| Contact us | Sitemap |
*On Hvar there are many surprising sights

History of Hvar island

The name of the island is without doubt Greek in origin, from Pharos (lighthouse). From it the Romans derived the name Pharia. The Dalmatian Romans then derived from this Fara, and the newly settled Croats in the early Middle Ages changed this to Hvar, as the old Slavonic consonant f was subsumed by the consonant group hv. The Dalmatian Romans, under the influence of Croatian pronunciation in the medieval documents spelt the name as Quara or Quarra. At the end of the 11th century the Italians called it Lesina, or in Venetian dialect Liesena or Liesna. This was derived from an old Croatian adjective meaning "forest", which actually corresponded to the appearance of the island at the time of the Neretljani. The eastern part of the island, Plame, has the shape of a cutting edge which gets narrower towards "the top of Hvar" and corresponds well to the medieval Venetian name Liesna which means "awl". This is what it looked like to the Venetian seamen who sailed past the island on their way to the Neretva Channel, near the massif of Krajina where threatening pirates were waiting in their lairs. A number of other island place-names describe its original wooded appearance. For example, Velo and Malo Grablje are derived from the word "grab" (hornbeam); Gin (a name identical to that of the Polish port of Gymea) also indicates a wooded place; Vrbanj and Vrboska are derived from "vrba" (willow), and Vrisnik from "vrijes" (heather). In the 3rd century BC the Hellenistic poet Apollonius of Rhodes introduced the name "Piteyeia", which is probably de rived from "pitys" Greek for spruce, or even from an old Illyrian name for the village of Pitve. The inscription recording the victory of the inhabitants of Pharos over the Jadasini and their allies, one of the oldest known inscriptions in Croatia, 4th C BC. Since Hvar lay in the middle of the main sea routes, history has left here many traces, maybe more so than on any other Adriatic is land. The finds from Grapčeva and Markova spilja (caves) have enabled the archaeologists to identify the so-called Hvar culture (around 3500 to 2500 BC). The examples of painted and encrusted pottery, with their various spiral motives, are among the most decorative artefacts from pre-Illyrian times. They are part of the general Aegean culture but were also further developed on Hvar. The town of Pharos was founded in the deepest bay on the northern part of the island in 385/4 BC by the Ionian Greeks, the Parans, at the invitation of the Sicilian despot Dionysius the Elder on the fourth year after the 98th Olympics. According to Dionysius the Older (the founder of Issa, the first Greek colony in the Adriatic), a suitable base had to be built for military and trade expansion, which would depend on its parent-state, Syracuse. Ancient Hvar also witnessed the first known naval battle in the Adriatic, between the Greek fleet under the command of the eparch of Issa and the native Illyrian tribe of the Liburni, who were defeated and thus lost control of the central Adriatic. An account of this is given by the historian Diodorus of Sicily. Pharos was predominantly an agrarian colony. The map of land division of the fertile plain of Stari Grad is an exceptional historical document. The basic plot of Hvar land distribution was an elongated rectangle of 80 hectares. It is thus different from the cadastres of later Roman colonies on the main land (e.g. Salona, Iadera, Pola). After the fall of the Syracuse Empire in the middle of the 4th century BC, Pharos was without protection from invasion by the Illyrians. Between 229 and 219 it be came the capital of the greatest historical personality of the island -Demetrius of Hvar, After the Ro mans had defeated the Illyrian queen Teuta, he reigned independently over the whole region from the Krka river as far as Drač. He made a pact with the Histri against the Romans in 221 to 220 BC. The Romans finally destroyed the walls of Pharos in 219 BC, al though Demetrius escaped to the Macedonian king Filip V. There after, the whole of Illyricum came under the rule of Rome. After Pharos recovered, in the middle of the 2nd century BC, it sent a delegation to Paros, Delphi regarding a certain epidemic (malaria?), as is evident from the fragments of a Greek inscription. This also refers to permanent tensions between the native Illyrian population and Greek colonists, and also to the division of the island. The inscription mentions the town assembly (boule), the secretary (grammateos), the state treasury, the members of the supreme council (pritanei), rulers (arhontei)... It would seem from all these functions that Pharos state administration was similar to that of Athens, despite the period of Roman rule. One fragment of the inscription states that the Romans reinstated in the polis of Pharos "the laws of their fathers", and gave them a territory to use for 40 years - most probably