The oldest prehistoric settlement in the Osijek area emerged on the bank of Drava river, on today hardly visible mount stretching in the direction east-west in northern part of Retfala.
At the end of the 1st century BC, Romans have conquered almost the whole Pannonia and on slightly elevated right bank of the Drava built a military camp named Mursa, in what is today the Lower Town (from the customs house in the west to the Ban Josip Jelacic Square in the east, from Frankopanska Street in the south to the Drava river in the north).
Attila's Huns destroyed Mursa in 441. To the west of the ruins, on an elevated terrace and a small rise near the riverbank, a Slavic settlement was established in the 7th century. Slavonic and early Croatian settlers named their town Osijek. According to some interpretations, this name could represent something that had been cut off.
Late Medieval Osijek was built on the general area of today's Tvrdja (Fort). In historical sources, Osijek is first mentioned in 1196 in a document of the Croatian-Hungarian King Emerik, pronounced as Ezek (Hungarian). During this period Osijek was a port and market town. Recognizing strategic and traffic importance of Osijek, Ottoman Turks have conquered Osijek in 1526 and ruled it for 161 years.
Planning the construction of a military fort in 1692, Austrian authorities have moved the former Turkish town about 1,500 meters to the west from the city wall. Thus a new settlement – the Upper Town was created. Founding of the Lower Town, south of the fort, began in summer or early autumn of 1698. Upper Town and Tvrdja have comprised a single administrative unit until 1702, when Upper Town was given separate municipal administration. Lower Town has become a separate municipality in 1704. Austrian authorities have been building the fortress, modeled on Dutch lowland fortresses, from August 1, 1712 until 1722, when it was mainly completed, although construction works of lesser scope continued until the sixties of the 18th century.
The entire wall ring of the Turkish fortress was built into the new ramparts. Colonization of the southern town area began in 1792, settlers mainly being Germans from Banat and Backa. The fourth town's unit, named the New Town, was thus created.
Favorable geographic position, commerce and handicrafts are the main characteristics of the 18th century Osijek. Economic strengthening was followed by the increase of population and development of education, culture, sport and healthcare. Even stronger strengthening of the city began with unification of its disunited parts in 1786 and granting of status of a free royal city in 1809.
In the wave of construction during the 19th and at start of the 20th century, many buildings and even whole streets were erected, substantially changing the appearance of Osijek. At that period Osijek was industrially the second most developed city in Croatia, right behind Zagreb. Many things have changed in the postwar years after 1945: entire political, economic, cultural and social life.
After the Croatian War of Independence and proclamation of sovereign and independent Republic of Croatia, Osijek has taken a stride toward new political, economic and cultural life. Osijek is entering the 21st century with its bridges and roads oriented toward the Adriatic and Podunavlje.
More on Osijek at www.tzosijek.hr.