History of Lastovo

History of Lastovo

15 centuries of written history;
ancient Greek colony; Part of Italy,
UK, France, Republic of Dubrovnik...

Hystoric tombstoneHystoric tombstone

The first document. The island was first mentioned by a 6th century lexicographer Stephen from Byzantium who called it Ladesta and Ladeston. His source was Theopompus, a 4th century BC Greek historian. 

The beginning. The first traces of human presence on the island were found in the Rača cave where continuous evidence of habitation reaches as far as the late Neolithic Age.

Relief showing symbolical image of Eucharistia with Cross and Lambs found in Ubli from the 5th or 6th centuryRelief showing symbolical image of Eucharistia with Cross and Lambs found in Ubli from the 5th or 6th century

Illirians and Greeks. In prehistoric times, the island was originally inhabited by the Illyrians. However, findings of Greek pottery show that the island was on one of the Greek trade routes on the Adriatic and probably a part of the Greek colony Issa.[2]

Romans. When the Romans conquered the province of Dalmatia, they too settled on Lastovo. Impressed by Lastovo's beauty and agricultural potential, the Romans named the island Emperors Island (Augusta Insula). The Romans left very clear traces of their long rule on the island - the so called"villae rusticae" (residential farming units) and water wells known as "lokve" are amongst those monuments that remained. The Romans established a settlement on the location of today's village Ubli that flourished during the first centuries AD, only to become completely abandoned in later centuries.[2]

Middle Ages


Slavs. With the arrival of the Slavs to the Adriatic in the 7th century, Croats eventually settled in most of Dalmatia, which included Lastovo. 

Gold solidus of Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, 913–959.Gold solidus of Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, 913–959.

Around 950, the Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos mentions Lastovo in his De Administrando Imperio by its Slavic name Lastobon.[14] 

Ominous 998. In 998 the Venetian Doge Pietro Orseolo II launched large military operations against Croatian and Neretvian pirates along the Adriatic and its islands, which culminated with the destruction of the town of Lastovo. After this Lastovci decided to build a city on the inland hill, away from the coast, which made the city more defendable.

Agriculture and autonomy. During the next two centuries, inhabitants dedicated to concentrate more on agriculture and neglected their earlier naval tradition.[10] 

Demetrius Zvonimir was King of Croatia from 1076 until his deathDemetrius Zvonimir was King of Croatia from 1076 until his death

Scarcity of accurate historical documents and an almost complete silence covering the events on the island in the early Middle Ages are trustworthy signs of a great autonomy of Lastovo in that period.

Rulers. Lastovo may have at times come briefly under various rulers from the 7th until the 13th century, whether ByzantineDukljan or Neretvian, but it is accepted that Lastovo generally recognised Croatian kings as its nominal and natural rulers.[2][10] In 1185, the Hvar diocese was formed and Lastovo is mentioned as having been part. A church synod held in Split that same year decreed that the diocese of Hvar should fall under the authority of the Archbishop of Split.

Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik)

Lastovo commune's official seal known as the Pečat within the Republic of RagusaLastovo commune's official seal known as the Pečat within the Republic of Ragusa

Republic and autonomy. Later in the 13th century, the people of Lastovo voluntarily joined the Republic of Ragusa in 1252, after the republic promised that it would honour Lastovo's internal autonomy. This agreement was codified in the Ragusa Statute written in 1272.[15] 

700 Years of the Statute of Lastovo. A post-stamp by: www.posta.hr700 Years of the Statute of Lastovo. A post-stamp by: www.posta.hr

The Statute of Lastovo. In 1310, Lastovo got its first written legislation, the Statute of Lastovo, which had all the characteristics of law. The supreme authority on the island had a council, consisting of 20 members, who held office for life.[16] In 1486, authorities of the Council were passed in Parliament of the Republic and the island lost much of its autonomy.

Rebellion and fights for autonomy. Continuous limitation of the island's autonomy and higher taxes led to a short rebellion in 1602. On the appeal of the islanders, Venice occupied the island the following year and held it until 1606, when it was returned to Ragusa. The next attempt at rebellion was in 1652, which resulted in the loss of the island's autonomy.[10]

Ottomans and pirates. During the Ottoman conquests, Lastovo was very often a target of pirates from Ulcinj, leading to the introduction of mandatory guard service. Guard service was abolished in the 18th century when pirates from Ulcinj became merchant sailors.

Outbreak of vampirism. The last reported outbreak of vampirism in Croatia was 'recorded' on Lastovo. The trial in Ragusa in 1737 took testimony from visitors to the island during an outbreak of severe diarrhoea which killed many locals. The islanders blamed this epidemic on vampires. This case included defendants from Lastovo who formed a band or group of vigilante style vampire hunters. Such cases were reported throughout all of Croatia and Europe in the Middle Ages.

