Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja

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The Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja (Presbyter Diocleas), also known as the Chronicle of Dioclea is a medieval chronicle from Duklja. Its oldest preserved copy is from the 17th century, while it is thought to have been compiled at least in the 14th or 15th century, although the author claims to have been the Archbishop of Bar in a time it did not exist. Historians have largely discounted the work based on inaccuracies and fiction, nevertheless it contains some semi-mythological material on the early history of the South Slavs. The fifth part, the Hagiography of Montenegrin Saint Jovan Vladimir, is however believed to be a novelization of an earlier work.

Authorship and date[edit]

In modern historiography, there are various theories on the authorship:

  • Presbyter Rudger (sr. Руђер, also Rudiger), Cistercian Archbishop of Antivari (modern Bar, Montenegro) 1299-1301.[1] He is thought to have lived around 1300 because his perception of Bosnian borders coincides with an anonymous text, the Anonymi Descriptio Europae Orientalis (Cracow, 1916), that dates to the year 1308.[2]
  • Mavro Orbin, a Ragusan historian, in ca. 1601; and then Johannes Lucius in ca. 1666.[3]

Among earlier, obsolete, theories are that the work was originally made in the late 12th century, by an anonymous benedictine monk in Dioclea,[citation needed] or a certain Gregory (Grgur)[citation needed] who was the Archbishop of Antivari in ca. 1172-1196 (at a time when the archbishopric was in fact defunct).


The work is only preserved in its Latin redactions[4] from the 16th and 17th centuries.

It was first written in the Slavonic language, according to the following remark by the author:

"Requested by you, my beloved brethren in Christ and honorable priests of the holy Archbishopric See of the Church in Duklja, as well as by some elders, but especially by the youth of our city who find pleasure not only in listening to and reading about the wars, but in taking part in them also, to translate from the Slavic language into Latin the work entitled in Latin Regnum Sclavorum in which all their deeds and wars have been described...."


The chronicle includes six major parts:

The author attempted to present an overview of ruling families over the course of over two centuries — from the 10th century up to the time of writing, the 12th century.[citation needed] There are 47 chapters in the text, of different sizes and varying subject matter.

Folklore and translations[edit]

It has been generally agreed that this Presbyter included in his work folklore and literary material from Slavic sources which he translated into Latin. Among the material he translated, rather than created, is "The Legend of Prince Vladimir" which is supposed to have been written by another clergyman, also from Duklja, more specifically, from Krajina in Duklja. In its original version, it was a hagiographic work, a "Life of St. Vladimir" rather than a "Legend." Prince Vladimir, the protagonist of the story, as well as King Vladislav, who ordered Vladimir's execution, were historical persons, yet "The Legend of Prince Vladimir" contains non-historical material.

The chronicle was also added to by a bishop of Bar intent on demonstrating his diocese' superiority over that of Bishop of Split.

Impact and assessment[edit]

Mavro Orbini, the author of Il Regno dei Slavi or Regnum Sclavorum (1601) borrowed the title of the Presbyter's "The Kingdom of Slavs" and based his account on the information contained in that book.

Various inaccurate or simply wrong claims in the text make it an unreliable source. Modern historians have serious doubts about the majority of this work as being mainly fictional, or wishful thinking. Some go as far as to say that it can be dismissed in its entirety, but that is not a majority opinion, rather, it is thought to have given us a unique insight into the whole era from the point of view of the indigenous Slavic population and it is still a topic of discussion.[5]

The work describes the local Slavs as a peaceful people imported by the Goth rulers, who invaded the area in the 5th century, but it doesn't attempt to elaborate on how and when this happened. This information contradicts the information found in the Byzantine text De Administrando Imperio.

The Chronicle also mentions one Svetopeleg or Svetopelek, the eighth descendant of the original Goth invaders, as the main ruler of the lands that cover Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro (Duklja) and Serbia. He is also credited with the Christianization of the people who are Goths or Slavs — a purely fictitious attribution. These claims about a unified kingdom are probably a reflection of the earlier glory of the Moravian kingdom. He may also have been talking about Avars.

The priest's parish was located at the seat of the archbishopric of Duklja. According to Bishop Gregory's late 12th-century additions to this document, this Archbishopric covered much of the western Balkans including the bishoprics of Bar, Budva, Kotor, Ulcinj, Svač, Skadar, Drivast, Pulat, Travunia, Zahumlje.

Further, it mentions Bosnia (Bosnam) and Rascia (Rassa) as the two Serbian lands, while describing the southern Dalmatian Hum/Zahumlje, Travunia and Dioclea (most of today's Herzegovina, Montenegro, as well as parts of Croatia and Albania) as Croatian lands ("Red Croatia"), which is a description considered inconsistent with other historical works from the same period.

