The Story

Komiza

LAND OF MY FOREFATHERS
By: David Felando

Contents

Prehistoric Times The Pirates of Senj Italian Surrender
Greek Mythology A Pirate's Life Maritime Activities
The Iron Age A Love Story British Support
The Illyrian's An Old Family Legend Partisans
Grecian Times Turmoil, Prosperity and the British Impact on Komiza
Naming Characteristics The Austrians Post War
The Romans The Battle of Lissa Interesting Side Notes
The Roman Collapse Austro-Hungarian Empire Tourism Today
The Dark Ages Prior to World War One Commercial Activities
Venetian Control World War One Churches
The Crusades Post World War One Almanac
Marco Polo Pre World War II
The Ottoman Empire World War II

 

PREHISTORIC TIMES

The Island of Vis rose from the Adriatic sea some 30,000 year ago. The island measures about 9 miles long by 4 miles wide, and is situated 35 miles due south of Split, Croatia. The peak of the island, Mount Hum, has an elevation of 2,000 feet. The near mainland was formed during the Mesozoic Era and Tertiary and Quarternary Periods. The geological history of the island includes Jurassic and Cretaceous materials. Most of the island consists of dolomite and limestone of the Cretaceous period. The island is slightly sloped from the northern higher side to the lower southern side. Two rather large shallow central valleys that contain very fine vineyards act as a subterranean catchment basin and is very likely the reason that Vis has such a great supply of subsurface water and springs. Most of the other islands in the Adriatic do not possess enough water to sustain any such large agricultural activities. Most of the shoreline is cliffs with a few secluded beaches. There is a fine harbor at Vis town on the Northeast corner of the Island, while a lesser anchorage is located on the western shore at Komiza. There are several very small harbor/landing points, namely at Milna and Okljucina.

The island has generally been a political subdivision of the Island of Hvar, with Hvar being a subdivision of Split, which is in turn a subdivision of Dalmatia. Dalmatia in current times is considered the territory from the Gulf of Quarnero to the narrows of the Bay of Kotor, bounded by and including the offshore islands to the south and west and the Dinaric Alps to the east and north. These Dinaric Alps reach heights of 6000 feet, with only two major passes between the interior and the coast, namely the Krka River canyon and the Neretva River valley. Dalmatia would be considered about only 30 miles wide with a length of approximately 250 miles. These topographical features are some of the main reasons that the Dalmatian coast has enjoyed a somewhat more peaceful history when compared to the interior of what is now Croatia.

At one time the island was attached to the mainland, as evidenced by finds of deer skeletons dating to the Diluvial Period, and the fact that the island was covered with deciduous vegetation. Archeologists have researched the islands to a minor extent only, due to the lack of money to fully explore the sites that have so far been discovered and recorded.

There are indications of Neolithic activity as early as 8,000 B.C. in the area of the Island of Vis. Further discoveries in the region have found Danilo Culture material on the Tremiti Islands dated about 6750 to 6500 B. C. These Middle Neolithic discoveries fit in well with later discoveries on Vis.

The Island of Palagruza has revealed some Neolithic Age (4500-3500 B.C.) Impressed Ware pottery in an open air site. Due to the lack of concern many important sites of this period and more recent times have not been preserved or given the care that is now a more accepted way of preserving these important historical finds. Brac as well as Hvar also contain many rich pre-historic finds. Early Bronze Age (2500-2300 B.C.) discoveries have been made on Vis at the Krjicina cave west of the village of Okljucina on the north shore of Vis. This particular site is not easily accessible and remains to be fully explored by archeologists.

The Palagruza archipelago has a very rich find of Copper Age/Early Bronze Age (2500-2300 B.C.) pottery as well as a very large supply of flint in various mine sites. The quarrying of flint was to be a very important industry (on a limited basis) well into the Roman age. The cataloging of various finds of flint origin include arrowheads and blades, as well as some finely decorated Greek items. These particular finds indicate the importance of these islands from a very early time.

There has been a recent discovery of Middle Bronze Age pottery above the town of Hvar. The Late Bronze Age discoveries include settlement tumulus in many areas, as opposed to the burial types noted in northern parts of the Adriatic. A find of Mycenaean pottery from about the 14th Century B.C. has recently been uncovered on Brac. Many of the archeological finds on Vis as well as on the near islands show that commercial activities were conducted between the islands and the mainland well before recorded history.

 

This pre-historical period coincides with Greek mythology and the Trojan War. At the conclusion of the war, the traditional time is about 1200 B.C., Odysseus (Ulysses) is said to have begun his long journey home, as written in the Odyssey by Homer.

The question of Homer�s Odyssey and the location of some of Ulysses� adventures taking place near the Island of Vis, has often been of interest. The original Odyssey states that Ulysses� adventure with the sea nymph Calypso took place on the island of Ogygia. Some historians claim that the Island of Ogygia is the island now known as Miljet which lies about 60 miles east-southeast of Vis.

The second most famous hero of the Trojan war was Diomedes. After the conclusion of the Trojan war, Diomedes returned home to find his wife. She had found someone else and Diomedes, in his despair, left Greece for the Apulia region of Italy, which is very near the islands now known as the Tremiti isles. Many historians agree that these islands became the home of Diomedes. Some Slavic historians claim that the Islands now known as Palagruza were in fact the true home of Diomedes. Archeologists have found many artifacts containing reference to Diomedes on the Island of Palagruza. Perhaps some worshippers of Diomedes erected altars and shrines for sacrifices in his honor on this island. Diomedes fate was sealed when the famous Hercules was given his twelve labors, one of which was to bring back the man-eating mares of Diomedes. To complete this particular labor Hercules had to slay Diomedes.

 

THE IRON AGE

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The Iron Age (1100-750 B.C.) of the region shows a continued use of hill forts and open settlements, which are attributed to the Liburni tribe. The Liburni are also credited with settlements on the Italian coast during this period as evidenced by various pottery shards and other remnants with their origins on the Italian mainland. There have also been finds of pre-colonial Greek goods in a number of locations.

The Talez hillfort, located on the south-central side of Vis, is considered to be the finest archeological site on the island. The original terraces and walls ran in a east-west line and included a minor peak. It is located about 700 feet above sea level and covers about 5 acres. The building of a military bunker on the site has destroyed much of the archeological value of the site. Although the bunker and the hillfort were built about 3000 years apart, this geographically strategic site has proven itself to be of great military value through the ages . This plateau is separated from an area called the Vela Gomila by a very deep canyon. The eastern edge of the hillfort contains a semi-circular structure called the Tower.

Excavations of this site have uncovered local pottery of the early middle Iron Age. There is also a surprising amount on imported pieces found on this site. These include Greek pieces of "Black Glaze". Included are Apulian ware plus two shards of Daunian bichrome painted ware in the style of the 6th-5th Centuries B.C., as well as some earlier Iron Age "atenda". A few pieces appear to be wheel made with horizontal banding. Some pieces of Corinthian origin have also been located. These finds only confirm that a well developed trade existed in this region of the Adriatic area of the Mediterranean well before recorded history.

Of great interest is the findings of the widespread occurrence of iron slag and other metal working endeavors at this site. These discoveries led the investigators to explore the area around the hillfort where they discovered iron seams within the limestone. This has led the archeologists to conclude that this exploitable iron source is the only one in the Dalmatian area, with the only other nearby iron source located in Bosnia. These facts lead to the conclusion that this site on this island was a very important resource for the inhabitants. Also adding to this conclusion is the findings of so many foreign made pottery shards, these all indicating this island, again, as a major center for trading and commerce. These and other discoveries indicate that this island was not a Greek colony at this time but only later was incorporated into the Greek governmental system

The suggested ritual activities at this sight are significant in that the Vela Gomila is separated from the hillfort by a large gorge. Tumuli are very rare on Vis and this is the largest known example. It is suggested that fertility rites were conducted at the tower site with the majority of the population only allowed to view the ceremony from the Vela Gomila.

