Salona, once the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, is situated near the present-day city of Solin (near Split), in one of the most beautiful bays of the East Adriatic coast. Salona was a stronghold and a harbour of the Illyrian Delmati which came early into the sphere of influence of the Greeks on the Adriatic. During the Civil War of 48 B.C., Salona supported Caesar against Pompey, which resulted in the city being given the rank of a Roman colony (Colonia Martia Julia Salona).
During the imperial era, Salona developed into a cosmopolitan centre of the Adriatic and became the center of political life in Dalmatia. The city quickly acquired Roman characteristics: walls; a forum; public baths; a theater and an amphitheatre — the most outstanding above-ground remains today.
The remains of the amphitheatre, erected in the latter half of the 2nd century AD (c. 170 AD), lay in the north-western part of the ancient city of Salona. It was built on a level ground, except for its north side which was constructed on a natural hillside. After the town walls had been built, the amphitheatre was integrated into the town fortifications.
The Salona amphitheatre is ellipsoidal in form (125×100 m). It is believed that it could have accommodated about seventeen thousand spectators who came to watch gladiators fights. The auditorium was divided into three tiers, the lower two with seats and the third, the upper one, for standing.
A cemetery for gladiators killed in the arena was found in the vicinity of the amphitheatre. From their epitaphs, one can learn about their names, origins, homelands and fighting specialities.
A marble mold depicting gladiators and bearing an inscription was also found in Salona in 1884 near the acropolis.
This artefact certainly had some connection with gladiatorial combats. Since nothing similar had been found among the ceramic and glass items, it was assumed that the mold served to imprint the bread or cakes that were sold in the Salona amphitheatre during gladiator contests, and the Miscenius Ampliatus mentioned in the inscription would be the owner of the bakery. The other assumption is that the mold was used to make metal plates commemorating gladiatorial games offered by Miscenius Ampliatus. A third assumption, made by those believing that Miscenius was a glass-blower is that the mold was used to form the bottoms of glass bottles (source).
During the persecutions of 304 A.D. that were initiated by Emperor Diocletian many Christians perished in the amphitheatre of Salona, among them Bishop Domnius, the most prominent member of the Christian community.
After the fall of the empire people of Salona fled to nearby Split and the area around Diocletian’s palace. What was left of Salona was largely destroyed during the invasions of the Avars and Slavs in the sixth and seventh centuries CE.
Salona is now part of an archaeological park. The archaeological site is open whole year to visitors, so if you are close to Split you should definitely plan a visit.
Website and info: solin-info.com
Source: Salona Colonia Martia Ivlia Valeria by Ema Visic Ljubic