Diocletian’s Palace

Yesterday I had the good fortune to spend the day in Split and in particular Diocletian’s Palace. I won’t go into the background history, suffice to say the palace was built between 295 AD and 305 AD by, and for, Diocletian. Today the palace is still very much in everyday use, by citizens of Split and by the tourists that visit but is protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of seven protected sites in Croatia.

Above, a the palace as it was originally built as drawn by archaeologist Ernest Hébrard in 1912.

During the Medieval period a significant portion of the palace was replaced or absorbed by Medieval buildings. However, much remains from Diocletian’s period. With a careful observations, and the services of a guide, many interesting Roman period structures and architecture are visible, even to the untrained eye.

Below, a portion of the Peristyle leading to Diocletian’s living areas. His mausoleum is on the left and the Temple of Jupiter to the right. The sandstone is from the island of Brac, which I’ve since passed, while the columns are of granite and imported from Egypt by Diocletian.

You may have noticed a sphinx in the top left. There are three in the palace today and each are 3500 years old. Here is another view.

The palace is rectangular approximately 160m by 190m and is divided into a garrison and administrative area, perhaps half the area. The remaining area is divided between a religious area and Diocletian’s living and sleeping areas, which face the sea.

Above, is a section of Diocletian’s living area which originally provided excellent views of the Adriatic and today faces the port of Split. Below, a view across the remains of Diocletian’s dining area and in the distance the octagonal mausoleum of Diocletian.

Diocletian’s mausoleum has been occupied by the Christians and as such was converted into a church. Despite this the mausoleum, inside and out, remains impressive. A section of the floor has been exposed to show the original floor 17cm below the current. In the detailing in the photo below that running around the top, broken by a window, is Roman and depicts, among other things, a hunting scene.

Likewise, the Temple of Jupiter has found a new Christian role.

Excavations under the palace since the 1950s, and more recently, have exposed the basement areas. These areas mimic the original structures above and have provided archaeologists excellent information on the structures. Some, such as this one are massive.

There are several walking tours of the area palace and I recommend you taking one. They are extremely inexpensive. Mine was around 100 Croatian Kuna, which is around twenty or so New Zealand dollars. A ticket to the underground areas was from memory around half this but unfortunately had poor signage. Some tours include this area and I wish I had found one. Either way don’t miss it! Entry to the cathedral, mausoleum and Temple of Jupiter cost was 50 Croatian Kuna and is also excellent.

There is a small museum in the palace area. Significant exhibits include Diocletian’s marble dining table, which you must see. In addition are many examples of edged weapons and firearms of Medieval, Venetian and Turkish origin. Useful maps here include the late baroque layout of the defences of Split from around 1660. Unfortunately, when I visited the English translations supposedly available through wifi access, were unreliable.

If you are in Croatia make sure Diocletian’s Palace is on your list.

Kolin Battlefield 

Being in Prague recently I took the opportunity to visit the battlefield of Kolin. As it transpired I was on the battlefield on the 13th of June, just short of the anniversary. Unlike some who have visited this battlefield as part of a tour, I was visiting by myself so ensured I had a reasonable selection of maps. In particular I had “Fredrick the Great A Military Life” by Christopher Duffy and “Kolin 1757” by Simon Millar. For completeness I also took a copy of Frank Chadwick’s Kolin Scenario map designed for use with  Volley & Bayonet. I found Millar’s maps particularly useful on the day.

I approached the battlefield along the the Kaiser Strasse and visible on the right, in a commanding position, was the spire of Krzeczor church and the Austrian monument. The ground sloped upwards from the Kaiser Strasse to the Austrian positions. Turning off the Kaiser Strasse it was a strait forward process to drive into Krzeczor. A short walk then took me to the Austrian monument. It was at this point it became very apparent how significant the slope was. Unfortunately, the picture doesn’t do the justice to this slope. You can however see vehicles on the Kaiser Strasse.

Then above this sits the earthworks and on the earthworks the monument.

