ARCHAEOLOGICAL COLLECTION ISSA

HISTORY OF THE COLLECTION

In 1983, the Archaeological Museum Split set up the Archaeological Collection Issa. The Collection is housed on the upper floor of the Austrian fort called Our Lady's Battery, built in 1842 in the middle of the spacious bay of Vis. The Collection includes articles found on the site of the ancient Greek town of Issa that was located on the southern slopes of Gradina and on the Prirov peninsula in Vis. On view are also rare prehistoric finds from the island, finds from the Hellenistic cistern in Velo Zlopje in the interior of the island, as well as submarine archaeological finds from the wreck in the Vela Svitnja cove north of town. This is one of the most extensive collections of ancient Greek monuments in Croatia.


View of the first exhibition hall with showcases containing prehistoric and Archaic finds and boards with maps

View of the third exhibition hall with a reconstructed family vault (3rd/2nd cc. B.C.)

Board with public inscriptions dating from the Greek Issa and the stone monument referring to Issa as an Ionic island (4th c. B.C.).

The Museum is planning to expand the collection so as to include the ancient Roman period and the submarine archaeological finds dissevered in the waters of Vis. On the site of this ancient town preparations are being done to present the Hellenistic necropolis at Martvilo and the ancient Roman thermae at the foothills of Gradine close by the sea.

ANCIENT ISSA

A Greek town on the island of Vis is mentioned in ancient written records in the second half of the 4th c. B.C. Pseudo-Skymno, a Greek author who lived in the 2nd c. B.C., tells us that Issa was a colony of Syracusan Greeks from Sicily. It existed as an independent city-state from the 4th to the mid-1st century B.C. when it came under Roman domination. During the period of independence bronze coins with various designs were minted. These coins and ancient written records including an inscription contain information on Ionius, a hero who was the king of the island . Issa was the largest Greek colony in Croatia.

Plan view of the ancient town with locations of monuments

 

The Greek town ((((, later Roman ISSA, was situated on the coast at the southern slopes of Gradina at the bottom of the Bay of Vis on the northern side of the island. The ruins of the town with an area of approx. 10 hectare are enclosed with 800-metre defensive walls.

View of the ruins of the walls of Issa
(4th/3rd cc. B.C.)

Located on the western side is the Martvilo necropolis that has been turned into an archaeological park, while over the eastern necropolis situated on the Vlaska njiva the "Issa" Hotel was built in 1984

View of the Martvil necropolis

A terra cotta statuette of Cupid and Psyche in a lovers' embrace found in a tomb at Martvil in 1955 (4th/3rd c. B.C.)

Both cemeteries date back to the 4th c. B.C. and were used as burial places until the 4th c. A.D. In the waters around the Prirov peninsula and in front of the Vlaska njiva ruins of an ancient Greek and Roman one kilometre-long quay are to be seen. Located on Prirov are also the ruins of a Roman theatre (over which the Franciscan monastery of St Jerome was built in the 16th century), cisterns with white floor mosaics and damaged pythoi (large ceramic containers for storing grain) testifying to ancient storehouses. The town square was situated at the bottom of Gradina close by the sea, as evidenced by the remains of Roman baths with ruins of different rooms, polychrome mosaics, and a portico with niches in from or which statues of Roman emperors and deities were found.

View of the ruins of a Roman bath

Early 20th century postcard showing the ruins of the thermae in Issa


An attempt at reconstruction of the researched part of the Roman thermae

Mosaic from the Roman thermae in Issa representing a dolphin, 2nd century A.D.

So far only some necropolises and parts of Roman baths have been researched, with the largest part of the town still remaining to be extensively studied, which is particularly important in view of the fact that this is the only Greek colony in Croatia in which such archaeological research is possible. Most of the finds are on display in the Archaeological Collection Issa on the island of Vis and in the Split Archaeological Museum. The ancient town of Issa is a protected culture monument of the highest grade.

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