Teuta’s Secret Treasure on Devil’s Island

Teuta’s Secret Treasure on Devil’s Island

Folk tales were once used to pass the time during long winter nights when the strong bora wind howled, or when children were being put to bed. One of the most popular stories in Dalmatia, passed down from generation to generation, is the one about the powerful queen of the sea, Teuta, told on the islands of Hvar, Vis, Svetac, Šolta…

 

Although her reign over the Illyrian Kingdom was short-lived (from 231 to 227 BCE), all of the legends told about this powerful, daring, mysterious and impossibly beautiful woman demonstrate people’s fascination with her. According to historical records, Teuta took the throne after her husband Agron, the founder of the Illyrian state, died due to excessive celebration and drinking after defeating the Aetolians.

 

The new queen reigned over the south Adriatic and all of its islands, except for Vis. The Illyrians were known as capable seafarers, who knew the sea inside and out. 

Their fast and small ships were used for pirate attacks that brought their new ruler entire chests full of gold, silver, pearls and other earthly goods, mostly plundered from the Romans and delivered to her summer palaces in the villages of Dol and Sućuraj on the island of Hvar.

The Amazon of the Adriatic, Feared Even by the Mighty Romans

The powerful Roman army were helpless until they were joined by the commander of the Illyrian navy, Demetrius, who was out for revenge after Teuta rejected his advances. With the traitor in their ranks, the huge Roman armada numbering 20,000 soldiers, 2,000 horsemen and 200 ships attacked her castle at Sućuraj, and the defeated Illyrian queen managed to escape to the island of Svetac with a few of her ships.

 

Her skilled and brave sailors continued pirating the wild waters around this island, which was located at the intersection of sea routes at the time. Her palace, called Krajicin castle or Teuta’s castle, was once more a place where she could enjoy feasts and collect treasure chests. All of the loot and the enemy crews were being brought to Svetac. The queen would execute some of the men right away, sparing those who were big and strong.

Bogoljub Mitraković / TZ Komiža

She would get them drunk on the famous Svetac red wine and take them to her chambers. After spending the night with them, she would have them executed. The theory of the executions is based on the large number of graves found in the vicinity of the Svetac fort, filled with bones that were unusually large.

Devil’s Island, as it was named by the English at one point, still holds the queen’s hidden treasure, allegedly buried underneath the fort and protected with Teuta’s curse. All those who have tried to find it were met by a tragic fate, so that may have contributed to the treasure remaining undiscovered to this day.