Did you like the movies ”Troy” and ”Immortals“? Of course you did! They have Brad Pitt and Henry Cavill jumping around like maniacs, carrying broad swords and long spears. But apart from enjoying their ferocious athletic skills, you also developed an interest for Greek Mythology, at least a slight one.
Now, the world of ancient mystical Greece is not your average fantasy world. It was constantly referred to by European artists from all times and of all professions, from painters to playwrights. Even some more modern sciences such as psychology borrow heavily from this vast, archaic universe. But what does it have to do with Croatia?
Quite a lot actually. As the story goes, Istria and the islands around it were created in the heat of a battle between Greek gods. But, let’s start at the beginning. In the faraway land of Thessaly, a young prince named Jason had to deliver a mystical artefact known as a Golden Fleece to his evil stepfather (who killed Jason’s father and took his mother as a hostage). In order to achieve this, Jason had to build a mighty Wessel, since the Golden Fleece was stationed in distant Colhis (today, the country of Georgia). He also organized a crew of powerful Greek heroes such as Theseus (known for being the murderer of the phantasmagorical bull-headed Minotaur), Orpheus (who had gone to the underworld Hades to seek his dead wife) and Heracles (known as the strongest hero of ancient Greece).
A ship named Argo was blessed by goddess Athena and the heroes, known to people as “argonauts” went to distant Colhis. After numerous adventures, they reached their goal; however their troubles were only beginning. Aietes, king of Cohlis, was reluctant to help Jason in getting the fleece, which was guarded by a horrid dragon which never slept. If it weren’t for the love of the king’s daughter, sorceress Medea, who instructed Jason on how to deal with wide-awake monsters, all would be doomed. Using the magical words he had learned, the young prince put the dragon to sleep, took the Golden Fleece, and together with his new royal girlfriend fled to Argo.
Aietes was not pleased to hear about his daughter’s treason. He ordered his son, Apsyrtos, to find Argo and bring her back. By the time he raised the sails, the gods on Olympus had become interested in the whole incident. Always ready to make the life of mortals miserable, and exchange a few slaps amongst themselves, the pagan deities picked their sides, and this is where Istria comes into the story.
Athena continued to provide protection to Jason and his peers, while the god of the sea, Poisedon, sided with the pursuers. The battle was harsh, and Poseidon was not gentle at all. He attacked Athens and smashed her magical shield, made of goat’s skin. Then Zeus, the main Greek deity, took the broken shield and created the Istrian peninsula out of it. From the cracked bits, he created islands close to its shore. Since then, the goat has been considered a symbol of Istria, and can be seen on the national emblem.
However, the story is far from over. Argo fugitives fled to the Adriatic Sea, and hid from Colhis troops in the newly founded peninsula. There they dwelled near the fertile water source, and founded the capital of the region of Istria – Pula. Interestingly, ancient Romans found the mentioned water spring, and built a huge temple called Nympheum in its place. Because of its famous founders, Pula is known as “the city of fugitives”.
But the heroes knew they couldn’t evade conflict for the rest of their lives, so Medea chose to betray her family once more, and lead her brother into Jason’s deadly trap. Now the story gets a little bloody. She took Apsyrtos’s body and cut it into pieces she then threw into the Adriatic. After a while, beautiful islands emerged. These were Cres and Losinj, also known in geography as Apsyrtides.
We promise, these are the last exploding items which turn into tourist locations. However, after Jason and Medea split, she returned to Istria and founded a new place. It is called Medveja, and is considered the capital of the now lost Liburnian civilization. She was depressed all the time, and cried a lot, which is why area is full of water sources. At least, this is what people say. In case you are wondering, Medveja is still here, waiting for visitors with an interest in Ancient mythology.
Learned something new? Hope you liked it. Class dismissed, kids. And next time you see Brad Pitt wearing armour, just think – maybe he is founding a new city on a Croatian famous peninsula!