Among the many European mediaeval principalities, which after centuries of varying fortune went under, one after another in the aftermath of the French Revolution, the Croatian principality of Poljica (pronounced Pol'yeetsa), with its special brand of rural democracy, occupied a special, indeed unique position. Its most conspicuous feature was that throughout its long and eventful history, unlike any other of its sister states, it never developed an urban centres on its territory. Its economy almost exclusive) depended on animal farming and agriculture. Although its territory included a good stretch of Adriatic coastline, shipping never played a significant part in its economy. Nor was there a concentrated effort to develop fishing. The reason for this, no doubt, was part) due to the absence of good natural harbours, where ships and small craft could shelter from weather, but also partly to the fact that the steep mountain ranges made access to the coast difficult. All the same, there did not seem to be a great deal of interest in the sea.
The territory of the principality - or, as local people often also called it, 'commune' or 'county' - occupied an area of approximately 100 sq. miles of mountainous land just to the south of the town of split, between the rivers Žrnovnica and Cetina, and except for a relatively short stretch of the ragged open terrain to the northwest where its border was not marked by any distinctive natural features, physically it was a fairly enclosed, easily identifiably entity; which is, no doubt, why its name survives to this day as a geographic concept, even though administratively it has long been parcelled out and divided among neighbouring districts. The dominant physical feature of the area is the Mosor massif, which stretches along the whole length of the principality and whose highest peak rises to nearly 4,500 ft. The physical shape of the massif is such that it divides thee area roughly into three distinct regions: Upper Poljica to the north, between the main Mosor range and Cetina river; Central Poljica, beginning in the west with a valley, almost at sea level, and rising to a high plateau between the main mountain range and the Tatter's southern ridges; and Littoral Poljica, representing a stretch of mostly terraced land, sloping from the Perun, Vršina and Mošnjica hights down to the sea.
There is a story about the origins of the name of the county that perhaps owes something to this romantic sentiment. According to the widely held view the name 'Poljica' draws its root from the small, sometimes near-circular fields (field = polje) or plots of fertile land, of which there are a great many in the mountains, and which often have been reclaimed for cultivation only at great effort by being labouriously cleared of stones, sometimes boulder-size, that had lain there half buried in the soil and now can be seen heaped up in mounds or neatly stacked up in dry walls that rim the fields. Yet plausible though it appears at first sight, this explanation needs to be firmed up by more evidence if it is to stand up to closer scrutiny. To begin with, the supposed etymology of the name does not make an impeccable grammatical sense. But quite apart from this, there are other similarly named places elsewhere in Europe that point to different linguistic roots, for example the town of Polizzi (the mediaeval Policium) in Sicily. Another example is the town of Montepulciano in the province of Siena (the mediaeval Castellum Politianum) whose citizens still refer to themselves as 'i poliziani'.
As to how exactly Poljica got its name may never be established with complete certainty, but perhaps it is not altogether unreasonable to suppose that its name derives from politia (i.e. the Latin form of πολτεια) which in the Middle Ages was a term often loosely applied to any kind of organized community; or, at any rate, from the Italianate versions of politia, such as polizza, policia, polizia, all of which, incidentally, as well as politia, occur in mediaeval documents as names of Poljica.