Ban (title)

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Ban /ˈbɑːn/ was a noble title used in several states in central and south-eastern Europe between the 7th century and the 20th century.

Origin of the title[edit]

The first known mention of the title ban is in the 10th century by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, in the work De Administrando Imperio, in the 30th and 31st chapter "Story of the province of Dalmatia" and "Of the Croats and of the country they now dwell in", dedicated to the Croats and the Croatian organisation of their medieval state. In the 30th chapter, describing how the Croatian state was divided into eleven ζουπανίας (Župas), the ban βοάνος (Boanos), καὶ ὁ βοάνος αὐτῶν κρατεῖ (rules over) τὴν Κρίβασαν (Krbava), τὴν Λίτζαν (Lika) καὶ (and) τὴν Γουτζησκά (Gacka).[1] In the 31st chapter, describing the military and naval force of Croatia, "Miroslav, who ruled for four years, was killed by the βοέάνου (boeanou) Πριβονυία (Pribounia, ie. Pribina)", and after that followed a temporary decrease in the military force of the Croatian Kingdom.[2]

In 1029 was published a Latin charter by Jelena, sister of ban Godemir, in Obrovac, for donation to the monastery of St. Krševan in Zadar.[3] In it she is introduced as "Ego Heleniza, soror Godemiri bani...".[3] Franjo Rački noted that if is not an original, then is certainly a transcript from the same 11th century.[4][5]

In the 12th century, the title was mentioned by Byzantine historian John Kinnamos, anonymous monk of Dioclea, and in the Supetar Cartulary.[3] The Byzantine historian John Kinnamos wrote the title in the form (μπάνος) (mpanos).[6] In the Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja, which is dated to 12th and 13th century, in the Latin redaction is written as "banus", "banum", "bano", and in the Croatian redaction only as "ban".[3] The Supetar Cartulary includes information until the 12th century, but the specific writing about bans is dated to the late 13th and early 14th century, a transcript of an older document.[7] It mentiones that there existed seven bans and they were elected by the six of twelve Croatian noble tribes, where the title is written as "banus" and "bani".[7]


The Late Proto-Slavic word *banъ is not of native Slavic lexical stock, and is generally considered a borrowing from the Turkic language.[8][6][9] The title origin among medieval Croats is not completely solved,[10] and as much is hard to determine the exact source and to reconstruct primal form of the Turkic word it derives from.[11] It is generally explained as a derivation from the Avar name Bayan,[6][9][12][13][14] which is a derivation of the Proto-Turkic root *bāj- "rich, richness, wealth; prince; husband".[15][6] The Proto-Turkic root *bāj- is most commonly explained as a native Turkic word,[16] though it is also considered a borrowing from an Iranian source (Proto-Iranian *baga- "god; lord").[6] Within the Altaic theory, the Turkic word is inherited from the Proto-Altaic *bēǯu "numerous, great".[17] The title word was also derived from the name Bojan,[9][18] and there were additionally proposed Iranian,[10][19][20] and Indo-European (Gothic),[21][22][23] language origin.

The Avar nameword bajan, which some scholars interpreted with alleged meaning of "ruler of the horde",[9] itself is attested as the 6th century name of Avar khagan Bayan I which led the raids on provinces of the Byzantine Empire.[6] Some scholars assume that the name was a possible misinterpretation of a title,[6][14] but Bayan already had a title of khagan, and the name, as well its derivation, are well confirmed.[6] The title of ban among the Avars has never been attested to in the historical sources.[10]

Research history[edit]

The title origin is unknown.[10] It was used as "evidence" throughout the history of historioraphy to prove ideological assumptions on Avars,[24] and specific theories on the origin of early medieval Croats.[13][14][19] The starting point of the debate was year 1837, and the work of historian and philologist Pavel Jozef Šafárik, whose thesis has influenced generations of scholars.[25] In his work Slovanské starožitnosti (1837), and later Slawische alterthümer (1843) and Geschichte der südslawischen Literatur (1864), was the first to connect the ruler title of ban, obviously not of Slavic lexical stook, which ruled over župas of today Lika region, with the Eurasian Avars.[25] He concluded how Avars lived in that same territory, basing his thesis on a literal reading of the statement from Constantine VII's 30th chapter, "there are still descendants of the Avars in Croatia, and are recognized as Avars".[26] However, modern scholars until now proved the opposite, that Avars never lived in Dalmatia proper, and that statement occurred somewhere in Pannonia.[27]

