Dalmatia (Croatian Dalmacija, Italian Dalmazia, Serbian Далмација) is a region of Croatia on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, spreading between the island of Pag in the northwest and the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The inner Dalmatia (Dalmatinska Zagora) stretches from up to fifty kilometers inland in the north to just a few kilometers in the south.
Dalmatia is currently composed of four counties, capital cities of which are Zadar, Šibenik, Split and Dubrovnik. Other larger cities in Dalmatia include Kaštela , Sinj, Solin, Omiš , Knin, Metković , Makarska, Trogir, Ploče, Trilj and Imotski .
The larger Dalmatian islands are Dugi Otok , Ugljan , Pašman, Brač, Hvar, Korčula, Vis, Lastovo and Mljet. The larger Dalmatian mountains are Dinara, Mosor , Kozjak and Biokovo . The rivers are Zrmanja , Krka, Cetina and Neretva.
Due to the way sea currents flow and how the winds blow on the Adriatic, the sea water is much cleaner and much warmer than it is on the Italian side. The Dalmatian concordant coastline also includes an immense number of coves, islands and channels. This makes it a really attractive place for nautical races, and nautical tourism in general. There's a fair number of marinas as well.
Dalmatia also includes several national parks that are tourist attractions in their own right: Paklenica karst river, Kornati archipelago, Krka river rapids and Mljet island within island.
Illyria and the Roman Empire
The history of Dalmatia began when the tribe from which the country derives its name declared itself independent of Gentius, the Illyrian king, and established a republic. Its capital was Delminium (location of which is unknown); its territory stretched northwards from the river Narenta (Neretva) to the river Cetina , and later to the Kerka (Krka), where it met the confines of Liburnia .
The Roman Empire started the occupation of Illyria in year 168 B.C., forming the province Illyricum. In 156 B.C. the Dalmatians were for the first time attacked by a Roman army and compelled to pay tribute. In AD 10, during the reign of Augustus, Illyricum was split into Pannonia in the north and Dalmatia in the south, after the last of many formidable revolts had been crushed by Tiberius in AD 9. This event was followed by total submission and a ready acceptance of the Latin civilization which overspread Illyria.
The province of Dalmatia spread inland to cover all of the Dinaric Alps and most of the eastern Adriatic coast. Its capital was in the city of Salona (Solin). Emperor Diocletian made Dalmatia famous by building a palace for himself a few kilometers south of Salona, in Aspalathos (Split). Other Dalmatian cities at the time were:
The collapse of the Western Empire left this region subject to Gothic rulers, Odoacer and Theodoric the Great, from 476 to 535, when it was added by Justinian to the Eastern Empire.
Dalmatian city states and Slavic country
Following the great Slavonic migration into Illyria in the first half of the 7th century, the Dalmatian hinterland became populated by Slavic tribes. The maritime city-states, however, remained powerful as they were highly civilized and able to rely on the moral if not the material support of their kinsfolk in Italy.
The native Italic population lived safely in Ragusa (Dubrovnik), Iadera (Zadar) and other large towns, while the country districts were settled by the Slavs which were barely in the process of getting Christianized. The country was thus divided between two different communities, frequently hostile at first.
In 806 Dalmatia was temporarily added to the Holy Roman Empire, but the cities were restored to Byzantium by the Treaty of Aachen in 812. The Saracens raided the southernmost cities in 840 and 842, but this threat was eliminated by a common Frankish-Byzantinian campaign of 871.
Since the 830s, the duchy of Croatia controlled the northern portion of Dalmatia. The establishment of cordial relations between the Roman cities and the Croatian dukedom seriously began with the reign of duke Mislav (835), who signed an official peace treaty with Pietro , doge of Venice in 840 and who also started giving land donations to the churches from the cities.
The southern duchies of Pagania, Zahumlje, Travunia and Duklja, whose territories spread much further inland and southward than the current Dalmatia does, were self-ruled by their Slavic population that was mixed pagan and Christian, and also quite likely mixed Croat and Serb. They were not central to the formation of these two Slavic nations (the main part of medieval Croatia was to their northwest and the main part of medieval Serbia was to their northeast), but they did more often than not fall under their respective influences. Some historians have referred to the parts of Dalmatia under Croatia as White Croatia and to the southern duchies as Red Croatia; on the other hand, Duklja was the origin of the first Serbian king Stefan Nemanja who united it with Raška, and some historians believe that the ethnic and political border between the Croats and Serbs was on the river Cetina.
