The performance of the Renaissance Garden, in the ambience of the renovated renaissance summer villa Bunić-Kaboga in Rijeka dubrovačka, opens with the magical sound of the flute; by interpreting Debussy’s composition Syrinx.

Claude Debussy: Syrinx/Ines Ivanjek, flute

Syrinx was written in 1913 as part of incidental music to the play Psyché by Gabriel Mourey, and was originally called “Flûte de Pan”. It was given its final name in reference to the myth of the nymph Syrinx.

In classical Greek mythology, Syrinx was a nymph and follower of Artemis, the goddess of the moon, beast and hunt. Known for her chastity, Artemis is also the protector of girls and Apollo’s twin sister, the daughter of Zeus. Syrinx, haunted by the loving god Pan, to whom love did not reciprocate, sought help from the river nymphs.

In response to the gods, it was turned into a hollow water reed that made a haunted sound when God’s breath blew it away. Pan, in his unfortunate wandering after his beloved nymph, sat down by the river one day and cut a reed to shape his instrument – Pan’s flute. An unfortunate fate, the desire of his beloved, and the will of the gods made him a murderer — he cut her down among the river sedges like a reed.

The landscape of the Dubrovnik River is at the same time gentle and cruel, real and mythical. Lush gardens, shady promenades, fertile vineyards, olive groves, pastures, forests and clear River have inspired poets and artists for centuries. The spiritual space of the Dubrovnik River “above the waters of the park with the scent of paradise” has been preserved in their works.



Humanists in the 15th and 16th centuries seem to have awakened the deities of ancient Arion. The poet Ilija Crijević describes the Dubrovnik River where the unusualness of the natural features of the Ombla river, in which sea and river water mix, its freshness and beauty, invited to bathe and invoked divine beings. Triton and nymphs emerge from its waters, and the beautiful oak grove transcends the gardens of the Hesperides.

In the park of Nikola Gučetić, in the shade of trees, next to a cave that mimics a spring, where nymphs live, the conversation is led by Cvijeta Zuzorić and Mara Gundulić. Držić’s fairies emerge from Ombla, and Vetranović’s Dijana bathes in its waters.

„The dense laurel forests and clear springs are inhabited by the nymphs and shepherds“, wrote Josip Bersa in his Gleanings from Dubrovnik from 1800-1880, „but in the magic of those forests they created works that glorify their homeland.“



In 1582, Jakov Lovrov Sorgo, the first naturalist from Dubrovnik, described the Dubrovnik River as a very rich place, full of beautiful palaces and gardens. He added that dolphins often go there in search of fish.

The Dubrovnik River, thus represented a bucolic framework for noble leisure – pleasant conversations, philosophical and scientific discussions. The summer residencies had impeccable views, facades facing the water. Time was spent reciting or reading poetry, arranging plays and pastoral games with music and singing. Some of the summer residences of the Dubrovnik nobility became the premises in which the scientific, literary and musical academies took place, and whose members were often the favorites of the Muses.



Muses, in Greek mythology, are the goddesses and the patrons of poetry, art and science. There are nine of them, and their leader is the god Apollo. Muses were believed to inspire painters, musicians and poets, so the word muse is also used figuratively for one who inspires an artist.

The muses are the daughters of Zeus-the king of the gods, and Mnemosyne-the goddess of memory.



They were once water nymphs, also known as Pierides. They got their name from the former river Helicon, which was located in the ancient Greek province of Pieria. Residents of the nearby town of Dion, which is located near Mount Olympus, said that at first the Helicon River flowed on land throughout its course. But, they go on to say, the women who killed Orpheus wished to wash off in it the blood-stains, and thereat the River sank underground, so as not to lend its waters to cleanse manslaughter.



According to the stories from Greek mythology, the muses buried Orpheus’ body, judged the competition between Apollo and Marcia, and blinded Tamiris for his insolence when he challenged them to compete. They sit near the throne of Zeus, their home being Parnassus, a limestone mountain in central Greece that rises above the sanctuary of Delphi, north of the Gulf of Corinth. From Parnassus there is a magnificent view of the olive groves and the surrounding area, and the mountain was dedicated to the god Apollo and the Corycean nymphs, towards the Corycian Cave which is also located there.


It is therefore not surprising that the old people of Dubrovnik were inspired by the mythical area of ​​the Dubrovnik River, which in its beauty and significance does not lag behind the ancient pattern.


O show me, in the deity of Ombla,

In the bliss of her valley, in the circle of your cypresses!



It was written by Alberto Fortis at the end of the 18th century, who was enchanted by the natural beauties of the Dubrovnik River, but also by the spiritual structure that the former inhabitants of the stone palaces on the water skillfully and devotedly weaved into every moment spent in the countryside.

The Greek word mousa means song. The word “music” – mousike is associated with “the art of the Muse”.


The well-known mnemonic method for remembering the name of a muse is called “TUM PECCET”. (lat. “let him not be mistaken”).


Thalia is the patroness of comedy and bucolic.

Urania is the protector of astronomy.

Melpomene is the protector of tragedy.

Polychimnia, she is the patroness of sacred songs and hymns, as well as of agriculture and pantomime.

Euterpa, is the patroness of music and lyrics.

Caliopa, is the patroness of epic poetry and oratory.

Clio, is the patroness of history and heroic poetry.

Erato, patroness of love and hymn poetry.

Terpsichore is the patroness of dance.


In the Renaissance, muses were depicted with their attributes. Euterpa, as the patroness of music and lyrics, always appears with a flute.

Even today, many summer villas invite us to countryside. At first sight, when walking from the source of the Ombla River, across Tenturia, then Sorkočević’s complex in Komolac and all along the right and left banks, a picture of captivity in the “modern reality” – the layer of neglection and devastation arouses. But beneath the surface, just as when the River flows underground and with its force clears the deposits that have blocked its path, a world opens up- a world that is sometimes invisible, sometimes  unreal and lost, but still tempting and magical.


Come! An invisible flute

Is sighing in the orchards. 

The most peaceful song

Is the song of shepherds.

Under the holm oak tree, the wind ripple

The shaded mirror of the water.

The most joyous song

Is the song of birds…



André Caplet: Viens!Une flute invisible

Lyrics: Victor Hugo


Photo: Katarina Karakaš Spiroski, Vedran Levi, SOG

Text: Ivana Jelača




Bersa, Josip: Gleanings from Dubrovnik 1800-1880, Dubrovnik, 2002.


Grujić, Nada: Vrijeme ladanja, Dubrovnik, 2003.


Stojan, Slavica, Ombla, villas and villeins, Zagreb-Dubrovnik, 2018.