Šafárik assumed that the Avars by the nameword Bayan called their governor, and in the end concluded that the title ban derives from the "name-title" word Bayan, which is also a Persian title word (erroneously for a word mentined below), and neglected that it should derive from the Slavic name Bojan.[28] His thesis would be later endorsed by many historians, and both South Slavic titles ban and župan were asserted as Avars official titles, but it had more to do with the scholars ideology of the time than actual reality.[29]

Franc Miklošič wrote that the word, of Croatian origin, probably was expanded from them among the Bulgarians and Serbs, while if is Persian, than among Slavs is borrowed from the Turks.[30] Erich Berneker wrote that became by contraction from bojan, which was borrowed from Mongolian-Turkic bajan ("rich, wealthy"), and noted Bajan is a personal name among Mongols, Avars, Bulgars, Altaic Tatars, and Kirghiz.[31] Đuro Daničić decided for an intermediate solution; by origin is Avar or Persian from bajan (duke).[32]

J. B. Bury derived the title from the name of Avar khagan Bayan, and Bulgarian khagan Kubrat's son Batbayan, with wich tried to prove the Bulgarian-Avar (Turkic) theory on the origin of early medieval Croats.[13][33] Historian Franjo Rački didn't discard the possibility South Slavs could obtain it from Avars, but he disbeliefed it had happened in Dalmatia, yet somewhere in Pannonia, and noticed the existence of bân ("dux, custos") in Persian language.[34] Tadija Smičiklas and Vatroslav Jagić thought that the title should not derive from bajan, but from bojan, as thus how it is written in the Greek historical records (boan, boean).[35] Vjekoslav Klaić mentioned both thesis, from Slavic word bojan (bojarin), and did not consider a problem that Bajan was a personal name and not a title, as seen in the most accepted derivation of Slavic word *korljь (kral/lj, krol).[23] Gjuro Szabo considered it a prehistoric name as it is found as a toponym from India to Ireland, and particurarly among Slavic lands, and considered it as an impossibility that had deriveed from a personal name of a poorly known khagan, yet from a prehistoric word Ban or Fan.[36]

Ferdo Šišić considered that is impossible it directly originated from a personal name of an Avar ruler because the title needs a logical continuity.[33] He considered highly doubtful its existence among Slavic tribes during the great migration, and within early South Slavic principalities.[33] He stronly supported the Šafárik thesis about Avar descendants in Lika, now by scholars dissmised, and concluded that in that territory they had a separate governor whom they called bajan, from which after Avar assimilation, became Croatian title ban.[33] The thesis of alleged governor title name, Šišić based on his personal derivation of bajan from khagan.[37] Nada Klaić advocated the same claims of Avars descendants in Lika, and considered bans and župans as Avar officials and governors.[38]

The later conclusion by Šišić and Klaić was previously loosely opposed by Rački, who studying old historical records observed that ban could only be someone from one of the twelve Croatian tribes according Supetar cartulary.[39] This viewpoint is supported by the Chronicle of Duklja; Latin redaction; Unaquaque in provincia banum ordinavit, id est ducem, ex suis consanguineis fratribus ([Svatopluk] in every province allocated a ban, and they were duke's consanguin brothers); Croatian redaction defines that all bans need to be by origin native and noble.[3]