A plan has been developed by the archaeologists to fully study the sight, but funding is a major problem.

 

THE ILLYRIAN�S

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The Illyrian�s originally settled the island and surrounding area about 2000 B.C. In the 1st millennium B.C. the island was held by the Illyrian Liburnians, who formed a small state between the 6th and 5th Centuries B.C. In 600 B.C. the island was ruled by Lon. About 600 B.C. the Gauls invaded the near mainland and drove the Liburnians from the mainland to the islands. Scattered throughout the island are other Tumulus-Grave mounds that were utilized for many purposes. They were supposedly the result of land clearing efforts to make way for agriculture, but were also put to use as burial mounds, defense purposes, and some say for cultic purposes. They originated between 900 B.C. and 400 B.C.

 

GRECIAN TIMES

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The Greeks knew of the Dalmatian islands for many centuries, as indicated by trade remnants and previous incursions into the Adriatic. The inland area of what is now Croatia was not a hospitable area for trade, with no great resources and a difficult topography, which proved itself for centuries to come. Nonetheless, the Greeks required any of their colonial sites to be self sufficient in the production of food and Issa (Vis) was a prime candidate due to the amount of fresh water, fertile soil, and a very defensible secure area for development.

In 397 B.C. the Tyrant of Syracuse (a Greek from Sicily) named "Dionysus the Older," established a permanent Greek colony on the island of Issa that became a free "Town-State". The colonization was to be used as a base for trading, expansion, and to control the northern extension of the Ionian Sea and up to the northern reaches of the Adriatic Sea.

In 384 B.C. an expedition from Lader (on the Italian mainland) of 10,000 men and their ships attacked Pharos (known as Lessina and now known as Hvar) and laid siege to it. The Syracusan fleet of Dionysus was informed and attacked the siege fleet. This bloody naval victory by the Greeks secured this part of the Adriatic for them and allowed further colonization to take place in relative safety.

This colony minted its own money and flourished for almost 1,000 years under Greek as well as Roman authority. The colony was the headquarters for further Greek expansion along the Dalmatian coast during this period. The Greek colonies founded from Issa included Korcula, Trogir, Stobrec, and Solin. The area called "Gradina" includes all that remains of this important Greek colony in the area. Some sources claim that the island had a population as high as 14,000 during parts of this Greek period. By the middle of the Third Century B.C. all the Greek Colonies of Dalmatia, with the exception of Issa were subject to the Illyrian kingdom. This unique situation of Issa being the last place to fall, the most secure, the strongest outpost would continue to be demonstrated until the present time.

There are some records of an earlier Greek colonization by Ionian, but perhaps it was only a temporary settlement or a very short-lived attempt at colonization. The Issa settlement was to be a permanent and ongoing endeavor to colonize the Adriatic Islands.

The site of the Greek settlement in Vis town contains many visible remnants of the Greek period, which are of great value to the scientific community. The main item of interest is the Greek graves sites or tombs which are very accessible. By going to the gas station in Vis (the only one on the island), look due north and off to the left, you will see the tennis courts. Go to your left around the buildings to the area behind the tennis courts and you can walk among these ancient treasures. Please be careful.

 

NAMING CHARACTERISTICS

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The island and its settlements have gone under various names over the centuries, which can lead to confusion. We tried to use the names as they were used at the time the event took place.

  • The island of Vis

  • Ionias From the earliest Greeks

  • Issa From the Greek, means "equal" or "same"

  • Lissa From the Italian for Issa

  • Vis From the Slavic meaning "high place"

  • The Village of Komiza

  • Cum Issa From Latin meaning "with Issa"

  • Comissa Italian form of Latin "Cum Issa"

  • Comisa Shortened Italian form

  • Komiza Slavic spelling

  • The Islands of Palagruza

  • Pelagus From the Greek meaning "open sea"

  • Pelagosa From the Italian

  • Palagruza From the Slavic

  • The Island of Svetac, from the Slavic Sveti Andrija, from the Italian meaning San Andrew. The oldest known name is Pinija meaning Italian Stone Pine.

  • The island of Brusnik, from the Slavic meaning whetstone or grindstone.

  • The island of Bisevo was known as Busi or Buzi in earlier times. The name Bisevo might be a derivative of the Slavic Biser meaning Pearl, or the Latin for bis, meaning sulfur. The island has a nickname meaning rotten which might come from the sulfur deposits found there.

 

Around 230 B. C. the Illyrian King Agron was waging war off the West coast of Illyria against the Greek and other communities along the Adriatic coast . The IIlyrian navy consisted of independent pirates who assisted the King, but put their own interests above the kingdom. The island of Issa was struggling to withstand the Illyrian assaults and requested the assistance of Rome to protect them. King Agron died at this time and this left his number one wife, Queen Teuta , as the ruler of his kingdom. Queen Teuta had meetings with two visiting Roman senators, who took great insult in having to deal with a woman, concerning the Illyrian�s intent in the area.

There was an assassination of one of the two Roman senators who had traveled to parlay with the Queen, and the Roman Senate blamed her for his death. The assault on Issa, the insult, and assassination were reason enough for the Romans to declare war against Queen Teuta and the Illyrian nation. In 228 B.C. The Queen�s trusted subordinate, Demetrius of Pharos (now Hvar), took up the sword to protect his home island, while the Romans sent 200 ships, 20,000 troops and 200 cavalry to Illyria to secure their own brand of peace.

When the Romans arrived, Demetrius surrendered to them immediately, and he became their trusted ally. The war ended very quickly and Queen Teuta withdrew to Kotor. The surrender terms were very strict and she was required to pay tribute to the Romans, and she was further restricted in all of her activities. She was banished to her main castle in Kotor Bay and allowed to travel to several of her other castles in the area. Demetrius went on to become famous as a Roman General, and later married King Agron�s second wife, Triteuta. The island of Issa was made a "free state" by the Romans and its people were declared Roman citizens, with certain privileges and the ongoing protection of the Roman Empire.

Local legends claim that when Queen Teuta lost her throne, she was banished to the island, now known as Svetac, thirteen miles west of Komiza, and built her castle there. She supposedly cavorted with young men captives or pirate sea captains and when she tired of them, she would cast them into the sea from the tall cliffs of the island. The remnants of this castle and Illyrian inhabitation are still evident today on the island.

The second Illyrian war in 219 B.C. pitted the rebellious Demetrius against the Romans, The Romans re-invaded Illyria and drove Demetrius from the country. He fled to Macedonia for the protection of Philip, father of Alexander the Great.

All the above activity took place about the same time as the Punic wars, in which Hannibal of Carthage brought his elephants through the Alps to attack Rome. Many historical accounts attribute the birth of the Roman navy to this period of the Punic wars. There are written stone tablets attesting to the deeds of the sailors of Dalmatia in the service of the Roman Navy during the period of 69-79 A. D. The close alliance of Rome with Issa and Issa�s naval acumen began a relationship that would go on for centuries. The Issan vessels called Lembi Issiaci or beaked ships and the experience of Issa�s sailors were a boon to the Romans who had no real naval acumen. Issa contributed 20 vessels to the Roman fleet when Rome went to war against Philip of Macedonia. From this time forward the Roman presence in the Adriatic was established.

Under Roman rule the Greek colonies enjoyed complete internal autonomy but were required to support any Roman military action. The Greek language was fully integrated into the Roman system and many artifacts of the era contain bilingual Latin/Greek declarations and records of events.

