Our knowledge of Diocletian’s Palace owes much to the eighteenth-century Scottish architect Robert Adam, who set out to provide a visual record of what remained of the palace, believing that contemporary European builders had much to learn from Roman construction techniques. Adam arrived in Split in 1757 with a team of draughtsmen; they spent five weeks in the city despite the hostility of the Venetian governor, who almost had them arrested as spies. This didn’t prevent Adam from enjoying the trip: “the people are vastly polite, everything vastly cheap; a most wholesome air and glorious situation” was how he summed the town up. The resulting book of engravings of the palace caused a sensation, offering inspiration to Neoclassical architects all over Britain and Europe. Adam’s work was certainly seminal in the development of the Georgian style in England, and large chunks of London, Bath and Bristol may be claimed to owe something of their space, symmetry and grace to Diocletian’s buildings in Split.
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