Origin of the title
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 (zoupanias; župas), the ban βοάνος (Boanos), καὶ ὁ βοάνος αὐτῶν κρατεῖ (rules over) τὴν Κρίβασαν (Krbava), τὴν Λίτζαν (Lika) καὶ (and) τὴν Γουτζησκά (Gacka). 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.
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. In it she is introduced as "Ego Heleniza, soror Godemiri bani...". Franjo Rački noted that if is not an original, then is certainly a transcript from the same 11th century.
In the 12th century, the title was mentioned by Byzantine historian John Kinnamos, anonymous monk of Dioclea, and in the Supetar Cartulary. The Byzantine historian John Kinnamos wrote the title in the form μπάνος (mpanos). 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. 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. It mentions 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.
The Late Proto-Slavic word *banъ is not of native Slavic lexical stock, and is generally considered a borrowing from the Turkic language. The title origin among medieval Croats is not completely solved, and as much is hard to determine the exact source and to reconstruct primal form of the Turkic word it derives from. It is generally explained as a derivation from the Avar name Bayan, which is a derivation of the Proto-Turkic root *bāj- "rich, richness, wealth; prince; husband". The Proto-Turkic root *bāj- some explained as a native Turkic word, however it is generally considered a borrowing from the Iranian bay (from Proto-Iranian *baga- "god; lord"). Within the Altaic theory, the Turkic word is inherited from the Proto-Altaic *bēǯu "numerous, great". The title word ban was also derived from the name Bojan, and there were additionally proposed Iranian,[nb 1] and Indo-European (Gothic),[nb 2] language origin.
The Avar nameword bajan, which some scholars trying to explain title's origin interpreted with alleged meaning of "ruler of the horde", itself is attested as the 6th century name of Avar khagan Bayan I which led the raids on provinces of the Byzantine Empire. Some scholars assume that the name was a possible misinterpretation of a title, but Bayan already had a title of khagan, and the name, as well its derivation, are well confirmed.
However, the title ban among the Avars has never been attested to in the historical sources.
The title origin is unknown. It was used as "evidence" throughout the history of historioraphy to prove ideological assumptions on Avars, and specific theories on the origin of early medieval Croats. 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. 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. 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". However, modern scholars until now proved the opposite, that Avars never lived in Dalmatia proper, and that statement occurred somewhere in Pannonia.
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" Bayan, which is also a Persian title word (see Turkish bey for Persian bag/bay), and neglected that it should derive from the Slavic name Bojan. 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.
Franc Miklošič wrote that the word, of Croatian origin, probably was expanded by the Croats among the Bulgarians and Serbs, while if is Persian, than among Slavs is borrowed from the Turks. 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. Đuro Daničić decided for an intermediate solution; by origin is Avar or Persian from bajan (duke).
J. B. Bury derived the title from the name of Avar khagan Bayan I, and Bulgarian khagan Kubrat's son Batbayan, with wich tried to prove the Bulgarian-Avar (Turkic) theory on the origin of early medieval Croats. 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. 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).
Vjekoslav Klaić pointed out that the title before 12th century is only among Croats documented, 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). He mentioned both thesis (from Turkic-Persian, and Slavic "bojan, bojarin"), as well the German-Gothic theory derivation. Gjuro Szabo shared similar Klaić's viewpoint, and emphasized the widespread distribution of a toponym from India to Ireland, and particurarly among Slavic lands, and considered it as an impossibility that had derived from a personal name of a poorly known khagan, yet from a prehistoric word Ban or Fan.
Ferdo Šišić considered that is impossible it directly originated from a personal name of an Avar ruler because the title needs a logical continuity. He doubted its existence among Slavic tribes during the great migration, and within early South Slavic principalities. 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. The thesis of alleged Avar governor title Šišić based on his personal derivation of bajan from the title khagan. Nada Klaić advocated the same claims of Avars descendants in Lika, and considered bans and župans as Avar officials and governors.
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. 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.
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 title ban. 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). He considered that the early Croats originated from the Iranian-speaking Sarmatians and Alans. The view of the possible Iranian origin (from ban; keeper, guard), besides Avarian, was shared by the modern scholars like Vladimir Košćak, Horace Lunt and Tibor Živković.
Recently historian Tomislav Bali noted the possible connection of the Early Middle Ages title ban with the military and territorial administrative unit bandon of the Byzantine Empire. He considered that the Croatian rulers possibly were influenced by the Byzantine model in the organization of the territory and borrowed the terminology. Bali considered the assumption not less likely than the common interpretation according to which the term ban originates from the Avar bajan, or newer like by Vladimir Sokol from the Western early feudal rights. However, the Western influence of the title was still considered as possible by Bali as the Greek bandon (from the 6th century) and Latin bandus and bandum (from the 9th century; banner) originate from the Gothic bandwō, a military term used by the troops who had Germanic or fought against Germanic peoples.
