1. pula, arena
    Lara RasinPula's Classical history begins with the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. Per legend, the Argonauts were unsuccessfully chased by Colchians to a place referred to as Polae - our Pula. Later, during Roman times, Pula (known then as Pola) functioned as a self-governed municipality of Roman citizens. The city's most famous landmark (also Croatia's largest and best-preserved ancient monument) attests to its grand past. The Pula Arena is an ancient Roman amphitheatre from the 1st century AD, and it once hosted uproarious gladiator fights
  2. pula, arena
    Lara RasinToday, the Arena still serves its original purpose of entertainment, with concerts, film fests, and even modern-day "gladiator" brawls regularly organised at the venue. Experience the Roman life by attending an event here yourself - and sitting on the original stone bleachers
  3. pula, arch
    Lara RasinWhile in Pula, take a stroll under the 1st-century Arch of the Sergii, commemorating the ancient Roman family of the same name
  4. pula, temple,
    Lara RasinYou'll feel as if you stepped back in time when gazing up at Pula's Temple of Augustus, built between 27 BC and 14 AD to honor Rome's first emperor
  5. truffle, pasta
    Lara RasinDon't hesitate to up your road trip energy through a little bit of ancient-Greek-inspired hedonism (a plate of truffle sauce over hand-rolled Istrian pasta will do the trick!)
  6. brijuni, verige, villa, roman
    Lara RasinLocated just off the coast of Istria, the island of Veliki Brijun houses a luxurious ancient Roman villa whose construction began in the first century AD, and whose vast grounds were enjoyed by Classical aristocrats through the 6th century AD
  7. brijuni, verige, villa, roman
    Lara RasinReserved for the wealthiest citizens, the sprawling villa - comprised of terraces, temples, thermae, a fish pond, and more - is nestled between olive trees and the Adriatic Sea in Verige Bay (today part of Croatia's beautiful Brijuni Island National Park)
  8. rijeka, trsat, castle
    Lara RasinLovely Rijeka (known as Tarsatica during Antiquity, from around the 3rd century BC) is home to a monumental Roman arch which functioned as the entrance - and guardian - of the ancient municipium, along with a host of other fascinating ruins
  9. omisalj, krk, island, roman, ruins, fulfinum
    Lara RasinOn Krk Island sit the ruins of Fulfinum, a classical Roman seaside town founded in the 1st century AD. You can easily walk the entire town - which included a forum, a temple, public baths, a water supply system, and necropolises - before or after taking a dip at the adjacent beach
  10. osor, cres, island
    Lara RasinStop to take in the sunset on Cres Island, in the town of Osor, aka, Apsoros. One Greek legend tells that ancient hero and leader of the motley Argonauts, Jason, murdered a Colchian prince here, before throwing his body into the Cres sea. The ancient name Apsoros comes from the ill-fated prince's name: Apsyrtus
  11. The Archaeological collection of Osor
    Lara RasinToday, you can visit the Archaeological Collection of Osor and take in various ancient artefacts, such as amphorae and this bust of Octavius - claimed by the museum to be the oldest Roman sculpture found anywhere on Croatia's section of the Adriatic coast
  12. Lošinj, Island, Museum, Apoxyomenos
    Lara RasinLocated on Lošinj Island is the fantastic Museum of Apoxyomenos, home to just one exhibit (but also a unique set-up and plethora of interesting information): the mysterious Apoxyomenos, a 192-cm-tall Greek statue from the 2nd or 1st century BC. The museum only allows photography of the statue from a separate room and specific angle; so you'll have to visit yourself to see the ancient athlete in all his glory
  13. caska, cissa, pag
    Lara RasinNext to this rundown, seemingly uninteresting lighthouse, you can swim in waters where the obscure "Atlantis of Pag" - and supposedly, its hidden treasure - lie. Once located at present-day Caska was Cissa - the largest Roman settlement on the island of Pag, but it sunk into the sea - likely following a 4th-century AD earthquake
  14. nin, aenona
    Lara RasinThe ruins of the largest Roman temple on the Adriatic Sea can be explored in Nin, formerly the Roman town of Aenona
  15. nin, aenona, ancient, ship
    Lara RasinAenona was, from the 1st-4th centuries AD, home to a bustling Roman port where trade goods came in from across Europe, Asia, and Africa. At the Museum of Nin Antiquities (part of the Zadar Archaeological Museum complex), you can see the remains of a trade boat found in the area - among manifold other exhibits from Antiquity
  16. zadar
    Lara RasinZadar was known as Iader in Roman times, and served as an important port city on the Adriatic coast. Today, you can visit the ruins of the old Roman Forum, a park flanked by beautifully carved temple structures (pictured), and foundations of old tabernae, once a busy row of Roman shops. After that - shop as the Romans did, where they did, and hit the stands (pictured on the far left) selling assorted tidbits and handicrafts
  17. zadar, iader
    Lara RasinFor an in-depth historic look into Iader, make your way to Zadar's Archeological Museum (Arheološki Muzej) - situated right across from the old Forum
  18. trogir
    Lara RasinFirst settled by Greek explorers around the 4th century BC, Trogir was named Tragorion before being conquered by the Romans around the 1st century BC and - being renamed Tragurium. Today, in the Church of St. Nicholas' Benedictine nunnery, visitors can see a bronze, 4th-century BC statue of Kairos - the ancient Greek god of luck
