Edward Augustus Freeman.

Sketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice online

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as enthusiastic now as I was on the evening when I first saw it.

When I was last at Spalato, a process was going on which always makes
one tremble. The peristyle and the inside of the mausoleum were
surrounded by scaffoldings. As for the mausoleum, it was perhaps a
mistake ever to make it into a church; but, as it has been made into a
church, the additions and changes which were needed for that purpose
have become part of the history, and ought not to be meddled with. It
must always have been nearly the smallest, and quite the darkest,
metropolitan church in Christendom; but that it is so is part of the
wonder of the place. And, if some of the details were restored in
plaster at the time of a certain famous royal visit, it seems hardly
worth while to knock them away, with the chance of knocking away some
of the genuine stone along with them. That royal visit is commemorated
in a tablet at the end of the peristyle, which professes great loyalty
to a personage described as "Franciscus Primus, Austriæ Imperator et
Dalmatiæ Rex." The man so labelled in Diocletian's own house had been
the last successor to Diocletian's empire.

In the changes which are being made in the peristyle, it is said that
this tablet was first taken down as being modern, and then set up
again, because official loyalty overrode all considerations of what
was old and what was new. But some care should be taken in removing
what is modern in such a place as Spalato. It is very well to get rid
of some mean excrescences; but, where the arches have been filled up
by Venetian buildings of respectable work, it would seem to be a great
mistake to open them, to say nothing of the chance that such opening
may endanger the columns and arches themselves. Though built up, they
are not so blocked as to hinder a full study of their details. Indeed
the building up, both of the arches of the peristyle and of the
heavier arches in the other parts of the palace, is really a part of
the history which should be preserved. It marks the distinctive
character of Spalato as the house which became a city.

That city, as it now stands, stretches, I need hardly say again, a
long way beyond the bounds of the ancient house. Yet one cannot
conceive Spalato without Diocletian's palace. It is something much
more than the chief object and ornament of Spalato, as this or that
building is the chief object and ornament of any other city. It is
more than the castle or monastery round which a city has often grown.
It is not merely that, but for the existence of the palace, the city
would never have come into being; the palace still is the city in a
sense in which we could hardly use those words of any other building
elsewhere. Yet there are things to see at Spalato besides the palace.
The museum is eminently a thing to see; but then it is within the
palace, and moreover, though it is locally placed at Spalato, it
belongs historically to Salona. There is a good deal of pretty
Venetian work scattered up and down, both within the walls of
Diocletian and without them. The piazza just outside the gate of iron,
where the traveller will most likely seek his breakfast, his coffee,
and his maraschino, would have some attractions in itself, if it did
not lie just outside the gate of iron. The eye naturally turns to the
gate, and to the little campanile perched on it; otherwise it might
very fairly rest on the Venetian _loggia_, with its columns and their
wide - yet not sprawling - pointed arches. It might rest none the less
because the building so strongly suggests that class of English
town-halls or market-houses of which I said something when speaking of
Udine. The octagonal tower too, and the remains of the Venetian
fortifications generally, are worth a glance. The difficulty is, in
the home of Jovius, to give even a glance to anything but the works of

The mausoleum, now the once metropolitan church, and the temple, now
the baptistery, have both of them become churches by accident. Besides
these, the first impression is that Spalato has little to show in the
ecclesiastical line. And further examination will not take away that
impression as to quantity, though it will modify it somewhat as to
quality. The little desecrated church which in 1875 I saw just within
the palace walls, embodied in military buildings, I could not find in
1881. I was told that it had been burned, and there certainly was a
burned building thereabouts; but I did not feel quite sure that I had
hit upon the right site, and whether the church that I was looking for
might not still be there, imprisoned in some of the queer devices of
Austrian occupation. But in 1881 I and my companion lighted by way of
recompense on one most curious building which neither of us had seen
in earlier visits. This is the little church of Saint Nicolas in the
suburb on the slope of the hill. It is very small, of a rude kind of
Byzantine type, with four of the very strangest columns I ever saw.
Save that they have a mighty _entasis_, they really have more of an
Egyptian cut than anything Greek, Roman, Gothic, or any of the forms
to which Aryan eyes are used. The Franciscan church at the foot of the
hill, with its cloister, would be worth a glance for its own sake; and
it is worth much more than a glance on account of the precious
sarcophagus which the cloister shelters. But this, like the objects
in the museum, is an outlying fragment of Salona, to be talked of
there. To the modern church on the other side of the city it would be
only kindness to shut our eyes. But we cannot help looking at it; it
aims at the style of the place, and clearly fancies itself to be
Romanesque, if not Roman. We look at its tower, and we look back to
the mighty campanile within the walls. Somehow the fourteenth century
could adapt itself to the fourth; but the nineteenth cannot adapt
itself to the fourteenth. Yet it is something for Spalato to say that
it contains the noblest and the most ignoble of all towers that do
profess and call themselves Romanesque.

