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Medieval Croatian state

This article is part of
the History of Croatia
Before the Croats
Medieval Croatian state
Union with Hungary
Habsburg Empire
First Yugoslavia
Croatia during WWII
Second Yugoslavia
Modern Croatia

Before arriving to what would become Croatia, the Croat tribes lived in the region that is now Galicia. The early Croat people, as well as the Serb people, is believed to have been mixed Slavs and the Iranian-speaking Alans according to many modern scholars.

The Slavic peoples moved into southeastern Europe in two waves. The first was around 600 when Slavs arrived in the westernmost territories under the Byzantium led by the Turkic Avars. The second wave, around 620, included the Croats and Serbs, who were invited by the Emperor Heraclius to counter the Avar threat. Croat tribes settled among the earlier Slav migrants in the area between the Drava river and the Adriatic sea (western Roman provinces Pannonia and Dalmatia; western Balkans in modern usage).

The Croat tribes had been organized into two dukedoms; the Pannonian duchy in the north and the Dalmatian duchy in the south. The Christianization of the Croats began in the 7th century, influenced by the proximity of the old Roman cities in Dalmatia. The process was completed in the north by the beginning of the 9th century.

The inscription of duke Branimir, ca. 880
The inscription of duke Branimir, ca. 880

Curiously enough, they were never obliged to use Latin -- rather, they held masses in their own language and used the Glagolitic alphabet (only later did the Latin alphabet prevail). The Latin Rite prevailed over the Byzantine Rite rather early due to numerous interventions from the Holy See.

Croatian lands became subject to the Carolingian Empire around 800, and regained independence after the death of Charlemagne in 814. The first written mention of Croats dates from 852, a statute by Duke Trpimir , the founder of the Trpimirović ruling dynasty. The country was recognized by Pope John VIII as an independent dukedom under Branimir in 879 (dux Chroatorum).

The first King of Croatia, Tomislav of the Trpimirović dynasty, was crowned in the Duvno field in 925 (note that sources vary from 923 to 928). Tomislav, rex Chroatorum, united the Pannonian and Dalmatian duchys and created a sizeable state, including most of today's central Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia, and most of Bosnia. The central town of the Duvno field is nowadays named Tomislavgrad (Tomislavtown) in his honor.

Croatia during king Tomislav 's reign
Croatia during king Tomislav 's reign

The medieval Croatian kingdom reached its peak during the reign of King Petar Krešimir IV (1058-1074) when it was composed of twelve counties and was slightly larger than in Tomislav's time, also including the four southern Dalmatian duchies (Pagania , Zahumlje, Travunia and Duklja). The end of Petar Krešimir IV also marked the de facto end of the Trpimirović ruling dynasty which had ruled the Croatian lands for over two centuries.

After that there was one more notable native King, Dmitar Zvonimir (1075-1089). His kinghood is carved in stone Baška Tablet, preserved to this day as the oldest written Croatian text, kept in the archaeological museum in Zagreb. Zvonimir's reign is remembered as a peaceful and prosperous time, during which the connection of Croats with the Pope was further affirmed, so much so that Catholicism would remain among Croats until the present day.

After the death of Zvonimir, Ladislaus I of Hungary was the strongest candidate for the throne, but the Croatian lords struggled for independence from Hungary. Following the death of the last Croat king Petar Svačić in the defeat at the Gvozd hill in 1097 to Coloman of Hungary, they eventually recognized him as the common king for Croatia and Hungary in a treaty of 1102 (often referred to as the Pacta Conventa), thus making a personal union with Hungary. The two crowns would remain connected until the end of World War I.

See also

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45