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Ancient Roman Temples

I come now to the Temples, which are placed in two areas adjoining to the palace, and are seen on each side of the Peristylium, through its rows of granite columns. Such attention to the honor and worship of the Gods, is suitable to the character which is given of Diocletian by ancient authors.

The square Temple (g), which was situated on the west of the Peristylium, was dedicated to Aesculapius (i). If we describe it according to the terms of ancient Architecture, it was Prostylos, Tetrastylos, and its intercolumnations were Comething more than Syftylos; that is to say, the columns are all on one principal front; there are four of them on that front, and the intercolumnations are about two and a fifth diameters. The ascent to it was by a stair of fifteen steps, an uneven number being generally used in the Temples of the Ancients, that beginning to move with the right foot, they might of course place it first upon the uppermost step, in order to enter the Temple, a form which they accounted respectful in approaching a Deity (2).

This Temple, like many other of the ancient ones, received no light but by the door. Beneath it are vaults of great strength; its roof is an arch adorned with sunk pannels of beautiful workmanship, and its walls are of a remarkable thickness. The Ancients were extremely Solicitous to render their religious edifices as durable as possible, and the effects of this attention are now visible. This Temple still remains almost entire, and is at present employed by the Spalatrines as a Baptistery.

On the other side of the Peristlylium stands the Octagonal Temple (h), dedicated to Jupiter (I), who was worshipped by Diocletian with peculiar veneration, and in honor of whom he assumed the surname of Jovius. This Temple is of that kind, which Vitruvius calls Perypteros, i. e. Surrounded with one row of columns, having an intercolumnation or space between them and the wall. Its intercolumnations are more than Areostyles, i. e. upwards of four diameters. It is lighted by an arched window over the door, and is vaulted beneath like that of Aesculapius. The dome over it is of bricks constructed in a very singular and ingenious manner, which, together with its walls, are of such solidity as to have survived, almost unhurt, the injuries of so many ages; and I have even observed several of the tiles upon the roof still distinctly impressed with the Roman stamp, S.P.Q.R. It is at present the Cathedral Church of Split, and is consecrated to the Virgin Mary, and St. Domrnius.

This Temple is situated nearer to the Peristylium than the other; the reason of which seems to have been in order to gain space behind it for a Sacellum (i), where sacrifices might be offered on an altar looking towards the East, which, according to Vitruvius, was a circumstance not to be dispensed with.

The common opinion at Split, which has been received without examination by several travellers, is, that there were four Temples within the precincts of the Palace. That apartment which for many reasons I have considered as the Vestibulum of the Palace, has hitherto been taken for one of these Temples. Of the fourth no vestige whatever is to be found, though I searched for it with great care. Were the controversy of much importance, it might easily be shown, that there is no good authority for supposing there were formerly four Temples; but that in all probability none ever belonged to this Palace but the two which now remain.

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