Trogir Town – History

The history

The ancient town of Tragurion (“island of goats”) was founded as a trading settlement by Greek colonists from the island of Vis (Zssa) in the 3rd century BC on an islet at the western end of the bay of Manios, in a strait between the mainland and one of the Adriatic islands, where there was already a small settlement. The Hellenistic town was enclosed by megalithic walls and its streets were laid out on a “Hippodamian” grid plan: the line of the ancient cardo maximus is that of the modem main street. The town flourished in the Roman period as an oppidum civium romanum, linked with the neighbouring cities of Salona, capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, and Siculi, a colony for Roman military veterans. During the Late Roman period it was extended and refortified. Extensive Roman cemeteries have been discovered, outside the town, as was customary, and a basilica was erected in one of these in Late Roman times. Although it was not made a bishopric in the early Christian period, Trogir was endowed with two large aisled basilicas, sited where the latter-day Cathedral and Benedictine Church of St John the Baptist now stand.

In the second half of the 9th century Trogir became part of the Byzantine theme of Dalmatia, with its capital Zadar, and it was occupied by Venice at the end of the 10th century. Early medieval Trogir expanded to the south and new fortifications were constructed. At the beginning of the 12th century Trogir accepted Hungarian rule when the theme of Dalmatia was overrun. There was a short period of Venetian rule in the early 14th century, but it was not until 1420 that the town became part of the Venetian empire. Between the 13th and 15th centuries many new building took place, this period seeing the construction of the Cathedral and the Camerlengo fortress, a radical remodelling of the main square, and two campaigns of reconstruction and strengthening of the fortifications. The Treaty of Campoformio handed Trogir over to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to which it belonged, apart from a short period under French rule (1806-lo), as part of the Illyrian Provinces until 1918.

Prehistory

As early as the prehistoric time a central settlement stood on the rounded piece of land between the continent and the island of Ciovo. But apart from this settled lowland area, surrounded by marshy shallows and known as the historical nucleus, summits of a dozen surrounding hills were also inhabited in the second and first millenniums B.C. These settlements and fortified positions — citadels were built on riser which providied good view of the lowland around Trogir as well as of the sea straits. Among the impressive tombal mounds which still may be seen in the area the most outstanding is the one located at the summit of Plosnjak, the hill which dominates the scenery and encloses the field on the north side. Jutting into the sky at the western border of the Great Field (the field of Kastela) as a natural landmark is the mound called Knezeva gomila. According to Greek hypothesis Tragurion would mean „a hill with goats“, which would be the Greek translation of an older Illyrian denomination whose meaning is kin to that of the name of the mountain Kozjak.

Classical Era

The first information about the Greek settlement of Tragurion goes back to the 2nd century when the historian Polybius mentioned it in the connection with the attacks of the belicious Illyrian tribe of Dalmati who lived in the hinterland. But it was probably even earlier, at the close of the 3rd or at the beginning of the 2nd centuries that Greek colonization had begun within the already existing settlement. We do not know how exactly it started, whether it was based on an agreement with the aborigins or was a process of gradual infiltration or the settlement was a war gain. Tragurion was a dependency of Issa, another Doric settlement in the island of the same name (Vis). It seems that it mantained close connections with its mother settlement for quite a long time. From this period to our days urban life has continued uninterreupted in Trogir. In the course of the 1st century B.C. this Greek — Illyrian settlement became Roman municipium of Tragurium. The subsequent development of the nearby Salona, which was a true metropolis and leading town of all Dalmatia (Illyricum), was probably the main cause of the narrowing of municipal autonomy of Tragurium which became its satellite settlement.

Late Classical Era

The crisis of the Late Classical period was particularly acute in the 5th century. The tragic feeling of life which was felt throughout the empire thrown into chaos by the great Indo-European migration of the peoples, especially that of the Ostrogoths, was probably reflected in Tragurium, as well. There is some evidence that the town saw a period of new prosperity in the 6th century, when the Byzantine Emperor Justinian drove the Ostrogoths out of Dalmatia. It was in the Late Classical era that Christianity reached the walls of Tragurium. The new religion had already taken root in the nearby Salona, metropolis of the province. Vague ancient legends and stories relate the foundation of the Cathedral of Trogir to the noblemen of Salona. At the same period the cult of the Salonitan bishop and martyr St. Domnius spread from its place of origin to the neighboring Tragurium. Judging from dedicatory inscriptions a whole sequence of churches were erected in the city and in its surroundings during the Late Classical and Proto-Byzantine periods. These chruches were dedicated to different martyrs and apostles like St. Cyprianus, St. Andrew, St. Theodore (the patron saint of the Byzantine army), St. Martin, St. Euphemia.

