The majority of the other Croatian islands have pretty straightforward histories – but the history of Mljet is anything but! And how’s about this for something different? According to legend, Mljet is the beautiful island of Ogygia where the nymph Calypso kept Odysseus captive for seven years.
Moving on to the non-legend history of Mljet, it was the Illyrians who were first on the island, arriving via Prapratno on the mainland to places such as (what is present day) Sobra and Polace and building small settlements made of stone.
History of Mljet under the Greeks and Romans
The ancient name for the island is Melitta, which comes from the Greek melitte nesos, meaning honey isle. How lovely!
Greek sailors recorded the island of Mljet as a place of refuge – against bad weather, for example – when sailing to their settlements on the other islands of Vis, Hvar and Korcula. It is not thought that they settled on Mljet in any great way.
Mljet came under the control of the Romans in 167 BC, when they took over much of the rest of the region. At first, Mljet was not utilised much in the Roman Empire. However, in the third century, a palace – also used a defence structure for Mljet – was built for the Roman governor of the island.
The Benedictine Monks
The Benedictine monks that had arrived from Puglia came to control the island in the 12th century. The monastery on the small island in Veliko Jezero was built for them under this time. Under their rule, agriculture prospered on Mljet.
Part of the Republic of Ragusa
Most of the island became part of the Republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) in 1345, and in 1410 the Republic took full control. It remained a part of the Republic until 1808.
From 1808, Mljet was then briefly French – under Napoleon – then part of the Austrian Empire.
It became part of Yugoslavia in 1918, and was part of the Croatia that declared independence in 1991.