Neretva pirates

Neretva pirates
Traditional Neretva Delta fishing vessel

The Neretva Pirates were pirates who operated off the Neretva Delta in central Dalmatia in the Middle Ages. They hold a special place in the national folklore of Croatia, as they fought off the Venetians, Genoese, Ottomans and marauding bands of Moslem pirates.[1] It has been suggested that the label of "pirates" was applied by the victorious Venetians following the Battle at Cape Mika.[2] The Neretvan or Narentine pirates originated in the region that was called Pagania at the time.



A strange republic of Servian pirates arose at the mouth of the Narenta. In the 10th century description of Dalmatia by Constantine Porphyrogenitus (De Administrando Imperio, 29-37), this region is called Pagania, from the fact that its inhabitants had only accepted Christianity about 890, or 250 years later than the other Slavs. These Pagani, or Narentani (Narentines), utterly defeated a Venetian fleet despatched against them in 887, and for more than a century exacted tribute from Venice itself. In 998 they were finally crushed by the doge Pietro Orseolo II., who assumed the title duke of Dalmatia, though without prejudice to Byzantine suzerainty. [3]

They were a ruthless band of pirates who regularly sailed out to sea from the sheltering reeds of the Neretva Delta to prey on Venetian merchant ships. In the 9th century, the pirates destroyed the fortified settlement of Sipar (Istria), six miles north of Umag.[4] They were baptized after 870.

The Pirates chose their hiding place and escape route well. The Neretva Delta is a dense maze of reed beds, provided ample shelter and cover for their escape. Their secret village was established far enough upriver to avoid capture, as their small boats, such as the lađa,[5] could navigate the narrow and shallow waters without fear of pursuit. No bridges connected Komin to the mainland and the village was (and remains) hidden from the open sea by the mountainous of the Pelješac Peninsula, which today gives access to the island of Korčula.

After the Venetian crackdown on Pagania at the turn of the 11th century, the piracy was occasionally resurrected, centered further north at Omiš, near the mouth of the river Cetina.[6] By the 12th century, the pirates of Omiš were known to conduct raids as far north as Zara and as far south as northern Albania, and organized under the local clan of Kačić. In 1167, the city of Cattaro (now called Kotor) was forced to pay tribute to knez Nikola Kačić of Omiš; a similar agreement was made with Ragusa (later Republic of Ragusa) in 1190.[7][8]

In the early 13th century Venice occupied Zara and Ragusa, but their trade was impacted by these pirates, so even they agreed to a signed truce in 1208.[7][8]

In 1258, the Kačić family received noble status from the King of Hungary Bela IV.[8] Naval battles were recorded in 1274 and later, even after 1409 when Ladislaus of Naples sold Dalmatia to Venice, as the city of Omiš was occupied by the Venetians only in 1444.[7]

After that, Dalmatia was ruled by the Venetians until 1797, and piracy reappeared only with the Uskoks.



  • Diehl, Charles. La Repubblica di Venezia Newton & Compton editori, Roma, 2004. ISBN 88-541-0022-6

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