Tomislav of Croatia

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Kralj Tomislav na prijestolju.JPG
King Tomislav, painted by Josip Horvat Međimurec (February 1941)
King of Croatia
Reign 925–928
Coronation c. 925
Successor Trpimir II
Duke of Croatia
Reign c. 910 – 925
Predecessor Muncimir
Royal House House of Trpimirović
Father Muncimir
Burial Church of Saint Stephen, Solin ?
Religion Christian

Tomislav (pronounced [tǒmislaʋ], Latin: Tamisclao) was a ruler of Croatia in the Middle Ages. He reigned from around 910 until 928, first as a duke (Latin: dux Croatorum) of the Duchy of Croatia in c. 910–925, and then became the first king (rex Croatorum) of the Croatian Kingdom in 925–928. At the time of his rule Croatia forged an alliance with the Byzantines during their struggle with the Bulgarian Empire, with whom Croatia eventually went to war, which culminated in the decisive Battle of the Bosnian Highlands in 926.[1]

His ancestry is not known, but he probably hailed from the House of Trpimirović.[2] There is a time difference of almost twenty years between the first attestation of Tomislav's name and the last mention of Muncimir, his predecessor as the Duke of Croatia. The historical records of him are scarce, but it is assumed that he was the son of Muncimir, whom he succeeded around 910.[1][3]

Croatian scholarship credits Tomislav with uniting the Croats of Dalmatia and the Slavs of Pannonia into a single state, founding a kingdom lasting for several centuries. He is said to have ruled over the territory of today's Croatia and Bosnia, rounding off his state from the Adriatic Sea to the Drava river, and from the Raša river in Istria to the Drina river. There is no evidence, however, to suggest he exercised any authority over the Byzantine cities of the Dalmatian coast.[4]


Early Duke of Croatia[edit]

Map of south eastern Europe in 910.

Tomislav succeeded Muncimir, son of Trpimir I, on the throne of the Duchy of Croatia, either directly in about 910, which is the most widely accepted view, or after the rule of different figures which ruled after Muncimir's death. In any case, Tomislav gained the throne of Croatia at some time between 910 and 914.[5] In Historia Salonitana ("History of Salona"), a chronicle from the 13th century written by Thomas the Archdeacon from Split, Tomislav was mentioned as the Duke of Croatia in 914.[6] According to the heavily debated Chronicle of the priest of Duklja, Tomislav, whose rule was specified at 13 years, defeated the Magyar mounted invasions of the Arpads in battle and forced them across the Drava River. Tomislav annexed a part of Pannonia to his Duchy of Croatia. This included the area between the rivers Drava, Sava and Kupa, so his Duchy bordered with Bulgaria for a period of time. This was the first time that the two Croatian Realms were united, and all Croats were in one state.

The Duke had to face renewed threats from the Bulgarians under Tsar Simeon I who had already conquered the Serbs. In 923, the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Byzantine Emperor offered to deal with Simeon's threat if Pope John X would accept a rejoining of the divided Sees of Rome and Constantinople. The Pope also demanded that the Patriarch give him the sovereignty over the Dalmatian Byzantine Cities. After this was done, the Byzantine Emperor gave Duke Tomislav the coastal Cities under his Governency: the Byzantine Province of Dalmatia (Zadar, Split, Trogir...).

At the peak of his reign, the Byzantine emperor and chronicler Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos' states in De Administrando Imperio that Croatia could have raised a vast military force composed out of 100,000 infantrymen and 60,000 horsemen and a sizable fleet of 80 large ships and 100 smaller vessels.[7] These figures are largely disputed due to the historical period, historians argue that the numbers are a clear exaggeration and an overemphasis that should be interpreted differently.

Coronation and Croatian Kingdom[edit]

Coronation of king Tomislav (modern painting by Oton Iveković)
A part of the letter written by pope John X to king Tomislav of Croatia in 925: "Joannes episcopus seruus seruorum dei dilecto filio Tamisclao regi Croatorum..."

