At the mouth of the Cetina River in the Adriatic Sea, not far from Split, city of Omiš is situated. The city is rich in history and is of great importance for this part of Europe. There are two things that make Omiš impossible to avoid when talking about the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages. These are the Omiš pirates and the Poljice republic.
City of Omiš. Photo by: Ante Vlašić
In the suburbs of Omis, on the slopes of mountain Mosor, there is a small but very significant group of villages named Poljica.
While in the Middle Ages Europe was dominated by monarchies and feudalism, Poljice republic was founded in the 13th century, the unique social arrangement of that time in which the people of this area every year choose their leader on the feast of St. George.
Relationships in the republics are further regulated and improved by the adoption of the “Poljice Statute” in the 14th century. This advanced document is incredibly similar to the 13th century Kiev law of justice.
Because of the emphasis on individuality, justice and equality, it is considered that the Poljice republic inspired Thomas Moore, who had spent some time in this area, for writing his most famous work “Utopia”.
The Poljice republic existed until the beginning of the 19th century and the arrival of Napoleon, who cancelled it.
Poljice are also significant in the world’s gastronomy, with their Poljice soparnik dish. The recipe of this dish is included in the list of the Croatian Heritage. Two pieces of simple, simple dough are prepared, between which a filling of mangold, an onion, an olive oil and a parsley is placed.
Legend of Mila Gojsalić
In 1530 the Turks attacked Poljice. Given the size of the Turkish army, the defeat seemed inevitable.
As the last, desperate act, local girl Mila Gojsalić went to the tent of the Turkish army leader Ahmed Pasha. Using her feminine charms, Mila seduced pasha who allowed her to roam freely through the camp. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Mila ignited and destroyed the Turkish gunpowder store.
Seeing what she has done, the Turks went to the pursuit of Mila, who managed to outrun them all the way to the cliff above Cetina. There she jumped into the river and made it clear that she would not be cought.
Statue of Mila Gojsalić overlooking Poljice and Omiš
Encouraged by the example and the might of Mila Gojsalić, Poljica’s defenders charged on counter-attack and drove the Ottomans who never returned to the area. Mila was declared as Croatian Joan D’Arc.
Not far from the village of Gata, in the viewpoint from which Mila jumped, the world famous sculptor Ivan Meštrović made her statue.
During the 12th and 13th centuries, Omiš pirates ruled the sea from Split to Dubrovnik. Since both Venice and Dubrovnik were a major trading force, harvesting ships in this area was very fruitful. All the ships that went through this route had to pay tribute to the mighty lords Kačić. Even the papal galleys that went into the Crusades were not spared.
The Fortresses Peovica and Fortica guarded this path and reported to pirates about the arrival of the ships. As soon as they spot the victim, Omiš Arrows, boats of very shallow beam and uncanny agility went to action. They would attack the ships and, if they did not immediately make a decisive advantage, retreated into Cetina.
An underwater wall called the mostina (big bridge) was built at the mouth, with a passageway tailored for the Arrows. As the arrows passed, the other ships would strand. From the coast mostina was defended by the fortress Gomilica, which would have finished the bridged ships if necessary.
Also, the passage through the mostina could be close with the chains.
Omiš pirates were so strong that Pope Honorie III in 1221. on the way to the Crusades, stopped and sent a part of the army to Omiš. He lost this battle.
However, 60 years later, the mighty Venice sent a great army and defeted the defenders of Omiš.
After that, they stopped with piracy and turned to more peaceful ways of earning such as agriculture and fishing.