Stephen Držislav of Croatia

Stephen Držislav of Croatia
Stephen Držislav
King of Croatia

The "pleter" with inscription of king Držislav, 10th century.
Reign 969–997
Coronation 988
Died 997
Buried Church of St. Stephen, Solin
Predecessor Mihajlo Krešimir II of Croatia
Successor Svetoslav Suronja of Croatia
Royal House House of Trpimirović
Father Mihajlo Krešimir II of Croatia
Mother Jelena of Zadar

Stephen Držislav (Croatian: Stjepan Držislav) (died 997) was a King of Croatia from 969 AD until his death in 997.[1] He was a member of the Trpimirović dynasty. He ruled from Biograd with Godemir as his Ban.



Early period

Stjepan Držislav was a son of king Mihajlo Krešimir II and his wife, queen Jelena of Zadar. Jelena acted as a regent for the young king from 969 until her death in 976. In a war of Byzantine emperor Basil II against Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria, Stjepan Držislav allied with the Byzantines. After the Byzantine Emperor Basil II managed to defend every single coastal Adriatic City during Samuil's rampage towards Zadar in 986, the cities were returned to Croatian control. Samuil, however, conquered the territories of Bosnia between the rivers of Drina and Bosna. Samuil pursued some of his cousins during the war and they often sought help in Croatia. King Držislav had taken fourteen of them, gave them hospitality and a residence near Klis. According to the Archbishop of Split Martin, in 994. they collected money for the construction of St. Michael church in Solin.[2]

The Eastern Roman Emperor eventually promoted Stjepan Držislav to a Patriarch and an Exarch of Dalmatia (the Dalmatian cities in particular). Stjepan Držislav received royal insigia as an act of recognition from the Byzantine Emperor. He was crowned by the Archbishop of Split in Biograd in 988.[3]

Držislav built on his parents' feats and secured sovereignty over the Dalmatian thema, lost to Byzantium under Trpimir II. The thema of Dalmatia at that time included the towns (but not the hinterland) of Krk, Osor, Rab, Zadar, Trogir and Split. He also delegated much of his authority to his powerful governors (bans). He also invested considerable effort integrating the Latin minority with the Croatian majority.[citation needed]


The historical work Historia Salonitana by Thomas the Archdeacon, when describing the regin of Croatian king Stephen Držislav in late 10th century, notes that Duchy of Hum (Chulmie) was a part of the Kingdom of Croatia, before and after Stjepan Držislav.[4]

In 996, Venetian Doge Pietro II Orseolo stopped paying tax for safe to the Croatian King after a century of peace, renewing old hostilities. Stjepan Držislav, together with the Neretvians, restored naval conflicts with the Venetian ships, but with little success. He sent delegates demanding the tribute to be paid, but the Doge was again reluctant and continued the war. Držislav died shorly after, leaving the country separated among his sons, which was used in advance for Venice. Before the end of his reign, Stjepan Držislav gave Svetoslav, his oldest son, the title of Duke and Svetoslav became his co-ruler. Držislav was preparing Svetoslav to be his successor. It is probable that Svetoslav ruled concurrently with his father during the 990s. Stone panels from the altar of a 10th century church in Knin, reveal the following inscription in Latin: CLV DUX HROATOR IN TE PUS D IRZISCLV DUCE MAGNU. In English, this means: Svetoslav, Duke of the Croats at the time of Drzislav the Great Duke (Latin: dux magnis). The stone panels are kept at the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments in Split.

Držislav's rule was one of the longest of Kings in Croatia, spanning nearly three decades. He had three sons: Svetoslav, Krešimir, and Gojslav, and all three of them were to hold the title of King of Croatia over the following decades. Stjepan Držislav died in 997, leaving his descendants to struggle for control over the Croatian Kingdom.


  1. ^ Goldstein: Hrvatska povijest; Kolekcija knjiga POVIJEST Jutarnjeg lista, svezak 21
  2. ^ Rački: Documenta, page 23., 24.
  3. ^ Thomas the Archdeacon: Historia Salonitana, caput 13.
  4. ^ Archdeacon, Thomas of Split (2006) (in Latin and English). History of the Bishops of Salona and Split – Historia Salonitanorum atque Spalatinorum pontificum. Budapest: Central European University Press. pp. 60–61. ISBN 9637326596, 9789637326592. 
Stephen Držislav of Croatia
Died: 997
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Mihajlo Krešimir II
King of Croatia
Succeeded by
Svetoslav Suronja

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