10/17/2017 classics

Maya Locker's Summer Travel Research

Diocletian’s Mausoleum in Split:

Its Architectural Form and how to Present Cultural Heritage to the Public

The Roman emperor, Diocletian, retired to his palace in Split, Croatia in 305 CE, living alongside his own mausoleum until his death in 312. In my study, I examined the architectural form of Diocletian’s mausoleum in comparison with imperial mausolea in Rome. I then conducted a museology experiment on how best to present this information and cultural heritage to the public.

The first phase of the project was an examination of how the emperor’s final resting place changed when the seat of power moved from Rome to the provinces. While analyzing the main square of the palace, which locals call the Peristyle, I found that the area encompassing the mausoleum, the emperor’s private living quarters, and the Temple of Jupiter was deliberately separated from the rest of the palace. A free-standing colonnade may serve as a temenos, or boundary line for a religious sanctuary. While it was the tradition for Roman emperors to be deified after death, the creation of a religious sanctuary among imperial tombs was not done in the city of Rome. Furthermore, while the architectural footprint of Diocletian’s mausoleum is similar to the mausoleum of the emperor, Augustus, Diocletian’s mausoleum has the aesthetic of a Roman temple, not a burial monument.

    One of the most pressing issues museums and archaeological sites face today is how to properly present information and cultural heritage to the public. In the second phase of my project I examined whether the public would better absorb information through a creative narrative rather than a compilation of facts. I presented my findings about Diocletian’s mausoleum to different groups of people in these two ways. The first group read a piece that described the study in a traditional, academic fashion, while the second group was presented the same information in narrative form. Each participant was asked to talk about how they related to the piece he or she was given to read.


  • Entrance to Diocletian’s private quarters, late 3rd c. CE
  • Old wall of the palace, late 3rd c. CE
  • Temple to Jupiter, late 3rd c. CE; Became a baptistry dedicated to St. John the Baptist in the ca. 7th c. CE.
  • Black granite sphinx from the age of Thutmose III, imported to Diocletian’s Palace from Egypt at the end of the 3rd c. CE. Like Diocletian's statues and buildings (mausoleum and temple) that were either destroyed or Christianized, the sphinxes were destroyed for the same reason. People thought that looking at a sphinx in the eyes would blind them. Only two sphinxes remain out of the original twelve.
  • View of the Split harbor from the old walls of the palace.
  • Entrance to Diocletian’s Mausoleum, late 3rd c, CE; Bell tower added when the mausoleum became a cathedral in the ca. 7th c. CE.
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