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Encyclopedia > Spalato
Split Harbour
See stock split for the investing term.

Split (Italian: Spalato) is the largest and most important city in Dalmatia, the administrative center of the Split-Dalmatia county. It is situated on a small peninsula on the eastern shores of the Adriatic Sea, in the foothills of Kozjak and Mosor mountains. With a population of 188,694 (2001) it is the second largest city in Croatia.



Although the beginnings of Split are usually linked to the building of Diocletian's Palace, there is evidence that this area was inhabited as a Greek colony even earlier. Diocletian was a Roman emperor who ruled between 284 and 305 AD and was known for his reforms and persecution of Christians. He ordered the work on the palace to begin in 293 AD in readiness for his retirement from politics in 305. The palace faces the sea on its south side and its walls are 570 to 700 feet long and 50 to 70 feet high, and it encloses an area of 9 acres.

This massive structure was long deserted when the first citizens of Split settled inside its walls. In 639 the interior was converted into a town by the citizens of Salona who escaped the destruction of their town by the Avars. Over the centuries, the city has spread out over the surrounding landscape, but even today the palace constitutes the inner core of the city, still inhabited, and full of shops, markets, squares, with even a Christian cathedral (formerly Diocletian's mausoleum) inserted in the corridors and floors of the former palace.

Through its history Split was ruled by Rome, the Byzantine Empire, and intermittently by Croatian and Hungarian nobility, until Venetian Republic took control in 1420 and held it until its own downfall in 1797, when it fell to Austria-Hungary with a brief period of Napoleonic rule (1806-1813).

During this time, Split developed into an important port city with trade routes to the interior through the nearby Klis pass. Culture flourished as well, Split being the hometown of Marko Marulic, one of the classics of Croatian literature, and a place where he wrote Judita (1501, published in 1521), widely held to be the first modern work of literature in Croatian.

Split in the 20th century

After the end of World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary the province of Dalmatia along with Split became a part of The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which in 1929 changed its name to Yugoslavia. After both Rijeka and Zadar, the two other large cities on the eastern Adriatic coast, went to Italy, Split became the most important port in Yugoslavia. The Lika railway, connecting it to the rest of the country, was completed in 1925.

During World War II parts of Dalmatia and Split itself were occupied by Italy and some of the port facilities as well as parts of the old city were damaged by Allied bombing.

After WWII Split became a part of Croatia, itself a constituent republic of the socialist federal Yugoslavia. It continued to grow and develop as an important commercial and cultural center. The city drew a large number of rural migrants who found employment in the newly built factories, a part of a large-scale industrialization effort. In the period between 1945 and 1990 the population tripled and the city expanded, taking up the whole peninsula.

Croatia became independent in 1991, and Split is now its second largest city.

Split is sometimes credited as Dalmatia's capital, but there's no such governmental unit as Dalmatia today, and the traditional capital is actually the city of Zadar.


The city is still feeling the effects of the difficult transition to market economy, worsened by the depression caused by Croatia's war of independence. In the Yugoslav era it was an important economic centre with a diverse industrial base including shipbuilding, food, chemical, plastics, clothing, paper industry etc. Today most of the socialist factories are closed down and the city has been concentrating on commerce and services, consequently leaving many ex factory workers unemployed. Despite everything, it has managed to maintain its position as an important transport, commercial and administrative center of Dalmatia, ensuring stable, though rather slow economic growth.

The prospects for the future look brighter. The city is expected to benefit from the completion of the first modern four-lane highway connecting it with the capital Zagreb and northern Croatia. The entire route will be opened in July 2005, although 98% of the highway is already fully functional and in use. Today, city's economy relies mostly on trade and tourism with some old industries undergoing revival, such as food (fishing, olive, wine production), paper, concrete, and chemical.


Split is an important transportation centre for Dalmatia and the wider region. In addition to the Zagreb-Split highway (A1), all the road traffic along the Adriatic coast on the route ZadarDubrovnik flows through the city. The airport in Kaštela is the third largest in Croatia in terms of passenger numbers (788,000 in 2004) with year-round services to Zagreb and Frankfurt in Germany and heavy tourist traffic in the summer.

Split passenger seaport is one of the largest on the eastern Adriatic coast with a daily route to Ancona in Italy; most of the middle Dalmatian islands are only reachable through the Split harbour (usually with Jadrolinija ferries). This includes both the closer islands of Brač, Hvar and Šolta, and the more distant Vis and Lastovo.


Split's most famous resident is the former tennis star Goran Ivanišević. Another rising tennis star is "Little Goran", Mario Ančić, also from Split. The local football team is Hajduk Split. Basketball is also popular, with notable players such as Toni Kukoč.

The bigest sports events to be held in Split were the Mediterranean Games in 1979 and the European Athletics Championships in 1990.

Picigin is a local sport played on several of the city beaches (Bačvice etc). It is played in shallow water with a small ball.

External link

  • Official Split web page (http://www.split.hr/)
  • Unnoficial City of Split web page (http://www.split.info)
  • Diocletian palace - in English (http://www.st.carnet.hr/split/diokl.html)

  Results from FactBites:
SPALATO - LoveToKnow Article on SPALATO (998 words)
Spalato is situated on the seaward side of a peninsula between the Gulf of Brazza and the Gulf of Salona.
Spalato has a striking sea-front, fn which the leading feature is the ruined faade of the great palace of Diocletian, to which the city owes its origin.
In 1105 Spalato became a vassal state of Hungary; in 1327 it revolted to Venice; in 1357 it returned to its allegiance.
  More results at FactBites »



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