In 181 B.C., Gentius son of Pleuratus ruled Illyria. Issa was still semi-independant under Roman rule although the surrounding islands were under Illyrian rule. Gentius was a constant thorn in the side of Issa, plotting war, raiding Issa colonies and encouraging the Dalmatians to attack Issa�s colonies. In 172 B.C. Issa sent a delegation to the Roman Senate and accused Gentius of plotting war and further claiming that all of Gentius�s envoys were spying for Macedonian rulers. This resulted in another war in which Rome was able to conquer Illyria.

Roman citizens were now encouraged to begin trading with the eastern shores of the Adriatic and to operate with Roman protection. Issa with now more than sixty years of Roman citizenship gained a very privileged position. In 158 B.C. Issa�s colonies on the mainland again were under attack by the Dalmatians and Issa requested Roman military assistance to preserve her favored trading position. Rome sent an ex-consul named Fannius Strabo to the Dalmatians to try to negotiate a solution. The Dalmatians insulted the envoy and told him that the affairs of the Eastern Adriatic were of no concern of Rome. Needless to say this resulted in another war against the Illyrian�s (Dalmatians).

In 59 B.C., Caesar was given the responsibility for Illyricum (later named Dalmatia), for a period of five years. Delegates from Issa appeared before Caesar and spoke of their long status as a free allied community with specific mention of Issa�s rights to free access and the guarantees for their mainland colonies. His legate, Numerius Rufus, was based in Issa, which indicates that the administration for the region was carried out from this island.

From 49 B.C. to 43 B.C. the Romans had an ongoing civil war in which a rebellious Roman general name Arruntius Scribonianus started an altercation with his Roman masters . Arruntius fled from the mainland to Issa were he died. This rebellion cast a cloud over Issa and its true motives. However Roman politics being what they were, Issa was forgiven and she went on to become a full Roman municipium, a free and allied state, and developed into an important trade center in the Adriatic for the Romans.

The coins of Issa were found in wide circulation along the coast and hinterlands of the eastern mainland as far as the Dinaric Alps. Some of these coins bear the inscription of "IONIO(S)" which may have been an earlier Greek name for the island. Even at this time salt was a very important commodity and the people of the coastal area didn�t have the ability to obtain dry salt form the sea, so they had to trade for salt from the salt mines in the interior of Dalmatia. This lack of salt would be a major hindrance to the economy of the island until the late 1900�s.

Roman control and presence on the island continued for many centuries. Roman citizens from the Italian peninsula were encouraged to help develop and commercialize the Balkan areas of Roman control. The development of these inland areas by Italian settlers would continue for centuries. The commercial control of certain villages and towns, and land ownership would still mainly be by Italians until the end of World War I. The native populations would intermarry with the settlers and this would result in a new mixed origin people with loyalty to both the Italian peninsula and the Balkan mainland.

The Roman artifacts and structures of the era are very visible in Vis town with one of the finest Roman grid patterns of streets in the Adriatic. The City proper of Issa was on 24.7 measured acres. The Roman baths are still discernable as well as the layout of the ancient city�s streets from a position right in front of the gas station in Vis town

Issa seemed to remain fairly war-free under the newer Roman regimes, although the mainland would continue to endure wars on what seems like a regular basis. The mainland wars and subsequent borders were a rather fluid situation. None of the non-geographical borders, nor battle lines was a black and white situation. They could change from time to time based on a rather liquid status of the participants. Sometimes warfare was conducted on a battle line facing battle line, but at other times it was more like a guerrilla warfare situation. Many times a local short-term warrior/ruler would inflict his authority on a local group for a short or long-term period. The local inhabitants would live in fear for their life, on a daily basis. The phrase "master of the day" could describe the constant turmoil that the people suffered through.

The first Christian missionaries reached the Dalmatian area at this time. Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans writes "�that from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricum, I have preached the gospel of Christ". There is no evidence that Paul actually visited Illyria, however records do indicate that his pupil St Timothy, did visit the area.

The great Roman emperor Diocletian, born of slave parents in the Solona area, was to build his retirement home south of Solona. The city of Spalato (Split) grew and expanded around his "Villa" on the near shore of Dalmatia. Diocletian died in 315 A. D.

In about 280 A. D., during the reign of Diocletian, in what is now Turkey, there was born a man who was to become the Archbishop of Myra. Myra was a major Roman port south of what today is Antalya, Turkey. This man, later known as Saint Nicholas, was much admired by the Emperor Justinian, who erected a Cathedral in his memory in Constantinople. Prior to his election as Archbishop, Nicholas was imprisoned and subject to harsh treatment at the hands of the enemies of the church. The Archbishop took part in the Synod of Nicaea in 325 A. D. Under the reign of Constantin, Nicholas was able to lead a more normal life. There are many stories and legends about this Nicholas, and the confusion of a second Saint Nicholas of the same region who died on December 10, 564. The first Saint Nicholas� saint�s day is celebrated on December 6. His persona has changed over the centuries to that whom we know today as Santa Claus, and he is the patron saint of children, sailors, and pawn brokers. The consensus is that this is the Saint Nicholas who is the patron saint of the Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Komiza.

This St. Nicholas became so popular, over the centuries, all across Europe, that in the eleventh Century the residents of Bari, Italy, were successful in removing the supposed remains of this Saint from Myra and enshrined his remains in Bari on May 9, 1087. Shortly thereafter a great basilica was erected over his tomb.

History tells us that in 352 A. D., a childless elderly couple living in Rome wished to leave their wealth to further the work of the Church. They told Pope Liberius of their intentions and together the three prayed for a sign from God for guidance. The story goes on to state that on the hot summer night of August 4, 352 A. D., the Virgin Mary appeared and expressed a wish that a church in her honor be built in Rome on a hill that would be covered with snow the next morning. Needless to say that on the morning of August 5, the residents of Rome awoke to find the Esquiline Hill was draped in a blanket of snow. This sign from heaven was what the elderly couple was looking for, and they now provided the funds to build a church on this site, to be called Saint Mary Major, and to later be more popularly called "Our Lady of the Snows."

This is the background for the "Our Lady of the Snows" altar that was erected by Antun Zanchi in the late 1600�s and is located within the St. Nicholas Monastery in Komiza.

Theodosius I, who died in 395 A. D. marks the final separation of the Eastern and Western Roman Empire.

 

THE ROMAN COLLAPSE

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The Western Roman Empire would now begin its great collapse. The Visigoths who had settled for some years in the Illyrian provinces began an uprising against the Romans, which would be carried on by others for many centuries. The Goths reached Solona in 395 A. D. People fled before the various invaders and many would seek asylum on the Islands of the Adriatic. The last legal emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Nepos by name, was murdered in Diocletian�s palace in 480 A. D. Dalmatia was now brought under the control of the Byzantium Empire of Constantinople and would remain under its control for over five hundred years.

This Byzantium authority did not prevent new invaders from seeking control of the area. In 547 A. D. the invading Slavs and Avars started to advance westward into the Balkans. Annually, advancing waves of invaders came further and further into the territory known as Illyricum (Dalmatia). They would lay waste, pillage, plunder, enslave and eventually they would settle in the newly conquered areas.

A vast program of fortification was begun by the Roman Emperor Justinian (527-567) to thwart these invaders. There is a remnant of one of these fortifications on the island now known as Svetac, 13 miles west of Komiza. Saint Benedict�s (480-547) followers came to this region at this time and are said to have built their first monastery on the island of Svetac. These ruins are still visible today. The Benedictines should be considered the main religious leaders for the area. There seems to be no detailed records of their activities in the area, but there are many ruins and remnants of their activities on Vis, Bisevo, and Svetac.