Eitelberger has well hit off the character of the three chief
Dalmatian cities in three pithy epithets. Zara is _bureaukratisch_;
Spalato is _bürgerlich_; Ragusa is _alt-aristokratisch_. The burghers
seem to make more progress than either the foreign officials or the
native patricians. Both better quarters and better dinners can be had
at Spalato in 1881 than were to be had there in 1875. In 1881 we can
walk on shore, while in 1877 boats were needed. And in 1881 the
railway - a wonder in Dalmatia - was ready to carry us to Salona or even
to Sebenico, but not to Traü. On the other hand in some other
respects, if not Spalato, at least its foreign rulers, seem to advance
backwards, if they advance at all. Those who dwell under the shadow of
Apostolic Majesty are used to the daily suppression of such newspapers
as venture to proclaim inconvenient truths. At Spalato that Apostolic
and constitutional power has gone a step further by suppressing the
municipality. With us, when a Stewart king suppressed an ancient
corporation, he at least set up another of a new Stewart fashion. But
at Spalato the _podestà_ - the _potestas_ still lingers in Dalmatia,
while in Italy only syndics are tolerated - and the other elders of the
city seem to have become altogether things of the past, no less than
Jovius and his Empire.


1875 - 1877 - 1881.

The strictly classical student will perhaps be offended if any one, on
reading the name at the head of this article, should ask him where the
place is, and how its name is to be pronounced. Salona, he will
answer, is in Dalmatia, and how can there be more than one way of
sounding the _omega_ in the second syllable? And so far he will be
right. The Salona of which we speak is in Dalmatia, and, as its most
usual Greek forms are [Greek: Salôna] and [Greek: Salônai], there can
be no doubt as to the rights of that particular _omega_. But those who
have gone a little deeper into the geography of south-eastern Europe
will know that, besides the Dalmatian Salona, there is another within
the Greek kingdom, which has taken the place of the Lokrian Amphissa.
As we write the names of the two, we make no difference between them,
and we fear that most Englishmen will make as little difference in
sounding the two names as in writing them. Yet, as Boughton in
Northamptonshire and Boughton in Kent are, by those who have local
knowledge, sounded in two different ways, so it is with the Lokrian
and the Dalmatian Salona. [Greek: Sálona] and [Greek: Salôna] differ
to the eye; and, among those with whom Greek is a living tongue, they
differ to the ear also. But it is not with the Lokrian Sálona, but
with the Dalmatian Salóna, that we are here concerned. We need not
disturb the feelings of the late Bishop Monk, whose one notion of
accentual reading was that those who follow it must "make some strange
false quantities." The classical purist may make the _omega_ in the
Dalmatian Salóna as long as he pleases. Only, if he pronounces the
Lokrian Sálona in the same fashion, he will wound the ears of those to
whom the chief notion of (so-called) quantitative reading is that
those who follow it must make some strange false accents.

