Where Name Split Came From?

Where Name Split Came From?

One of the most often questions visitors ask about Split is an origin of its name. No, we are not birth-place of Banana Split, nor first cases of split personality were observed here. And these are just two of many jokes and word games one can hear from any English-speaking person. I can still remember that some 20 years ago, when I was leaving Dallas, TX after six month stay, friends gave me a cake with "Ivica Splits for Split" written on it.

So, really, where name Split is coming from? For centuries, it was believed that it's been derived from Latin word for palace, marking the Diocletian's Palace. On ancient Roman map, Tabula Peutingeriana dating back to 4th century AD, location Spalato is visible, right next to much bigger and way more important Salona. It is possible that the most important source for late Roman and early medieval history, writings by Byzantine emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus wrongly concluded that this name comes from such big and important building as the Diocletian's Palace was.

However, there is another theory. It might be more likely, but it's definitely more romantic because it shows that Split was named after one particular flower.

Much before Diocletian retired in a bay which is today's Split, an ancient Greek settlement stood here, and there are evidences of toponym Aspalathos, or Spalatos. If Greeks built their settlement way before the Palace, why they called it that way? It's so simple that it must be true; the whole area of Split and Dalmatia is full of interesting plant which blossoms in spring with small, orchid-like yellow flowers. Very soon, all the slopes will be filled with it. In Croatian, this plant is called brnistra (hard to pronounce, but something like behrnystrah), in English spiny broom or Spanish broom. For out story it's more important that Greek word for brnistra is Aspalathos, or Ασπάλαθος. We can imagine that Greek settlers, after seeing carpets of yellow flowers on hills surrounding that perfectly protected bay, decided to use its name for their settlement. Of course, it's impossible to know it for sure, all these are theories made upon some evidences from the past. For example, what if some Roman or later writer just named this settlement this way, because he or she wanted to say that it was near the Palace? Maybe one day we will find out the real truth, until than let's stick to flower theory.

Over the centuries, name Aspalathos changed in many ways, there are records of Spalatum, Spalato, Spalatrum, Spalathensis, Aspalathon, Aspalatuo, Spalati, etc. It all depended who ruled this area. In 1909 city council decided that no other name but Split should be used. Only during the World War Two Italians changed it in Spalato, but very soon it became Split again. And it will remain that way.