Justinian�s efforts were not very successful. In 567 A. D. the Avars along with a band of Hunnic Cotruriges, numbering 10,000 warriors moved toward Dalmatia. The native Romans would flee to the safety of the islands to avoid these brutal invaders. It was not uncommon for the victors to take captured people to use them as slaves for the remainder of their lifetimes. Some places on the mainland, Zara (Zadar) and Spalato (Split), namely, would remain free of the invasion forces, while the islands themselves would remain a refuge for centuries. The few traditions of Roman life would eventually disappear on the mainland, while the islands would retain some of their Roman culture. Roman law and some customs survived in coastal areas and the islands. In 641 A. D., the Dalmatian Pope John IV (one of three Dalmatian Popes, the others being St. Caius [283-296], and Pope Sixtus V [1521-1590]) ransomed some prisoners, taken at Salona, from these invaders.

 

THE DARK AGES

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Although the island was known to the Christians from Salona, who needed the area to escape during the 7th century, we find no old Christian ruins from the 5th-8th centuries on Vis. The surrounding islands of Lastovo, Hvar, Bisevo, and Korcula do contain Christian ruins from that era. During the 7th and 8th century the "Croats" came to Issa. They married and intermingled with the resident population of Greek and Roman origins.

Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the West on Christmas day in 800, much to the displeasure of Constantinople as this was considered a direct threat to their control of Dalmatia. This resulted in another long war, but Byzantium was able to protect its Dalmatian possessions. When the peace treaty was signed (814), Croatia and Slavonia was given to Charlemagne, while Byzantium was to retain all of Dalmatia, including, Zara, Trogir, Spalato, Ragusa and Kotor, together with the islands of Krk, Cres and Rab, which became the Byzantium Imperial Province of Dalmatia.

Historical records indicate that in the early 800�s the Saracens from North Africa invaded Italy and proceeded to sack and pillage Rome. When the Saracens left to return to North Africa, their ships were overcome by a massive storm and the Saracen fleet was sunk. For days after this sinking Saracen bodies washed up on the local beaches clutching some of the loot or booty that they had taken from Rome.

Pope Nicholas, pope from 858 to November 13, 867, was only one of three popes to be awarded the title "The Great." Pope Nicholas� reign is fairly well documented and indicates his ongoing problems with John, the archbishop of Ravena, and the pope�s visit to Ravena to chastise the archbishop for his oppression. Nicholas also had an ongoing debate with the Eastern Church in Constantinople over succession rights within the Eastern rite. This particular St Nicholas�s Saint�s Day is November 13. Do these historical writings give us a clue to the origin of Komiza�s St. Nicholas and the significance of the date over the entryway to the Monastery of St. Nicholas (A. D. DCCL" 850 A. D.") ?

In 840, the eleventh Doge of Venice, Pietro Tradonico, led a naval expedition to the area in and around Issa, to rid the area of the Slav pirates that had been raiding the Venetian merchant ships. In 887, another Doge, Pietro Candiano I, attempted to control the pirates in the area and lost his life in a battle at the town of Makarska. The pirates in the area were able to extract annual tribute from the Venetians in order to let Venetians trade with the inhabitants and allow their shipping to pass safely through the area without being plundered.

Branimir (879-892) now became King of Croatia and wished to swear allegiance to the Roman church rather than Constantinople. The Roman church gladly accepted this and pronounced Branimir the first King of Croatia. Branimir now taxed his new subjects and exerted control over the Adriatic. Venice would have none of this and another war was waged. This time (877) Venice lost and was required to pay tribute to pass freely through the Adriatic

During this era the area became "Slavic", and the mainland became independent of the Byzantine empire, while the islands remained under Byzantine rule. In 925 Croatia became a kingdom under Prince Tomislav, who then crowned himself king. He then elevated the Spalato archdiocese to the controller of the coastal region. Tomislav earned a reputation as a true warrior, raising a army of 100,000 foot soldiers and 60,000 cavalrymen with a fleet of 80 large vessels and 100 smaller ones. After Tomislav�s death his descendents would come under pressure from internal sources and lose the prestige, power, and control he had established.

In 976, Doge Pietro Orseolo balked at paying tribute to the pirates and sent a fleet of six Venetian galleys across the Adriatic to put an end to this problem. He attacked the Island of Issa and laid waste to its towns and settlements. He also carried off several boatloads of prisoners of both sexes to remain as slaves in Venice.

In 997, Issa was invaded again by the Venetians. The towns were destroyed and the population was enslaved. Some people escaped and settled in the hinterlands of the island. They founded several settlements in the hills, some of which exist to this day.

The pirates of the Adriatic were also troubling Emperor Basil II of Byzantium. Basil �s interests were more to the north and east and the problems his army had in controlling those areas. This led the Dalmatian area to become a vacuum of any power or authority. The Emperor was also losing his hold on the southern Italian peninsula. This vacuum led to the Benedictines� incursion into the area to convert the people from the Eastern Church to the Roman Catholic church. These Benedictines built many structures on the islands. They built a Monastery on Bisevo, which is reported in many publications. At this time, the village of Cum Issa (Comisa), meaning "with Issa," was populated by about 100 people of Italian as well as Slavic origin.

The Benedictines also built a Monastery on the island of Svetac in the area called the Felandino Bimbul. While we can find no historical details on the Svetac Monastery, the ruins of this Monastery are very obvious to the visitors. There remains a working cistern with an attached room and a "hand made" terraced field of about 3 acres, which still contains shoots of wheat. Some legends claim that this was the first Benedictine edifice built in the area (circa 850 A. D.). Another Fort/church was also built at some later time down by the seashore south of the town of Comisa and now carries the name Sveti Roco (St. Richard). Another fort/church called Sveti Michael was built on top of the hill above Comisa, at the pass on the road to Vis.

The progression of buildings, first Svetac, then Bisevo and finally Comisa, could be explained based on geography: Svetac is a very small formidable island, a great natural fortification, but with a very small cultivatable area, probably hand made. Bisevo has a much larger cultivatable area and could support a much larger population, although it is not as impregnable as Svetac. Komiza has by comparison a huge farming area plus a continuous source of spring water, but the least defensible geography.

The Venetians, more traders than warriors, only wanted to protect and enhance their trading scope. Early in the year 1000 A. D., Emperor Basil and Doge Orseolo struck a bargain, where the Venetians would assume control and responsibility for the protection of the Adriatic, and the Byzantium Empire would grant Venice preferential trading rights in Constantinople.

 

VENETIAN CONTROL

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On May 9, 1000, Doge Orseolo, with his new authority, was determined to put a stop, once and for all, to the pirate problem and launched a naval expedition to the troubled area. As the Venetian fleet sailed into the ports along the coast and on the islands, the Doge was greeted with great ceremony and public homage. The local rulers seemed to submit to the authority of the Doge and willingly agreed to forego their annual tribute and to let the Venetian merchant fleets pass freely through the area. The brother of one Croatian king gave his son, Stjepan to the Doge, and this son was to later marry the Doge�s daughter, Hicela.

However, the people of the islands of Curzola (Korcula) and Lagosta (Lastovo) would have none of this, and they resisted the Venetians. As a result of this rebellion, or resistance, the Venetians showed their full might against these people, laying waste to their towns and devastating the countryside of these two islands.

The victory of this expedition led to Venetian control of the area that was to last well into the 18th Century. The word "control" is used loosely; although the Venetians conquered the area, the local populace did not always accept total Venetian rule. The Byzantium Empire was at Lissa�s back door, and the Dalmatians knew how to play one side off against the other to ensure a certain level of independence from each side. This method of self preservation or negotiation, playing one side against the other, would be used over and over again, up until current times, even by Tito in his dealings with the West and the East during the Cold War.

