Land management & water supply in the Ancient Greek colony of Pharos

Hvar is an island in the group of the Middle Adriatic islands. It covers an area of ~300 km2. The length of the island is 68 km, and its width is up to 10,5 km, while its highest peak is at 628 m. Hvar of is unusual in the area for having a large fertile coastal plain, and fresh water springs. Its hillsides are today covered in pine forests, with vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and lavender fields in the agricultural areas. The climate is characterized by mild winters, and warm summers with many hours of sunshine. The island has today ~ 11.000 residents occupied mainly with agriculture, followed by tourism.

Ager (Latin name to indicate the plain) is a fertile field which is stretched to the east from the bay where Stari Grad (Pharos) is situated, ending in the cove of Vrboska. The length of the field is 6 km, and its width is 2 km. On the south, it borders on a mountain chain (628m peak) from which numerous occasional streams, big and small, flow down to the Plain. On the north smaller hills are found. The field is divided into 73 rectangular plots of land, the ancient chorae, (or strigae), each measuring 181 x 905 m. Grid planning of towns and fields was invented by Hippodamus of Miletus (498- 408 BC).

The name Hvar name comes from the ancient Greek Word: Pharos, Φάρος, (Latin: Pharia). It was given by the Greeks from the island of Paros in the Aegean Sea that founded their colony on the north of the island in the early 4th century BC. That is where modern Stari Grad (= eng. old town) is found.

In antiquity the island Hvar was colonised mainly due to the abundance of fresh water that allowed agricultural development. The area where the Parians settled is in northern and central part of Hvar at the end of the bay where the fertile plain begins, and where there are many springs. This area is separated by high mountains from the western part of the island, where is the town of Hvar, facing south, and a long and narrow eastern part, which, like the tip of the awl penetrates the mainland.

According to archeologists, the founding of the city did not take place in peace, for the Illyrians  of the place, backed up  by their allies  on the mainland were stout in their defence of the Plain. After initial troubles, the city was founded, and circled by walls. The perimeter of Greek Pharos is fairly well known today. The perimeter of the ancient town was circled by defensive walls, vestiges of which are visible today, together with remains of a city gate with towers. Excavations have brought to light the ground plan of the Greek town and have uncovered vestiges of houses.

Notably, the territorial organisation that was established back in the 4th century BC is still used today! The ensemble constitutes the cultural landscape of a fertile cultivated plain whose land parcel system is the same as 2400 years ago. 

Beneath the Greek level there is evidence of a small Iron Age Illyrian tribal community in the 6th - 5th centuries BC at Stari Grad. Remains of forts and stone tumuli around the plain date this period or even earlier.