The Narentine pirates of Pagania (named after the river Narenta, today's Neretva), with safe harbors such as the island port of Curzola, defeated Venetian fleets dispatched against them in 840 and 887, and for more than a century exacted tribute from the Republic of Venice itself. The doge Pietro II Orseolo finally crushed them in 998 and assumed the title duke of the Dalmatians (Dux Dalmatianorum), though without prejudice to Byzantine suzerainty.
Meanwhile the Croatian kings exacted tribute from the Latin cities, Tragurium (Trogir), Iadera and others, and consolidated their own power in the purely Slavonic (Croatian) towns such as Nin, Biograd and Šibenik. They also ascertained control over the bordering southern duchies.
The Christian schism was an important factor in the history of Dalmatia. While the Croatian church of Nin was under Papal jurisdiction, they still used the Slav liturgy. Both the Latin population of the cities and the Holy See preferred the Latin liturgy, which created tensions between different dioceses. The great schism between Eastern and Western Christianity of 1054 further intensified the rift between the coastal cities and the hinterland, with many of the Slavs in the hinterland preferring the Eastern Orthodoxy (or sometimes the Bogomil creed). The Latin influence was increased and the Byzantine practices were further suppressed on the general synods of 1059-1060, 1066, 1075-1076 and on other local synods, notably by demoting the bishopric of Nin, installing the archbishoprics of Spalatum (Split) and Dioclea (Bar), and explicitly forbidding use of any liturgy other than Greek or Latin.
In the period of the rise of the Serbian state of Raška, the Nemanjić dynasty acquired the southern Dalmatian states and the coastal cities by the end of the twelfth century, with the population being mixed, both Catholic and Orthodox with a Serb Orthodox bishopric of Zahumlje being located in the city of Ston.
Dalmatia never attained a political or racial unity and never formed as a nation, but it achieved a remarkable development of art, science and literature. The lands in the northeast such as Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria each had its period of national greatness, but the Dalmatian city-states, often isolated and compelled to look to Italy for support, shared perforce in the march of Italian civilization.
The geographical position of the Dalmatian city states suffices to explain the relatively small influence exercised by Byzantine culture throughout the six centuries (535-1102) during which Dalmatia was part of the Eastern empire. Towards the close of this period Byzantine rule tended more and more to become merely nominal.
Rivalry of Venice & Hungary in Dalmatia, 1102-1420
As the city states gradually lost all protection by Byzantium, being unable to unite in a defensive league hindered by their internal dissensions, they had to turn to either Venice or Hungary for support. Each of the two political factions had support within the Dalmatian city states, based mostly on economic reasons.
The Venetians, to whom the Dalmatians were already bound by language and culture, could afford to concede liberal terms as its main goal was to prevent the development of any dangerous political or commercial competitor on the eastern Adriatic. The seafaring community in Dalmatia looked to Venice as mistress of the Adriatic. In return for protection, the cities often furnished a contingent to the army or navy of their suzerain, and sometimes paid tribute either in money or in kind. Arbe (Rab), for example, annually paid ten pounds of silk or five pounds of gold to Venice.
Hungary, on the other hand, defeated the last Croat king in 1097 and laid claim on all lands of the Croatian noblemen since the treaty of 1102. King Coloman proceeded to conquer Dalmatia in 1102-1105. The farmers and the merchants who traded in the interior favoured Hungary as their most powerful neighbour on land that affirmed their municipal privileges. Subject to the royal assent they might elect their own chief magistrate, bishop and judges. Their Roman law remained valid. They were even permitted to conclude separate alliances. No alien, not even a Hungarian, could reside in a city where he was unwelcome; and the man who disliked Hungarian dominion could emigrate with all his household and property. In lieu of tribute, the revenue from customs was in some cases shared equally by the king, chief magistrate, bishop and municipality.
