterally; the stairs and corridor, it has to be emphasised, are joined at a right angle, which makes the ingress of light impossible, as is the case in other crypts in temples dedicated to Egyptian (Alexandrian) deities. Today too on the Feast of St Lucy the crypt with the water that is considered miracle-working is opened for the congregation.

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