The College of Hereditary Nobility of Hungary

Dalmatia

Dalmatia is a region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea, situated mostly in modern Croatia and spreading between the Island of Rab in the northwest and the Bay of Kotor (in Motenegro) in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south.

In antiquity, the Roman province of Dalmatia was much larger than the present-day region, stretching from Istria to historical Albania. Dalmatia signified not only a geographical unit, but it was an entity based on common culture and settlement types, a common narrow eastern Adriatic coastal belt, Mediterranean climate, sclerophyllous vegetation of the Illyrian province, Adriatic carbonate platform, and karst geomorphology.

History

Dalmatia's name is derived from the name of an Illyrian tribe called the Dalmatae, who lived in the area of the eastern Adriatic coast in the 1st millennium BC. It was part of the Illyrian Kingdom between the 4th century BC and the Illyrian Wars (220, 168 BC) when the Roman Republic established its protectorate south of the river Neretva. The name "Dalmatia" was in use probably from the second half of the 2nd century BC and certainly from the first half of the 1st century BC, defining a coastal area of the eastern Adriatic between the Krka and Neretva rivers. It was slowly incorporated into Roman possessions until the Roman province of Illyricum was formally established around 32-27 BC. In 9 AD the Dalmatians raised the last in a series of revolts together with the Pannonians, but it was finally crushed, and in 10 AD, Illyricum was split into two provinces, Pannonia and Dalmatia, which spread into larger area inland to cover all of the Dinaric Alps and most of the eastern Adriatic coast.
The collapse of the Western Roman Empire, with the beginning of the Migration Period, left the region subject to Gothic rulers, Odoacer and Theodoric the Great. They ruled Dalmatia from 476 to 535 AD, when it was restored to the Eastern (Byzantine) Empire by Justinian I.

The Middle Ages in Dalmatia are a period of intense rivalry between the involved factions. The waning Byzantine Empire, the Kingdom of Croatia (later in a personal union with Hungary), and the Venetian Republic. Dalmatia at the time consisted of the coastal cities functioning much like city-states, with extensive autonomy, but in mutual conflict and without control of the rural hinterland (the Zagora). Ethnically, Dalmatia started out as a Roman region, with a romance culture that began to develop independently forming the now-extinct Dalmatian language.

In the Early Medieval period, Byzantine Dalmatia was ravaged by an Avar invasion that destroyed its capital, Salona, in 639 AD, an event that allowed for the settlement of the nearby Diocletian's Palace in Spalatum (Split) by Salonitans, greatly increasing the importance of the city.

The Avars were followed by the great South Slavic migrations. The Slavs, loosely allied with the Avars, permanently settled the region in the first half of the 7th century AD and remained its predominant ethnic group ever since.

The Slavs soon formed their own realm: the Principality of Dalmatia, a Medieval Croatian state ruled by native princes of Guduscan origin. The meaning of the geographical term "Dalmatia," now shrunk to the cities and their immediate hinterland. These cities and towns remained influential as they were well fortified and maintained their connection with the Byzantine Empire. The two communities were somewhat hostile at first, but as the Slavs became christianized this tension increasingly subsided. A degree of cultural mingling soon took place, in some enclaves stronger, in others weaker, as Slavic influence and culture were more accentuated in Ragusa, Spalatum, and Tragurium. In 925 AD, Duke Tomislav was crowned in Tomislavgrad, establishing the Kingdom of Croatia, and extending his influence further southwards to Zachlumia. Being an ally of the Byzantine Empire, the King was given the status of Protector of Dalmatia, and became its de-facto ruler.

In the High Medieval period, the Byzantine Empire was no longer able to maintain its power consistently in Dalmatia, and was finally rendered impotent so far west by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The Venetian Republic, on the other hand, was in the ascendant, while the Kingdom of Croatia became increasingly influenced by Hungary to the north, being absorbed into it via personal union in 1102. Thus, these two factions became involved in a struggle in this area, intermittently controlling it as the balance shifted. A consistent period of Hungarian rule in Dalmatia was ended with the Mongol invasion of Hungary in 1241. The Mongols severely impaired the feudal state, so much so that same year, King Bela IV had to take refuge in Dalmatia, as far south as the Klis fortress. The Mongols attacked the Dalmatian cities for the next few years but eventually withdrew without major success.

