Kingdom of Croatia (Medieval)

Kingdom of Croatia (Medieval)

The Kingdom of Croatia was an independent state from circa 925 until 1102 covering most of what is today Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Balkans. The state was ruled mostly by native Croats of Trpimirović dynasty until 1102, when the Kingdom of Hungary gained control of the state. From 1097 onwards, the Kings of Hungary were also Kings of Croatia, because of the political union of the two states. After that, Croatia remained a distinct crown attached to that of Hungary until the abolition of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.


Tomislav I, a descendant of Trpimir I, is considered the founder of the Trpimirović dynasty. Sometime between 923 and 928, Tomislav succeeded in uniting the Croats of Pannonia and Dalmatia, each of which had been ruled separately by dukes, and was crowned as king in the Duvno field [] (the central town in the Duvno field is still named Tomislavgrad ("Tomislav's town") in his honour). The chief piece of evidence that Tomislav was crowned king comes in the form of a letter dated 925, surviving only in 16th-century copies, from Pope John X calling Tomislav "rex Chroatorum".

Tomislav's state covered most of Pannonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Slavonia. He administered his kingdom as a group of eleven counties ("županija") and one banate (Banovina). Each of these regions had a fortified royal town.

Tomislav soon came into conflict with the Bulgars under Simeon I. Tomislav made a pact with the Byzantine Empire, which allowed him to control the Byzantine cities in Dalmatia as long as he curbed Bulgarian expansion. In 926, Simeon tried to break the Croatian-Byzantine pact, sending duke Alogobotur with a formidable army against Tomislav, but Simeon's army was defeated in the Battle of the Bosnian Highlands. According to the contemporary "De Administrando Imperio", Tomislav's army and navy consisted of approximately 100,000 infantry, 60,000 cavaliers, and 80 larger and 100 smaller warships.

10th century

Croatian society underwent major changes in the tenth century. Local leaders, the "župani", were replaced by the retainers of the king, who took land from the previous landowners, essentially creating a feudal system. The previously free peasants became serfs and ceased being soldiers, causing the military power of Croatia to fade.

Tomislav was succeeded by Trpimir II (928–935) and Krešimir I (935–945), who each managed to maintain their power and keep good relations with both the Byzantine Empire and the Pope. This period, on the whole, however, is obscure. Miroslav (945–949) was killed by his ban, Pribina, during an internal power struggle, and Croatia again lost the islands of Brač, Hvar, and Vis to the dukes of Pagania. The Dalmatian city-states and the Duchy of Bosnia were lost to Byzantium and eastern Slavonia and Srijem were taken by the Magyars.

Krešimir II (949–969) restored order throughout most of the state. He kept particularly good relations with the Dalmatian cities, he and his wife Jelena donating land and churches to Zadar and Solin. A 976 inscription is preserved the Church of Saint Mary in Solin that names the Croatian royalty. [ [ Untitled Document ] ] Krešimir II was succeeded by his son Stjepan Držislav (969–997), who established better relations with the Byzantine Empire from which he has received a royal insignia.

11th century

uccession crises

As soon as Stjepan Držislav had died in 997, his three sons, Svetoslav (997–1000), Krešimir III (1000–1030), and Gojslav (1000–1020), opened a violent contest for the throne, weakening the state and allowing the Venetians under Pietro II Orseolo and the Bulgarians under Samuil to encroach on the Croatian possessions along the Adriatic. In 1000, Orseolo led the Venetian fleet into the eastern Adriatic and gradually took control of the whole of it [] , first the islands of the Gulf of Kvarner and Zadar, then Trogir and Split, followed by a successful naval battle with the Narentines upon which he took control of Korčula and Lastovo, and claimed the title "dux Dalmatiæ".

Krešimir III tried to restore the Dalmatian cities and had some success until 1018, when he was defeated by Venice allied with the Lombards. His son, Stjepan I (1030–1058), only went so far as to get the Narentine duke to become his vassal in 1050.

Krešimir IV

During the reign of Krešimir IV (1058–1074), the medieval Croatian kingdom reached its territorial peak. Kresimir managed to get the Byzantine Empire to confirm him as the supreme ruler of the Dalmatian cities. He also allowed the Roman curia to become more involved in the religious affairs of Croatia, which consolidated his power but disrupted his rule over the Glagolitic clergy in parts of Istria after 1060. Croatia under Krešimir IV was composed of twelve counties and was slightly larger than in Tomislav's time. It included the closest southern Dalmatian duchy of Pagania, and its influence extended over Zahumlje, Travunia, and Duklja.