the eastern half of the plain between Stari Grad and Jelsa. This was below the Illyrian hill-fort of Tor, a fertile area which remained in the hands of the local inhabitants after the foundation of the colony, Diodorus relates that the natives "continued to inhabit an exceptionally fortified place without any disturbance from any body." Archaeologists believe that this Illyrian settlement was situated on Purkin Kuk (274m) - an impressive hill-fort with strong so-called "Cyclopian" walls - to the west of the village of Dol. The Romans began a series of campaigns against Illyrian tribes such as the Delmati from the middle of the 2nd century BC. They used the ports of Hvar, as well as those on Pakleni otoci and the wooded Šćedro, for their strategic and logistic purposes. This islet of Šćedro (Roman Taurida) served as a refuge for boats. In Roman times, the whole island was networked by farming and holiday houses near the springs of fresh water, with a greater concentration of buildings in Hvar, Stari Grad and around Jelsa. The eastern settlement of Sućuraj, in the less inhabited part of the island, preserved its prehistorical way of life until modern times. Vinko Pribojević, in his 1532 Renaissance ode to Hvar and the Slavs, mentioned mosaics, and the Abbe Alberto Fortis in the 18th century mentioned an ancient shipwreck off the furthest promontory. This is the first documented reference in the maritime archaeology of this part of the Adriatic. Roman Pharia, as amicus et socius populi Romani in the 2nd century B.C, was later promoted to the rank of an autonomous municipium, perhaps during the time of Caesar or Octavius who sailed near Hvar in the year 34 BC during his campaigns for Central Dalmatia. In that period Hvar was a typical island of wine-growers, fisher men and traders, as is confirmed by the numerous archaeological finds - from the pottery fragments in the Grapčeva cave depicting a boat with two sails and a spiral-shaped bent prow, to inscriptions and reliefs. The way of life in Hvar in ancient times can also be seen in the maritime archaeological discoveries connected with the ship wrecks of merchant vessels. Written sources reveal only a few data about the island in the late classical period. In the early Middle Ages Hvar was, together with other central Dalmatian islands within the state of the Neretljani under Croatian auspices. Venice occupied Hvar in 1147 and established a diocese under the Arch bishop of Zadar. However, Croatian-Hungarian King Bela III managed to bring Dalmatia and Hvar with it, once more, under his rule. This happened after 1180. The Split church synod of 1185 decreed that the Hvar diocese should come under the Archbishop of Split. The Venetians reoccupied the island in 1278, rebuilding the town at its present location, with its own bishop. In 1292 it was decided that walls should be built around the town and the monastery, which was the residence of the bishop. The entire enterprise was finally completed in 1450. However, it was not possible to surround all of the town as it ex tended to two hills, and was divided by the plain Pjaca, which formed at swampy point of the bay which was withdrawn almost as far as the cathedral. Venice put an end to the island's clan structure (such families as the Kačići, and Šubići having formerly wielded power) and introduced a communal system. The noblemen of Hvar, Juraj and Galeša Slavogosti rebelled against Venice in 1310. The communal Statute was conceived in 1331. The island again came under the Croatian-Hungarian kingdom in 1358, and then under Bosnian kings and even Dubrovnik - until 1420 when the Venetians occupied it for the third time, together with the rest of Dalmatia. This political situation lasted until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. The bloody people's uprising of 1510, under the leadership of Matija Ivanić, was directed against the cruel noblemen and demanded equal rights for all. It lasted for more than five years, and was finally crushed by the Venetian army who plundered Vrboska and punished the rebels severely, as is depicted on a fresco in the Rector's Palace. However, the rhythm of everyday life in Hvar from the 15th to the end of the 18th century was under the strong influence of events on the so-called "Turkish mainland". For the Makarska littoral which is only a few miles away from the eastern part of the island was occupied by the Turks. La Serenissima (as Venice was called) managed to maintain its "sea wall" against the Turks, despite the desperate economic and demographic situation that existed throughout the whole of Dalmatia. Hvar be came the main Venetian port in the eastern part of the Adriatic. Venice was interested mainly in fortifying the town, which was nevertheless completely devastated, together with Vrboska and Stari Grad, in the attack by the Turkish fleet under the command of the Algerian vice-king Uluz AH in 1571. The main initiative on the island was left to the local noblemen