Although there’s evidence that man existed on the island as far back as the Stone Age, local legend says that the history of Korcula really started with Prince Antenor of Troy who founded the main settlement. Back in that time, the island may have been known as Korkyra Melania – meaning “Black Korcula” – because of its dense pine forests. There is evidence of Greek settlements on the island and Korcula was also part of the Roman Empire.
The Venetian Empire
Following rule by various groups, including the Croatian-Hungarian Kingdom, Korcula became part of the Venetian Empire in 1420 – which was the case of much of Dalmatia. (Prior to this – as we’ve mentioned on the Sightseeing page – it is believed that explorer Marco Polo was born on the island.)
After the fall of the Venetian Empire in 1797, the island came to be under the control of assorted groups once more – including the Austrians, French and Russians, and was even ruled by the British between 1813 to 1815. Led by Commander Peter Lowen, they undertook significant building projects including building a huge fortress on the hill above Korcula Town.
The island was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1815 to 1918, when it became occupied by Italy until 1921, then becoming part of Yugoslavia.
During World War II, the island fell to the Italians once more (in 1941), before the Germans occupied the island in December 1943. The town of Korcula was severely bombed by the Allies, which destroyed most of the important buildings there.
There is also a 20th century British connection with the island: the late Fitzroy Maclean, the Scottish politician, soldier, adventurer and writer, had a house there (still used by his family today). It was personally given to him by President Tito and was the only house owned by a foreigner in the former Yugoslavia until Croatian independence.