  19. salona, solin, archeology, history
    Lara RasinSalona (today, Solin) was the ancient capital of Dalmatia, once a vital Roman territory. Today, the site is an archeological park where visitors can walk through a sprawling forum, theatre, public baths (thermae), and...
  20. salona, solin, archeology, history
    Lara Rasin... A truly tremendous 2nd-century AD amphitheatre, where around 17,000 citizens could once congregate to take in gladiator fights
  21. split, diocletian's,
    Lara RasinThe stunning Split area has gone by many names throughout the millennia. It was once colonised by Greeks, then centuries later, locally born Emperor Diocletian was the first to put down grand roots outside of the nearby hub of Salona, in the form of a lavish villa...
  22. diocletian's, palace, split
    Lara Rasin... Which you likely know as Diocletian's Palace. Built in the 293 AD, the palace complex is a popular tourist destination today (complete with actors in ancient Roman solider garb). The villa turned into a city in the centuries that followed Diocletian's rule, providing refuge for the citizens of Salona fleeing from attacks by invading tribes
  23. split, diocletian's, basement, palace
    Lara RasinLocated in Split, the ground floors of Diocletian's famed palace once served as supporting structures for his residential quarters. Today, travellers can roam the ancient halls, ogling artefacts such as imported ancient Egyptian sphinx scuplture
  24. star, grad, hvar, faros
    Lara RasinAround 2400 years ago, Greeks from the island of Paros in the Aegean Sea founded a settlement on Hvar Island. They called it Faros, but today we know it as the charming seaside town of Stari Grad
  25. star, grad, hvar, monastery
    Lara RasinThere are a number of ways to experience life in Faros as it once was, but a less-known one is through visiting a small museum in the 15th-century Dominican Monastery of St. Peter the Martyr. Here, you'll find tidbits from ancient Greek and Roman times along with a grape press foundation used by monks throughout the centuries to make wine as people did in Antiquity
  26. stari, grad, hvar
    Lara RasinThe same monastery houses a treasure trove of a library, with rare editions of classical works, but entry isn't open to the public. If you're really interested, kindly ask one of the monastery's staff members if you can peek in!
  27. neretva, river, valley
    Lara RasinThe Neretva River Valley was recognized by the Greeks and Romans alike for its strategic position for agriculture, as a (uniquely for Dalmatia) fertile area, and for trade, with an ideal location both on a river and the sea
  28. vid, narona, museum
    Lara RasinWithin the Neretva River Valley area is the town of Vid, or Narona as it was known in Antiquity. Today, Vid is home to the Narona Archeological Museum, Croatia's first in-situ museum, built over the ancient Roman Temple of Augustus. Here, behold 17 awe-inspiring statues standing exactly where they have been for around two millennia
  29. vis, issa, island, sea, coast, rocky, cave, shore, bay
    Lara RasinIssa, today the island of Vis, became a Greek colony around 400 BC. Greek settlers and later Roman settlers flourished on the island's rocky shores, leaving behind a smattering of ruins (including a unique ancient Greek cemetery and Roman city walls)
  30. korcula, peljesac
    Lara RasinIn 600 BC and 400 BC, the Greek settlements of Korkyra Melaina and Lumbarda, respectively, were founded on Korčula Island. A stone tablet from the time is kept in Zagreb's Archeological Museum. Some centuries later, the pretty-as-a-picture-and-strategic-to-boot territory became Roman
  31. Odysseus, ancient, greek mythology, cave, mljet, island, national, park
    Lara RasinOn Mljet Island (today one of Croatia's eight national parks), olive groves flank the on-land path to Odysseus' mythical cave. The ancient Greek hero himself, however, entered the cave by sea during his ten-year (mis)adventures following the Trojan War
  32. Odysseus, ancient, greek mythology, cave, mljet, island, national, park
    Lara RasinPer legend, Odysseus' ship crashed off the coast of Mljet, called Ogygia in Homer's epic poem. The island paradise was home to the nymph Calypso, who bewitched Odysseus into staying with her for a while, instead of his beloved wife Penelope. He wasn't set free until Zeus himself intervened
  33. Odysseus, ancient, greek mythology, cave, mljet, island, national, park
    Lara RasinHow do we know Mljet is indeed Homer's Ogygia? We can't be 100% certain, but the cave and island correspond to many elements from the original epic - especially those cliffs in the distance...
  34. Odysseus, ancient, greek mythology, cave, mljet, island, national, park
    Lara Rasin... Few places in the Mediterranean fit the bill so perfectly: Odysseus was said to have been the only survivor of a shipwreck caused by stormy weather and cliffs, after which he swam to a beautiful nearby island (Mljet exceptionally matches Homer's poetic descriptions of its local flora and fauna) for safety
  35. cavtat
    Conor ReesAround the 4th century BC, the modern-day town of Cavtat was the Greek Epidaurum; by 400 AD, it was the Roman Epidaurus. Though the site isn't fully archeologically processed yet, with a little research ahead of time, a few of the already-excavated ruins and artefacts from Antiquity can be found in the area