and in habitants, who, in the 16th C, fortified the churches in Vrboska and Jelsa, the monastery in Stari Grad above Hektorović's Tvrdalj (Hektorović's Fortress), a small fort in Sućuraj (in 1613), and two towers in Zastražišće (in 1624). Prosperity came to the island in the 16th century, when viticulture was intensified, wine being produced in sufficient quantities both for local needs and for export. Fishing was also an important source of livelihood. In 1512, the people of Poljice produced 4000 to 5000 barrels of salted pilchard and as many barrels of salted mackerel. The historian Pribojević confirms the fact that there were 180 boats for summer fishing, as well as many cargo boats, some of which sailed as far as England. Shipbuilding was also important. In 1416 King Žigmund asked the island of Hvar to send him skilled shipbuilders in order to build gal leys, galleots, and brigantines. There were 300 caulkers in the 15th century, but this number was reduced to 40 in the second half of the 16th century. The main reason was the devastation of pine woods through fires started by shepherds. The range of nautical domination of the port of Hvar was quite large. In the years of 1853 and 1854 alone some 10,000 sailors under 17 different flags passed through the port. There were four consulates in the town of Hvar at that time: Greek, Parmesan, Papal and Napolitan. In 1797, Hvar came under Austrian rule until the arrival of the French in 1806. The following year the town of Hvar was heavily bombarded by the Russians from the nearby islet of Galešnik. The Austrians reoccupied the island in 1813 and reigned over it through out the 19th century and the very beginning of the 20th, bringing a period of relative prosperity. A meteorological station was established in the tower of the monastery of Veneranda in 1858. This -the oldest meteorological station in Croatia - helped to promote tourism on Hvar. The Hygienic Society was founded in 1868, the first tourist society in Europe. Around the same time, all the is land ports were rebuilt: new light houses were erected, malaria-rid den backwaters and inlets were ameliorated within the shores of Jelsa, Vrboska, Stari Grad, Sućuraj and other smaller villages. The first road connecting Jelsa with Pitve and Vrisnik was built only in 1907, while the road from Jelsa to Hvar as late as 1936. Before this the inhabitants of Jelsa travelled to Hvar by ship from Stari Grad via Split! Or they rode on mules and donkeys for eight to nine hours. One of the fateful events of 19th C European history took place in the Hvar Channel off the island of Vis. The Austrian fleet, whose crews consisted mostly of Dalmatians, under the command of Admiral Willhelm von Tegetthoff, defeated a three times stronger Italian fleet on July 20th, 1866. This was the last naval battle to be conducted in the old-fashioned way "in melee" using the ships as battering-rams. In November 1919, the Italian army occupied the island after much fighting. Their occupation lasted until the signing of the Treaty of Rapallo in 1921, when Hvar, along with almost the whole of Croatia, joined the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, which was later called Yugoslavia and succeeded by the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after the Second World War. The island was modernised in the second half of the 20th century, with all the positive and negative aspects of the modern age. Hvar obtained a new administrative position in the territorial reorganisation that took place after the recognition of Croatia as an independent state (January 15th, 1992). Hvar has produced many famous men and women, celebrated both at home and abroad. It was one of the most important centres of Croatian Renaissance literature, producing poets and writers such as Hanibal Lucić, Petar Hektorović, Jeronim and Hortenzije Bartučević, Mikša Pelegrinović, Vinko Pribojević, Marin Gazarović, Martin Benetović, who together formed a veritable humanistic centre of Dalmatia. In the 17th century, Ivan Franc Biundović wrote an excellent history of the British civil wars while living in England. Ivan Vučetić, a police official, was the first person in the world to perfect dactyloscopy, the identification method by fingertips. Father Šime Ljubić was the leading Croatian archaeologist in the 19th century, leading a series of other Hvar researchers. How ever, the most important scientific researcher on the island was Grgur Bučić. He was the first in Croatia to begin excavating the prehistoric tumuli and caves of Hvar. Petar Nisiteo, a historian, was also a prominent man of Hvar. After them came the historians and archaeologists Grga Novak and Marin Zaninović. The most recent political historian from Hvar was Niko Duboković Nadalini who was a visionary of "the sustainable development of the island" in accordance with its traditions and original characteristics. Default.aspx?PageContentID=33&tabid=328 Default.aspx?PageContentID=34&tabid=328