Photos courtesy Croatian National Tourist Office
Home page photo by Mario Romulic & Drazen Stojcic
If you like to explore ancient history when you travel to Europe, the island of Korcula is your cup of tea.
The Croatian island of Korcula has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and traces of life from the past have been uncovered at many places on the island. The oldest finds were stone knives from the Neolithic age found on the islet of Badija near Korcula.
The richest discovery is the Neolithic site Vela spilja (Large Cave) at Vela Luka. Here, archaeologists have uncovered several layers of prehistoric life with fire sites, shards of ceramics and graves dating back 5,000 years before Christ.
Many Neolithic stone piles from this period—cult places and gravesites—have also been found over the entire island. The island was inhabited by the Greeks in the 6th century before Christ, first at Vela Luka.
Later, on the other side of the island, in the area where Lumbarda is today, Greeks settled from the island of Vis (Issa), founding a separate settlement referred to in the inscription “PSEFIZMA” originating in the 3rd century before Christ, which was discovered at the end of the 19th century.
In the 1st century before Christ, the island, like the whole of Dalmatia, was conquered by the Romans, who called it Illyricum. In the 7th century A.D., the Slavs-Croats made their way to the Adriatic coast and formed their own state, which was first a principality and later became a kingdom, with the crowning of the first Croatian King Tomislav in 925. Korcula was also included within the borders of that state.
The Roman population fled from the Slavs to the islands of Brac, Hvar and Korcula, and after the situation settled, the majority returned to their original places of residence, while the rest assimilated with the settlers.
In 1,000 A.D., the Venetian Doge Petar II Orseolo took over the Dalmatian cities and islands, and thus Korcula also fell under Venetian rule. It was here on the nearby isle of Majsan that the Doge set up camp to lead the campaign against Korcula and Lastovo, which offered some resistance, but he quickly conquered both islands.
Following this, the rulers of Korcula changed frequently: the Venetians were replaced by the Zahumlje governors, then by the Austro-Hungarian kings, before the Venetians took over again, and from 1413 to 1420 the island was under the Dubrovnik Republic before again falling under Venetian rule in 1420, which lasted until 1797. When Napoleon brought down the Venetian Republic, Dalmatia was under Austrian rule for a short time before the French arrived.
From 1804 to 1805, Korcula was under French, then Russian rule, before the French again took control from 1897 to 1913. The English became rulers of the island to 1815, when the Vienna Congress set out the new borders of Europe.
Today, Korcula is just a scenic three-hour drive or short ferry ride from Drubrovnik, and the island is known for producing some of Croatia’s finest wines and best olive oil. The southern coast offers many scenic drives with secluded beaches that are great for swimming. Korcula town’s ancient walled center has picturesque stone streets and round towers.
For more information about Korcula and other Croatian destinations, go to www.croatia.hr/en