614-802 Venetian Rule

Dalmatia 802-1204

In 802 the Frankish Kingdom subjected the Croat principalities adjacent to Dalmatia, which continued to be a Byzantine province (Thema Dalmatia). The subjected Croats were converted to Catholicism. A Croat diocesis was established with seat at Nona, not far from Spalato; at Nona, Frankish saints were revered, a clear indicator of the diocesis' political orientation. Nona was suffragan to the (Frankish) Patriarchate of Aquileja.
In the 830es, the Narentans and coastal Croats engaged in piracy, threatening Byzantine Dalmatian trade. In 840 and 842, Saracens raided Dalmatian towns (Budva 840, a failed raid on Ragusa 842). The aracen threat was banned by a common Frankish-Byzantinian campaign in 871. The Duchy of Croatia switched her allegiance from the Frankish Kingdom to Byzantium in the 870es-880es, while the Frankish Kingdom faced the Viking challenge. In 878, the church of Nona switched to a Byzantinian allegiance. The rival diocesis of Spalato, in communication with Rome, in 879 was elevated to an archdiocesis. Nona (Nin) was suppressed in 928.
In 895 the Magyars arrived in the Pannonian Basin, the basis for their raids into Germany and Italy. Dalmatia seems to have suffered little; historian Giuseppe Praga does not mention any Magyar incursions for this period. Dalmatia continued to be a Byzantinian theme, at times neglected.
Venice - in a campaign which was to suppress Croatian piracy - first attempted to conquer Dalmatia in 1000, gaining control of the coastal towns including Ragusa (Dubrovnik). However, it was unable to hold on to them; in 1018 Byzantium reestablished it's sovereignty.
Over the years, the cities took up Slavic settlers. In the 13th century, Slavic as well as Italian names are listed among the cities' councilmen. In the 1060es, papal interference in Croatian succession resulted in a Croatian rebellion against both Byzantine Emperor and Pope. Croatia got in conflict with Dalmatia; they reestablished the seat of Nona (Nin) in 1071. With the support of Pope Gregory VII. and of Norman adventurers from Apulia, the Croats were defeated (1075), the papal candidate enthroned (1076, assassinated in 1088). Duke Robert Guiscard of Naples in the 1080es attempted to conquer Byzantine territory on the eastern Adriatic, with the support of Ragusa, but opposed by Venice; ultimately, he had to give up his plans.
In 1091, King Ladislas of Hungary and his son Koloman in 1097 interfered in the Croatian succession. A Dynastic Union between Hungary and Croatia was established. Venice regarded Hungarian rule over Dalmatia as undesirable and established a protectorate over the Dalmatian communities (1097-1100). Then, a Norman-Hungarian alliance was formed (1107); while the Normans tied up the Venetian fleet, put pressure on the Dalmatian communities (except Ragusa and Cattaro, which were rather independent). King Koloman failed to take Zara and Spalato by force, but an agreement was reached, according to which, after Koloman having confirmed their privileges, they swore allegiance to Hungary. In 1111 and 1112, the communities of Zara, Spalato, Trau rebelled against Hungarian rule; Venetian expeditions in 1115-1116 reestablished a Venetian protectorate over Dalmatia. After a truce (1116-1123) the Hungarians resumed the offensive, retaking Trau and Spalato.
With Dalmatia split in a Venetian, a Hungarian and a nominally Byzantine sphere (Ragusa), the rivalry between Zara and Spalato intensified; in 1154 the diocesis of Zara was elevated into an archdiocesis, thus freeing it from the influence of Spalato. Soon after Zara rebelled against Venetian rule; in 1160 the Venetians retook the city. In 1164, Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenus conquered Trau and Spalato from Hungary. After the Emperor's death (1180), the allied Hungarians and Serbs pressed on (Byzantinian resp. Venetian) Dalmatia; Zara rebelled against Venetian rule and accepted Hungarian protection (1183). In 1188, Zara concluded a treaty with Venice's archrival Pisa.
When the 4th crusade was underway and the crusaders were unable to pay for the passage, the Venetians had them conquer the city of ZARA in 1202. With the conquest of Byzantium by the 4th Crusade in 1204, Byzantium was eliminated as a contender to Venetian rule over the Dalmatian cities.

Chronology of Dubrovnik, by Josip Lucic
Split, History of, from dalmacija.net
Dalmatian Pirates, from Venetian History, focusses on the Venetian conquest of Dalmatia in 1000
Article Spalato-Macarsca, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Article Dalmatia, from Catholic Encyclopedia
REFERENCE Fred Singleton, A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples, Cambridge University Press (1985) 1999
Giuseppe Praga, History of Dalmatia, Pisa : Giardini 1993

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First posted in 2000, last revised on November 7th 2004

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