At Salona we are in one of the subject lands of Venice, but we cannot
say that we are in one of her subject cities. For Salona, as a city,
had passed away before the Serene Republic bore rule on these coasts,
in truth before the Serene Republic was, while the lagoons still
sheltered only those few settlers whom the minister of Theodoric
likened to waterfowl on their nests. As a city, it passed away as few
cities have passed away. Others indeed have perished more thoroughly;
of some the very sites have been lost; but there is no city whose name
survives which has left so little trace of what it was in the time of
its greatness. For it is not like those cities whose very name and
memory have perished, which are wholly ruined or buried, which have no
modern representatives, or whose modern representatives bear wholly
different names. Salona is still an existing name, marked on at least
the local map; but, instead of the head of Dalmatia, one of the great
cities of the Roman Empire, a city which was said to have reached half
the size and population of the New Rome itself, we find only a few
scattered houses, which hardly deserve the name of a village. By the
side of modern Salona, modern Aquileia looks flourishing, and modern
Forum Julii might pass for a great city. For Aquileia is not wholly
dead as long as the patriarchal basilica still stands, if only to
discharge the functions of a village church. But at Salona the
traveller hardly notices whether there be any church in use or not. Of
modern objects the one which is most likely to catch his eye is the
building which at least proclaims, in the name of "Caffè Diocleziano,"
that Salona in her fall has not forgotten the man who commonly passes
for her greatest son, who, according to some, was her second founder,
and who, in any case, was her most renowned neighbour. By a strange
piece of good luck, the citizen and sovereign of Salona who came back
to spend his last days in his own land had reared at no great distance
from her the house which, when Salona fell, stood ready to receive
her inhabitants, and to take her place as a new city.

There is a marked difference between the position of the older and
that of the newer city. Spalato stands indeed on a bay, but it is a
bay which, in that region of channels and islands, may pass for the
open sea. Salona lay at the innermost point of the deep gulf which
bears her own name, the gulf which forms one side of the peninsula on
which Spalato stands, and which is shielded from the main sea by the
island of Bua. It is curious to compare the real geography with the
way in which the land and sea are laid down in the Peutinger Table,
where Bua seems nearer to the coast of Italy than it is to Salona. Sir
Gardner Wilkinson appositely quotes the lines of Lucan: -

"Qua maris Hadriaci longas ferit unda Salonas,
Et tepidum in molles Zephyros excurrit Iader."

_Longæ_ certainly well expresses the way in which the city must have
spread itself along the mouth of the river, and the northern side of
the bay. And, more than this, the idea of length must have been deeply
impressed on Salona by the long walls which, as we shall presently
see, yoked the city to something or other beyond her own immediate
defences. Salona, like most of the older cities, was not at all like
one of our square _chesters_ which rose up at once out of some
military necessity. The Dalmatian capital had grown up bit by bit,
and its walls formed a circuit almost as irregular as that of Rome
herself. The site was a striking one. As we set forth from the
comparatively flourishing daughter to visit the fallen mother, the
road from Spalato leads us over a slight hill, from the descent of
which we look on the bay with its background of mountains, a view
which brings before us two strongly contrasted sites of human
habitation. In advance of the mountain range stands the stronghold of
Clissa, so famous in later wars - a stronghold most tempting in a
distant view, but utterly disappearing when we come near to it. The
seat of the Uscocs has nothing to show but its site and an ugly
fortress; yet the hill is well worth going up, for the site and the
view from it, a most instructive geographical prospect over mainland,
sea, and islands. We turn to our Imperial guide, and we find that
[Greek: Kleisa] was so called because it kept the key of the passage
over the mountains. It was the [Greek: Kleisoura], so called
[Greek: dia to synkleiein tous dierchomenous ekeithen]. He has to
tell us how it was taken by invaders, whom he speaks of as the Slaves
who were called Avars ([Greek: Slaboi, hoi kai Abaroi kaloumenoi]).
The ethnological confusion is like that of another self-styled
Imperial personage, who thought that he could get at a Tartar by
scratching a Russian. But in both cases the confusion is instructive,
as pointing to the way in which Slavonic and Turanian nations were
mixed up together, as allies and as enemies, in the history of these
lands. Far below, on the bosom of the bay, a group of small islands
are covered by a small village, which seems to float on the water, and
which well deserves its name of _Piccola Venezia_. Between the height
and the sea lay Salona, on a slight elevation gently sloping down to
the water; here, as so often on the Dalmatian coast, it needs somewhat
of an effort to believe that the water is the sea. To the right of the
road, we see the ruins of the aqueduct which brought water to the
house of Diocletian - an aqueduct lately repaired, and again set to
discharge its ancient duties. Ancient fragments of one kind or another
begin to line the road; an ancient bridge presently leads us across
the main stream of the Giadro, Lucan's Iader, which we might rather
have looked for at Zara. We mark to the right the marshy ground
divided by the many channels of the river; we pass by a square castle
with turreted corners, in which a mediæval archbishop tried to
reproduce the wonder of his own city; and we at last find ourselves
close by one of the gates of Salona, ready to begin our examination of
the fallen city in due order.