These rights and the analogous privileges granted by Venice were, however, too frequently infringed. Hungarian garrisons were being quartered on unwilling towns, while Venice interfered with trade, the appointment of bishops, or the tenure of communal domains. Consequently the Dalmatians remained loyal only while it suited their interests, and insurrections frequently occurred. Even in Zadar four outbreaks are recorded between 1180 and 1345, although Zadar was treated with special consideration by its Venetian masters, who regarded its possession as essential to their maritime ascendancy.
The once rival Latin and Slavic races eventually started contributing to a common civilization, and Ragusa was the primary example of this. By the 13th century, the Ragusan councilmen names were mixed, and in the 15th century the literature was largely Slavic, and the city was often called by its Slav name, Dubrovnik.
The doubtful allegiance of the Dalmatians tended to protract the struggle between Venice and Hungary, which was further complicated by internal discord due largely to the spread of the Bogomil heresy, and by many outside influences.
The cities of Zadar, Split, Trogir and Dubrovnik and the surrounding territories each changed hands several times between Venice, Hungary and the Byzantium during the 12th century.
In 1202, the armies of the Fourth Crusade rendered assistance to Venice by occupying Zadar for it. In 1204 the same army conquered Byzantium and finally eliminated the Eastern Empire from the list of contenders on Dalmatian territory.
The early 13th century was marked by a decline in external hostilities. The Dalmatian cities started accepting foreign sovereignty (mainly of Venice) but eventually they reverted to their previous desire for independence. The Mongol invasion severely impaired Hungary, so much that in 1241, the king Bela IV had to take refuge in Dalmatia (in the Klis fortress). The Mongols attacked the Dalmatian cities for the next few years but eventually withdrew.
The Slavs were no longer regarded by the city folk as a hostile people, in fact the power of certain Croatian magnates, notably the counts Šubić of Bribir, was from time to time supreme in the northern districts (in the period between 1295 and 1328).
In 1346, Dalmatia was struck by the Black Death. The economic situation was also poor, and the cities became more and more dependent on Venice.
Stephen Tvrtko, the founder of the Bosnian kingdom, was able in 1389 to annex the Adriatic littoral between Kotor and Šibenik, and even claimed control over the northern coast up to Rijeka except for the Venetian Zara (Zadar), and his own independent ally, Dubrovnik. This was only temporary, as the Hungarians and the Venetians continued their struggle over Dalmatia as soon as Tvrtko died in 1391.
An internal struggle of Hungary, between king Sigismund and the Neapolitan house of Anjou, also reflected on Dalmatia: in the early 15th century, all Dalmatian cities welcomed the Neapolitan fleet except for Dubrovnik. The Bosnian duke Hrvoje controlled Dalmatia for the Angevins, but later switched loyalty to Sigismund.
Over the period of twenty years, this struggle weakened the Hungarian influence. In 1409, Ladislaus of Naples sold his rights over Dalmatia to Venice for 100,000 Ducats. Venice gradually took over most of Dalmatia by 1420. In 1437, Sigismund recognized Venetian rule over Dalmatia in return for 10,000 Ducats. The city of Omiš yielded to Venice in 1444, and only Dubrovnik preserved its freedom.
Venetian and Turkish Rule, 1420-1797
An interval of peace ensued, but meanwhile the Turkish advance continued. Hungary was itself assailed by the Turks, and could no longer afford to try to control Dalmatia. Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, Serbia in 1459, Bosnia in 1463, and Herzegovina in 1483. Thus the Venetian and Ottoman frontiers met and border wars were incessant.
Dubrovnik sought safety in friendship with the invaders, and in one particular instance, actually sold two small strips of its territory (Neum and Sutorina) to the Ottomans in order to prevent land access from the Venetian territory.
In 1508 the hostile League of Cambrai compelled Venice to withdraw its garrison for home service, and after the overthrow of Hungary in 1526 the Turks were able easily to conquer the greater part of Dalmatia by 1537. The peace of 1540 left only the maritime cities to Venice, the interior forming a Turkish province, governed from the fortress of Klis by a Sanjakbeg (an administrator with military powers).