Above, looking back towards the village of Krzeczor, distant right, but obscured. Below the monument.

Walking back to Krzeczor even today the church remains a significant building. While today it is little worse for wear it sits in a commanding position and I was struck by its defensible nature, especially considering the stone wall that surrounds it.

Below, a view from the grounds of the church looking towards the Kaiser Strasse. Just visible in the foreground is a portion of the churchyard wall.

The 800 or so Croats had a strong position, reinforced by additional infantry it would have been extremely difficult to secure.

Now, back to the monument. Of particular interest was that beyond the monument the hill flattened effectively creating a plateau. There is a slight rise towards the Krzeczor Hill summit, illustrated in Millar’s book, but it was a minimal slope compared to that running from the Kaiser Strasse to the village of Krzeczor and monument. I’ve tried to illustrate this in the next two photos.

Above, a view on the plateau from the road between the villages of Krzeczor and Bristivi. Careful inspection will show the rear of the Austrian monument, an eagle wings extended, sitting high among the left wooded area. Krzeczor village is on the right obscured. The Kaiser Strasse is completely obscured from view on the plateau.

Now, the Prussians advanced across this ground, having driven the Croats from their positions, crossed the road where I’m standing and engaged Wied’s Austrians in the distance of the photo below. Again there is almost no level change here.

To the east of these photos is the location of the Oak Woods. As Millar details in his book the Oak Wood has gone. However, driving east from Krzeczor village to Radowesnitz village the terrain is very rolling with multiple undulations and extremely limited line of sight. Millar’s map suggests some undulation but it is if anything understated.

A road from Krzeczor village tracks directly from the rear of the village towards the west end of Krzeczor Hill and behind the Austrians line in the photo above. There is a very gentle slope west to the top of Krzeczor Hill, but on reaching the top, today marked by some trees, the ground sloped off quickly to the west.

From here the Przerovsky Hill (right centre) can be clearly rising in the photo below, This hill marks the western end of the Austrian infantry line. Note the road in the left going downhill towards Libodritz.

The ground from Bristivi through Chotzemitz and Brzesau is also on a slope and uphill from the Kaiser Strasse. However Chotzemitz and Brzesau are effectively hidden from the Kaiser Strasse by intervening ground. This is not apparent on any of the maps.

Przerovsky Hill, west of Krzeczor Hill, is a dominating feature. However the road that connects Chotzemitz to Libodritz is itself steep and would have been a considerable obstacle to advance over. On Duffy and Millar’s map the ridge is extended, on Chadwicks interpretation it isn’t, though in my opinion it needs to be. I couldn’t find anywhere to park on the Prussian side so the photo below is taken from an Austrian perspective.

Between the villages of Chotzemitz and Brzesau Millar provides a photo of a small religious shrine, which I have included below as a reference point.

If you look to the right following the road you see Brzesau, pictured below. This is the area that the Prussian 20th, 25th and 40th Regiments would have advanced over.

To their front was the Przerovsky Hill which can be seen below as the wooded high ground today. A portion of the shrine on the right as reference.

Austrian infantry extend the line from the Przerovsky Hill which marked the end of the Austrian infantry line.

I found the battlefield of Kolin very rewarding to visit. It is very much untouched. As a result it is very easy to see the Prussians and Austrians fighting across the fields even today. The visit however highlighted several points I hadn’t fully appreciated.

Firstly, the two hills form a much longer ridge which must have prevented Frederick from observing the Austrian movements. Some maps show this, but the extent was not apparent. If you are modelling the battlefield with a view to refight the battle I think one long ridge is important.

Secondly, the significant plateau near Krzeczor village. Duffy touches on this when he writes: “…they had cleared the village and reached the celebrated Oak Wood behind. After this first success, instead of finding himself master of an empty ridge, Hulsen discovered that he was face to face with the Austrian division of Wied…” It really is a plateau and until you are on it you can’t see what awaits.

Finally, the rolling terrain around Radowesnitz. If using Volley & Bayonet extending the ridge beyond the Oak Wood will break line of site and help model the rolling terrain.