The mainstream view of the time was mainly opposed by Stjepan Krizin Sakač, who emphasized that the word bajan is never mentioned in historical sources as a title, the title ban is never mentioned in such a form, and there's no evidence that Avars and Turks ever used a title closely related to the word "ban".[18] Sakač connected the Croatian bân with statements from two Persian dictionaries (released 1893 and 1903); the noun bàn (lord, master, illustrious man, chief), suffix bân (guard), and the Sasanian title merz-bân (مرزبان marz-bān, Marzban).[20][37] He considered that the early Croats originated from the Iranian-speaking Sarmatians and Alans.[40][19]

Uses of the title[edit]

Main article: Ban of Croatia
Josip Jelačić, ban of Croatia (1848–1859)

The title was used for local land administrators in the southern Slavonic areas, mainly in Croatia and later in Bosnia, in the early Middle Ages, as well as in present-day Serbia (Banate of Macsó). The title was later used in the historical Kingdom of Croatia, Kingdom of Bosnia and the Kingdom of Hungary and its dependencies.

The title was also used in Wallachia up to the 19th century (where it was associated with the highest boyar office and the region of Oltenia or Banat of Severin), the Kingdom of Serbia and Kingdom of Yugoslavia between 1929 and 1941. The meaning of the title changed with time: the position of a ban can be compared to that of a viceroy or a high vassal such as a hereditary duke, but neither is accurate for all historical bans. The territory ruled by a ban was called banat or banovina, often transcribed in English as banate, banat, bannat, etc.

Medieval bans[edit]

Ban was the title of local rulers mainly in Croatia and later in Bosnia since the Slavic population migrated there in the 7th century. References from the earliest periods are scarce, but history recalls the Croatian bans Ratimir in the 9th century (827, under Bulgarian sway) and Pribina in the 10th century (in 949 and in 970). Earliest mentioned Bosnian bans were Borić (1154–1163) and Kulin (1163–1204).

The meaning of the title was elevated to that of provincial governor in the medieval Croatian state (for example, Dmitar Zvonimir was originally a ban in 1065 serving under King Peter Krešimir IV).

Bans were also provincial administrators in the Kingdom of Hungary, where each of the provinces was called banat; the Croatian word for province was banovina. Bans usually administered regions outside the kingdom, but within the realm.

After the Croats elected Hungarian kings as kings of Croatia in 1102, the title of ban acquired the meaning of viceroy because the bans were appointed by the king, though Croatia, remaining a kingdom in personal union with Hungary, was not referred to as a banovina (banate). Croatia was governed by the 'viceregal' ban as a whole between 1102 and 1225, when it was split into two separate banovinas: Slavonia and Croatia. Two different bans were occasionally appointed until 1476, when the institution of a single ban was resumed. The institution of ban in Croatia would persist until the 20th century (see below).

When the medieval Bosnian state achieved a certain level of independence in the 12th century, its rulers were once again called bans, and their territory banovina, likely because of the similar suzerain status that it had towards the king of Hungary. Nevertheless, the Bosnian bans weren't viceroys in the sense they were appointed by the king. Sometimes their title is translated as duke. Kulin came to prominence in Bosnia 1163 as he was under the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus who was just taking the country from the Hungarians earlier, although it would not be until 1180 that he would place Kulin as his vassal as Ban.

The rule of Ban Kulin is often remembered as Bosnia's golden age, and he is a common hero of Bosnian national folk tales. Bosnia was autonomous and mostly at peace during his rule. As an ordered and economically prosperous soon became de facto independent state.[41]

The region of Mačva (now in Serbia) was also ruled by bans. Mačva (Macsó) was part of the medieval Hungarian kingdom though under various levels of independence; some of the bans were foreign viceroys, some were native nobles, and one even rose to the status of a royal palatine.

Ban was also the title of the medieval rulers of parts of Wallachia (Oltenia and Severin) since the 13th century. The Wallachian bans were military governors; their jurisdictions in Wallachia were called banat or bănie. The main Wallachian ruler was titled voivod, the position bans aspired to.

Strahinja Banović was a "Ban" of Serb Epic Poetry.

