In the thirty years before Diocletian came to power, there had been 15 Roman emperors, none lasting more than five years and some a mere five months. So, when Diocletian took control and reigned for over twenty years, he brought a measure of stability to the empire. However, it came at a cost as Diocletian was determined to rid his kingdom of all opposition, including those troublesome Christians. It is estimated that 5,000 Christians were put to death under the last and greatest persecution that took place under Diocletian, which did not stop until Constantine came to power in 324.

Diocletian was born in Croatia and rose to power through the ranks of the Roman army. During his last ten years as emperor, he commissioned a palace to be built in Split, the remains of which still stand to this day. It was a vast complex, housing his private residence, a temple to the gods, and courtyards and gardens all contained within the palace walls.

The caverns underneath the palace were hollowed out for storehouses and were recently used for some scenes from the Game of Thrones series. The portico of the palace ran along the seafront of Split, the finest port on the Dalmatian coast. The entire complex housed nearly 10,000 people in its day.

After the Roman Empire fell, Split became an important part of the Venetian trading empire and its wealth and importance grew. It is now the second largest city in Croatia, after the capital, Zagreb, and one of the most popular tourist destinations along the Dalmatian coast. Extensively damaged in World War 2 and the Balkan wars, it has been rebuilt and shows little evidence of past conflict.

We like to stay in local accommodation when we can, and this time we were fortunate to secure a flat overlooking the Riva, which used to be the portico of the palace. Now cafes and restaurants line the Riva, while boats – some large enough to qualify as the ill-gotten booty of Russian oligarchs – float serenely in the harbour. Our flat consisted of three enormous rooms in what was once likely a consular office, as the British Consulate had the flat immediately next door. The location allowed for leisurely walks around the nearby palace, as well as easy access to the cafes below and morning coffees on the balcony overlooking the sea.

We had wisely decided to stay two nights in Split, knowing that we would need to time to explore the area, and were very glad we did. Our lingering post-Covid illness meant that we were easily tired, though it did not keep me from climbing to the top of the tower in the palace grounds that overlooks the harbour. Being able to relax in a room that afforded such a lovely view of the port was the reward of some careful planning in the weeks and months before we traveled and we were grateful for the rest before our final destination in Dubrovnik.