East coast of the Adriatic and with that the Neretva valley was inhabited by Illyrians about 2500 years ago. They didn't leave any written traces, but Greek and Roman authors witnessed their presence, way of life and customs. On hill tops around the valley you can still find graves that they built by piling rocks into hummock shapes some reaching 10 meters in height.
Sometime in 4th century BC Greeks came into Neretva valley and founded Narona, witch developed into an important trading center. In the 2nd century BC Narona had a developed urban outlook. Finding of a girder with portrait of dancers and newfound remains under the level of Roman Forum support this.
In 1st century BC Narona, like other Greek colonies, is conquered by Roman Empire and it becomes COLONIA IULIA NARONA – Roman colony Narona. Narona grew into the military, governing, judicial and cultural center of Narona County. Together with trade, architecture, sculpture and painting are blooming. In such surroundings wealth increased rapidly which led to luxury structures and lavish statues being built. Unconquered Illyrian tribe Delmati forced the Romans on constant military campaigns and together with the army came merchants which contributed to growth of the town. It is not unrealistic to assume that Narona covered the area of 25 hectares (about 62 acres).
The demise of Narona is still questioned. There have been mentions of cataclysms, invasion of barbaric tribes like Slavs or Avars, but Prof. Emilio Marin, one of Narona head explorers, believes it just extinguished. It is known for a fact that in the first half of 6th century the bishop of Narona was present at the council in Salona. That is the time of the fall of Western Roman Empire which means that the power of Narona also weakened, resulting in dispersal of population. The weakened Narona presented an easy target for robbers in the war venues that followed.
Remains of ancient Narona can be seen today on archeological site and Archeological museum in the village called Vid.
ARRIVAL OF CROATS
In 7th century Croats came to this area and formed Principality of Neretva. Neretvans were very skilled seamen, known as Pirats of Neretva. The most famous leader of the pirates was Croatian duke Domagoj. Boats used by the pirates are similar to the ones that can be found today on Neretva, they are called ladjas.
In the memory of the famous pirates there is a statue on a hill in Vid and every year in august a traditional race called “Maraton lađa ” is held on Neretva.
TURKISH AND VENETIAN PERIOD AND FRENCH OCUPATION
In 14th century the valley was ruled by Bosnian rulers. When Turks conquered Bosnia in 15th century they took control of Neretva valley as well. With constant fighting against the Venetians, Turks ruled for about 200 years.
At the end of 17th century Venetians took over the rule and managed to keep it until late 18th century and the arrival of the French. French occupation lasted from 1797 – 1813.
As a symbol of these turbulent times remained fortresses: Turkish called Norinska Kula and Venetian called Fort Opus.
Ausrto-Hungarian rule lasted from 1813. until the end of World War I. At that time a railroad from Mostar to Metković was built which made Metković an important port for trade with Bosnia. Metković also got one of the first hotels on the east Adriatic coast. Other towns in the valley were blooming as well with the building of schools and other cultural institutions.
Ausrto-Hungarian legacy can be seen today on many buildings, above all City Hall in Opuzen built in neoclassicism style and an obelisk at the waterfront in Opuzen – monument to the regulation of the flow of Neretva river.
NERETVA VALLEY TODAY
Delta of Neretva River covers the area of 12000 ha (almost 30000 acres) in Croatia. The most intense transformation happened over the last few decades when people drained the swamps and created cultivated land suitable for agriculture. The remains of swamp areas combined with cultivated land give the area of the delta a uniquely green visual identity so it’s often called “emerald of the Croatian Adriatic”
Metković, Opuzen and Ploče are the three centers of the valley that consists of many villages and hamlets. In economy, agriculture is dominant with tourism growing every year and becoming an important sector. Delta of Neretva has 5 locations that are protected ornithological reserves where 310 species of birds were registered 115 of which are nesting birds. Combination of cultivated land, swamp areas, sea and historical heritage gives the Neretva valley diversity in tourist offer which is hard to come by.
Origin of the town
The area of today’s territorial placement of Opuzen has a rich history. The area, due to the proximity of Narona was inhabited in time of ancient Rome.
The great historical populating of this area happened in the middle ages when the fortress Brštanik was built. It was financed by the Bosnian ruler Tvrtko II. After two centuries of Turkish reign at the end of 17th century Venetians announced war to Turks and with the help of domicile population came to Neretva and built a fortress called Fort Opus. Later they conquered Turkish fortress Norinska Kula and secured the area. Ever since then Opuzen continues its history as the geographical center of the valley.
Origin of the name
There are several hypotheses about the origin of name Opuzen, the most interesting one is that it originates from the name of Venetian fortress built in 1684 called Fort Opus. Theory says that when the army went away Fort got lost from the name leaving only Opus which later got the suffix –en creating Opuzen.
The other more probable hypotheses says that even before the fortress was built the island Posrednica, on which Opuzen lies today, was called Opus. Because of inaccessibility of that part of the river people called it Opuz or Opuzina a phrase used even today in Neretva valley.