The region of Bosnia is described to span the area west of the river Drina, "up to the Pine mountain" (Latin: ad montem Pini, Croatian: do gore Borave).[6] The location of this Pine mountain is unknown. In 1881, Croatian historian Franjo Rački wrote that this refers to the mountain of "Borova glava" near the Livno field.[7] Croatian historian Luka Jelić wrote the mountain was located either between Maglaj and Skender Vakuf, northwest of Žepče, or it was the mountain Borovina located between Vranica and Radovan, according to Ferdo Šišić's 1908 work.[8] In 1935, Serbian historian Vladimir Ćorović wrote that the toponym refers to the mountain of Borova glava, because of etymology and because it is located on the watershed (drainage divide).[9][10] In 1936, Slovene ethnologist Niko Županič had also interpreted that to mean that the western border of Bosnia was at some drainage divide mountains, but placed it to the southeast of Dinara.[11] Croatian historian Anto Babić, based on the work of Dominik Mandić in 1978, inferred that the term refers roughly to a place of the drainage divide between the Sava and Adriatic Sea watersheds.[12][13] In her discussion of Ćorović, Serbian historian Jelena Mrgić-Radojčić also points to the existence of a mountain of "Borja" in today's northern Bosnia with the same etymology.[9]

The 9th chapter of the Chronicle names Methodus or Liber Methodios, a text from the year 753, as its source.

The archbishop of Bar was later named Primas Serbiae. Ragusa had some claims to be considered the natural ecclesiastical centre of South Dalmatia but those of Dioclea (Bar) to this new metropolitan status were now vigorously pushed especially as the Pope intended Serbia to be attached to Dioclea.

In his 1967 reprint of the work, Slavko Mijušković[who?] stated that the chronicle is a purely fictional literary product, belonging to the late 14th or early 15th century.[14]


  1. ^ Danijel Dzino (2010). Becoming Slav, Becoming Croat: Identity Transformations in Post-Roman and Early Medieval Dalmatia. BRILL. ISBN 9004186468. Retrieved 2012-09-12. 
  2. ^ Tibor Živković: On the Beginnings of Bosnia in the Middle Ages, 2010; in Spomenica akademika Marka Šunjića (1927-1998), University of Sarajevo, p. 172, [1]; in the Yearbook of the Center for Balkan Studies of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, p. 155, in Serbian, [2]
  3. ^ S. Bujan, La Chronique du pretre de Dioclee. Un faux document historique, Revuedes etudes byzantines 66 (2008) 5–38
  4. ^ The legend of Basil the Bulgar-slayer, p. 27
  5. ^ "Ljetopis popa Dukljanina pred izazovima novije historiografije, Zagreb, 3. ožujka 2011. godine" (in Croatian). 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  6. ^ Edin Mutapčić (2008). "Oblast – Zemlja Soli u srednjem vijeku". Baština sjeveroistočne Bosne (JU Zavod za zaštitu i korištenje kulturno-historijskog i prirodnog naslijeđa Tuzlanskog kantona) (1): 18. ISSN 1986-6895. Retrieved 2012-09-12. 
  7. ^ "Hrvatska prije XII vieka: glede na zemljišni obseg i narod". Rad (in Croatian) (Yugoslav Academy of Sciences and Arts) LVI: 36. 1881. Retrieved 2012-09-12. 
  8. ^ Luka Jelić (September 1909). "Duvanjski sabor". Journal of the Zagreb Archaeological Museum (in Croatian) (Zagreb Archaeological Museum) 10 (1): 138. ISSN 0350-7165. Retrieved 2012-09-12. 
  9. ^ a b "Rethinking the territorial development of the medieval Bosnian state". Historical Review (Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts - Institute of History) LI: 52–53. 2004. ISSN 0350-0802. Retrieved 2012-09-12. 
  10. ^ Vladimir Ćorović, Teritorijalni razvoj bosanske države u srednjem vijeku, Glas SKA 167, Belgrade, 1935, pp. 10-13
  11. ^ Niko Županič, Značenje barvnega atributa v imenu „Crvena Hrvatska". Lecture at the IV Congress of Slavic geographers and ethnographers, Sofia, 18 August 1936.
  12. ^ Ivan Mužić (December 2010). "Bijeli Hrvati u banskoj Hrvatskoj i županijska Hrvatska". Starohrvatska prosvjeta (in Croatian) (Split, Croatia: Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments) III (37): 270. ISSN 0351-4536. Retrieved 2012-09-12. 
  13. ^ D. Mandić, Državna i vjerska pripadnost sredovječne Bosne i Hecegovine. II. edition, Ziral, Chicago–Rome 1978, pp. 408–409.
  14. ^ Henrik Birnbaum (1974). "On Medieval and Renaissance Slavic Writing: Selected Essays". Slavistic Printings and Reprintings (Walter de Gruyter) (266): 304. ISSN 0081-0029. 

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