Split (Spalato), Croatia

Reference work entry


Split lies on the Adriatic coast and is the principal city of the Dalmatia region of Croatia. Originally centred around the palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, it suffered major damage from Allied and German attack during World War II. However, most of its historical districts were left undamaged and the well-preserved Roman and medieval buildings are now a popular tourist draw.


Emperor Diocleatian, infamous for his persecution of Christians, constructed a palace in the Bay of Aspalathos between AD 295–305 to serve as a retirement home. It consisted of two well-fortified sections: living quarters for troops and servants; and a complex incorporating residences for the emperor, an ornate courtyard and several temples and baths. In the early seventh century Avars and Slavs raided the nearby town of Salona and its residents fled to the palace, constructing new homes within the palace walls.

Split came under Byzantine rule although it briefly fell to Venice at the end of the tenth century and then to the Croatian king around 1070. In 1105 it became a free commune under the jurisdiction of the Hungarian-Croatian rulers and entered a phase of economic and cultural prosperity. Venice held the city between 1420 and 1797 and Split found itself regularly caught up in the disputes between Venice and Turkey, resulting in a period of relative decline.

The Venetians were supplanted by the Austro-Hungarians who set about expanding the city limits. Industrial growth followed and the harbour made Split an important trade hub. In addition its importance as an administrative centre increased. The French, under Napoléon, replaced Austria-Hungary and ruled between 1808–13, but Split returned to the Hapsburgs until 1918, when it became part of the new Yugoslavian state.

The city expanded again in the inter-war period and its population swelled. The harbour area was partially destroyed during World War II, but the area centred around the Roman palace escaped. The harbour was repaired during the communist era and new sections constructed. In 1992 the city left Yugoslavia when Croatia declared independence.

Modern City

Modern Split is an industrial powerhouse. Major industries include plastics, metal work, chemicals and port related activities. The region around the city is agricultural. Split has good rail and road connections, an international airport and ferry services to Italy and Greece.

Places of Interest

Tourist attractions are based around the old palace, partly a museum (with fine examples of Roman, medieval, Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture) but still the city’s vibrant centre. The numerous museums and galleries include a permanent exhibition of the sculptures of Ivan Mestrovi.

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Personalised recommendations