In 1154, the Lessina Diocese was founded to help ensure Venetian control of the island. This diocese included the islands of Brassa (now known as Brac), Lessina (known as Pharos to the Romans, now known as Hvar), Lissa (known as Issa to the Greeks and now known as Vis), Lagosto (now know as Lastovo), and Curzola (now known as Korcula).

In 1159, Pope Alexander III was elected with much confusion and political intrigue. The Church was not yet rid of the disarray and corruption that had plagued it for centuries, and an Anti-Pope was also elected near the same time. This resulted in great intrigue with the German arm of the church taking one side and the Italian arm taking the other. After nearly twenty years an agreement was made to convene and settle this problem in Venice between the two factions. King William of Sicily furnished the Pope with eleven galleys and two other ships to make his voyage to Venice for the conclave. The fleet left Vasto on March 9, 1177, and as this fleet was sailing northward near Palagruza, a large storm came up and the fleet took refuge on Palagruza. The next day March 10, the Pope set sail north towards Zara (now Zadar). As they came upon Lissa the fleet put into the harbor at Comisa and the Pope enjoyed a midday dinner in Comisa. Some people in Comisa can show you today the remnants of the house in which this Pope ate his lunch. This event is duly recorded in the Monastery of Saint Nicholas above Comisa. It is possible that this event initiated the construction of the Monastery of Saint Nicholas, as we know it today. After a short rest the fleet continued north and made a grand entrance into the city of Zara. The arrival of the Pope was of great significance to the people of Zara and is commemorated in their cathedral archives. On March 23, 1177, the Pope arrived in Venice to begin the convention to settle this ongoing problem.

Dubrovnik began a war with Hum (now known as Bosnia-Hercegovina) in 1184. Hum attacked the island of Corcula and was repelled. By September 27, 1186, a treaty was entered into between Hum and Dubrovnik in which Hum would renounce its claims to Corcula and Vis. There are no records available to show when Hum had attacked or laid claim to Vis.

The story of Robinhood of Sherwood Forest fame has some connection to Dalmatia. It is said that King Richard the Lion-Hearted (1157-1199) returned from the Crusades via the Dalmatian coast. Some claim he went via Ragusa while others claim he came through Zara.

 

The Fourth Crusade was instigated in France, with the help of German and Flanders� rulers in 1200. These rulers pleaded to Pope Innocent to start a new crusade to free the Holy Land. The Pope gave his blessing and the European rulers went to Venice to plead their case for naval support, as Venice was the only European country to have a large enough Navy to support this undertaking. In the first week of Lent in 1201 these rulers pleaded with Doge Dandolo to support their efforts to free the Holy Land. Venice promised to transport 4,500 Knights with horses, 9,000 squires, 20,000 foot soldiers and food for nine months for the Crusaders, all of this for the price of 84,000 Silver Marks. Venice would also provide, at her own expense, 50 fully-equipped Venetian galleys in return for fifty percent of the conquered lands. All agreements were signed with a sendoff date of June 24, 1202. At the scheduled time of departure the European rulers had not fulfilled their obligation of men and materials, nor could they pay the Venetians the promised 84,000 Silver Marks. A lot of last minute negotiations went on behind closed doors to see if the Crusade could be saved. Venice made a last minute deal with the Crusader Army and its leaders. The city of Zara (Zadar) had been recently lost by Venice to the King of Hungary, and if the Crusaders would help recapture it for Venice, Venice would perhaps delay payment, by the Crusaders, of the balance of the 84,000 Silver Marks.

Finally, on November 8, 1202, the Army of the Fourth Crusade set sail from Venice. The 480 ships led by the Doge sailed directly to Zara and captured and sacked the city. The Pope, upon hearing of this sin against the Catholic Hungarians, excommunicated the entire Venetian force. The Crusaders now settled in for the winter, but before long, there erupted an internal war between the various armies as to who was entitled to what loot from Zara. Once this was settled, the next problem that arose was that some of the Crusade leaders wished to attack the Christian Byzantium capital of Constantinople.

The next spring the Fleet sailed from Zara, down the Adriatic, past Lissa and east to Constantinople. On June 24, 1203, the fleet dropped anchor off Constantinople. Another long story could be written about the inner battles between the Crusaders and each faction�s attempt to secure power and treasure for themselves from Constantinople. It is said the sacking, burning, and pillaging done by these Christian Crusaders, against their fellow Eastern Orthodox Christians, was worse than the actions of the Turkish Ottoman Sultans two and one half centuries later against this same Christian city.

This annihilation could be considered the beginning of the downward trend of the Byzantium Empire and the concurrent rise of the Ottoman Turks.

The Venetian rulers would establish control over their new won territories by treaty, which would indicate the method of control Venice would exert. Generally speaking, Venice would appoint a Venetian prince or count to reside in the town to oversee Venice�s interest. This prince or count (known as Knez in Slav) was to protect Venice�s trading interests but not to interfere with local affairs. These commercial interests were known as "staple rights," Basically, Venice would control all trade from or to the new area, including which vessels would transport the goods for trade. In the thirteenth and the first half of the fourteenth centuries, Venice was not very successful in fully implementing this program and the Dalmatian colonies were able to circumvent the restrictions. By the second half of the fourteenth century, the Venetians had developed more control over these colonies and were able to implement their plan to its fullest. The end of the century saw a full development of a class of merchants/noblemen who were to rule the area. It was still possible at this time for a person of wealth to better himself and move up to a higher class and have a voice in the government of his area. By 1334 however the ruling bodies declared that no one could become a member of the ruling class unless his grandfather was also a member, thus precluding many chances for moving up the social ladder. This did not sit well with the lower class and there were several major uprisings by the lower class, which were quickly put down by the local nobles and the nobles from the surrounding areas.

The Benedictines moved their monastery from Bisevo to Saint Nicholas Church in Comisa around 1200. The ruins of the old Bisevo monastery are still visible next to the church of Saint Sylvester on Bisevo. The relocation of the monastery was due to the threat of attack by the Omis pirates.

About 1235 there was a noted family named Kacici, an offshoot of the Subic family. They were an unruly family, practicing piracy in the coastal area between the Cetina and Neretva rivers. They were headquartered in the town of Omis, and controlled several Adriatic islands and became known as the Omis pirates. The main Subic family had their own problems on the mainland dealing with their Hungarian overlords and could not be concerned with the Kacici�s family problems. In 1279 the Venetians saw their opportunity to strike at the Kacici�s strongholds and by 1280 had wiped out this pirate threat to their sea borne commerce in the Adriatic.

In 1278 further religious and political posturing resulted in the Chancellor of Lessina becoming the ruling head of Lessina, Brassa, and Lissa. At this time the noblemen of Lessina were given properties on Lissa and the local population became tenant farmers to the Lessina "landlords." Again, the people were basically serfs or vassals with no landholding rights and were subject to the whims and foibles of their local and far off masters.

 

MARCO POLO

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During the 1200�s the Venetians and the Genoese were in a constant state of battle over trade rights. They waged war against each other in the Adriatic, the Mediterranean and as far away as Constantinople. On Sunday September 7, 1298, the two fleets had a major battle off of the coast of Corcula.

The Genoese fleet consisted of 85 galleys, while the Venetians had 96 galleys and 3 big ships. The Genoese commander was Lamba Doria, and Andrea Dandola commanded the Venetians. A typical galley of this era was from 130 to 200 feet long and could have from 50 to 120 rowers. The battle was joined early in the morning at a place now called Lumbarda on the Island of Corcula. For one reason or another the Venetian fleet was soundly beaten. Eighteen Venetian galleys were sunk and 66 were captured and burned by the Genoese victors. The Venetians losses were 7,000 rowers, sailors, and armed men killed and 7,400 captured and taken as prisoners to Genoa. After the victory, as well as before the initial contact, the Genoese had been pillaging Corcula and the surrounding islands.

