Cave of Campari in Tramuntana (Cres), cross section
Lubenice, once a Roman city
the Roman bridge of Beli, still intact
Osor on the island Cres, top right the channel and the island Losinj
Osor, historical facade, modern sculpture
Mali Losinj, capitol of the Cres-Losinj archipelago
Veli Losinj, once the most important city on the island.
Archeological findings in de caves 'Campari'
and 'Jami na sredi' on the island of Cres, and 'Vela
jama' on Losinj have proven that in prehistoric times,
with a sealevel many feet below the present one, these
islands were in fact no islands at all, but part of the
Istria peninsula. The proof consisted out of well
preserved skeletons of long extinct bears and other
The first known inhabitants of the archipel were the indo-german Illirians, who came from Central Europe around 1200 b.C. to settle in the area. One tribe, the Dalmatians, went to southern coastal regions, while the Liburnians, much feared seagoing pirates, who used light and fast rowing boats that stayed in use for many centuries to come, settled in the northern area. Primitive strongholds stemming from this period can still be found in several places on the island; ceramics and metal objects are exhibited in the archeological museum in Osor.
Wether the ancient Greek, who approached from the south around 400 b.C. and founded cities like Korcula, Hvar and Trogir, have extended their journey to Cres/Losinj has never been determined. They certainly knew the archipel and used the names 'Absyrtides' for Cres/Losinj and Absoros for the city of Osor, both derived from Absyrtos, the name of the King's son in the Argonaut saga. First to acknowledge the military importance of the islands were the Romans, who in the 3rd century b.C. started a bloody and long lasting offensive against the Illirians, until in the year 9 under the emperor Augustus complete capitulation was achieved and the islands were added to the Roman empire as part of the province of Dalmatia. Osor, possessing a channel that was elementary to the shipping trade with the Dalmatian coast, became the most important city and was allowed a considerable amount of self government. Traces from Roman times are abundant on the island Cres, like roads, bridges, remnants of Roman villa's and ancient settlements like Caput Insulae (Beli), Hibernicia (Lubenice) and Crepsa (Cres).
of the Roman empire in the 4th century put the
archipelago at the brink of tumultuous times. First
subjected to the reign of Theodore the Great of the
East-Gothian empire until 535, then part of Byzanthium,
that in the beginning of the 7th century came heavily
under siege from the Awares and slavic Croats who
approached from the south. Unable to withstand the
unabating attacks, the Byzanthians concentrated on
keeping the former Roman Cities, among which Osor. They
did not bother about the surrounding countryside, until
another pirate tribe, the Sarazenes destroyed Osor in
The city of Cres, which in Venetian times developed into the most significant settlement, slowly had to give way to Mali Losinj with it's well sheltered giant natural harbour, that grew to be the centre of shipping. In 1854 the maritime school was founded, which is still an important educational institute for the merchant service. At the crest of her fame around 1870 Mali Losinj possessed a merchant fleet of 150 large sailing vessels (up to 1500 brt.), that sailed the world seas. At the end of that century however, they lost their leading position in favour of shipyards along the coast, where larger and larger steamships were built, putting an end to the sailing era. Approximately simultaneously a long lasting epidemic of Phylloxera (green fly) set in, causing heavy crop damage to the almost exclusively agricultural island of Cres. These two factors together led to a massive emigration that was to continue for many decades until after the second world war.
At the end of
the first world war in 1918, the kingdom Yugoslavia was
founded, with the exclusion of the islands Cres, Losinj,
the Istria peninsula and the city of Rijeka. These parts,
where a substantial tourist industry had developed, were
alloted to Italy and remained under Italian government
until the end of the second world war. The
'Italianization' left many traces that can still be
observed in harbour structures, architecture and even in
many family names.
Of course the
improvements in infrastructure were primarily limited to
the larger settlements, the smaller ones following in
order of importance or sometimes political connections.
It took until the end of 1970 to get electricity in Punta
Kriza and asphalt on the only connecting road to Osor had
to wait until July 1974. Until then, the only way to
reach the village was by boat, on foot or by horse over
an unpaved path that was used by the postman. In 1994
telephone became available, whereas the replacement of
the provisional, badly leaking water supply by a
subsurface system with fire hydrants and outlets to
individual houses had to wait until 2001.