History of Konavle
The name Konavle derives from the Latin word “canale”, “canalis”, in the local dialect “konali”, “kanali”, what is connected with the viaduct, which, in the times of the Romans, carried water from Vodovađa to Epidaurum, today’s Cavtat.
Available historical traces are telling about the life in this region even from Palaeolithic and Neolithic times (over four thousand years before Common Era). We can track the concrete course of the history in Konavle from the fifth and fourth century before Common Era on, when this area was populated by the Illyrian tribes of the Plereians and the Ardians, while the Romans submitted the Illyrians in the second century before Common Era. At the beginning of the 7th century, Avarian and Slavic tribes break into Europe and also into this region, and founded Epidaurum in 614 (today’s Cavtat), as well as the entire region of Konavle, whereby they displaced the inhabitants from former times, the Illyrians and the Romans. Shortly afterwards, the Croats instigated the Slavs and evicted the Avarians to the Pannonian Valley, while a part of the Croatian tribes stayed in Dalmatia, and one part stayed in the Pannonian Valley. In the following years, the rulers and the states in this area are alternating (Doclea, Rascia, Bosnia), and Konavle is, although only for a short period of time, also independent, namely in the 9th century.
In the 14th century, Konavle comes under the governance of the Dubrovnik Republic, when Dubrovnik’s inhabitants bought the following from former owners, Bosnian great land owner: in 1419, the eastern part of Konavle from Sandaljo Hranić, and in the year 1426 the western part from Radoslav Pavlović, whereat they paid the same amount of 36 000 Perpers (currency unit in Montenegro) respectively. Konavle was of specific importance for the Dubrovnik Republic, not only due to agriculture, stock farming and seafaring, but also because of its strategic value. Therefore, Dubrovnik’s inhabitants were keeping the power skilfully and effectively in their hands during their entire ruling, as well as they did on their other estates, which were lead by a sovereign in Konavle, who resided in a castle in Pridvorje.
With the fall of the Dubrovnik Republic in the year 1807, Konavle comes under French administration, and afterwards under the rule of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, under which it will stay until its decay in 1918 and the formation of the Yugoslavian Kingdom. After World War II, Konavle is integral part of the socialist Yugoslavia within the borders of the SR (Socialist Republic) of Croatia; and today, after the endured aggression in the Homeland War (from 1991 to 1995), it enjoys the fruits of the independency of the Republic of Croatia.
The origin of name “Cavtat”
The legend about the development of the name Cavtat is interesting, because it says that two suitors had asked the beautiful Cavtislava’s hand in marriage, the daughter of the Epidaurian ruler, so that the father decided to give her to that suitor, who would perform the bigger task. One of the admirers, the commander Stjepan, should bring aquaviva from the source Vodovađa in Konavle, and the other one, a brave knight and seafarer, should bring a ship full of silk from the wide world. On the day of the festivities of the opening of the Epidaurian viaduct, the beautiful Cavtislava should first satisfy her thirst with water from a golden jar, but before, a big lizard jumped out of the water directly onto the girl’s lap. Cavtislava’s heart failed for fear and she immediately dropped dead. According to tales in the common tongue, the unfortunate seafarer, whose ship was sunk by a huge storm directly in front of Epidaurus, and who therefore was not able to fulfil his task, put the lizard into the viaduct since he could not bear the loss of the girl. In memory of the beautiful Cavtislava, at this place arose Cavtat, after an earthquake had destroyed the town.
Another legend says that Cavtat derives from the Old-Croatian verb ‘captiti’ – ‘to blossom’, refering to the yellow juniper, that so widwspread sparkling plant with a sunny aura. The legend relate its doom to the catastrpohes after which the indestructible Cavtat would come back to life again and anew. “… down there, there’s something adorned with gold blossoming it the reef…”