Marco Polo�s own personal galley was captured, along with Marco himself, and he was taken as a prisoner to Genoa. Unfortunately for Marco, but maybe fortunately for us, when Marco was in prison he told the story of his travels to China to a cellmate. This cellmate in turn wrote out the story which we all enjoy now as the Polo family�s adventures to China.

It is said that the sailors for the Naval service in Venice were conscripted in a very unusual way. Twelve young men were initially chosen from a village and they cast dice for the honors. The winner (or loser) was taken into the service, and was paid 5 lire per month wages by the government. The eleven men not chosen were required to contribute one lira per month each, to the man who went away. Also, each major village or city was required to supply and support at least one galley to the Venetian naval effort.

Shortly later a peace treaty was signed between the Genoa and Venice and trade went on, again certain tribute was to be paid and certain trade limits were placed on the Venetians� activities.

The records of 1331 from Hvar, indicate that fishing was a very important occupation in Comisa at that time.

From Nevenka Bezic-Bozanic, Population of Komiza

A document dated 1367 reveals that the family name "Petric" should be considered as the oldest family name in Comisa; that family name has been preserved through the centuries and is still present in Komiza to this day.

In 1358 Venice lost control of Zara again, this included Lessina , and also Lissa, which was a sub-territory of Lessina. Jacopo Cesami became Admiral of the Navy as well as the Count of Lesina, Brazza, Curzolo and Lissa. This resulted in Croatian-Hungarian rule being established over Lissa. Jacopo died in 1360 and the Admiral-in-chief title was bestowed upon Baldassare Sorba as well as the title of Cavaliere along with the rights of "Contada" of Lissa and its surrounding islands. In 1409 King Ladislav of Anjou sold Dalmatia back to Venice, for 100,000 Ducats, thus re-establishing Venetian rule over Lissa. It is interesting that after 5 centuries and twenty six wars Venice was able to regain control of Dalmatian, as a commercial bargain. The Venetians were not kind to the inhabitants of the area and tightly ruled the area until 1797, when Napoleon conquered all of Europe.

Venice would control her new territory with a variety of systems. The islands were not allowed to trade among themselves but only with Venice. Thus the Venetian merchants gained a very favorable position and could become even wealthier. The Venetians would also send a Venetian prince or count to reside in each town�s council to oversee trade as well as the local rulers Generally the official would not lead or direct the governing bodies� actions, but would have the power of veto over anything that would be contrary to Venetian goals. Often this official would also have military authority over the inhabitants, or if the town was large enough a Kaptan would be appointed. Again if a town was large enough Venice would also establish a garrison of non-local troops to enforce various laws and regulations and defend the town from invaders. The restriction on trade between the islands would of course lead the people into a sort of petty smuggling, in order to get the best possible price for their goods without Venice skimming a little off the top for their merchants.

Interestingly enough these town councils were to maintain their position over the people no matter who the current overlord was, i.e. Byzantium, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Hungary, or even Venice.

In February 1415, King Sigismund, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, sent his army into Bosnia. There they devastated the land and in August of that year the King lost a battle with the Turks under Ishak Beg. Somehow Sigismund acquired the Islands of Corcula, Brac, and Hvar, with no mention of Lissa (Vis). Venice recaptured these islands from the Emperor in 1420. Venice was not immediately able to re-conquer Trogir or Spalato at this time, but when they did they were able to establish new trade relations with the interior. The interior hinterlands again fell into anarchy, as the Emperor Sigismund, had other interests and would not devote his army to maintaining control.

From Nevenka Bezic-Bozanic, Population of Komiza

In 1479, a craftsman named Juraj Cubricevic got a vineyard from the Convent of Saint Nicholas. The vineyard was located in a place called "Pod Gradac" (under, below, grade.) At that time people were not able to buy land or property, for example land from the church. They were tenants-at-will, and they only got to work on the land.

 

THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE

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The Ottoman Empire, also known as "the Turks," was ruled by one family for over seven centuries. They ruled from the 13th Century until 1924 when the Empire was abolished and replaced by the modern day Turkey. Their first ruler was Osman, for whom the nation was named. is descendant His descendants ruled in an unbroken line for 700 years, with an abdication here and there, and a dethroning every once in a while. In 1453 the Turks captured the Byzantine capital of Constantinople and renamed It Istanbul.

Under Mehmed the Conqueror the Turks would expand their small Empire to become the most powerful state in the world. Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent reigned from 1520 until 1566. Under his rule the Empire reached its zenith. The Empire included Asia Minor, Greece, the Middle East as we know it today, Iraq, Egypt, the North coast of Africa, the Balkans, up to and including Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, Croatia, southern Italy and the north shore of the Black Sea. Suleyman was not only a great military leader, but also created a virtual renaissance in this country including literature, the arts, the sciences, and he set a new standard of jurisprudence.

Between 1423 and 1695 the Turks and the Venetians conducted no less than 7 major wars against each other, with uncounted minor battles, both on land and in the Adriatic, the Mediterranean, and the Aegean Seas. The reason for the wars are too numerous to mention but most were based on trading rights and the ability of each side to control their trading privileges. Each war would end when the parties were tired of fighting, ran out of money, or were more concerned with another adversary, and then a peace would be struck for "X" number of years. The loser of that particular war would have to pay tribute to the winner, and the winner would also generally gain some very favorable trading rights.

In the year of 1483, the fleet from Naples-Aragon under King Frederick attacked Lissa and destroyed the village of Velo Selo in the hinterlands. Once the invaders left, the people returned to the Lissa port area. In the Vis harbor area they founded two settlements, Luka at the western side of the bay and Kut at the eastern side. These two settlements existed separately until 1579. With the founding of the church of Our Lady of the Cave, the two adjacent communities were joined into what is now known as Vis town.

From Nevenka Bezic-Bozanic, Population of Komiza

In 1485, rulers of the capital of Hvar gave to Radoju Stanusicu and his successors a parcel of land and permission for building a house on that land in the bay of Comisa

During this period, the coastal area of Dalmatia would remain under the control of the Venetians. One notable event was the siege of Spalato by the Turks., in which one Captain Petar Kruzic was able to resist the Turkish onslaught. Even when the Turks laid siege to Vienna in 1529, and the Turks controlled the Balkans, Dalmatia was to remain under Venetian control. However, this was not to say that the Turks did not conduct sporadic major raids on Dalmatian towns at their pleasure.

In 1532 Suleyman marched on Vienna again, but he was stopped near Kosseg in western Hungary by an army under Nikola Jurisic. With winter coming on, the Turks had no choice but to retreat. As they retreated south they pillaged and plundered the land, capturing many people to be sold as slaves in Asia Minor.

The Venetians would ally themselves with various European rulers to enhance their ability to fight off the Turks to preserve Europe for the Christians. Their prime ally was the Austrian Empire. The border area between the Turks and the Austrians was very fluid, with raiding parties from both sides trying to get the upper hand. These raiding parties had no organized plan, only their personal efforts to protect and preserve things for their benefit. The battle areas would ebb and flow, north and south or east and west, generally with no defined lines. They would each use their religious beliefs to justify their warring efforts. The peasants caught in the middle were constantly at the mercy of these war parties, and would do what ever was necessary to survive. They would change their religious posturing to concur with whatever warlord was currently threatening them. Christians would become Moslems or vice versa depending on the fortunes of war. Many of the war weary would abandon their homes and seek refuge on the coastal islands.