The title ban was also awarded in the Second Bulgarian Empire on several occasions, one example being the 14th-century governor of Sredets (Sofia) Ban Yanuka.[42]

Habsburg-era Croatia[edit]

The title of ban persisted in Croatia after 1527 when the country became part of the Habsburg Monarchy, and continued all the way until 1918. In the 18th century, Croatian bans eventually become chief government officials in Croatia. They were at the head of Ban's Government, effectively the first prime ministers of Croatia.

Kingdom of Yugoslavia[edit]

Ban was also the title of the governor of each province (called banovina) of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia between 1929 and 1941. The weight of the title was far less than that of a medieval ban's feudal office.


The word ban is preserved in many modern place names in the regions where bans once ruled.

The region of Banat (sometimes called the Temeswarer Banat) in the Pannonian plain between the Danube and the Tisza rivers, now in Romania, Serbia and Hungary, however, received its name without ever being ruled by a ban.

The alternate name of Craiova is Bănie, the residence city of the ban in the medieval Oltenia region.

A region in central Croatia, south of Sisak, is called Banovina or Banija. The origin of the names of Banova Jaruga (a city in Croatia), and Banja Luka and Banovići (cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina) are also from the word ban.

The term ban is still used in the phrase banski dvori ("ban's court") for the buildings that host high government officials. The Banski dvori in Zagreb hosts the Croatian Government, while the Banski dvor in Banja Luka hosts the President of Republika Srpska (a first-tier subdivision of Bosnia and Herzegovina). The building known as Bela banovina ("the white banovina") in Novi Sad hosts the parliament and government of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina in Serbia. The building received this name because it previously hosted the administration of Danube Banovina.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Živković 2012, p. 144.
  2. ^ Živković 2012, p. 81.
  3. ^ a b c d e Sakač 1939, p. 389.
  4. ^ Rački, Franjo (1877), Documenta historiae chroaticae periodum antiquam illustrantia (in Latin), Zagreb: JAZU, p. 38 
  5. ^ Ostojić, Ivan (1967), "Religiozni elementi u diplomatičkim izvorima stare Hrvatske (2)", Church in the World (in Croatian) 2 (4): 49 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Gluhak 1993, p. 123-124.
  7. ^ a b Švob, Držislav (1956), Pripis Supetarskog kartulara o izboru starohrvatskog kralja i popis onodobnih banova (in Croatian), Zagreb: Školska Knjiga 
  8. ^ Matasović et al. 2004, p. 55.
  9. ^ a b c d Skok 1971, p. 104-105.
  10. ^ a b c d Živković 2012, p. 144, 145.
  11. ^ Matasović 2008, p. 55: U većini je slučajeva vrlo teško utvrditi točan izvor i rekonstruirati praobilk takvih turkijskih riječi iz kojih su nastali npr. stsl. kniga, byserь, hrv. bán, hmềlj, hrền itd."
  12. ^ Heršak, Nikšić 2007, p. 259.
  13. ^ a b c Heršak, Silić 2002, p. 213.
  14. ^ a b c Pohl 1995, p. 94.
  15. ^ Sevortyan 1978, p. 27–29.
  16. ^ Clauson 1972, p. 384.
  17. ^ Starostin, Dybo 2003, p. 340.
  18. ^ a b Sakač 1939, p. 391-394.
  19. ^ a b c Košćak 1995, p. 114.
  20. ^ a b Sakač 1939, p. 396-397.
  21. ^ Mužić, Ivan (2001), Hrvati i autohtonost: na teritoriju rimske provincije Dalmacije [Croats and autochthony: in the territory of the Roman province of Dalmatia], Split: Knjigotisak, p. 421, ISBN 953-213-034-9, Gjuro Szabo agreed and developed the view by philologist Johann Georg Wachter from his Glossarium Germanicum (1737), and the similar view was given by Friedrich Kluge in his Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (1883) 
