A series of typical islands of the eastern Adriatic begins on one side, and the other side is the open sea, while far in front is the famous Otranto Gate, there is the island of Vis. Fertile fields, an abundance of fish, and an interesting geographical position attract people since the Early Stone Age.
The history of Vis
Unfortunately, there are not enough written facts of the history of Vis in the Illyrian era. With the arrival of Ionia-Ionis, the legendary ruler of Vis, after whom the Ionian Sea was named, the history of one of the most beautiful Adriatic islands begins. Ionis, aka Joni ruled this island at the end of 6th. and at the beginning of the 5th century BC. Kr.
Ancient Vis became the Greek colony of Issa in the 4th century BC and an independent city-state (polis) with its currency. Its citizens already then traded their excellent wine throughout the Mediterranean. Issa lost its independence when it was ‘usurped’ by the Romans. The Roman Empire always brought progress and prosperity to its territories. Issa enjoyed social and economic progress, which confirms the great thermal baths, the archeological remains from the Roman period.
Sailors and pirates
Progress, however, is halted by the collapse of the Roman Empire, the last remnant of an ancient civilization.
Economic difficulties and diseases were followed by population decreased and attacks by barbarians.
In the 7th century, immigrants of Slavic origin invaded from the north – Croats, who soon took over the maritime skills and agricultural knowledge of growing Mediterranean crops from the natives. Vis became part of the early medieval Croatian kingdom. Its inhabitants became excellent sailors but also pirates. The Venetians did not like it, so they attacked Vis at the end of the 10th century and destroyed what was left of Romans. The population retreated inland and diverted to agriculture. On Vis, the Hvar aristocrats have large estates.
Vis become part of the Hvar commune, to be precise – the income source, to make Hvar aristocracy even richer.
Settlements of Luka and Kut
Living in the island’s inland did not bring permanent safeties and security to Vis people. Neither did the fact that the island was part of the mighty Venetian Republic from the 15th century. So, in 1483, the Catalans in the service of the King of Naples devastated Velo selo, the largest Vis settlement in the inland. After that, with the ubiquitous danger of attack by
Turks and Arabs, the locals realized that they could only defend themselves with a substantial and solid settlement on the coast. Thus, in partnership with Hvar aristocrats, Vis finally builds fortified houses along the shores of the port of Vis, which serves for housing, economic activities, and defense purpose. That is how the two settlements of Kut and Luka, parts of today’s Vis, were formed.
More secure, Vis experienced economic and cultural prosperity during the Renaissance and Baroque eras. Being part of the Venetian Empire, Vis and its port become important traffic points where people and goods meet from the far north of Europe to the Middle East.
Smugglers of British goods
During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon ‘extinguished’ the ancient Venetian Republic, so Vis first came under Austria’s rule and then France’s. In 1810, the British occupied Vis. Recognizing its strategic and traffic importance, the British built mighty fortifications. The population of Vis became rich by smuggling British goods to the coast, which was under Napelon, who banned the import of British products.
The beginning of the naval military base
In 5 years, there was another change of government, and Vis got a new ruler, Austro-Hungary. The new government continues to build mighty fortifications on the island following what the British started. It was strategically excellent.
In its nationalist zeal in 1866, when the young Italian kingdom attempted to occupy the eastern Adriatic coast, Vis was supposed to play a crucial role. Thus the more powerful and modern Italian fleet led by Admiral Persan was stopped by a smaller and outdated Austrian naval fleet under the command of Admiral Tegetthoff. Even significantly ‘weaker’ in terms of equipment and numbers, the Austrian fleet won. That was a good lesson for the Italians for the next 50 years.
Vis, under Austrian rule, was making progress. People were skilled fishermen and sailors, and their wines were prized throughout the empire. Economic progress followed the growth of the population. At the beginning of the 20th century, a natural disaster halted the sensational prosperity of the South Dalmatian island of Vis, the phylloxera – grapevine disease. Revenues related to wine production were falling sharply, and people of Vis started to emigrate to overseas countries.
The 20th century on Vis was turbulent because after the First World War Vis was briefly under Italian rule and then under the control of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Italians retake Vis, 1941. , After the capitulation of the Kingdom of Italy to the Allies, in October 1943, Vis and the whole island came under the rule of the Yugoslav partisans to become the foundations center of the new Yugoslav state.
With the construction of an Allied airport, the island became a base starting point for Allied commandos attacks on islands and coast still occupied by Germans in World war II.
Vis continued to play the role of a naval military base in socialist Yugoslavia. Vis was closed to foreigners for decades as a strategically important point. That prevented the development of tourism on the island and saved it from the unplanned construction of tourist facilities characteristic of the rapid growth of tourism.
Adriatic Nautical tourism jewel
In May 1992, the Yugoslav army left Vis – and the role of Vis as a primarily military stronghold finally ceased. Vis is ‘opening up’ as part of a new, independent Croatian state and is beginning to play the role of the leading nautical jewel of the Adriatic.
Editor in chief