However, in 1072, Krešimir assisted the Bulgarian and Serb uprising against their Byzantine masters. The Byzantines retaliated in 1074 by sending the Norman count Amik to besiege Rab. They failed to capture the island, but did manage to capture the king himself, and the Croatians were then forced to settle and give away Split, Trogir, Zadar, Biograd, and Nin to the Normans. In 1075, Venice banished the Normans and secured the cities for itself. The end of Kresimir IV in 1074 also marked "de facto" end of the Trpimirović dynasty, which had ruled the Croatian lands for over two centuries.


Krešimir was succeeded by a rival, but also a relative, a Svetoslavić (Trpimirović junior line): Dmitar Zvonimir (1075–1089). [ [ Croatian Coat Of Arms And Popes ] ] He was previously a ban in Slavonia. He gained the title of king with the support of Pope Gregory VII, after which he aided the Normans under Robert Guiscard in their struggle against the Byzantine Empire and Venice between 1081 and 1085. Zvonimir helped to transport their troops through the Strait of Otranto and to occupy the city of Durrës. His troops assiated the Normans in many battles along the Albanian and Greek coast. Due to this, in 1085, the Byzantines transferred their rights in Dalmatia to Venice.

Zvonimir's kinghood is carved in stone on the Baška Tablet, preserved to this day as the oldest written Croatian text, kept in the archæological museum in Zagreb. Zvonimir's reign is remembered as a peaceful and prosperous time, during which the connection of Croats with the Holy See was further affirmed, so much so that Catholicism would remain among Croats until the present day. In this time the noble titles in Croatia were made analogous to those used in other parts of Europe at the time, with "comes" and "baron" used for the župani and the royal court nobles, and "vlastelin" for the noblemen. The Croatian state was edging closer to western Europe and further from the east.

Decline and conquest

During the revolt of the parliament in 1089, Zvonimir was either killed [ [;id=34] ] or committed suicide. [ [ Na danasnji dan ] ] With no heir to succeed him, Stjepan II (1089–1091) of the main Trpimirović line came to the throne at an old age and reigned only two years. After his death it became apparent that Zvonimir's brother-in-law Ladislaus I of Hungary was the strongest candidate for the throne through his sister Jelena, Zvonimir's widow, who had much influence in Pannonian Croatia. Ladislaus' army penetrated Croatian territory after Stjepan's death, and quickly occupied all of Pannonia, after which they met some unorganised resistance in Dalmatia. The Emperor Alexius I sent the Cumans to attack the Hungarians and forced them to retreat from Croatia. Alexius did, however, allow the Hungarian Prince Álmos to rule over Slavonia.

In 1093, the Croatian feudal lords, struggling to remain independent of Hungary, elected a new Croat king, Petar Svačić (1093–1097). He managed to unify the kingdom around Knin and banish Álmos from Slavonia in 1095. However, Ladislaus' successor, Coloman, came to power that year, made peace with Pope Urban II and led an army into Croatia in 1097. Petar Svačić was defeated in the Battle of Gvozd Mountain and killed. When Coloman and his forces were called back to the northeast to fight the Ruthenians and Cumans in Galicia in 1099, the Croatian nobles took the opportunity to liberate themselves from Hungarian rule.

Hungarian rule

Coloman returned to Croatia in 1102, forcing the Croatian noblemen to yield and recognise him as the common king for Croatia and Hungary in a treaty called the "Pacta Conventa". Coloman retained the institution of the Sabor and relieved the Croatians of taxes on their land. Coloman's successors continued to crown themselves as Kings of Croatia separately in Biograd na Moru until the time of Bela IV. In the 14th century a new term arose to describe the collection of "de jure" independent states under the rule of the Hungarian king: "Archiregnum Hungaricum" (Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen).

Though its independence was lost by entering into a personal union with Hungary, it never became a part of the Kingdom of Hungary but was rather a separate kingdom, most of the time a vassal but sometimes an equal. There were periods when Croatia acted completely on its own.



ee also

*Kingdom of Croatia (Habsburg)
*History of Croatia
*Crown of Zvonimir

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