Omis Pirates (Corsairs)

At the peak of its power, in the 12th and 13th century, the Omis Pirates were the scariest and most powerful pirates in the whole Mediterranean Sea.

The Croatian coast of the Adriatic sea has had an advantage over the western coast because of its indented coastline. Numerous islands, bays and canals were safer routes to travel than the open sea, and such conditions have enabled the development of piracy. In the Middle Ages town was dangerous pirate stronghold on the east coast. Indented Croatian Adriatic coast favored the development of piracy due to a number of islands, channels and bays. If we add to that the Cetina River with its monumental canyon and numerous stone cliffs, it is clear why city has became a pirate stronghold.

In the Old Ages and in the Middle Ages, piracy was a legitimate and widespread type of economy. Croatian tribes that have settled in what is now Dalmatia continue the tradition of the Illyrian tribes. Soon they mastered the construction of ships, continued the tradition of the Illyrians and harass the ships that sailed along their coast. Neretva region was, with Omis, a great center of pirates. Especially before 10 century. Venetians have tried for centuries to suppress the famous pirates from Neretva, but they never succeeded. The most famous is the battle near Makarska in 18th September 887. This date is taken as the Day of the Croatian Navy. In this battle the Duke of Venetia Pietro Candiano was killed. For this reason, the Venetians for centuries were paying tribute for the free passage.

The rise of power of the Omis Pirates

omis pirates sagitta
Omis Pirate ship Sagitta

The rise of power of Omis begins with the arrival of family Kacic at the end of the 11th century. Family Kacic probably comes from Zadar, and the first of them was a nobleman Ljubomir. Very quickly, until the mid of the 12th century, family Kacic gained the islands of Brac, Hvar, area almost to Dubrovnik in the south, and for a short period of time even the city of Sibenik in the north. Although Omis had admitted the Hungarian-Croatian king, because of city strength it had an unique autonomy. For this reason the Hungarian-Croatian king has never complained about the pirates. Omis Pirates were skilled sailors and shipbuilders. They had outstanding boats called "Sagitta" (arrow). These ships allowed them quick attacks and quickly retreat deep in the canyon of the river Cetina. At the peak of its power, in the 12th and 13th century Pirates control the maritime traffic from Kvarner (in the north Adriatic Sea) to Dubrovnik, and all the way to the east coast of the Adriatic Sea. Powerful Venice and Dubrovnik had to pay a toll for safe passage at sea. The size and strength of Omis Dukes (the title that were given by the Kacic family) was witnessed by various Byzantine writings from the time of the Byzantine reign of this part of Adriatic coast during 1166 - 1180. The Pirates were at its peak during the reign of Duke Nikola Kacic and his son Brecko. However, Venice's was trying for centuries to defeat town and Omis Pirates, but Omis was more than succesful in resisting the attacks. However, at the end of the 13th century Venetians were conspiring against the city, along with the King of Naples, Sibenik, Trogir, Split, Zadar and Dubrovnik. After many years of battles Omis finally stumbled. Venetian government was short-lived, but family Kacic had lost their power in Omis. This event and also meant the beginning of the weakening of Omis. And city would never be strong as it was during the Kacic's reign. After the family Kacic Omis was ruled by family Subic.

The fall of the Omis

Towards the end of the 14th century the town was under the rule of Bosnian dukes. In this period piracy had flared up. Pirates have attacked Venice and Dubrovnik ships, and ships that were traveling in the Crusades. And even have attacked the French galleys. In 1440, in the citx there was a battle for supremacy between the various nobleman. And Venice finally launches an attack in 1444 and conquers Omis. This event will mark the end of the supremacy of Omis Pirates for more than three hunderd years over the Adriatic sea, and Omis will be under Venetian rule until 1797.