Tomislav was the first Croatian ruler whom the Papal chancellery honoured with the title "king".[8] It is generally said that Tomislav was crowned in 924 or 925, however, this is not certain. It is not known when, where, or by whom he was crowned.[4] The letters in which Tomislav was called a king were preserved in a version of Archdeacon Thomas of Spalato's History of Salona.[9] In a note preceding the text of the Council conclusions in Split in 925 it is written that Tomislav is the king "in the province of the Croats and in the Dalmatian regions" (in prouintia Croatorum et Dalmatiarum finibus Tamisclao rege). In the 12th canon of the Council conclusions in 925 the ruler of the Croats is called "king" (rex et proceres Chroatorum),[10] while in a letter sent by the Pope John X Tomislav is named "King of the Croats" (Tamisclao, regi Crouatorum).[11] Although there are no inscriptions of Tomislav to confirm the title, later inscriptions and charters confirm that his 10th century successors called themselves "kings".[9]

By the claiming of the coastal cities of Dalmatia, Tomislav raised the question of sovereignty of the Croatian Diocese of Nin. In 925 the Pope summoned a synod in Split to resolve the situation, and in a letter sent to Tomislav, recognised him as king (rex) of Croats. According to the latter medieval sources, Tomislav was crowned at the field of Duvno (named Tomislav's City in his honour), although there are no contemporary records of this event.

In 925, Tomislav attended the Synod in Split, in which the Latin Bishops and Abbeys of the Dalmatian coastal towns outvoted Grgur, bishop of Nin, and his supporters, so the supremacy of the Archbishopric of Split was affirmed. Furthermore, the use of the Slavic language in the ecclesiastical service was banned, allowing only the use of Latin. This, however, had very little effect in reality, as the number of clerics who knew Latin was sparse throughout the kingdom. However, to gain support of the Pope, Tomislav probably[citation needed] sided with the Latinist side and the metropolitan archdioceses of Split. At the council, Split was defined as the religious center of Croats, as well as some Zachumli, who were represented by Michael of Zahumlje, who, according to some historians, recognized Tomislav's rule.[12] A second synod in Split was summoned in 927/928 to enforce the conclusions of the first one in 925; the supremacy of the metropolitan Archbishopric of Split was confirmed, and the diocese of Nin was abolished.[13]

During Tomislav's rule the Bulgarian and Byzantine Empires where in a war. In 924 the Bulgarians under Emperor Simeon I destroyed the Principality of Serbia, a Byzantine ally, forcing Serbian Prince Zaharija and a part of the Serbian population to flee to Croatia.[14] Croatia, also an ally of the Byzantines,[15] was now located between Bulgaria and the weakly defended Byzantine Theme of Dalmatia.[16] Since Croatia was harboring Bulgarian enemies and was allied to the Byzantine Empire, Simeon decided to attack Croatia and sent an army led by Duke Alogobotur, but Tomislav cut his advance into Croatian realm and entirely destroyed his army at the Croatian–Bulgarian battle of 926 which probably took place in the north-eastern part of Bosnia. The Croatians under Tomislav won a great victory, decimating the entire Bulgarian force. After the death of Emperor Simeon in 927, Pope John X sent his legates with Bishop Madalbert to mediate between Croatia and Bulgaria, thus restoring peace.[9][17][18]

It is unknown how Tomislav's life ended, but he disappeared from the political scene after 928. At the time of his death there was discord in the country over whether the liturgical language of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia would be Latin or Croatian. Decades of famine and pestilence raged through most of the Southern Europe. He was succeeded by Trpimir II, who was either his son or his younger brother.

Geographical extent[edit]

The greatest geographical extent suggested of the Kingdom of Croatia c. 925, during the reign of King Tomislav (disputed)

The geographical extent of Tomislav's kingdom is not fully known. The chronicler John the Deacon, whose chronicle is a primary source for the history of Slavic peoples in Dalmatia during the 9th and 10th century, wrote that in 912 a Venetian ambassador, returning from Bulgaria, passed through Croatian territory before reaching the land of Zahumlje under Duke Michael,[19] which suggests that Tomislav's Croatia bordered Bulgaria, then under the rule of Simeon I.[20] British writer Marcus Tanner suggested that it covered most of modern Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the coastline of Montenegro. However, Roger Lampe argued that the state did not go as far south as Dubrovnik and that Istria was not included. Many Croatian scholars argued that the kingdom covered the whole region south of the Drava river to the Drina and Neretva rivers north of Dubrovnik.[21][22] Nevertheless, Croatian historian Nada Klaić had disputed the eastward (i.e. Bosnian) extension of Tomislav's kingdom in her 1972 and 1982 books.[23][24]