Early Middle Ages

With the Avaro-Slavic invasion and the fall of Salona at the start of the 7th century the first Slavic settlers were recorded in the surroundings of Tragurium which, along with the few surviving settlements, made part of the Byzantine Dalmatia. In the 9th century the Croats built the first centres of their new state just here, close beside the ruins of Sicula and a short distance to the east, near the ruins of Salona. In the vicinity of the church of st. Martha at Bijaci in the Great Field (originally a Late Classical basilica), which stood within the borders of the Croatian State, were the estates of Croatian rulers. It was in front of this church that the Prince Trpimir issued the earliest known Croatian charter in 1852. Soon the new ethnic element infiltrated into the town itself; as early as the 11th century among the noblemen, builders of churches and founders of monasteries, persons bearing Croatian names could be found side by side with the old Romanized population. The legend about St. John of Trogir mentions a royal donations with which the Croatian rulers allegedly helped the building of the Cathedral. Apart from the Croatian rulers, the Republic of Venice showed great interest in the Byzantine Dalmatia.

Late Middle Ages

We may say that from the start of the 12th to the beginning of the 15th centuries, expect for few brief periods, the Trogirians recognized the sovereignty of the Hungaro-Croatian kings as their natural rulers. In 1105, the King Colomanus, after he had conquered Dalmatia and had been crowned with the Dalmato-Croatian crown, issued a charter in which he guaranteed the town its liberties. One of the most important events in the history of Trogir was, doubtless, the stay of the King Bela IV and his retinue in Trogir during the Tatar invasion in March 1242. Like other Dalmatian cities, Trogir was subjected to constant Venetian pressure from the sea, which culminated in the 12th century. Before falling at last into Venetian hands, for the longest period Trogir recognized the Hungarian sovereigns, since these distant rulers from the North treated the town extreemly leniently. The fighting against Split in the period 1242-1244 was, doubtless, a historical landmark for Trogir. The hostilities started as a dispute between the neighbors concerning borders and property of single estates which the Hungarian sovereigns granted now to one and then to the other side. In 1378, during the warfare between Venice on one and Genoa and Hungary on the other with side (1376-1381), Trogir found itself at the very centre of fighting. Namely, with the Hungarian support, the Genovese fleet anchored in the harbour of Trogir and put up a stiff resistence to the fire from Venetian ships.
The relations with the feudal lords from the hinterland were always important for Trogir. At the start of the 12th century the citizens of Trogir and Split fought against the most powerful feudal lord of the time, Domaldo. Although the Commune always strived to represent the interests of the town as a whole, it often happened that the interests of its classes were sharply contrasted. The nobility was generaly loyal to the Hungarian Crown from which they received whole villages in the hinterland. In the riots which broke up in Decembre 1357 a popular rebellion blended with paying off of old scores among the noble families, in which the Cega family suffered complete defeat. Frequent were also the disputes between the Commune and the Church, as well as conflicts inside the Church, between the bishop and the clergy. Important source for the study of the history of Trogir from the second half of the 13th to the first decades of the 14th centuries are hundreds of legal documents written by Trogirian scriveners and compiled by the historian Miho Barada. In time the Trogirians received their education in different foreign countries. Augustin Kazotic, a man of exemplary life, venerated by the Trogirians as saint, studied in Paris. Still remembering the epidemic plague which raged around 1348 are the ruins of the chapel of Saint Eustachius erected at the summit of the hill of Krban as a pledge for the salvation from the Black Death.

New Era

Waiting in vain for the King’s help, thrown in knees by the ceaseless fire from Venetian galleys, Trogir fell into the hands of the Republic on 20 June 1240. In the latter half of the 15th century, as a result of the Turkish invasion, the large Commune was reduced to just a narrow coastal belt. Warfare and fear were day-to-day reality of this section of the Turkish-Venetian border. It was only at the close of the 17th century that the Turks were pushed far inland. In the 15th century Koriolan Cipico writes works in Latin. In his war memories titled Petri Mocenici imperatoris gesta or De bello asiatico he describes the Turkish-Venetian warfarew, permeating his account with countless reminiscences from Classical Antiquity. During the uprisal of the commoners of Hvar Hanibal Lucié refuges in Trogir and dedicates his Croatian verse to Koriolan’s grand-daughter Milica, a self-confident Renaissance woman who weaves tapestries. Petar Lucius — Luëié, father of the historian Ivan, compiles one of the earliest Croatian books of poetry, the Vrtal (at the start of the 15th century his father Petar collected Roman inscriptions, transcribed Classics and ornated the books of his rich library with his own hand). Many Trogirians knew well Latin and were acquainted with Greek, as well.
The transitory French rule during Napoleon’s early 19th century conquests (1806-1814) shook Trogir, as well as whole Dalmatia, out of its medieval leathargy. Roads and schools were built, while monasteries were closed down; school children were taught in their mother tonuge; public health was improved and town walls pulled down. .. At the start of the 19th century the Trogirians became the first official conservators of Dalmatian monuments appointed by the central administration in Vienna. Ivan Luka Garagnin organized the first archeological excavations at Salona, while Vicko Andrié, who had studied at the Roman Academy of St. Luke, explored and restored the Diocletian’s palace. The period between the two World Wars of the so called Old Yugoslavia was marked by revolutionary brewing of the politicized popular classes which demanded radical agricultural reform. As early as 1919 the first unit of the Socialist Party was organized. After the collapse of Italy, Trogir was ruled by the partisans fromn 12 Settembre to 7 November 1943. on the night between 27 and 28 November the People’s Liberation Army entered Trogir. The destroyed town met it with a decimated population, but free at last.

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