National Geographic : 1946 Nov
Diocletian's Palace at Spalato BY THE TIME of Septimius Severus, early in the third century of our era, the entire Palatine was covered with a maze of buildings for the Emperor's public and private use. But at length there ruled an emperor who, after tasting its splendors, decided not to live on the Palatine or even in Rome. Below the gray limestone mountains of his native Dal matian coastland, Diocletian tried to forget the cares and fatigue of having been the ruler of the world for 20 years. A soldier of extremely humble origin, he was close to his fortieth birthday when his soldiers proclaimed him emperor and elevated him into the supreme power over the body of the commander of the Praetorian Guard he had killed with his own hands. That was in A. D. 284. Soon Diocletian had reorganized the entire system of government for the vast Roman Empire by dividing it into four regions and putting each under its own ruler, installed in a separate capital city. The Emperor himself still kept the ultimate authority, which he strengthened, outwardly at least, by introducing the ceremonials of the Orient and en throning himself like a god aloof from the eyes of the people. Not since the mad Caligula had a Roman emperor in sisted so strongly on his own divinity while still alive. This policy in Diocletian, however, was calculated, not dementia praecox. The senate met only to ratify his orders, and all semblance of democracy vanished from the State. Fortunately, Diocletian was an able administrator with an extreme sense of responsibility. On the basis of his lifelong military experience he expanded the armed forces and reorganized the system oflegionary occupation ofthe provinces. He changed themonetary basis for the coinage, suppressed trusts and monopolistic unions, contested graft and corruption, and in A. D.301 fought athreat ofinflation by proclaiming an elaborate schedule of ceiling prices on food and daily essentials as well as on wages. Worn out with unremitting effort, hevoluntarily retired before his sixtieth birthdaytoaquiet life inhis native Dal matian land, still possessedofsufficient wealth and authority to dwell in kingly fashioninahuge fortified palace which his Syrian architect built forhim atthe edge ofthe Adriatic. There he lived perhaps foreight, perhaps for eleven years, and there he died and wasburied inthe crypt of atemple within his palace. His great scheme for combating inflation with ceiling prices had already collapsed,having proved afailure because, economists say, it cut toocrudely across the workings of the normal forces of supply and demand. His wonderful palace on the Adriatic stillstands. Its plan, like that of a fortified Roman military encamp ment, was roughly a seven-acre square subdivided into four smaller squares by a pair ofprincipal avenues running from the mid points of the four sides and intersecting atthe exact center of the area. Of the four gates, named inOriental man ner after the four elements-gold, silver, copper, and iron the modern visitor to Yugoslavia's Split may still see the remains of three and mayenter the oldest part oftown through the best preserved, the Golden Gate (page 603). The temple tomb of Diocletianisthe cathedral church ofSplit.