Uses of the title
The title according current studies is known that was used for local land administrators in the Southern Slavic areas, mainly in Duchy of Croatia (8th century–c. 925), Kingdom of Croatia, personal union with Hungary (1102–1526) and later Croatian kingdom parts, the Banate of Bosnia (1154–1377), and Banate of Macsó (1254–1496). The title was later used in the historical Kingdom of Hungary and its dependencies.
The title was also used in Wallachia since the 13th century 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. In Croatia a ban reigned in the name of the ruler, he is the first state dignitary after King, the King's legal representative, and had various powers and functions.
The territory ruled by a ban was called Banat or Banovina, often transcribed in English as Banate, Bannate, Banat, Bannat.
References from the earliest periods are scarce, the De Administrando Imperio recalls the Croatian ban Pribina in the 10th century, while the 1067/1068 charter by King Peter Krešimir IV of Croatia; bans Pribina, Godemir during the reign of Michael Krešimir II (949–969) and Stephen Držislav (969–997), bans Gvarda/Varda, Božeteh, Stjepan Praska during the reign of Svetoslav (997–1000), Gojslav (1000–1020), Krešimir III (1000–1030) and Stephen I (1030–1058), and later bans Gojčo and Dmitar Zvonimir serving under King Peter Krešimir IV (1058–1074/5).
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).
Earliest mentioned Bosnian bans are Borić (1154–1163) and Kulin (1163–1204), when the medieval Bosnia had a similar suzerain status that Croatia 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.
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.
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
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, and the personal names;
A region in central Croatia, south of Sisak, is called Banovina or Banija. The region of Banat in the Pannonian Basin between the Danube and the Tisza rivers, now in Romania, Serbia and Hungary. In the toponymy of names Bando, Bandola, Banj dvor and Banj stol and Banovo polje in Lika, Banbrdo, village Banova Jaruga, city Banovići, and possibly Banja Luka.
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 (1929–1941).
In Croatian Littoral banica or banić signified "small silver coins", in Vodice banica signified "unknown, old coins". The Banovac was a coin struck between 1235 and 1384. In the sense of money it also meant in Romania, Bulgaria (bronze coins), and Old Polish (shilling).
The term is also found in personal surnames; Ban, Banić, Banović, Banovac.
- The Iranian theory besides the already mentioned, according some modern scholars additionally notes; the Persian-English dictionary by E. H. Palmer, where is mentioned that noun suffix bàn or vàn derives from verb (meaning "keeping, managing"), composing bâgh-ban (gardener), der-bân (gate keeper), nigah-bàn (records keeper), raz-bàn (vineyard keeper), galah-bàn (pastor), shahr-bān (town keeper), kad-bánú (lady; shahbanu) as well the verb baná (build), báni; banná (builder).; the title ba(n)daka (henchman, loyal servant, royal vassal), a epithet of high rank in the Behistun Inscription used by Achaemenid king Darius I for his generals and satraps (Vidarna, Vindafarnā, Gaubaruva, Dādṛši, Vivāna, Taxmaspāda, Vaumisa, Artavardiya), and the bandag in the Paikuli inscription used by Sasanian king Narseh. The Old Persian bandaka derives from banda, from Old Indian noun bandha, "bond, fetter", from Indo-European root bhendh, in Middle Iranian and Pahlavi bandag (bndk/g), Sogdian βantak, Turfan bannag.; the name Artabanus of Persian and Parthian rulers; the Elam royal rulers name Hu(m)ban, carried in honour of god Khumban, and the city Bunban; the title ubanus denoted to Prijezda I (1250–1287) by Pope Gregory IX.
- The Indo-European (Gothic) theory was emphasized by Vjekoslav Klaić, and Gjuro Szabo who developed the view by philologist Johann Georg Wachter from his Glossarium Germanicum (1737), and the similar viewpoint by Friedrich Kluge in his Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (1883). V. Klaić noted the relation between Gothic word bandvjan (bandwjan) and the widespread bannus, bannum, French ban, German bann, Spanish and Italian bando, with all to denote the office power grant or banner (see Ban (medieval) and King's ban). G. Szabo noted the Hesychius commentary banoi ore strongila (rounded hills), and Wachter's consideration that Ban signifies "hill, peak, height", and as such was transfered to the meaning of "high dignity". I. Mužić cites Korčula codex (12th century); Tunc Gothi fecerunt sibi regem Tetolam qui fuerat aliis regibus banus et obsedebat undique Romanis. I. Mužić additionally noted the consideration by Celtologist Ranka Kuić (Crveno i crno Srpsko-keltske paralele, 2000, pg. 51), who considered Ban a Celtic designation for "hill peak", while Banat as "hilly region".
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