Dalmatia 614-802

The Roman province of Dalmatia used to extend from the Adriatic Sea to the Drava and Danube Rivers. In 567 the Avars had conquered the Gepid Kingdom and had moved, together with their Slavic subjects, into Pannonia (the plains of Hungary). Conflicts between the Avars and the Byzantine Empire ensued immediately. Between 605 and 615 the Avars and their subject Slavic peoples raided the Balkans peninsula. The Roman settlements of Dalmatia's interior fell to the invaders, were wiped out. In 614 the invaders targeted the towns of coastal Dalmatia, most notably Salona, with such a ferocity that the coastal population evacuated most of the mainland towns (except Zara) and moved to safety to the offshore islands.
Soon after their mainland hometowns had been burnt down, the Roman Dalmatians returned to the mainland, to resettle it - the Salonans settled Spalato (Split, within the walls of Diocletian's palace); the Epidaurans founded Ragusa; on the ruins of Acruvium, Cattaro was founded. This event marks a new beginning in the history of a (smaller) Dalmatia, now confined to the Adriatic coast. It was characterized by her Roman heritage, and, by the early 7th century, christian. The hinterland was settled by pagan Slavs.
Dalmatia owed her continued existence to her own resilience; Byzantium, during the crucial years of 614-615, was incapable of sending support. Dalmatia further underheld communications with Ravenna.
The episcopal seat of Salona (now a devastated ruin) was moved to Spalato, a diocesis under the Exarchate of Ravenna. The Avar power had been broken after the failed siege of 627, and Byzantine authority now extended over both the Dalmatians and their immediate Slavic neighbours. In 641 the conversion of the coastal Croats was initiated. In the 720es, after an Imperial decree suppressing the veneration of icons, Dalmatia was in open revolt to Byzantium (727-730). In 751 the Byzantinians were expelled from Ravenna; Rome took over the function of ecclesiastical center toward which Dalmatia oriented herself. Byzantium now came to regard Dalmatia as a province in her own right (Thema Dalmatia) instead of an annex to Ravenna.

Chronology of Dubrovnik, by Josip Lucic
Split, History of, from dalmacija.net
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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