In pictures: 35 photos taking you on archeological road trip across the Croatian coast

Travel back in time and embark on a Croatian Odyssey

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Written by
Lara Rasin
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Croatia has a rich and long-spanning history with manifold sights to prove it. Indeed, there could be an archaeological road trip for every fascinating era in Croatia, but this one is focused on a particularly epic time in the Mediterranean: Antiquity.

archeology, map, road, trip, trips, dalmatia, coast, croatia, odyssey, ancient, greek, roman, greece, rome, classic, classical, antiquity, history, archeological, archaeology, archaeological, hrvatska, antika
Lara Rasin / Time Out Croatia / Made via Canva

As Edgar Allen Poe romantically put it, "the glory that was Greece, and the grandeur that was Rome" left a significant mark on Croatia, along with much of Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. Croatia is one of the unique lands that geographically sit between the centres of Greece and Rome and, as such, took on especially significant influences.

The starting date of Greece and Rome's age of Antiquity is debated, but some place it around 800 BC during Homer's time, when the Illiad and Odyssey likely came about. Antiquity lasts through about 400-500 AD, finishing after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. This time period is one of the revolutionary eras that changed the world as we know it, leaving behind philosophies, literature, art, law, warfare, and more, whose immense influences are still prevalent today. 

To put things into context, here's a (very-short-and-very-simplified) timeline of Croatia in the context of Classical Greece and Rome. We begin with the Bronze Age.

