Cultural heritage

A Stroll through the Island's History

The earliest historical records of the island of Šolta date back to the period of Antiquity, when it was first mentioned by the Greek geographer Pseudo-Skylax (4th century BC) as Ὀλύντα (Olynta), and later by Roman writers as Solenta,Solentia,Solentij. The island's name derives from the Greek word meaning 'unripe fig'. The island was inhabited from early times. Although there are but few archaeological finds from the period of Illyrian dominance, the oldest legends tell a tale of the Illyrian queen Teuta and her fortress above SenjskaBay. It was situated on the southern side of the island and its remains have been preserved up to the present day. What is left from the Roman period are the remains of a few settlements, and a number of objects and stone inscriptions. The remains of a villa rustica can be found near DonjeSelo, Rogač (within the area called Banje), GornjeSelo (Starine) and in Nečujam (Piškera cove). This is where the Roman emperor Diocletian had his fishpond built in 295 AD. Today its remains are barely visible under the sea.

From the earliest days up to the present time, the inhabitants of the island of Šolta have perpetuated the principles and values of Christianity. They embraced it in the early 4th century AD, as witnessed by the remains of a basilica and a sarcophagus lying next to the Church of St. Stephen in Grohote.The order of St. Benedict was the oldest religious order on Šolta, particularly prominent in the monastery of Stomorija (Croatised version of Santa Maria), situated below the summit of Vela stražain the village of GornjeSelo.

When in 614 AD the Avars raided Salona, the capital of the Roman province Dalmatia, most of its inhabitants found refuge on the nearest island of Šolta, already inhabited by a population of Slavic origin.

Due to its position, the island fell into the hands of looters several times in the course of history and saw the rise and fall of a number of states and rulers. The worstpillage took place in June 1240, when the pirates from Omiš set the Church of St. Stephen in Grohote to flames. At the time, Šolta was governed by a group of noble families from Split. The islanders were mainly farmers (olive, vine and wheat growers), who were obliged to give the noblemen part of their crop, transported to Split by boat.

The earliest records about the island's economic situation can be found in the Statute of Split dating from 1312. Notarial records from the second half of the 14th century state that, apart from agriculture, the islanders were mostly seafarers and merchants. At the time, they traded primarily in lime and stone plaques(planchas) with the inhabitants of Split and Trogir.Stomorska boasts the longest tradition of seafaring; generations of skilled seamen and ship owners were raised in this beautiful, picturesque village that still nurtures this tradition.

When Šolta fell under the rule of the Republic of Venice, the seamen from Šolta often fought against the Ottomans on Venetian battleships. The island was never in direct danger so many guerrilla fighters from Senj (the so-called Senjskiuskoci) found refuge there. Count captains held the chief administrative function in the Commune of Split, while a tribune was appointed from more distinguished and wealthier Šoltan families to rule over each of the four island villages.

The first fortified towers were built in the 15th century, when some of the major battles between the Republic of Venice and the Ottomans took place. During those turbulent times the Split rulers ordered the construction of fortified towers, and the islanders walled their courtyards and built movable landings. The first such towers were built in Grohote and GornjeSelo. SlavićaTower has been restored and today houses administrative offices of the Municipality of Šolta.

In the year 1905 the islanders could no longer put up with changing governments and theirobligations towards the ruling class,so they decided to buy their land back from the noble families by means of a contract with a 25-year repayment period, which today would be worth EUR 1.5 mil. The islanders were hard workers but quite poor, so they struggled to repay it. They did not have the opportunity to receive proper education and work on developing the island, since farming consumed most of their time.

When they finally managed to repay the debt, trouble struck again – the Second World War began. Some 1800 inhabitants fled the island to find refuge in a refugee camp in El Shatt, Egypt, leaving it completely empty. In 1946 they began to come back and huge efforts were made to bring life back to normal. The Municipality of Šolta was re-established in 1952. Electricity was introduced to many homes; a new school, a healthcare clinic and island roads were built, and two buses were purchased to connect the villages.Yet, considerable efforts and significantly improved living conditions did not trigger the population growth.

Two companies were founded on the island after 1953;at the time, the overall number of accommodation units managed by the first company was higher thantoday. The second company was Jugoplastika, one of the biggest Yugoslavian toy factories, whose manufacturing plant on the island employed most of its inhabitants.

A bright future was ahead, but in 1962 Šolta was merged with the Municipality of Split, which negativelyinfluencedthe island's development. The situation changed once again after the Homeland War in mid-1990ies, and today the islanders make their own decisions aimed at continuous development, especially in the area of agriculture, tourism and hospitality industry.