Medieval Wall

Apr 04 2013

Categories: Nations

The Heirs of Stjepan Držislav


The newly started war in Croatia resulted in occupation of Dalmatia by Venetians, led by doge Pietro Orseolo, and the same policy was continued by his son Otto. The new ruler Krešimir III and his coruler Gojislav were at first in good relations with Pietro Orseolo and Basil II, who's authority they formally acknowledged. But following the strengthening of opposition in Venice, regarding the hereditary policy of the Orseolos, Krešimir decides to invade Dalmatia, a move which would later prove to be hasted. In the fights against Basil II, Croats were assisted by Hungarians, and good relations to the northern neighbors were also preserved by Krešimir's heir Stjepan I. During Stjepan's reign, the function of Croatian bishop in Knin was reestablished.

Peter-Orseolo-EmblemFollowing the stable, firm and long Držislav’s reign, Croatia found itself once again at civil war, that has dangerously shaken the stability of the realm. The consequences were nearly fatal to the policy of uniting the Dalmatian cities. Powerless, Svetoslav withdrew to Trogir, where, in company of his son Stjepan, he waited for the arrival of Venetian navy, who exploited inner struggles in Croatia. Venice was ruled at that time by the family Orseolo. Agressive doge Pietro saw a convenient chance for old Venetian pretensions, gaining supervision over the eastern Adriatic coast. John the Deacon, chronicler and Orseolo’s secretary describes the doge’s campaign on Croatian shore. With a minimum resistance of Biograd and Lastovo, the entire Dalmatia, along with some parts of inner Croatia fell into the hands of the doge. Although Orseolo was a representative of Basil II, the primary goal of his 998 conquest was to stregthen Venice’s influence on the eastern shore of the Adriatic sea. Svetoslav made a covenant with Orseolo in Trogir, and as a pledge, the dynasties were joined through a marriage of Svetoslav’s son Stjepan and Pietro’s daughter Hicela. Finally, Svetoslav and his son were forced to move to Venice, to Hicela’s home.1 Venetian rule on the conquered territory lasted for a few decades. It rested on the immediate authorities of emperor Basil II, doge Pietro and his son, also a doge, Otto Orseolo, as well as the power of their navy; following their deaths, there was a strong sense of lack of actual authority on the eastern shore of Adriatic, so the oppressed have soon forgotten their oath.2

Map-of-Croatia-during-the-reign-of-KresimirIIIIn year 1000, Krešimir III was appointed to the Croatian throne, and he chose his brother Gojislav to be his co ruler. At first, they were in good relations with Pietro Orseolo, as well as emperor Basil II who, at the time, waged a successful war against Samuilo; however, less than a decade later, after the death of Venetian doge in 1009, the brothers continue the struggles to reclaim the taken cities from the Venetians.3 Under these circumstances, the Venetian doge undertakes another campaign against Croatia. With Venetian positions in Dalmatia under a direct threat, Pietro’s son and heir, Otto (1009-1024), leads the navy once again towards the Kvarner to confirm Venice’s domination. However, his ships didn’t get farther than Rab. Kvarner cities of Rab, Krk, Cres and Osor thus remained under Venetian government, since it was surely easier for Venice to monitor islands than overland cities. The naval rise of Venice was felt more and more on the eastern Adriatic shore, and after Otto’s siege, it was obvious that Dalmatia was not existing as a whole any more. The decisive moment happened during the Samuilo’s attack, when Byzantium, with an intention of making easier defense, organized the Upper Dalmatia as a separate theme with a center in Dubrovnik, and quick and effective reaction after the deterioration of relationship with Croats, whom Dalmatia was taken from, was a reason more for such act.4

After the downfall of Bulgaria and by establishing of Byzantine government in the immediate neighborhood south of Cetina, in 1019 Krešimir III and Gojislav affirm the authority of Basil II, but only formally. The emperor welcomed them, offered them rich presents, and honored them with a title of patrician. This is the last we know about Gojislav, who presumably died around 1020.5 Basil’s power was too great for Croats to try to invade his Dalmatian properties, and besides, since Venice ruled Dalmatia on behalf of the Emperor and with his approval, war against Venice would mean a direct revolt against the Byzantine emperor.

