Town Cemeteries


Roman tradition and laws ordered that the dead be buried outside towns, outside town walls. For the practical reasons of approaching the cemeteries and protecting the fertile and arable lands, cemeteries were formed along roads that exited towns, this resulted in rich and orderly cemeteries at such locations having become a common characteristic for larger Roman towns. That was the case in Salona, Zadar and Docleia, to mention those better researched. There were also smaller cemeteries on private plots of land outside towns, where such communities buried their dead. The large Salonitan necropolises were created along the ancient roads, one such cemetery, known as in horto Metrodori, stretching along the road leading from the town westward. Another cemetery was to the northwest, along the road that led from the town into the hinterland by the Klis fortress. Yet another one was along the road that led from the town in a southeasterly direction, to Epetion (Stobreč) and further eastward.

In Salona too, cemeteries, both pagan, that will be discussed here, and Christian within large cemetery churches, produced many artefacts that testify about its inhabitants wealth and culture splendidly. All those that were located near the original town core, i.e. the Roman Republic époque town, have been gradually removed by the spreading of the town westwards and eastwards, thus many remains of former gravestones and monumental graves were built into the town walls. Such is, for example, the grave monument of Pomponia Vera, now reconstructed and on display in the Split Archaeological Museum’s lapidarium.

The western cemetery

is the best studied cemetery. Research took place here as far back as 1823, and again in 1909-1910, 1969-1971 and 1986-1987. The latest studies, the most comprehensive of all, were performed systematically and expertly (B. Kirigin, I. Lokošek, J. Mardešić, S. Bilić).
To the west of the amphitheatre, outside the town, there are still visible ruins of walls built in large stone blocks (about 2.00 x 0.60 x 0.80 meters in size and larger). In the beginning of the twentieth century, it appears they stretched as far as to Kaštel Sućurac, to the locality of Stačuni (Stačuline). By the manner of building, it seems that these remains were part of the same structure. In the course of centuries, the cemetery plots changed their appearance and it is hard to say anything about the initial structure. Quite probably, within each fence, cemetery plot or unit (hortus), there was the main monument, most probably an ara, surrounded by graves of various sorts and forms.
There have been several opinions on these remains, but all of them can be reduced a little. Most authors (F. Bulić, G. Novak, M. Suić and some more after them) attributed the remains of the so-called megalithic walls of the town fortifications to the earliest Greek époque of Salona. Others, however, deem these to be grave plot fences erected on the land of a Greek of Issa or Tragurion, named Metrodor, as mentioned in an inscription. Yet others (N. Cambi) deem - correctly - this to be a necropolis along the road, divided into hortuses, fenced and arranged plots of land, where the dead were laid into graves, urns or sarcophaguses. Large stone blocks were usually above the ground level, placed on substructures built of smaller stones and bound with mortar.
A major part of the necropolis near the first town, along the westward road, was destroyed in about the year 170, when new town walls were erected. The old wall stones and other material, but also inscriptions, stele (upright stones) and sarcophaguses were built into the new defence structures. This is when the amphitheatre was incorporated into a part of the defence system.
The cemetery was used well into the fourth century when it gradually ran down and was then abandoned as the richer citizens, having accepted Christianity, started burials in new cemeteries situated around the churches.

The eastern cemetery

was sited along the road that left the town centre by the so-called Porta Caesarea and passed through areas outside the original town, to the Salon river, the area over which the town subsequently spread (the so-called urbs orientalis). The road went eastward, to the locality of Majdan, and on to Klis and into the hinterland. The new, eastern, part of the town was fortified at the end of the second century, at this side of the town there was the Porta Andetria. The cemetery was along the road for, as it can be assumed, several kilometres towards Kamenice and Bili brig. Here there were also mausoleums of rich families, steles of the Seventh Legion soldiers, graves with urns, etc., all this proving that the cemetery was used for several centuries. By the grave steles with inscriptions mentioning some soldiers of the Seventh Legion, found near the locality of Bilankuša, creation of the cemetery can be dated to the first century. Inscriptions prove that a part of the Seventh Legion, stationed in the Gardun camp near Trilj, stayed in Salona in the first half of the first century A.D.

The southeast cemetery

was sited along the road that left the town by the Porta Caesarea, separated from the one mentioned above, and went in the southeastern direction, to Epetion and further on behind Mount Mosor, to Narona and, probably, by the sea coast to Podstrana and Omiš (Oneum). Some valuable artefacts have been found there. Among them stands out on the inscription on the grave of a senior town administration officer, edilus or duumvir, Gaius Emilius Ingen, excavated in the locality of Jankovača (to the west of the present crossroad to Trogir, Klis and Solin). In this splendid cemetery plot there is an inscription that mentions, besides other information on the plot size and shape, a via munita, i.e. a road built over uneven, muddy land and backwaters beside the Ingen’s cemetery plot. The inscription is from the early first century. This detail is very valuable for discovering Salona’s urban topography since it, like some inscriptions found by the eastern necropolis road, and many other accidentally found and recorded inscriptions, provide information on the Salon’s bed in those early times, when the river flowed through the town centre. These conclusions have been confirmed by excavations performed in the eastern parts of the town in 1979.
This necropolis extended further southeastward, and graves were found also at the locality of Japirko recently, when the foundations for a new community were dug.

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