  • 3000-1000 BC: The northeastern Mediterranean sees several early Indo-European-language-speaking civilizations rise and fall. In Croatia, this is the Vučedol Culture (3000-2500 BC); in Greece, the Minoan Culture (2000-1500 BC) and the Mycenean Culture (1400-1100 BC).
  • 1200-1178 BC: Per legend, the Trojan War begins (starting dates proposed by modern researchers are around 1200 BC). Following the war, ancient Greek hero Odysseus sails for 10 years before returning home to Ithaca in 1178 BC
  • 1100-800 BC: Ancient Greece goes through a period referred to as the Dark Ages.
  • 800 BC: Illyrian tribes inhabit the region of Croatia and its surroundings. Other tribes, such as the Liburni and Celts, also live in the area.
  • 800 BC: Homer's Illiad and Odyssey are written in Greece.
  • 753 BC: Per legend, brothers Romulus and Remus found the city of Rome.
  • 750-500 BC: The era of Greek colonization ensues, with colonies popping up around the Mediterranean, Croatia included. As they colonize, the Greeks spread their own cultural elements such as mythology and building styles; these work their way into Croatia, too.
  • 650-320 BC: Monumental works of Greek architecture and sculpture flourish.
  • 510 BC: The Roman Republic is founded.
  • 470-322 BC: The Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle live and die.
  • 431-404 BC: The Peloponnesian War is fought between the Delian League, led by Athens, and the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta.
  • 356-323 BC: Alexander the Great lives and dies.
  • 323-146 BC: The Hellenistic Period begins, and ends with Greece becoming subject to Roman rule.
  • 168 BC: Illyria, until now a sovereign state with various colonies in and around it, is designated as Roman territory. The Romans divide ancient Croatia into two provinces: Pannonia and Dalmatia. This prompts cultural changes in the area, such as the use of Romance languages, the building of classical Roman towns (temples, amphitheatres, and forums in tow), and the construction of Roman roads.
  • 100 BC - 44 BC: Julius Caesar lives and dies.
  • 27 BC - 14 AD: The Roman Republic becomes the Roman Empire under Caesar Augustus, also known as Octavian (63 BC - 14 AD). During his reign, Rome officially annexes vast swaths of land, including Croatia (that is, Dalmatia and Pannonia) and Greece.
  • 117 AD: The Roman Empire reaches its peak around this time.
  • 244-311 AD: Roman Emperor Diocletian, born in Dalmatia, lives and dies.
  • 272-337 AD: Roman Emperor Constantine lives and dies, making Christianity the main religion of the Roman Empire during his reign. He also moves the capital from Rome to Constantinople toward the east, where Istanbul stands today.
  • 395 AD: The Roman Empire is divided into East and West.
  • 378-437 AD: Invasions by Germanic tribes from the north bring the Western Roman Empire to an end. In 410, Rome is sacked for the first time in 800 years. The Huns also attack Roman territories toward the end of the 5th century AD.
  • 476 AD: By this date, the Roman Empire as it was is no more. Various tribes (such as the Franks, Visigoths, and Ostrogoths) divide Europe amongst themselves. Croatian lands are incorporated into the Ostrogoth Kingdom. The Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire, briefly retakes some western territories in the 6th century AD - but Antiquity is over at this point.

Though their era didn't last forever, the legacies of ancient Greece and Rome very well might. In modern-day Croatia, 2000 years later, it's still possible to totally immerse yourself in the world of Antiquity through the extensive architecture, art, and artefacts the era left behind, especially along the country's coast.

So, we're bringing you a glorious gallery that will guide you on an archaeological road trip - and hopefully inspire you to embark on your own. The photos, coupled with the map above, provide an overview of coastal Croatia's major Antiquity-era sights. But, keep in mind that these are just the basics... In total, there are too many Classical archaeological sites in Croatia to include in just one article - and that's just considering the ones we've discovered so far!

So, carpe diem (and/or carpe vinum) - we're off on a Croatian Odyssey...

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