Hungarian-King-Stephen-I-HolyBy that time, the opposition has strengthened in Venice, who were displeased with the Orseolo’s efforts to turn the government hereditary and thus exiled Otto and his relatives. Krešimir took this rebellion as a signal to invade Dalmatia, but his action was too hasty. Since Basil II wasn’t willing to give the cities over to Croatians, he sent over captain Basil Boioannes, who tried to seize control over the Croatians by imprisoning Krešimir’s wife, however that didn’t last long. With the help of Hungarians, Croatians have continued the war in which they had some success, especially after the death of Basil II in 1025, which ultimately weakened Byzantium. The Hungarians continued to assist, and their involvement in Dalmatian matter could be explained by the family ties of the dinasty Arpad to Orseolos, i. e. by a plan of the Hungarian king to overturn the Dalmatian cities against the new government in Venice, with the help of Croatian king.6

Croatia survived the crisis that emerged at the time of internal struggles regarding the throne, thanks to a wholesome and entrepreneurial policy of Krešimir III. Even though Dalmatia was mainly lost, Croatia was able to continue its active external politics. This can be seen around 1030 when Krešimir III helps Hungarian king Stephen in a war against the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II, after which he gets a part of Slavonia to his rule.7

At that time, Krešimir’s son Stjepan I became a king, and in his time Croatia reacquired Zadar. Good relations of Stjepan I with the Hungarians did not endanger the state, but it is important to say that the armies of Arpad penetrated all the way to the shoreline. By assisting in Carantanian duke’s plot, Stjepan secured the north-western border. Although he did not succeed in resolving the Dalmatian problem, he used well the division of once unique theme to secure his rule in Zadar, with the aid of his relative and then king of Hungary, Peter Orseolo (1038-1041 and 1044-1046).8

Thanks to efforts by king Stjepan the church organization was newly rearranged. The function of the Croatian bishop was restored, and his residence was set up in Knin, which was then a city of increasing importance.9 There is a mention of a Croatian bishop Mark in Knin around 1042, which leads to conclusion that the Knin diocese was founded at that precise time by a distinct desire of the Croatian king and by the consent of the Split metropolitan, and it spread all the way to river Drava.10

King Stjepan I died around 1058 and left a state on solid grounds to his two sons, Krešimir IV and Gojislav. He was buried in the church of St. Stephen, that was formerly raised by queen Jelena on the isle in Solin. There are some obscurities to what happened between his sons after his death. The only known fact is that Krešimir was accused of murder of his brother, but he managed to justify himself to the papal emissary, thanks to oath of his 12 prefects.11

Other articles from the series: “The Trpimirović Dynasty of Croatian Rulers”

  • According to an inscription from the Code of Korčula, Petar Krešimir was accused of murdering his younger brother Gojislav, however, together with his twelve prefects, he justified himself by swearing innocence to the papal emissary.
  • Neven BUDAK, Prva stoljeća Hrvatske, Zagreb: Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada, 1994.
  • Ivo GOLDSTEIN, Hrvatski rani srednji vijek, Zagreb, Novi Liber – Zavod za hrvatsku povijest FF – a, 1995
  • Lujo MARGETIĆ, Hrvatska i Crkva u srednjem vijeku: Pravnopovijesne i povijesne studije, Rijeka: Pravni fakultet Sveučilišta u Rijeci, 2000
  • Ferdo ŠIŠIĆ, Povijest Hrvata u vrijeme narodnih vladara, Zagreb: Nakladni zavod Matice hrvatske, 1925.
  • 1 That was a start of a dynastic separation that won’t be resolved until the seventies of the 11th century. After the banishment of Orseolo from Venice (1024), Svetoslav’s descendants found refuge in Hungarian king Stephen Arpad’s court, from where in 1069 Demetrius Zvonimir, great-grandson of Svetoslav, came across Slavonia to Croatia as a suitable candidate, and subsequently co ruler of King Peter Krešimir IV.
  • 2 Ivo GOLDSTEIN, Hrvatski rani srednji vijek, Zagreb: Novi Liber – Zavod za hrvatsku povijest FF-a, 1995, p. 342
  • 3 Ferdo ŠIŠIĆ, Povijest Hrvata u vrijeme narodnih vladara, Zagreb: Nakladni zavod Matice hrvatske, 1925, p. 478-479
  • 4 Neven BUDAK, Prva stoljeća Hrvatske, Hrvatska sveučilišna naklada, 1994, p. 37-38
  • 5 ŠIŠIĆ, Povijest Hrvata u vrijeme narodnih vladara…, p. 482-483
  • 6 BUDAK, Prva stoljeća Hrvatske…, p. 39
  • 7 BUDAK, Prva stoljeća Hrvatske…, p. 39
  • 8 King Peter Orseolo Venetian gained power in Hungary as a St. Stephen’s sister’s son, who married doge Otto Orseolo. This Peter was, thus, a first-degree relative to the father of Demetrius Zvonimir; ŠIŠIĆ, Povijest Hrvata u vrijeme narodnih vladara…, p. 488
  • 9 BUDAK, Prva stoljeća Hrvatske…, p. 41
  • 10 ŠIŠIĆ, Povijest Hrvata u vrijeme narodnih vladara…, p. 492
  • 11 Lujo MARGETIĆ, Hrvatska i Crkva u srednjem vijeku: Pravnopovijesne i povijesne studije, Rijeka: Pravni fakultet Sveučilišta u Rijeci, 2000, p. 73


add comment +

Your comment