802-1204 1347-1420

Dalmatia 1204-1347

Dalmatia is located in an area where several political spheres overlapped, a factor supported by geography - a sphere of maritime powers, since 1202 dominated by Venice, and a sphere exposed to land powers, mainly Hungary, and further in the south Serbia (later Bosnia resp. Herzegovina), The 13th century saw the number of outside attempts to control Dalmatia decline; political conflicts, of which there were many, took another dimension. Within the communities, a political movement took place aiming at overcoming the feudal-authoritarian regimes - officials with the title of Comes (Count) ruled the individual cities, with unlimited term of office and without any institution holding them accountable for their conduct in office. The position the sovereign power took toward the demands of the community in regard to the municipal constitution influenced the question of the community's loyalty. Cattaro placed herself under the protection of the Grand Zupan of Serbia to rid herself of a hated comes; Ragusa in 1205 accepted the sovereignty of Venice for the same purpose. Comites were replaced by holders of the title PODESTA, whose term in office was limited and who was held accountable for his actions; municipal administration was democratized. In 1239 Spalato, in 1240 Trau introduced such a constitutional reform, without approval of the Hungarian King, thus challenging his sovereignty. The Tatar invasion of 1241 (in the Battle of Sajo, the Hungarian army was annihilated) prevented any military reprisal on the Hungarian side.
Ragusa in 1219 and 1232, Zara in 1242 challenged Venetian authority. Ragusa defended her independence against a series of Serb attacks; the communities maintained their explicitly Italian character; in Spalato a number of mostly Slavic counts were expelled, before the community adopted a democratic constitution (1220. 1227, 1234, 1235 and 1237).
In 1241, Hungarian King Bela IV. fled to Clissa in Dalmatia. 1242, the Tatars attacked Trau and Spalato; which withstood several months of siege, as did Ragusa afterwards. The Tatars soon withdrew, and the rivalry between Trau and Spalato escalated into an episodically violent conflict. In 1243 a Venetian expedition took Zara; the Zaratines abandoned their city, the city was repopulated with Venetians; in 1247 the exiles were permitted to return. In the 1230es, the Franciscan orders founded monasteries in Dalmatia's cities, later to be followed by the Dominicans.
As hereditary Bans of Croatia and Dalmatia (since 1293/1295), the Subich family represented Hungarian sovereignty over Trau, Spalato, Nona. In a 1294 treaty with Venice, the three cities guaranteed for a debt the Ban owed to Venice. When he defaulted, the cities had to pay his debt. The conflict between Venice and the Subich Bans of Croatia and Dalmatia continued into the 1320es; Venice overcame a number of revolts in Zara and other Dalmatian cities, where she intensified her control by appointing Venetians to the position of podesta. Nominally under Hungarian sovereignty (i.e. under the Subich), Trau and Spalato rather acted as Venetian allies. The last Subich was defeated in 1324; in 1327 Spalato, in 1328 Nona formally submitted to Venice.
In 1345-1346 Zara again rebelled against Venetian rule, in vain. Hopes in King Louis of Hungary come to her aid - he did show up with a force 80,000 strong, but hardly engaged the forces besieging Zara - were futile; the King withdrew. In the following year, Dalmatia was struck by the Black Death.

Chronology of Dubrovnik, by Josip Lucic
Split, History of, from dalmacija.net
History of Sitno, Dalmatia, from Sitno
History of Zadar, from St. Carnet, HR
REFERENCE Fred Singleton, A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples, Cambridge University Press (1985) 1999
Giuseppe Praga, History of Dalmatia, Pisa : Giardini 1993

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 7th 2004

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