Now, some logistics. If you are considering such a trip I hired a rental car from Prague’s Hlavni Nadrazi train station which allowed relatively straight forward travel to the battlefield thanks to clear instructions from my iPhone, I was travelling by myself. Your navigator may be as good as my phone but without it I wouldn’t attempt the trip. In fact I had more troble getting out of the train station than actually following the instructions on route.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the useful advice from my good friend Maurizio Bragaglia. Maurizio answered several questions as I tried to determine the best way to get to the battlefield.

Hungarian Military Museum 

I managed a short visit today to the Military Museum in Budapest. Located on Castle Hill the museum sits in the northwest corner and occupies two levels.

By international standards the museum is not large. However, it covers several interesting periods and the role Hungarians played in these wars. In general the exhibits deal with the period from 1815 and predominantly the 1848 Revolution, the Great War, World War II and the era of communist rule, including the 1956 Uprising. Each period was presented well with a clear summary of both the political and military aspects in play during each period. 

In addition to these main periods the wars of 1919-20 and the reorganisation of Hungarian army after the Great War and through to 1939 received coverage. 

Small arms and uniforms formed the focus of many displays. All included good descriptions in English. That said, a knowledge of some of the evolutionary changes of various weapons may be useful. I didn’t take a large number of photos however, here are a few of the larger items. 

Above, a 6pdr from the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

A small selection of complete artillery systems were on display. Above, and below, a couple of the larger pieces from the Great War. 

As mentioned most items are displayed in cabinets, though there were several exceptions. Of those a number I felt some from the Siege of Budapest were particularly well done. Here, two adjoining rooms, one Axis and one Soviet, have been used to illustrate the intensity of the fighting during siege.

A fascinating museum which I would recommend visiting.

Empire Campaign

Campaigns are something I always have a inkling to run but past experience has made me nervous of too much complication. Regular readers of my blog may recall that early last year I posted my thoughts on the Empire boardgame, developed by Phil Sabin. After some tinkering with the basic rules I converted the mechanics to a system that would allow it to be used with DBA.

Now, those who follow my Ancient & Medieval blog will have seen that we have recently completed the fourth campaign turn. Trying to simplify things further I recently moved away from dedicated players controlling states to a system where the decision process is automated. A basic decision tree is used to determine campaign offensives which is supplemented by a die roll where multiple options of equal weight exist. Games are now resolved by a group of volunteers subject to availability. The most recent series of six battles have now been resolved by a group of five players.

I’m rather pleased how this has all worked out. The revised format seems to be providing a better balance between my time investment and the value created by linking a background to an individual tabletop game. Further, it allows me to play in a few games while others are able use different armies, rather than being restricted to that of their player state. Placing the campaign in context, and despite only four campaign turns, the system has generated around 24 battles all of which have been resolved on the table using DBA. Given there are many more campaign turns ahead it will be interesting to see the campaign history develop.

If you are interested in the most recent campaign turn, covering the period 290 BC to 281 BC, you can find it here. If you are interested in additional background, visit the Empire Campaign Page.

A Numidian Outing

Each year one of the locals organises the DBA Open over a couple of weekends. Now after a very busy few months I was really looking forward to a competition which I wasn’t organising. As part of my strategy of doing “something different” I opted for an army that was a little out of my regular selection. In particular I opted to use my Numidians.

The Numidians were originally formed as an ally for my old DBM Polybian Romans. But of course I long ago moved away the DBM and never adopted FOG – don’t get me started! Instead they were organised for DBA where they occasionally received an outing. With the DBA 3.0 army lists bringing in some minor changes a couple of additional stands needed to be painted. Recently, with the DBA Open coming up, I finally organised myself and a paint brush…

A couple of test games before the “Open” of course went terribly wrong so it was with a degree of trepidation that I headed to the local club on Sunday. If you are interested in reading of their stumbling performance I’ve posted a short summary of the Numidians at the DBA Open on my Ancients blog.