19th century

Austro-Hungarian Commander in Chief, Emperor Franz Joseph IAustro-Hungarian Commander in Chief, Emperor Franz Joseph I



French, Brits and Austro-Hungarians. In 1806 the French took control of the Republic of Ragusa. When they abolished the Republic in 1808, Lastovo became part of the French Empire. The French built a fortification on Glavica hill and mobilised islanders against the British. Between January 18 and February 3, 1813, the Royal Navy frigate HMS Apollo and its troops captured Lastovo and Korčula. The British held the island until 1815 when the Congress of Vienna awarded the island to the Habsburg Empire. After 1815, Lastovo was part of Dubrovnik county in the Austrian province of Dalmatia. Until 1829, it had its own court, but later the island fell under the jurisdiction of the court in Korčula.

Economic crisis. In the 1840s, the municipality fell into a deep economic crisis that resulted in its selling most of its forests to foreigners.[10]

20th century

World War I. During World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Army established a military garrison on Glavica consisting mostly of Hungarian troops. The authorities ordered blackouts and forbade the ringing of church bells during the war.

French-Italian fightings. At the end of 1917, four French planes bombed Lastovo. French troops landed on the island to reconnoiter it. Italian forces soon followed and clashed with the garrison. Some members of the Austro-Hungarian garrison escaped. The Italians took those they caught to Italy as prisoners of war. A French plane dropping leaflets on the island on November 4 brought the news that the war was finally over.

Italian occupation. On November 11, 1918 Italian troops took hold of the island based on the 1915 Secret Treaty of London, which allocated much of Dalmatia to Italy upon Italy entering the war on the side of the Triple Alliance. The Italians based their claim upon the presence of ethnic Italians in all parts of maritime Dalmatia. However, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who was a supporter of the nationality principle, blocked the allocation.

World War II. In 1941 the Axis Powers attacked Yugoslavia, which collapsed in few days. Italy annexed part of Dalmatia; the remainder became part of the new Independent State of Croatia.

Resistance leader and Yugoslav president Marshal Josip Broz TitoResistance leader and Yugoslav president Marshal Josip Broz Tito

Liberation Army. Croatian citizens started organised fights against fascism on June 22, 1941 by organizing the first National Liberation Army unit - Sisak Brigade. Next 5 years were devastating. A cruel (ethnic and political) internal war combined with a war of resistance against the Axis Powers to devastate the former Yugoslavia.

People's Republic of Croatia and exodus. On September 8, 1943, after the declaration of the Armistice with Italy, the Italian Army collapsed and Josip Broz Tito's Partisans took over the island, incorporating it into Yugoslavia. The partisans executed Martin Tomasin, a friend of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, whom he had appointed governor. Lastovo became a part of the People's Republic of Croatia in 1945 — one of the six Republics of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia. Latter the name was converted into the Socialist Republic of Croatia — one of the republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1953.[10] At this time, almost all Italian citizens left the island. Simultaneously, significant amount of Croatians fled the country. Nowadays Lastovo has a population of 750 people and over 3000 Croatians with Lastovo roots live abroad: mainly in Australia, the UK and Italy. 

Protected military island. After World War II, Lastovo experienced the same fate as the neighbouring island Vis. The island became a military region forbidden to foreign nationals. The barring of foreign nationals led to economic stagnation and the depopulation of the island. Simultaneously, that protected the historical and natural beauty of the island. In 1988 the ban was lifted and foreign tourists were again allowed to visit the island.

Independence. Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, but the Yugoslav People's Army only left its bases on Lastovo, one of its last footholds in Croatia, in July 1992.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

Peace. The war in Croatia ended in 1995. Lastovo was fortunate to have escaped much of the devastation that swept across some parts of Croatia and most of neighbouring Bosnia. Despite that, depopulation of Lastovo continued - from 1205 inhabitants on 1991, to 835 inhabitants on 2001 and finally 816 inhabitants in 2011. 

The protection of Lastovo was specified in strategic documents of the Republic of Croatia in 1999. Not long after, this intention was supported by The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Actually WWF has declared Lastovo as a priority for conservation of the Mediterranean biodiversity in 2003.

Protected Status - Nature Park. In 2006 the Croatian Government made the island and its archipelago a nature park -- and therefore committed the Republic of Croatia, all Croatian citizens and all visitors to special care of this region.The Nature Park  Lastovo Islands. Source: State Institute for Nature Protection.  The Nature Park Lastovo Islands. Source: State Institute for Nature Protection.