Sunday in Salona

After church today, on the advice of our new friend Matt from sv Lia, we roamed over to explore the remains of an ancient colosseum in Salona, just outside Split and then up to the Klis Fortress. 


In it’s 2nd century AD heyday, this amphitheater could hold 17,000 spectators who would come to watch gladiators chop each other up. This was a great way to distract the populace from the problems they had at the time—things like hyper-inflation, the stress of understanding the Roman numeral system, and the fact that their megalomaniac leader Diocletian, banned them from wearing purple. Who cares about this kinda stuff when there’s a gladiator fight going on?


If you bought the cheap seats up at the top of the amphitheater, you had to stand the whole time to watch the games—but we suppose not seeing the carnage up close might have compensated the folks in the cheap section who trudged home after the games with sore feet.


The emperor Diocletian, or “Lord and Master” as he liked to be called, had the poshest palace built in what is now Split. Besides being known for his lavish eccentricities, he is also known as one of the bloodiest persecutors of Christians. And here at this amphitheater many were martyred. 


Back in 1871, they uncovered 16 sarcophagi believed by some to house the bodies of martyred Christians. These were found buried about 8 feet under ground along the road leading from the amphitheater to the city of Salona. After the city’s collapse, the sarcophagi were broken and the contents robbed. You can see the brutal way the grave robbers smashed their way into these stone coffins. Now they sit empty with thick cobwebs guarding the barren tombs. 


Eventually, Diocletian’s health and energy started to wane and he became the first emperor to enact a retirement plan for himself and voluntarily stepped down from his rule–martyring people must be an exhausting business.


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