Even with this new menace the islands would remain a haven. Sometimes the Turks would attack the islands and the Dalmatian coast, but these appear to be mostly raids without permanent occupation.

Venice had had a long prosperous period of exclusive trading and control with the Eastern regions. Columbus�s 1492 discovery of the New World focused the European vision to the west. In 1497 the Portuguese navigator Vasco De Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to initiate the sea routes to India. The changes brought about by these two discoveries were to result in a great decline in the prosperity of Venice, and this in turn would lessen the prosperity of the little Island of Lissa.

The Venetians were concerned about new hostilities on the Dalmatian border and raids on Sebenica and Spalato by the Turks. The Venetian Doge sent his Emissary, one Andrea Zanchani (could this be a predecessor to the Zanki clan?) to Istanbul with the Venetian tribute for the Island of Zante in March of 1499. This emissary was to also deliver the message that Venice had no desire for war. The Sultan was aware of the new alliance between Venice and Louis XII of France and the possibility of a new Crusade. The Sultan wanted to strike the first blow and began a new war against Venice in the summer of 1499.

During the years that followed the inhabitants of the near mainland erected many defensive structures, in order to survive the Turks incursions. In the area now called Kastela, north of Split, some 20 Castles were built, of which 7 survive to this day.

  • Kastel Novi built in 1512

  • Kastel Stafilic built in 1508

  • Kastel Luksic built in 1564 (called Dobrila�s)

  • Kastel Stari date unknown

  • Kastel Gomilica built in 1529

  • Kastel Kambelovac built in 1517

  • Kastel Sucurac built 1392

These castles were built by the local nobles to protect their serfs from the raiding Turks. The peasants would flee from their mountain villages to the Castles whenever a Turkish raid was imminent. These seven remaining castles stand today as a reminder of the trials and hardships of the people over 400 years ago, and are located between Split and Trogir.

From Nevenka Bezic-Bozanic, Population of Komiza

In 1512, a painter, Mihovil Vitaljic built a gravestone for himself and his descendants with an inscription and a coat of arms. After that both Peter Radovic in 1537, and Ivan Pribcic in 1578 followed his lead in building tombs within Saint Nickolas church.

In 1513 the citizens of the bay of Comisa asked the Hvar Bishop for permission to build Saint Mary�s church. These citizens were the sons of Mihovila de Magistris, Mihovil Vitaljic, Petar Foretic, Luka Juksic, Simun Klirasic, Jerolim Foretic, Marjan Kalebic, Franjo Jaksic, Luka Nochiaj, Benedikt Vitaljic, Petar Jaksic, Marjan Bozidar, Marko Bratonovic. The founders of this church, which was mentioned in the one document as "Ecclesia Siue Capella Sub Invocotion Noncupate Airsurizza" decided to build the church on the seashore at the north end of the settlement.

 

THE PIRATES OF SENJ

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During the 1500�s the Austrians/Habsburgs were under tremendous pressure from Turkish raids on their southern border. The Austrians instituted a program of mercenaries to protect them. These troops were recruited, supplied and paid by the Austrians to defend the Empire. They were given an area of responsibility under the authority of a local Captain. These troops were originally recruited from the Austrian population, but as things developed, recruits from other areas would join the group. These mercenaries would eventually be called Uskoks, which roughly translates to "refugee from across the border" and would be headquartered in Senj near what is now Rijeka . The makeup of these troops would be the low end of the social ladder: criminals, fugitives, deserters from other military services, Venetians, Austrians, Croatians, Dalmatians, Albanians, some people just fleeing their devastated homeland, opportunists, and even defecting Turks.

This ragtag group was paid for by the Austrians, however many times the Austrians would be up to a year in arrears in their payment of wages. The Uskoks, being a heavily armed military group, were not altar boys, and having families of their own to feed and cloth, they would become independent raiders to sustain themselves. Over the years when peace treaties had been signed between any of the parties in the area, Venice, Habsburg, Turks, or the Papal states, their discharged troops would often join with the Uskoks, to put to use the only skills they knew.

The Uskoks were a scourge to the area, their masters could not control them and they did not generally play by the rules of the game. On more that one occasion Venice would conclude a peace treat with the Turks, with the understanding that the Venetians would control the Uskoks. The Venetians would blockade the Uskoks home port and generally make war against them to get them to toe the line. In theory the Austrian were the Uskoks masters and Venice would threaten the Austrians with mayhem if the Uskoks were not handled. Then in some not too distant future time, Venice would go to war against the Turks again, and plead with the Austrian (and the Uskoks) to come to their aid.

Although religion is commonly believed to be the main complaint of the common people in the hinterlands, the taxation by many layers of warlords, administrators, noblemen, and the Sultan in Istanbul were of constant worry to the populace. The Istanbul government would assess a blood tax every four years, in which the young boys of the area were conscripted into military service of the Janissaries, and young girls were condemned to the Sultan�s harems. The ones not meeting the standards for these two services were sold into slavery. It is very easy to see why people would seek the shelter of the offshore islands for themselves and their families.

As the Croats lost more and more territory to the Turks, the peoples that remained under Croatian control had to bear an ever increasing burden of supporting the government and the nobility. The nobility imposed an even more restrictive code of serfdom on their peasants. This reduced the "free" peasant tenants, and the landed tenants to the lowest form of serfdom.

The Venetians were quick to implement this new Croatian order on their subjects in the Dalmatian Islands making their life even more unbearable. In 1516 one Matija Ivanic of the island of Hvar led a revolt against the Venetians and the local nobility. After a few years and much bloodshed this revolt was put down by Venice. Ivanic and his co-conspirators were hanged on galley masts and a large number of the insurgents peasants were condemned to the galleys. It seems that the peasant were always between the devil and the deep blue sea, if the Turks didn�t get you, Venice would get you , or the local nobles would do it.

From Nevenka Bezic-Bozanic, Population of Komiza

In 1527 the family names Vitaljic, Foretic, Radic, Vokijarevic, and Ilic are first found in the records about Comisa. In 1538 Nikola, the son of the craftsman Jurje Pribicic, is mentioned in the records of Comisa. The next year the following people got mentioned: Mato and Vidos Bozanic, Mihovil Vitaljic, Franjo Jurkovic, Jerolim Nikolic, Mihovil Gridasic, and Domina (Nikoli Radovanovic�s wife from Dubrovnik) although documented as a citizen of Comisa; Juraj Cvitic Petrov, Bogdan Pribcic, Petar Petrasic, Juraj Korculanin, Dominik Sfiro, Juraj Borcic, Katarina, the late Franjo Foretic�s wife, Petar Mardesic, Petar Bogdanovic, Mato Bogdanic (called Cvitic), and a craftsman Vidos Orujic, with his son Radovan.

In 1540, the following names are recorded as citizens of Comisa for the first time: Tomo Radojevic, Mihovil Vitaljic Benedictov, Nikola de Magri, Petar Pavsic, Stojanac Mardic, Castalol (a governor of the private lands,) Stjepan Priscic, Anton Catalano, Antun Polutinovic, Petar and Ivan, the sons of Luka Jaksic, Mara called BABA, the wife of Tomo from Krajina, a craftsman, Radovan Orujic, Lucija Sokolic, Marko Martulosov and Ursa Primotic who sold her land to Ivanu Jaksicu, and in 1542 Mato Bakulic got mentioned.

These names were found on the deeds of sale of the land, the vineyards, or the houses of Comisa, from the near surroundings and from Bisevo. Some of them were mentioned as owners and others as customers, while the rest of them were either witnesses or the owners of the neighboring parcels of the land.