In 1389 Tvrtko I, the founder of the Bosnian Kingdom, was able to control the Adriatic littoral between Kotor and Sibenik, and even claimed control over the northern coast up to Rijeka, and his own independent ally, Dubrovnik (Ragusa). This was only temporary, as Hungary and the Venetians continued their struggle over Dalmatia after Tvrtko's death in 1391. By this time, the whole Hungarian and Croatian Kingdom were facing increasing internal difficulties, as a 20-year civil war ensued between the Capetian House of Anjou from the Kingdom of Naples, and King Sigismund of them House of Luxembourg. During the war, the losing contender, Ladislaus of Naples, sold his "rights" on Dalmatia to the Venetian Republic for a mere 100,000 ducates. The much more centralized Republic came to control all of Dalmatia by the year 1420. It was to remain under Venetian rule for 377 years (1420-1797).

The Republic of Venice controlled most of Dalmatia from 1420 to 1797, the southern enclave being called Albania Veneta. Venetian was the commercial lingua franca in the Mediterranean at that time, and it heavily influenced Dalmatian and to a lesser degree, coastal Croatian and Albanian.

In 1481, it switched allegiance to the Ottoman Empire. This gave its tradesmen advantages such as access to the Black Sea, and the Republic of Ragusa was one of the fiercest competitors to Venice's merchants in the 15th and 16th century.

The Republic of Venice was also one of the powers most hostile to the Ottoman Empire's expansion, and participated in many wars against it. As the Turks took control of the hinterland, many Christians took refuge in the coastal cities of Dalmatia.

After the Great Turkish War, more peaceful times made Dalmatia experience a period of certain economic and cultural growth in the 18th century, with the re-establishment of trade and exchange with the hinterland.

The southern city of Ragusa (Dubrovnik) became de facto independent in 1358 through the treaty of Zadar when Venice relinquished its suzerainty over it to Louise I of Hungary.

This period was abruptly interrupted with the fall of the Republic of Venice in 1797. Napoleon's troops stormed the region and ended the independence of the Republic of Ragusa as well, but saving it from occupation by the Russian Empire and Montenegro.

In 1805, Napoleon created his Kingdom of Italy around the Adriatic Sea, annexing to it the former Venetian Dalmatia from Istria to Kotor. In 1809, he removed the Venetian Dalmatia from his Kingdom of Italy and created the Illyrian Provinces, which were annexed to France, and created his marshal Nicolas Soult duke of Dalmatia.

Napoleon's rule in Dalmatia was marked with war and high taxation, which caused several rebellions. On the other hand, French rule greatly contributed to Croatian national awakening (the first newspaper in Croatian was published then in Zadar, the Kraglski Dalmatin-Il Regio Dalmata.) The legal system and infrastructure were finally modernized, to a degree in Dalmatia, and the educational system flourished. French rule brought a lot of improvements in infrastructure; many roads were built or reconstructed. Napoleon himself blamed Marshal Auguste Marmont, the governor of Dalmatia, that too much money was spent. However, in 1813, the Habsburgs once again declared war on France and by 1814 restored control over Dalmatia, forming a temporary Kingdom of Illyria. In 1822, in accordance with the Congress of Vienna, this entity was eliminated and Dalmatia was placed within the Austrian Empire. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Dalmatia was granted as a province to the Emperor of Austria. It was officially known as the Kingdom of Dalmatia.

During World War II, a new Nazi puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), was formed, and the Kingdom of Italy was assigned some parts of the Dalmatian coast, notably around Zadar and Split, as well as many islands. The remaining parts of Dalmatia became part of the NDH. Many Croats moved away from the Italian-occupied area and took refuge in the fascist state of Croatia, which became the fighting ground for a guerrilla war between the Axis and the Partisans. Zadar was bombed by the Allies during World War II.

After the defeat of Italy and NDH, Dalmatia was restored to Croatia, more precisely, to the People's Republic of Croatia, part of the SFR Yugoslavia (then called the Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia).

Dalmatia was divided between two Federal Republics of Yugoslavia - almost all of the territory went to Croatia, leaving the Bay of Kotor to Montenegro. When Yugoslavia dissolved in 1991, the Republican borders became international borders as they are now.

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