Dalmatia 1526-1660

In 1537 Ottoman forces took the Dalmatian border fortress of Klis (It.: Clissa) and then overran most of Venetian Dalmatia. The Third Venetian-Ottoman War ensued. In 1538, Venice, the Emperor, Ferdinand of Austria concluded a Holy Alliance. The allied fleet sailed out to face the Ottoman fleet, which had been reinforced by French ships, at Prevesa. While the Venetians committed to battle, the Imperial commander held the remainder back, and the Venetians were defeated. The following year, Venice signed an armistice, in 1540 peace. The Venetians ceded the territory conquered by the Ottomans in Dalmatia, but held on to Spalato, Zara, the islands and some coastal areas. The exodus of the rural population (Cakavski Slavs) continued, now heading across the Adriatic onto the Italian peninsula. The Venetian administration desparately tried to repopulate the countryside, with Istrians, Morlachs etc. Venice continued to invest in fortifying her possessions in Dalmatia. In peacetime, it underheld a garrison of at least 2,500 men in the province.
In the fourth Venetian-Ottoman War (1570-1573), Ottoman forces seized Cyprus and attacked the Venetian cities in Dalmatia. The much-celebrated Naval Battle of Lepanto (1571) resulted in a crushing defeat of the Ottoman fleet, but Venice's ally Spain was not interested in following it up; Cyprus was lost. In Dalmatia neither side made significant progress, and in 1573 Venice and the Sublime Porte signed peace.
Venetian territory in Dalmatia was limited to the islands and the fortified cities on the mainland, with only a small glacis. The countryside was largely depopulated; economic activity there had come to a standstill. Food had to be imported, prices rose. The islands were exposed to Ottoman raids.
Dalmatia was placed under the administration of a Provveditore Generale i Dalmazia ed Albania (Governor General), appointed by Venice and residing in Zara. The Uskok and Cete pirates, whose raids mainly targetted the Ottoman Empire, were the cause of diplomatic pressure the Republic of Venice faced. A Venetian campaign against the Uskoks (who operated from bases on Austrian territory) in 1615 lead to War with Austria (1615-1617), terminated by the Treaty of Madrid. The Uskoks were resettled in the interior, their ships burnt. In 1605 Venetian-Ottoman relations improved and trade resumed. Increasing trade resulted in the flourishing of Dalmatia's shipyards; the countryside was repopulated. In 1645 an Ottoman fleet landed on Crete; the Venetian island garrison held out until 1669. This Fifth Venetian-Ottoman War, of course, affected Dalmatia; the country was defended by a force of c. 5,000 mercenaries who faced am Ottoman force of 20,000. The war was conducted in form of regular campaigns on both sides, the object to take enemy fortifications. Venice held on to her major fortified towns, and in the majority of operations, was victorious, although the Venetian forces were often inferior in numbers. The Venetian display of military strength encouraged groups of settlers of the hinterland (several thousand Morlachs in 1648) to switch their allegiance to Venice. A number of Ottoman fortifications in Dalmatia were retaken, among them Clissa (Klis) 1648. From then onward, the war in Dalmatia deescalated, Crete moving into the center of attention.

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
Der Krieg der Maulwürfe. Venedigs Kampf um Kreta (War of the moles. Venice's Struggle for Crete), from Kriegsreisene.de, in German
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 July 21st 2005

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