Omiš: How the people from Omiš almost ate up Ulysses?

Pirates’ Nest

How the people from Omiš almost ate up Odysseus (Ulysses)??

Some eminent experts for Homer’s «Iliad»  and «Odyssey» think that at the Mediterranean there is no place that fits Homer’s description of Thelepile better than Omiš – a protected harbor at the mouth of the river, located in the canyon almost reaching the sea. Thelepile was the place of the atrocious cannibals Lestrigons, in which Odysseus lost eleven out of his twelve ships and all the crew on them.

If you know the importance of Omiš as a crossroads that connected the area of the Mediterranean with the hinterland and if you have in mind the long pirate history of this town, whose a little wild but brave inhabitants were not beaten even by the powerful Turks and that it was just the Napoleon’s short reign that succeeded in taming its people, you can agree that this hypothesis by the well-known experts carries much weight.

Accordingly, the blood-thirsty cannibals the Lestrigons had been the remote ancestors of the present-day inhabitants of Omiš. Of course, it would not be an ideal invitation for tourists. However, we know that since the time Odysseus and the Lestrigons had met, there have been a lot of changes and different invasions, and the people living there have been changing their dark nature and replacing it with something completely different. The best witnesses of the changed situation are numerous «survived» tourists that have visited Omiš so far and found it to be a town of exceptionally good, hospitable, merry and lustily singing people. Odysseus seems to have paid his tourist visit to Omiš at the wrong time!

Pirates’ Nest

Omiš – today a very interesting and picturesque tourist town – used to be e real pirates’ nest, the threat to almost everyone at this part of the Adriatic.            The masters of Omiš were the mightiest pirates for more than two centuries. They attacked the nearby seaside towns and merchant ships sailing along the coast on the way to the Middle East, transporting amber.

Piracy was the best, the easiest, but for the people on this narrow strip of land between the mountain and the sea almost the only and expected way of earnings.

As a well-organized fleet with skillful crew, under the lead of the Kačić and later Šubić princes, they attacked even bigger and better armed Venetian, Pope’s and Dubrovnik galleys.

They were very successful in their attacks due to the small, quick and highly maneuvering boats, sagittas. With them they attacked the bigger ships with much worse maneuvering capacity. After robbing them, they would quickly sail up, into the natural protection of the canyon of the river Cetina, and the big galleys could not pursue them, even more so because at the very mouth of the river there was a dam with a strong chain on the narrowest passage, and the pursuit ships would strand. In the meantime, the pirates would disappear in the direction known only to them…

All these events caused frequent wars often ending in making pacts with the pirates on non-attacking, and in return the ships sailing by had to pay tribute to ensure free sailing and trade. However, such agreements often proved short-lived, and as a result even two of the Crusades (in 1221 and 1287) were undertaken against the Omiš pirates.

With the goods from the robberies Omiš was becoming richer and its inhabitants could organize their town better.

The glorious days of the pirate town were gone when in 1444 Venice managed to capture the old town, and it was especially felt when Napoleon’s authority was established in the town in 1805. Since then Omiš has been slowly acquiring a completely different look. Today its inhabitants – once dangerous pirates – are so open-hearted, hospitable and lustily singing hosts that it is even hard to believe what their past was like. The only witnesses of their stormy history are the fortresses overlooking the town and «protecting» it: Mirabella (Peovica) and Fortica (Starigrad), the tourist attractions of Omiš. In the canyon of the river Cetina there is the fortress Slanica.

In summer there are various activities that can make your stay unforgettable:  very attractive programs during the Pirate Nights, the Pirate Battle-the replica of the sea battle between the Omiš pirates and the Venetian ships that attracts a great number of spectators.

In the embrace of the mountains, the river and the sea…

Probably nowhere at the Mediterranean there is such a magnificent connection of the mountain, the river and the sea, and the town of Omiš was born out of that majestic embrace. It is incredible to find so much beauty and so many sharp contrasts of the landscape at such a narrow strip of land between the rough, threatening and inhospitable sheer rocks on one side and the gentle river Cetina, which dives into the sea at their bottom, and the stunning clear sea with a long sandy beach. The mountain, the river and the sea with the beautiful beach are literally a part of the town itself, creating the impression of a magnificent unit.

It is difficult to say which location offers a more beautiful view of the town: from the mountain at the canyon of the river and its mouth, from the river at its green banks or from the sea at the mouth of the river and the sheer rocks, which does call to mind the description of Thelepile from Homer’s «Odyssey».

However, the river was stronger than the rocks and found its way to the sea by cutting them and creating the impressive canyon, a symbol of this town.

Omiš has taken full advantage of its ideal location by developing numerous adventurous sports such as mountaineering, trekking, rock climbing, rafting, windsurfing, paragliding, and other different water activities.

Blessed by the ecologically unspoiled nature, it has developed eco-rural tourism in its hinterland as a very attractive tourist offer. One of the best known excursion places both for the tourists and for the people from Omiš is Radmanove mlinice (Radman’s Mills), six kilometers far from Omiš, up the canyon of the river. At this exceptionally picturesque place you can enjoy fresh air with dense green trees and bushes all around or find out how the authentic mills from the 17th cent. worked using the water power for grinding corn.

Today the location is also a restaurant offering not only beauty and peace but also delicious traditional specialties, based mostly on sea and river fish and crabs.

Omiš – the town of the original Dalmatian song!

In summer the central cultural event is the Festival of the Dalmatian Klapas,

The manifestation established in 1967. The Festival has considerably contributed to the revival and popularization of the traditional urban spontaneous singing. A klapa song is based on «a capella» singing, typical for the special atmosphere in Dalmatia, expressing strong emotions that can be clearly felt even if you do not understand the words. Such singing is so popular that many klapas are appearing even in the other parts of Croatia.

Originally they are folk songs typical of this region, mostly about love, either for a beloved girl or for the sea that was both the source of joy and sadness for the Dalmatian people.

Something that is worth hearing indeed!

The klapas that achieved the best results at the Omiš festivals have become respected and popular all over Europe, winning numerous international prizes.

In 2012 The Dalmatian Klapa Song was put on the UNESCO World List of Immaterial Heritage.

About the town

Omiš is a picturesque seaside town of some 10,000 inhabitants, located at the mouth of the river Cetina, between two bigger tourist centers Split and Makarska.

It is a host-town of the Festival of the Dalmatian Klapa Songs, a town with triumphs in its past, when the pirates controlled not only the nearby towns but much of the Adriatic coast, too…Its closest neighbor was the Republic of Poljica – a unique political structure in Europe.

The town has rich cultural heritage witnessing it. There are two fortresses – Mirabella and Fortica- as a historical memento of the town’s glorious past.

The town was protected by the town walls from three sides and in the north it was protected by the mountain. The walls existed up until the 19th cent. and then they were mostly destroyed, except for the eastern gate to the town.

In the center of the town there are typical Mediterranean stone houses connected by narrow streets and small squares. You can also see some interesting sacral monuments. The oldest one is St. Peter’s Church in Priko (10th cent.), then the parish church of St. Michael, the Holy Spirit’s Church, the Franciscan monastery…

During the tourist season there are various cultural and sports events, aiming at stimulating and promoting tradition, customs and ethnologic treasures.

The Omiš Cultural Summer, The Festival of the Dalmatian Klapas, The Pirate Nights, The Pirate Battle, folklore and music evenings, fishing nights – all these events attract more and more tourists every year.

What to visit?

  • The excursion place Radmanove Mlinice

  • The fortresses Mirabella and Fortica

  • The old part of the town

  • The parish church of St. Michael

  • St. Peter’s Church (early Croatian church from the 10th cent.)