Croatian history is rich and abundant with interesting myths and legends.
Some are written down while others are just whispers of the past. Such stories often consist of surreal elements that strike our imagination in magical ways. They amuse us and move us in ways only legends can.
The underlining motive has always been and always will be, what else but love!
Breathtaking setting of Brijuni Islands
Little known legend of Brijuni lovers dates deep in the past but has left such an impactful mark that it is still remembered today. The Peninsula of Istria treasures the magnificent island group Brijuni. Brijuni consist of 14 islands and islets scattered near the coast of Pula town.
Very indented coastline of the largest island called Veliki Brijun uncovers the beautiful cove Veriga. Many years ago Veriga was the setting of a tragic yet astounding love story of Lidia and Gaius.
Roman patrician Aulus Faesonius built his luxurious villa over the Veriga bay. Huge flamboyant villa had numerous rooms and stunning surroundings. He was a well-known wealthy owner of a factory that manufactured terracotta, amphorae and oil.
Although already very old man, he picked the prettiest of his countless female slaves, a 20 year old Lidia Priscila and married her.
A love that could not be hidden
Aulus’s best friend and next-door neighbor Terenti Bassus had a portly son Gaius he was very proud of. Namely, Gaius was very successful in, at the time hugely popular, deadly game of quadriga. Dexterous and brave, young man was invincible.
First time Lidia and Gaius saw each other they fell in love. It was hard to explain, classic love at first sight. Lidia felt weak in her knees and Gaius felt his heart bumping against his chest. Wealthy
Aulus went above and beyond and provided everything Lidija could ever imagine but the one thing he could not achieve is for her to love him. She loved Gaius with all her heart. And what’s most important Gaius loved her back. For a while they were secretly meeting on different hidden locations on the island cherishing every single moment they could spend together away from the harsh reality.
But as time passed, they became careless and the look in their eyes started to uncover the truth.
The jealousy and the crime
One late night, after the Gaius had won yet another competition they were on a boat from Pula to Veriga bay. The love that was pouring from their eyes revealed their well-kept secret to the slave overseer Ruf. Malicious Ruf headed straight to Aulus and told him what he saw. Aulus was overwhelmed with rage and jealousy. He started plotting his revenge immediately.
He decided to throw up a grandiose celebration in Gaius honor. While the guests were dining Aulus invited Gaius to join him and his vassal Ruf in the underground halls of the villa where he kept his richess. Well-meaning young Gaius did not know what was coming.
After he entered one of the rooms the flame of the torch disappeared as the heavy iron doors closed. Aulus ordered his slaves to wall up the doors with Gaius trapped in the darkness. A desperate move disunited the lovers forever. After this no one had ever heard of Gaius again. Lidia was devastated, her secret was forever buried with the dreading feeling of the unknown destiny of her lover. The unfortunate young man was never forgotten.
The rumor has it, he was removed along with some robbers when he was trying to reach mainland but his body was never found.
Whispers of the times past
At least that’s what was thought of until 1912 when the team of archeologist was examining the remains on the island. They were clearing the buried corridors and found a room behind the walled up doors in which a crouching skeleton was found in the corner.
Allegedly, the skeleton had a golden chain around the forearm with a carved name of Gaius Lucanius Basus. This discovery was refuted as was the rumor of a skull that was reportedly standing on one of the towers in Brijuni until it disappeared in the Second World War.
This is probably merely a story, but an interesting story nevertheess.The roman remains of Aulus villa may hold more secrets. Integral part of the villa complex are the temples of the sea god Neptune, the Capitoline Triad, and the goddess of love and beauty Venus in the bottom of the bay. All buildings have an interesting system of open and closed interconnected paths ideally matched with the landscape.
These remains can be explored when visiting the National Park of Brijuni. Veriga Bay also boasts the beautiful beach on which the unfortunate lovers likely shared walks and declared love to one another.
Only a love so strong as theirs could survived the centuries. What was then a mysterious tragic event is now an inspiring legend of Brioni lovers.
Author: Nikolina Dukić
Photo Credit: (1) Carole Raddato, (2) James Stringer, (3) rom@nski photo, (4) Pilar Torres, (5) James Stringer