Hvar lies in the middle of the main sea routes, history has left many traces on it, maybe more than on any other Adriatic island. Constant fights over the island can only confirm its importance and value of its territory.. Each of the conquistadors left their traces in the history, a mark for the future…
The history of the island goes back into the prehistoric period, and the finds from two most important caves (Grapčeva and Markova špilja) prove that existence of the life on the island is at least 6000 years old.
Characteristic examples of painted pottery enabled us to identify the so-called Hvar culture (around 3500 to 2500 BC). The oldest description of a ship in Europe was found on a pottery fragment in Grapceva spilja (cave).
Some people believe that the Grapceva spilja was a place where Odysseus fought against Cyclops. The fragments from the legend: “…That was the land of the Cyclops about which Odysseus knew nothing. He just moored and saw a cave overshadowed by a laurel tree and a huge stone protected the entrance. There lived Cyclops, all by himself…”
The island was later inhabited by the Illyrians, who came into conflict with the Greek colonizers in the 4th century BC. On the east cape of island, near Sucuraj was the position of the Illyrian queen Teuta. Numerous tumuli on the island are of Illyrian origin.
The town of Pharos was founded in 385 BC by the Ionian Greeks, the Parans, as an agrarian colony. The map of land division of the fertile plain of Stari Grad is an exceptional document 2500 years old and belongs to that period. It is today one of 3 oldest plains in the world with preserved Greek land division.
Hvar played an important role in the Roman-Illyrian conflicts, when its rulers (Demetrije Hvaranin) tried to preserve its independence.
Pharos came under the rule of the Romans in 219 BC and was called Pharia. In the period of the Roman rule villae rusticae were built over the whole island, mostly in the town of Hvar, Stari Grad and around the present-day Jelsa.
In Roman times Hvar lost its earlier importance. On the collapse of the Roman Empire, Hvar came under the Byzantine rule, as well as the entire Dalmatia. In the 7th century it came under the Nerentani (Narentini), with whom it joined the Kingdom of Croatia in the 11th century.
In the following centuries Hvar recognized the sovereignty of the Croatian-Hungarian ruler, the Bosnian King Tvrtko, the Split Duke Hrvoje, the Dubrovnik Republic.
From 1420 till the fall of Venetian Republic (1797), Hvar was governed by Venetians. Hvar became the main Venetian port in the eastern part of the Adriatic. From that time dates the oldest communal theatre in Europe built in 1612 in Hvar.
Later on Hvar came under the Austrian rule (1797) until the arrival of the French (1806), and their constant fight marked that period. The Austrians reoccupied the island in the 2nd half of the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th century bringing a period of relative prosperity. Around that time all the island ports were rebuilt.
The first meteorological station in Croatia was established in the tower of the monastery of Veneranda in 1858. Weather conditions helped to promote tourism on Hvar. As a result, in 1868 “The Hygienic Society” of Hvar was founded – as one of the earliest “tourist boards” in Europe, it’s purpose was providing “good care for visitors”
In 1918 the Italian army occupied the island and the occupation lasted until 1921, when Hvar, along with the whole of Croatia, joined the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, succeeded by the Republic of Yugoslavia after the Second World War. In 1991 Croatia was recognized as an independent state.
Outstanding palaces and churches, valuable paintings and sculptures, important literal and music works have been created over a long period, and still the artists find the inexhaustible inspiration in the beautiful island…