In 1569, the citizens of Comisa founded "Brotherhood," which was certified by Vicar Petar Grisonus in the name of the Bishop of Hvar, Bishop Jerolim Argentina. The members of that oldest brotherhood of Comisa counted 59 men. They belonged to all the social classes, Vidos Bozanic and his sons Ivan, Luka and Radovan were craftsmen. Nikola Jerisic was a fisherman. New coming settlers Petar Lukin from Dubrovnik and Pavros Ivanov from Brassa, were members too. There were also some sailors, workers and owners of ships.

In the 1560�s a Portuguese Jew by the name of Daniel Rodriguez was instrumental in promoting the port of Spalato as a trade route from the Ottoman regions to Venice, in part to avoid the raiding Uskoks. This would allow the trade goods to travel in armed convoys from Spalato to Venice to avoid the Uskok pirate raids. This was a point of some distress to Ragusa (Dubrovnik) which had enjoyed a very favorable trading position for this trade and would now be out of the loop.

Turks who had invaded the island destroyed the interior settlements of Lissa in 1571. These same marauders , under the Turkish pirate Uluch Ali, burnt the thriving city of Lessina to the ground and laid waste to many of the surrounding islands. It appears that the Turks had made a major incursion into the Adriatic and the Venetians and Europeans were highly alarmed at this action.

In the fall of 1571, the Holy League of Spain, the Papal States, the Republic of Venice, and the Knights of Malta assembled a fleet under the command of Don John of Austria. Don John was 24 years old at this time and must have been quite a leader to command this fleet at his age. The fleet consisted of over 300 ships of the Triple Alliance, each with 100 soldiers in addition to the rowers. The Spanish portion consisted of 102 vessels and 21,000 fighting men, the Venetians over 100 vessels, the Pope 12 galleys and the fighting men required to man them. Over 80,000 men assembled with the fleet at Messina in northern Sicily. Of the 80,000 men, 50,000 were required to man the oars, while the balance were the fighting men. This was the most powerful naval force ever assembled.

The configurations of the Venetian ships were as follows:

Galley: single deck, 120-180 feet long, 20 foot beam, five guns mounted in the bow, several smaller ones amidships, with a metal beak of 10-20 feet for ramming. These ships normally moved under sail, but were always propelled by oars when in battle.

Galleon: far heavier than a galley; two decks, both thickly mounted with guns; no oars, tall, unwieldy--a floating fortress.

Galleass: half-way between the two. High poop and forecastle (to provide cover for the oarsmen); 50-70 guns, lateen-rigged.

On September 16, 1571, the fleet sailed from Sicily to Corfu. On the morning of October 7, 1571, the battle was joined at a place now called the Gulf of Patras, just west of the Gulf of Corinth, south of a town now called Oxia. The battle ground was to be called the Bay of Lepanto.

The battle resulted in the death of 8,000 men of the Italian and Spanish chivalry, and twice that many were wounded. The Turks lost at least 24,000 killed. The Turkish fleet was oared by Christian slaves. These 12,000 slaves were freed upon the defeat of the Turks.

Although the fleets were almost identical in size and manning, the expert leadership of Don John, the fact that the Spanish had use of their Arquebusiers, and the use of the Venetian galleass� were the major factors that allowed the Christians to prevail. This Turkish defeat was the last large naval action by the Turks in the Mediterranean . The Turkish fleet was commanded by Ali Pasha, the great Turkish warrior. His number two in command and the one in charge of the Turk left flank was none other than Uluch Ali, the scourge of Lessina.

The Battle of Lepanto is recorded as one of the great sea battles, on a par with the Spanish Armada, Trafalgar, Lissa, Jutland, and the Battle of Midway(1942.)

In the winter of 1573 the Dalmatian peasants revolted against the ruling system of Venice and the Nobility. In less than one month this rebellion was put down with horrible torture and execution of the peasant leaders, while the vengeful noblemen summarily executed the peasant soldiers that did not die in the battle.

In 1593, the European forces, defeated the numerically superior Turks at the battle of Sisak. This was the turning point in the battle against the Turks, but it still took 300 years to fully displace the Turks in the area of the Balkans. In 1683 the Turkish siege of Vienna was broken and documented with the Peace Treaty of Karlowitz.

From Nevenka Bezic-Bozanic, Population of Komiza

In 1579, the family names Slavic, Stanojevic, Tomicic, Marinkovic, Nikolic, Ivecvic, Vitaljic, Mardesic, and Foretic were recorded as the owners of the fishermen�s ships of Comisa. Comisanin (Comisan citizen) Morin Mladineo works as a writer for Hvar Knez (prince) Petar Longa. The heads of Comisa at that time were Franjo Borcic and Jakov Bogdan.

The first family names we could find from Comisa were in the Listings of the Shipowners from the Island of Vis. Thus in 1593, the first people who signed up to go fishing to Palagruza with their own ships were: Antun de Maffio, Andria Karuza, Frano Borcic, Marin Grguric, Ivan and Mihovil Vitaljic, Antun Maffio, Mato Ivcevic, Jakov and Ivan Bogdan, Luka, Ivan and Frano Foretic, Mato, Antun and Ivan Borcic, Ivan, Luka and Antun Zuanic, Vicko Stanfortic, Bartul Zambarlin, Simun and Andrija Pribcic, Stepan and Ivan Vitaljic, Mato Petrov, Mato Kuzmin Mardesic, Jakov Joncic, Petar Zorotovic and Nikola Bozanic. In 1597, Vicko Joncic and Antun Borcic had written on their ships "magistro," which meant that they were not only fishermen, but craftsmen, too.

At the end of the 16th century the first secular Comisanin Luka Pribarcic, was mentioned. In 1591, Frano Mladinovic owned a grocery store. The last name Mladinovic very likely stems from the old Venetian last name Mladineo). His house, very well preserved to this day in Komiza, has a coat of arms framed in baroque style. In the field of the coat of arms is the picture of a naked child with a little branch in his hand, the year 1603, and the capitalized initials of his first and last name "FM".

In 1607, the following family names were mentioned as occupants of Comisa: Lukrecija, Andria Bozanic�s wife and Anotel, Nikola Grlicic�s widow as owners of the Houses; Families Zorotovic, Mazzolini, Jelic, Zanki and Kuljis. Between the years 1625 and 1636 Ivan Bogdan, called "Galiot," was the head of Palagruza. He was given that position by the Hvar Prince and Provider. In 1637, Vid Bogdan gets mentioned with the same title. That very same year Antun Jelic and Vinko Kuruza were Procurators in Comisa. Procurator translates as governor in old Rome.

The most important document which reveals a long string of last names from Comisa is the list of the Hvar Prince and Provider (the owner of the land under Venetian Rule) Pietro Semitecola (from the year 1612). On that list are the last names of those who got parcels of land to work on as tenants-at-will. However, that land belonged to the Saint Nicholas Church, and the workers were tenants-at-will with no ownership rights. These name are: Stanfortic, Hadumovic, Misatovic, Bogdanic, Koncaric, Ivaniscvic, Radovinic, Zuanic, Hrenic, Reskusic, Mladinovic, Mogilic, Carevic, Butkovic, Sarbanucic, Bozanic, Soric, Zorotovic, Pribcic, Skokinic, Vitaljic, Repanic, Pribacic, Bogdan, Cruncic, Lokarlic from Dubrovnik, Fortic, Hunic, Razovcic, Grusidic, Orujic, Karuzic, Joncic, Mazzolini, Makarunic, Udovicic, Letcic, Bilicic, Bercic (Borcic?), Ossibov, Smailovic, Foretic, Borcic, Jaksic, Marinkovic, Bjasio, Pupesic, Hrastic, Sabioncello, Kavrinovic, Kovacevic, Brazzan and Mardesic.

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