HISTORY


The history of Brač has literally been written in stone because this is a place where men have grappled with stone since time immemorial…

Archaeological digs have confirmed the existence of human settlements on the island as far back as the Paleolithic era (Kopačina cave between Supetar and Donji Humac). Later, during the Bronze and Iron Ages, the island was inhabited by the Illyrians who mostly lived in the hinterland and built enormous defensive walls of stone. Some of these walls still survive today, like Rat near Ložišća, Velo Gračišće near Selca, and Koštilo near Bol.

In the 4th century BC Greeks colonized the nearby islands of Vis, Korčula and Hvar and some of the cities on mainland, but not Brač. The Illyrian queen Teuta, displeased with the Greek domination of these shores turned to the Romans for help. In 228 the Romans conquered the area and thus strengthened their power in the newly found province of Dalmatia, the capital of which was Solin (Salona) with 60000 inhabitants. Roman rule, which lasted until the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, left behind many traces in various locations on the island of Brač in the shape of rustic villas; cisterns; watering holes for cattle; oil and wine presses; sarcophagi; the remains of the ports in Splitska, Bol, and the bay of Lovrečina. During this period stonemasonry played a very prominent role. Hundreds of slaves worked away in the Brač quarries between Splitska and Škrip under supervision of the veterans of Roman legions. The stone was transported from Splitska to Split, making it the building material both of Salona and of Diocletian's Palace in Split. Epigraphic monuments scattered throughout the island testify to the times, the people and their beliefs.

In the 7th century Brač was populated by refugees from Salona and Split, who arrived in large numbers due to the invasion of Avars and Slavs on the coast. While the islands were under Byzantine rule, its hold over them was very weak, and Brač was subsequently occupied by Croatians from southern coastal areas.

The region was conquered by Charlemagne in the 8th century, starting the mass Christianization of Croats. On Brač an important role in this process was played by the Benedictines who built their monasteries in the vicinity of Postira, Pučišća and Povlja. Their abbeys were the havens of Croatian language and literacy.

Frankish rule diminished over time, and so in the 10th century Brač found itself a part of the Croatian state. Briefly under Venetian rule in the 11th century, Brač returned to the fold of the Croatian kingdom under king Krešimir IV.

Even though Croatia, together with the Dalmatian cities, was annexed to Hungary in the 12th century, Brač remained politically independent for some time. Between 1268 and 1357 the inhabitants of Brač recognized Venetian rule, and then Croatian-Hungarian dominion, all the time maintaining their form of communal self-government with its own organization, administration and regulations. In this, supreme power was held by the Great Council, consisting of all the Brač patricians. Alongside the Great Council there was the Small Council and the Council of the Wise and alongside the Patrician Assembly there was the Commoners' Assembly, which possessed considerably fewer rights. The head of the commune was in Nerežišće. In the Middle Ages the islanders' economy was based on cattle farming, agriculture, fishing, stonemasonry and commerce.

The long Venetian rule over the whole of Dalmatia began in 1420, and lasted for almost four centuries, until 1797. During this period there were many migrations of mainland inhabitants who took refuge on the island to escape the Turkish invasion. This caused a change in the dynamics of island's life, relocating its hub from the hinterland to the coast and resulting in the creation of brand new towns: Bol, Milna, Postira, Povlja, Pučišća, Splitska, Sumartin, Supetar and Sutivan.

After the fall of the Venetian Republic, Brač found itself under French rule until the downfall of Napoleon in 1813. According to the Congress of Vienna in 1814, Brač and the whole of Dalmatia fell under Austrian rule under which they remained for another century. Austrian rule was marked by the government's forceful imposition of the Italian language on the local population, which resulted in a national awakening.

The twentieth century brought three wars to Brač, as it did to the rest of Croatia. After many decades of being a part of Yugoslavia, at the end of this turbulent century Brač became a part of an independent Croatia once again.