Ban was a title used in some states in central and south-eastern Europe between the 9th century and the 20th century. The title was first used in the historical Kingdom of Hungary and its dependencies and then in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia between 1929 and 1941. The meaning of the title changed with time — the position of a ban can be compared to that of a viceroy or a duke, but neither is accurate for all historical bans. The territory ruled by a ban was called banat or banovina, often transcribed to English as banate, bannat etc.
It is thought that the word ban originates from Sarmatian bajan; it also bears a similarity to khan. The word is preserved in many modern-day place names.
Ban was the title of province administrators in the medieval Croatian state and in the kingdom of Hungary, since the 9th century. In Hungary, each of the provinces was called banat; the Croatian word was banovina.
When Croatia became a part of the Hungarian kingdom in the 12th century, the title of ban acquired the meaning of viceroy because the bans were appointed by the king, though the banate of Croatia was rarely referred to as a banat. Croatia was governed by the viceroy ban as a whole between ca. 970 and 1225, when it was split into Slavonia and Croatia-Dalmatia. Two different bans were occasionally appointed until 1345/1476, when the institution of a single ban was resumed, and lasted until 1918.
When the medieval Bosnian state achieved some independence in the 12th century, its rulers were also called bans, and their territory banovina, likely because of the similar suzerain status that it had towards the king of Hungary. Nevertheless, the Bosnian bans weren't viceroys in the sense they were appointed by the king. Sometimes their titles are translated as dukes. Later in the 13th century they gradually achieved more independence (though in some periods they were still vassals) and eventually proclaimed themselves kings in the late 14th century.
Ban was also the title of medieval rulers of parts of Wallachia (Oltenia and Severin) since the 13th century. The Wallachian bans were military governors who also coined their own money (the bani - which is nowadays the Romanian word for "money"). Territory over which a ban ruled in Wallachia was called a banat. The main Wallachian ruling title was voivod, the position bans aspired to.
The region of Mačva (now in Serbia) was also ruled by bans. Mačva was then part of the Hungarian kingdom though under various levels of independence; some were foreign viceroys, some were native nobles, and one even rose to the status of a royal palatine. The Gorjanski family gave three notable native bans of Mačva in the 14th century.
Kingdom of Yugoslavia
Ban was also the title for province administrator in Kingdom of Yugoslavia between 1929 and 1941; each of the provinces was also called banovina. The weight of the title was not nearly similar to medieval one.
The word ban is preserved in many modern place names in the regions where bans once ruled. The region of Banat (sometimes called the Temesvar/Timişoara Banat) in the Panonian plain between the Danube and the Tisza is now in Romania, Hungaria and Serbia. A region in central Croatia, south of Sisak, is called Banovina or Banija . The origin of the name of Banja Luka, a city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, could be from ban.
The term ban is still used in the phrase banski dvori ("ban's court") for the buildings that host the highest government officials. The Banski Dvori in Zagreb host the Government of Croatia, while the Banski Dvori in Banja Luka host the President of Republika Srpska (first-tier subdivision of Bosnia and Herzegovina).
Last updated: 05-30-2005 23:14:43