National monument near Stolac: The ancient Illyrian town Daorson

PHOTO: VELIJA HASANBEGOVIĆ

The area of Stolac is known for the abundance and diversity of cultural and historical monuments that date back to a time span of about 14,000 years. In this wealth of cultural and historical heritage, the remains of the Illyrian town Daorson somehow fell in the background. It was the capital of the Hellenized Illyrian tribe called Daorsi, who lived from 300 to 50 BC in the Neretva River valley.

The remnants of this once strongest city in the wider area are in the village Ošanjići. The Daorsi took over the Greek language and script, and were in constant trade relations with the Greeks.

Warrior Tribe

Daorson Castle was built on a prehistoric fortified settlement that continued to exist from the beginning of the early (17th to 16th centuries BC) until the end of the Late Bronze Age (9th to 8th centuries BC). It is well known that from the year 167 BCE, the Neretva River was the northwestern border of the Roman Republic in the Balkans, and even the border of the Daorsi, which enjoyed a kind of autonomy within that country. At that time, Daorsi were being attacked by the Delmati, from direction of the Cetina River, a powerful warrior tribe whose power extended over Cetina towards Neretva River at some times.

During the wars between Caesar and Pompey’s supporters on the Adriatic coast, the Delmatians were on one side and Daorsi on the opposite. In 49 BC, Pompey’s legions allied with the Delmates and their tribes, while the Daors stood alongside Caesar’s Vatinius, who began war operations against the Delmates in the spring of 45 BC.

It is almost certain that Delmats attacked Daorson at that time and completely destroyed it. From the data on the wars of Vatinius against Delmat, one can fairly accurately determine the time of destruction of the city of Daorson and the interruption of life in that city. The archaeological material from the fort dates from the second half of the 1st century BC, which coincides with the supposed time of the attack on the city and the interruption of life in it.

The permanent ruins of the town of Daorson were never later established. Individual and rare finds are represented in this area from different epochs and centuries, and even more recently, because people moved there often. Later, the new center of Daors developed in the part of Vidovo Field and present-day Stolac, at the beginning of the 1st century BC as the municipality of Diluntum.

Daorson was made up of three entities, the centerpiece of which was the citadel – an acropolis encircled by “cyclopic” walls of huge stone blocks (similar to those in Mycenae, Greece). It housed all the major administrative, public and religious sites. The defensive wall extending from southwest to northeast was 65 in length, 4.2 in breadth, and between 4.5 and 7.5 meters high, had gates and towers at both ends. The remains of an organized settlement extend east and northeast of the acropolis, beyond the fortified part.

Coinage

After the first excavations from 1963, archaeologists found the remains of numerous wine amphorae and parts of fine ceramics, but the most valuable find is a bronze helmet. It was decorated with a number of Greek characters – Aphrodite, Nike, Helium, Dionysus, Muse, Pegasus and others, and the inscription on it is similar to the inscription on the helmet found in Macedonia. The remains of a granite sculpture of Kadma and Harmony, as well as an Illyrian relief with 13 snakes and five pairs of eagle wings were also found.

In one smaller building, a blacksmith place for making coins was found with tools, 39 different coins (29 with King Ballaios of 168 BCE, and nine with the Greek inscription ΔΑΟΡΣΩΝ and a vessel). The importance of money was great, it meant the independence of the Daorsi tribe, but also a confirmation that they had developed craft, culture and trade with other nations. The shapes of the ships shown suggest that Daorsi built two types of ships – war and merchant.

Daorson is also located close to the Desilo site in Hutovo Blato, where Snježana Vasilj discovered Illyrian ships, the first of its kind in the world. In 2007, Niels Miller Schiesel from the German Archaeological Institute in Frankfurt did geomagnetic research on Daorson. His research has uncovered the walls of the earth today, which are about 500 years older than those already excavated. By decision of the Commission to Preserve BiH’s National Monuments, Daorson has been designated a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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