The city distinctly consists of two parts. A large suburb has at some
time or another been taken in within the walls of the city. This is
plain, because part of a cross wall with a gate still remains, which
must have divided the space contained within the outer walls into two.
This wall runs in a direction which, without professing to be
mathematically correct, we may call north and south. That is, it runs
from the hills down towards the bay or the river. Now, which was the
elder part of the two? that to the east or that to the west? In other
words, which represents the præ-Roman city, and which represents its
enlargement in Roman times? By putting the question in this shape, we
do not mean to imply that any part of the existing walls is of earlier
than Roman date. The Roman city would arise on the site of the earlier
settlement, and, as it grew and as its circuit was found too narrow,
it would itself be further enlarged. The cross wall with the gate in
it must of course have been at some time external; it marks the extent
of the city at the time when it was built; but in which way has the
enlargement taken place? It used to be thought that the eastern, the
most inland division, was the elder, and that the city was extended to
the west. And it certainly at first sight looks in favour of this view
that, in the extreme north-west corner, an amphitheatre has clearly
been worked into the wall, exactly in the same way in which the
_Amphitheatrum Castrense_ at Rome is worked into the wall of Aurelian.
How so keen an observer as Sir Gardner Wilkinson could have doubted
about this building being an amphitheatre, still more how his doubts
ended in his positively deciding that it was not, seems really
wonderful. It has all the unmistakeable features of an amphitheatre,
and we can only suppose that a good deal has been brought to light
since Sir Gardner Wilkinson's visit, and that what is seen now was not
so clearly to be seen then. As amphitheatres were commonly without the
walls, this certainly looks as if the eastern part were the old city,
and as if those who enlarged it to the west had made use of the
amphitheatre in drawing out their new line of fortification, exactly
as Aurelian in the like case made use of amphitheatre, aqueducts,
anything that came conveniently in his way. But, on the other hand,
Professor Glavinivc, whom we have already referred to when speaking
of Spalato, and whose keener observation has come usefully in the wake
of the praiseworthy researches of Dr. Carrara, has pointed out with
unanswerable force that the gate has two towers on its eastern side,
showing that that side was external, and that therefore the western
part must be the older and the eastern the addition. This is evidence
which it is impossible to get over. Clearly then the space to the west
of it was once the whole city, and the far greater space to the east
once lay beyond the walls. The gate must have been a grand one; but
unluckily its arches have perished. There was a central opening,
along which the wheel-tracks may still be traced, and a passage for
foot-passengers on each side. The large rectangular blocks of
limestone of which it is built have been encrusted in a singular way
with some natural formation, which might almost be mistaken either for
plaster or for some peculiarity of the stone itself. In the northern
wall of the eastern part is an inscription commemorating the building
or repair of the wall in the time of the Antonines. This by itself
would not be conclusive; for the wall might very well have been
rebuilt in their day and the city might have been enlarged to the west
in a still later time. But the position of the gate is decisive, and
the position of the amphitheatre is a difficulty that can easily be
got over. If, besides the great enlargement to the east, we also
suppose an enlargement to the west which would take the amphitheatre
within the city walls, this will be quite enough.