  22. ^ Mužić, Ivan (2011), Hrvatska povijest devetoga stoljeća [Croatian history of ninth century], Split: Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments, pp. 132–133, V. Klaić mentioned Gothic word bandvjan (for bandwjan see An Introduction to the Gothic Language (2006) by Thomas Oden Lambdin), and bannus, bannum, bando, ban which derived from it, and signify the power grant or banner (see medieval Ban and King's ban); I. Mužić cites Korčula codex (12th century); Tunc Gothi fecerunt sibi regem Tetolam qui fuerat aliis regibus banus et obsedebat undique Romanis. 
  23. ^ a b Klaić, Vjekoslav (1889), Porieklo banske časti u Hrvata, Zagreb: Vjesnik, p. 26 
  24. ^ Štih 1995, p. 125.
  25. ^ a b Sakač 1939, p. 391.
  26. ^ Živković 2012, p. 117.
  27. ^ Živković 2012, p. 51, 117-118: pg. 51 "It must be the case then that the anonymous author of Constantine’s major source on the Croats was the same one who wrote that the Avars lived in Dalmatia, since he overstretched Dalmatia as far as up to Danube to be able to include the territory of Lower Pannonia recorded in the DCBC. It was then this same anonymous author who made this confusion about the Avars living in Dalmatia, not Constantine."
  28. ^ Sakač 1939, p. 391-392.
  29. ^ Štih 1995, p. 125-127, 129-130.
  30. ^ Miklošič, Franc (1886), Etymologisches Wörterbuch der slavischen Sprachen (in German), Vienna: Wilhelm Braumüller, p. 169 
  31. ^ Berneker, Erich (1924), Slavisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, I [A-L] (2 ed.), Heidelberg, p. 42 
  32. ^ Daničić, Đuro (1882), Rječnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika [Croatian or Serbian Dictionary] (in Serbo-Croatian) I, JAZU, p. 169 
  33. ^ a b c d Šišić, Ferdo (1925), Povijest Hrvata u vrijeme narodnih vladara [History of the Croats at the time of national rulers] (in Croatian), Zagreb, pp. 250 (Bury), 276, 678–680 
  34. ^ Rački, Franjo (1889), Porieklo banske časti u Hrvata (in Serbo-Croatian) I, Vjestnik Kr. hrvatsko-slavonsko-dalmatinskog zemaljskog arkiva, pp. 25–26 
  35. ^ Smičiklas, Tadija (1882), Povjest Hrvatska (in Serbo-Croatian) I, Zagreb, p. 136 
  36. ^ Szabo, Gjuro (1919), O značenju topografskog nazivlja u južnoslavenskim stranama (in Serbo-Croatian) III (30), Zagreb, pp. 477–478 
  37. ^ a b Bechcicki, Jerzy (2006). "O problematici etnogeneze Bijele Hrvatske" [About the issue of ethnogenesis of White Croatia]. In Nosić, Milan. Bijeli Hrvati I [White Croats I] (in Croatian). Maveda. pp. 7–8. ISBN 953-7029-04-2. 
  38. ^ Mužić, Ivan (2013), Hrvatski vladari od sredine VI. do kraja X. stoljeća [Croatian rulers from the middle of VI. century until end of X. century] (in Croatian), Split: Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments, pp. 47–48 
  39. ^ Rački, Franjo (1888), Nutarnje stanje Hrvatske prije XII. Stoljeća, III: Vrhovna državna vlast... rad 91 (in Croatian), p. 143 
  40. ^ Sakač 1939, p. 397.
  41. ^ Bosnia and Herzegovina -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia Bosnia and Herzegovina: Ancient and medieval periods
  42. ^ Plamen Pavlov - Car Konstantin II Asen (1397–1422) - posledniyat vladetel na srednovekovna B``lgariya (Bulgarian)


External links[edit]

Category:Bans (title) Category:Croatian noble titles Category:Gubernatorial titles Category:Hungarian noble titles Category:Noble titles Category:Slavic titles Category:History of Croatia Category:History of Bosnia and Herzegovina Category:History of Vojvodina Category:History of Romania Category:Oltenia Category:Slavic words and phrases Category:Turkic words and phrases Category:Titles of national or ethnic leadership Category:Viceroys