Christian Slavs from the neighbouring lands now thronged to the towns, outnumbering the Italian population and making their language the primary one. The pirate community of the "uskoks " had originally been a band of these fugitives, esp. near Senia; its exploits contributed to a renewal of war between Venice and Turkey (1571-1573). An extremely curious picture of contemporary manners is presented by the Venetian agents, whose reports on this war resemble some knightly chronicle of the middle ages, full of single combats, tournaments and other chivalrous adventures. They also show clearly that the Dalmatian levies far surpassed the Italian mercenaries in skill and courage. Many of these troops served abroad; at the Battle of Lepanto, for example, in 1571, a Dalmatian squadron assisted the allied fleets of Spain, Venice, Austria and the Papal States to crush the Turkish navy.
A fresh war broke out in 1645, lasting intermittently until 1699, when the peace of Karlowitz gave the whole of Dalmatia to Venice, including the coast of Herzegovina, but excluding the domains of Ragusa and the protecting band of Ottoman territory which surrounded them. After further fighting this delimitation was confirmed in 1718 by the Treaty of Passarowitz.
Dalmatia experienced a period of intense economic and cultural growth in the 18th century, given how trade routes with the hinterland were reestablished in peace. Christians also noticeably migrated from the Ottoman-held territory into the Dalmatian cities, sometimes converting from Orthodoxy to Catholicism as well.
This period was abruptly interrupted with the fall of the Venetian republic in 1797.
Dalmatia after 1797
Later in 1797, in the treaty of Campo Formio, Napoleon gave Dalmatia to Austria in return for Belgium. The republics of Dubrovnik and Poljica retained their independence, and Dubrovnik grew rich by its neutrality during the earlier Napoleonic wars.
By the peace of Pressburg in 1805, Istria, Dalmatia and the Bay of Kotor were handed over to France as the so-called Illyrian provinces. In 1806, the Republic of Dubrovnik finally succumbed to foreign (French) troops under general Marmont, the same year a Russian force tried to contest the French by seizing Boka Kotorska. The Russians induced the Montenegrins to render aid and they proceeded to take the islands of Korčula and Brač but made no further progress, and withdrew in 1807 under the treaty of Tilsit. Dubrovnik was officially annexed to the Illyrian Provinces in 1808.
In 1809, war again broke out between France and Austria. In the summer, Austrian forces retook Dalmatia, but this lasted only until the Treaty of Schönbrunn in the autumn of the same year. Austria-Hungary declared war on France in 1813, restored control over Dalmatia by 1815 and formed a temporary Kingdom of Illyria. In 1822, this was eliminated and Dalmatia was placed under Austrian administration.
After the revolutions of 1848 and particularly since the 1860s, the Croats from Dalmatia advocated a union with the Croats from Croatia, which were under Hungarian administration. The Italic population in the cities on the other hand advocated autonomy and a possible union with the emerging Kingdom of Italy. The 1880 census gives following data for Dalmatia: 371,565 Croats, 78,714 Serbs and 27,305 Italians. The Croat faction won the elections in Dalmatia in 1870, but they couldn't go through with the merger with Croatia due to Austrian intervention. This political conflict remained unsolved until the World War I and the disintegration of Austria-Hungary.
Under the Treaty of London of 1915, Italy was to attain the northern Dalmatia (including cities of Zadar, Šibenik and Knin), but it occupied even more of it. After the war, Dalmatia became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and after negotiations, only Zadar and the island of Lastovo remained part of Italy. After the World War II, both of those territories were added to the Croatia, then a socialist republic in socialist Yugoslavia. Most Italians fled the region, and some died in the so-called foibe. In 1991, Yugoslavia disintegrated and Croatia gained independence.
Italy issued special postage stamps for the part of northern Dalmatia it had occupied during World War I, necessitated by the locals' use of Austrian currency. The stamps were produced as surcharges of Italian stamps; the first appeared 1 May 1919, and consisted of the Italian 1-lira overprinted "una / corona".
5c and 10c overprints were issued in 1921, reading "5 / centesimi / di corona", followed by an additional five values in 1922. Similar overprints were made for special delivery and postage due stamps.
Soon after the annexed territories switched to Italian currency and stamps. As a result, usage was uncommon and validly-used stamps are today worth about 50-100% more than unused. They are easily confused with the Italian issues used in occupied Austria; the Dalmatian overprints are distinguished by their use of a sans serif typeface.