We may rule then that the Illyrian city, the earlier Roman city, stood
to the west of the cross wall, and that it was enlarged at some time
earlier than the reigns of the Antonines by taking in an eastern
suburb larger than the original town. The walls of both parts may be
traced through a large part of their extent. The outer gate to the
east was flanked by octagonal towers, and both a square and an octagon
tower may be traced near the north-east corner. But the most
remarkable thing about the walls of Salona is that, besides the walls
of the city itself, there are long walls, like those of Athens and
Megara, reaching from the western side of the city for a mile and more
nearly along the present road to Traü. They have not been traced to
the end; but there can be no doubt that they were built to make long
Salona yet longer by joining the town to some further point of the
coast. Nothing is more natural; the water of the bay by Salona itself
is very shallow; when the city became one of the great maritime
stations of the world, it was an obvious undertaking to plant a dock
at some point of the coast where the water was deeper. And to one who
comes to Salona almost fresh from the hill-cities of central Italy,
from the strongholds of Volscians, Hernicans, and Old-Latins, from
Cora and Signia and Alatrium, it becomes matter of unfeigned surprise
to find Dalmatian antiquaries speaking of these walls as "Cyclopean."
The name "Cyclopean," though as old as Euripides, is as dangerous as
"Pelasgian" or "Druid;" but, if it means anything, it must mean the
first form of wall-building, the irregular stones heaped together,
such as we see in the oldest work at Cora and Signia. Here we have
nothing of the kind. The blocks are very large, and the outer surface
is not smooth; but all of them are carefully cut to a rectangular
shape, and they are laid with great regularity. There seems no kind of
temptation to attribute them to any date earlier than the Roman
conquest of Illyricum. The style of building is simply that which is
made natural by the kind of stone. And the same kind of construction,
though with smaller blocks, is that which prevails throughout the
walls of Salona, except where later repairs have clearly been made.
This has happened with the outer wall to the west, where some earlier
fragments have even been built in. Otherwise, by far the greater part
of the walls, towers, and gates of Salona, not forgetting a gate which
has been made out in the long walls themselves, all belong to one
general style of masonry.

* * * * *

Within the walls of Salona the general effect is somewhat strange. The
city is pierced by the road from Spalato to Traü; in these later times
it has been further pierced by the railway - strange object in
Dalmatia, strangest of all at Salona - which starts from Spalato, but
which does not find its way to Traü. The greater part of the space is
still covered with vineyards and olive-trees; systematic digging would
bring a vast deal to light; but a good deal positively has been made
out already. The amphitheatre has been already spoken of; the road
cuts through the theatre. But, as becomes the history of the city, the
greater part of the discoveries belong to Christian times, to the
days when the bishopric of Salona was a post great enough to be
employed to break the fall of deposed emperors. But we may doubt
whether the head church of Salona, the church which held the episcopal
chair of Glycerius, has yet been brought to light.

Near the north-western corner of the eastern division of the city the
foundation of a Christian baptistery has been uncovered. The site of
the baptistery, according to all rule, must be near to the site of the
great church of the city. Now the baptistery stands near the wall; is
it fanciful to think that at Salona, as well as at Rome, it was not
thought prudent in the earliest days of the establishment of
Christianity to build churches in the more central and prominent parts
of the city? The baptistery of Salona keeps - the great basilica must
therefore have kept - under the shadow of the wall of the extended
city, exactly as the Lateran basilica and baptistery do at Rome. Of
the baptistery it is easy to study the plan, as the foundations and
the bases of the columns, both of the building itself and the portico
in front of it, are plainly to be seen. Many of their splendid
capitals are preserved among the rich treasures of the museum at
Spalato. These are of a Composite variety, in which the part of the
volute is played by griffins, while the lower part of the capital is
rich with foliage of a Byzantine type. West of the baptistery, but
hardly placed in any relation to it, are the remains of a small
church, which seems to have been a square, with columns to the east
and an apse to the north. Whatever this building was, it surely can
never have been the great church of Salona. That must have been a
basilica of the first class; and we may hope that future diggings may
bring that to light also. But outside the city to the north,
successive diggings have made precious discoveries in the way of
Christian burying-places and churches. Since the last researches have
been made, it is perfectly clear that here, outside the walls, like
the basilicas of the apostles at Rome, there stood a church of

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanSketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice → online text (page 10 of 23)