Josip Lučić and Franjo Šanjek's 1993 Hrvatski povijesni zemljovid (Croatian historical map) provided an extended depiction of Tomislav's kingdom. Lučić was a known historical geographer from the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb who authored numerous maps in Croatian history books.[25] Ivo Goldstein in turn claimed that Tomislav never ruled Bosnia in his 1995 book Hrvatski rani srednji vijek.[26] Neven Budak published a lengthy critique of the latter book but one that went even further in arguing that vague historical sources should not be broadly interpreted in favor of the national history narrative.[27] Dominant modern university history textbooks in Croatia such as Tomislav Raukar's Hrvatsko srednjovjekovlje (1997)[28] consider that during Tomislav's rule his kingdom covered between 60% to 80% of contemporary Bosnia and Herzegovina. Franjo Šanjek also edited a major work by sixteen authors on the medieval Croatian state,[29] which is also used as a university textbook also includes such a view.[30]

In his 2006 book, John Van Antwerp Fine criticized the relationship between Tomislav's territory and modern nationalist sentiment in Croatia saying that 10th-century sources are unreliable and "roughly a third" of Croatia's perceived eastern land is "entirely speculation".[31] Fine stated, "It is possible that Croatia really did have some of it, but Bulgaria may have had some of it; early Serb entities may have had some of it, not to speak of various župans and other local Slavic lords who in any serious way answered to no one. If the last supposition is true (to any degree), then parts of this territory would not have been held by any 'state.'"[31] While acknowledging the possibility of Croatia having held all the depicted territory and more, Fine stated that whoever controlled the eastern land depicted in Tomislav's kingdom is unknown and should be marked as terra incognita in maps. He criticised Lučić and Šanjek's delineation of Tomislav's eastern border as "nationalist map-making" and distorting the perceptions of children on their nation's history in a way that promotes interpreting later events as territorial loss and fragmentation.[31]

This issue is frequently debated due to modern Croatian national ideologies; it actually bears little importance on medieval Bosnian history, since the pre-Ottoman ethno-cultural landscape of this country was formed mainly in the period from the 13th to the 15th century.


