About 1,700 years ago, Roman Emperor Diocletian spirited away a set of granite sphinxes from Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Twelve sphinxes were brought to Split after Diocletian put down a rebellion in Egypt somewhere around the year 297.
Unfortunately, only one survived and it is now standing at the Peristyle. The sphinx on the Peristyle is made of black granite. It dates back to the period of pharaoh Tuthmosis III (died 1426 BC), the king (reigned 1479–26 BC). She holds a vessel for offerings in her hands. Just like a major part of the palace itself, the sphinxes were decapitated and destroyed with the arrival of Christianity. Why this one still stands, it remains a mystery. She has been standing here since the 3rd century watching generations pass by. Please have respect for this old lady.
3,500 year-old sphinx head adorns an unassuming building on a quiet residential courtyard (Dominisova, see map, please). Emperor Diocletian persecuted Christians, and had thousands of them killed. After Diocletian’s death, Christians expressed their revenge by destroying pagan symbols within his palace, decapitating most of the sphinx sculptures that Diocletian had brought back from Egypt. They probably didn’t realize that they were from ancient Egypt.
A headless version can be found in front of the Temple of Jupiter (which was later converted into a Baptistery), whereas others are housed in the city’s museums.