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Ancient Croatian History: Exploring The Oldest Historical Sites In Croatia

ancient Croatian history
21 Mar

Ancient Croatian History: Exploring The Oldest Historical Sites In Croatia

Croatia is a country rich with history, which has had an inevitable influence over its food, culture and can be experienced firsthand at any of the nation’s numerous historical sites. From Roman-built colosseums to fortified castle walls that span the Dalmatian Coast, Croatia is a fusion of ancient ruins and modern buildings which makes for an incredible travel destination. So if you consider yourself a bit of a history buff and want to learn more about ancient Croatian history, keep reading. 

We’ll be taking you on a short tour through the history of Croatia and highlighting the big events which shaped Croatia into becoming the incredible country you can visit today. We’ll also be giving you a quick lowdown on some of the best and oldest historical sites in Croatia to visit along the way, including some of the famous World Heritage UNESCO sites.

Ancient Croatian history – where did it all begin?

Ancient history is described as the time period when humans inhabited the earth from 3000 BC – 500 AD. For Croatia, this period was a huge turning point in shaping much of the infrastructure and cities throughout the country.

Whilst the Croatia we know today may have only been around since the 90s when it declared independence from Yugoslavia, the land on which the country sits has a history which can be traced back to prehistoric times. 

Not much is known about the period of time before ancient Croatian history, as there is little evidence to prove settlements or tribes resided here. However, remains of Neanderthals have been found dating back over 30,000 years old. This suggests there may have been life in the lands before the first known settlers, the Illyrian Tribes, who arrived in 1,000 BC. 

Interestingly, these Illyrian tribes had a huge influence over the modern day names of places in Croatia. As a result of their settlement, Croatia saw the areas Histri (Istria) and the Delmati (Dalmatia) come to life.

Shortly after, the Greeks claimed rule over parts of old Croatia, mainly conquering the islands and settling up colonies along the coast. But their reign was short-lived as the Romans swooped in to stake their claim over the country, defeating the presiding llyrian Tribes for power.

ancient Croatian history

Roman rule in Croatia

By 12 AD the Romans ruled all of Croatia and played a massive role in ancient Croatian history. During their reign, the Romans split the country into three provinces: Dalmatia along the coast, Noricum and Pannonia.

The Romans contributed many things to ancient Croatian history, including the building of roads and various ancient settlements. The most famous of which include Pola (Pula), Jader (Zadar) and Salona (Solin located near Split). Roman rule over Croatia collapsed in the 5th century, but much of their influence can still be seen today in the ancient buildings they created. 

Here are the top historic sites you should visit from these ancient civilizations:

Pula Amphitheatre

The Roman’s historical footprint is very evident in Pula, a city which boasts many historical sites from ancient history that still remain today. Some believe this city saw much Roman influence as it was favored by Emperor Augustus and other influential Roman leaders. The most famous of all of Pula’s landmarks is located right in the city’s center – an old Roman colosseum called the Pula Amphitheatre. 

The 20,000-seat arena was built between 27 BC and 68 AD and remains fairly well preserved considering its age. In fact, the outside ring of the amphitheater remains completely intact and looks much like it did back during the Roman reign. In the past, the colosseum would have been used for legendary fights between gladiators and lions, but now it stands as an impressive tourist attraction for travelers to step back in time. 

The amphitheater is still in use today and hosts a variety of events throughout the year, the most notable being the annual Pula Film Festival. 

ancient Croatian history

Diocletian’s Palace 

Located in Split, Diocletian’s Palace is a testament to its time. Whilst thousands wander its ground every day, most may not realize the history which this fascinating location encompasses. The palace was built in 305 AD as a retirement home for Emperor Diocletian (who ruled from 284 AD to 286 AD). The emperor was born in Salona/Solin and wished to relocate back to his roots after serving the Roman empire. 

Whilst most of the place is now in ruins, there are elements of the palace which remain well-preserved and should not be overlooked on a trip to the Split area. Parts of the palace which remain fairly untouched are the gates of the palace, the Temple of Jupiter and Diocletian’s mausoleum which is better known now as Split Cathedral. 

Most of Diocletian’s Palace is still used as a place of residence for many homeowners and you can also find a range of shops, restaurants, hotels and bars nestled in the old palace walls. For UNESCO sites in Croatia, you can’t overlook this incredible destination. Why not add Diocletian’s Palace to a custom tour around Croatia today? Speak to our Croatia travel specialists to help plan the perfect vacation for you. 

ancient Croatian history


Salona is a city located in the southern part of Croatia, just outside Split. It was originally settled by the Illyrians and Greeks, but developed greatly due to Roman influence. Recent archaeological findings have found that the site may be almost three times larger than previously believed, suggesting that the city was actually much more impressive than previously thought. 

The city once was the center of the Roman Empire’s province of Dalmatia with a community of over 60,000, but what remains now are a series of abstract ruins which tourists can explore. In this incredible archaeological site, you can see the base of the original amphitheater, bases of columns and gravestones scattered throughout. Although the city may be in ruins, what remains is a fascinating look at how ancient civilizations operated. Add the ancient city of Salona to a custom tour around Croatia today. 

ancient Croatian history
Taking a step back in time 

Want to explore some of these historic sites and immerse yourself in these ancient civilizations? Then why not book a tour to Croatia with our travel specialists today? 

At Adventures Croatia we offer a variety of pre-planned itineraries perfectly curated for all kinds of travelers, from those who enjoy great culinary experiences to those who are a little more adventurous. Have a look at our pre-planned private tours to find one that suits you. 

Or if you would like a tour that is a little bit more tailored to your specific needs, we also offer fully customized tours around Croatia. You can plan everything, even down to the smallest details and our friendly staff will be on-hand to guide you throughout the entire process. Thinking of your next vacation to Croatia, get in touch today to start planning your dream trip!

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