Tomislav is celebrated as the first Croatian King and the founder of the first united Croatian state. In the Croatian capital of Zagreb, there is a square dedicated to Tomislav. A monument in Zagreb by sculptor Robert Frangeš Mihanović was raised in his honor. Near the place where he was crowned lies the town of Tomislavgrad (literally:Tomislavcity) which was the name given in 1925 at the 1,000th anniversary of his coronation by Aleksandar Karađorđević. Celebrations of the anniversary were held across former Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1926, the obelisk in his honor was made in Livno. Tomislav's statue in Zagreb is depicted on the reverse of the Croatian 1000 kuna banknote, issued in 1994.[32] He also lends his name to a 'dark beer' which is brewed in the region.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Madgearu & Gordon 2008, p. 56-57
  2. ^ "Tomislav", Croatian Encyclopedia (in Croatian), Leksikografski zavod Miroslav Krleža, 1999–2009, retrieved March 13, 2014 
  3. ^ Opća Enciklopedija Jugoslavenskog Leksikografskog Zavoda, Zagreb, 1982
  4. ^ a b Van Antwerp Fine, John (1991). The Early Medieval Balkans. University of Michigan Press. p. 264. ISBN 0472081497. 
  5. ^ Van Antwerp Fine, John (1991). The Early Medieval Balkans. University of Michigan Press. p. 261-262. ISBN 0472081497. 
  6. ^ Thomas (Spalatensis, Archdeacon): Historia Salonitanorum Atque Spalatinorum Pontificum, p.61
  7. ^ De Administrando Imperio, Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos, 950
  8. ^ Neven Budak - Prva stoljeća Hrvatske, Zagreb, 1994., p. 22
  9. ^ a b c Florin Curta: Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250, p. 196
  10. ^ Codex Diplomaticus Regni Croatiæ, Dalamatiæ et Slavoniæ, Vol I, p. 32
  11. ^ Codex Diplomaticus Regni Croatiæ, Dalamatiæ et Slavoniæ, Vol I, p. 34
  12. ^ Fine (Jr), John V. A. (1986). The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. pp. 160
  13. ^ "Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y". Journal of Croatian Studies ( I: 32–43. 1960. Retrieved 2010-03-04. 
  14. ^ De Administrando Imperio: XXXII. Of the Serbs and of the country they now dwell in
  15. ^ John Van Antwerp Fine: The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, 1991, p. 157
  16. ^ Ivo Goldstein: Hrvatski rani srednji vijek, Zagreb, 1995, p. 289-291
  17. ^ Canev, Bǎlgarski hroniki, p. 225.
  18. ^ Runciman, A history of the First Bulgarian Empire, p. 176.
  19. ^ Iohannes Diaconus, Istoria Veneticorum, p. 150 (Latin)"Qui dum Chroatorum fines rediens transire vellet, a Michahele Sclavorum duce fraude deceptus,
    omnibusque bonis privatus atque Vulgarico regi, Simeoni nomine, exilii pena transmissus est.
  20. ^ Fine (Jr), John V. A. (2006). When Ethnicity Did Not Matter in the Balkans, p. 63
  21. ^ Bellamy, Alex J. (2003). The Formation of Croatian National Identity: A Centuries-old Dream. Manchester University Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-7190-6502-X.
  22. ^ Darby, Henry Clifford (1968). "Croatia". In Clissold, Stephen. A short history of Yugoslavia from early times to 1966. Cambridge University Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-521-09531-X. 
  23. ^ Klaić N., Izvori za hrvatsku povijest do 1526, Zagreb 1972.
  24. ^ Klaić V., Povijest Hrvata, Knjiga Prva, Zagreb 1982
  25. ^ Janeković-Römer, Zdenka (December 1994). "Dr. Josip Lučić (1924-1994) [s bibliografijom]". Journal - Institute of Croatian History (in Croatian) (Institute of Croatian History, Faculty of Philosophy Zagreb) 27 (1). ISSN 0353-295X. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  26. ^ Goldstein, Ivo (1995). Hrvatski rani srednji vijek. Biblioteka Historiae, book 1. Novi Liber / Department of Croatian History, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb. ISBN 953-6045-02-8. 
  27. ^ Budak, Neven (January 1996). "O knjizi Ive Goldsteina ˝Hrvatski rani srednji vijek˝, Novi Liber: Zagreb 1995, 511 str.". Journal - Institute of Croatian History (in Croatian) 28 (1): 299–327. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  28. ^ Raukar, Tomislav (1997). Hrvatsko srednjovjekovlje: prostor, ljudi, ideje. Zagreb: Školska knjiga. ISBN 953-0-30703-9. 
  29. ^ Katušić, Maja (February 2005). "Povijest Hrvata, knj. 1, Srednji vijek (ur. F. Šanjek), Školska knjiga, Zagreb, 2003, str. 526". Papers and Proceedings of the Department of Historical Research of the Institute of Historical and Social Research of Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (in Croatian) (Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts) 22: 237. ISSN 1330-7134. Retrieved 2012-02-14. 
  30. ^ Šanjek, Franjo, ed. (2003). Srednji vijek. Povijest Hrvata, volume 1. Zagreb: Školska knjiga. ISBN 953-0-60573-0. 
  31. ^ a b c Fine, John Van Antwerp (2006). When Ethnicity Did Not Matter in the Balkans: A Study of Identity in Pre-Nationalist Croatia, Dalmatia, and Slavonia in the Medieval and Early-Modern Periods. University of Michigan Press. pp. 177–180. ISBN 0-472-11414-X.
  32. ^ "Description of the 1000 Kuna Banknote". Croatian National Bank. Retrieved 30 March 2009.

Further reading[edit]

  • Madgearu and Gordon, Alexandru and Martin (2008). The wars of the Balkan Peninsula: their medieval origins. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810858466. 
  • Šišić, F. (1925). Povijest Hrvata u vrijeme narodnih vladara (in Croatian). Zagreb. 
  • Smičiklas, T. (1882). Poviest Hrvatska, Dio Prvi: od najstarijih vremena do godine 1526 (in Croatian). Zagreb. 
  • Horvat J., Kultura Hrvata kroz 1000 godina, Prvi svezak, Ljubljana 1980.

External links[edit]

Tomislav of Croatia
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Duke of Croatia
c. 910 – 925
Title abolished
New title King of Croatia
925 – 928
Succeeded by
Trpimir II