Koper, the oldest town in Slovenia, developed on a rocky island with the Roman name Capris. Out of the three Slovenian coast cities (Koper, Izola, Piran), Koper has experienced the most numerous layout modifications. The reasons for that also need to be sought in the changes of various reigns and states, all of which marked the city with their specific traits and names. Koper was called Capris in Roman times, in the times of the pope Gregory I (599) Insula Capraria (“goat island”), Iustinopolis under the Byzantine Empire (between mid 6th and 8th centuries) and Caput Histriae (‘head of Istria’) by the Aquileia Patriarchs. The Venetians rendered that name into the Italian form, Capodistria. The Slovenian equivalent of the name is Koper.
The longest reign over the city was that of the Venetian Republic (1279-1797), when Koper experienced economic (trade, salt production) and cultural prosperity (painting, music). The Venetian period is still echoed by the city architecture; despite numerous modern interventions, it has preserved its medieval character, with the city of Koper being a member of the European Association of Medieval Cities. In the Middle Ages, Koper was an island surrounded by walls and connected with the mainland with a wood bridge in the direction of Škocjan. It was protected by a mighty fortress – Lion Castle, and surrounded by vast saltpans. Koper’s importance began to diminish in the 18th century, when Trieste was proclaimed a free port, and ultimately ended with the downfall of the Venetian Republic.
In the period from the 19th century to the First World War (i.e. from the Napoleonic Empire 1806-1813 to the Hapsburg Monarchy 1813-1918), Koper experienced numerous changes in the economic and social development. This period was marked by the reduction of the saltpans, which were entirely abandoned in 1912, and the changing layout of the city, which began to lose its island character. In 1825, a second road connection with the mainland was constructed (Semedela Road) followed by the coastal road in the middle 19th century, a sea connection with Trieste-Poreč and the railway connection Trieste-Poreč in 1902.
Under the Italian Empire, Koper entirely lost its island character by means of the draining of the deserted saltpans.
The time after the Second World War brought further changes. Until the final determination of the boarder with Italy through the signing of the London Memorandum in 1954, when it officially became part of former Yugoslavia, Koper was part of Zone B administered by the Yugoslav national Army, first belonging to the Julian March and from September 1947 to the neutral state called the Free Trieste Territory (FTT). As part of Yugoslavia, Koper experienced profound changes in its national structure. This also brought about new architectural interventions both in the city centre and its surroundings, especially in terms of huge development with the construction of the port.
Today, Koper is both an commercial and tourist city, continuing to develop its offer in terms of seaside resorts, nautical tourism, sports and shopping. It has also become a University City.