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Dalmatia (Roman province)

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Provincia Dalmatia
Province of the Roman Empire
32 BC–481/482 AD

Province of Dalmatia within the Empire
• 19–16 BC (first)
Publius Silius Nerva
• 480–481/2 (last)
Historical eraAntiquity
220 BC–168 BC
• Established
32 BC
• Disestablished
481/482 AD
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Illyricum (Roman province)
Ostrogothic Kingdom

Dalmatia was a Roman province. Its name is derived from the name of an Illyrian tribe called the Dalmatae, which lived in the central area of the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It encompassed the northern part of present-day Albania, much of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia, thus covering an area significantly larger than the current Croatian region of Dalmatia. Originally this region was called Illyria (in Greek) or Illyricum (in Latin).

The province of Illyricum was dissolved and replaced by two separate provinces: Dalmatia and Pannonia.


The region which ran along the coast of the Adriatic Sea and extended inland on the Dinaric Alps was called Illyria by the Greeks. Originally, the Romans also called the area Illyria and later, Illyricum. The Romans fought three Illyrian Wars (229 BC, 219/8 BC and 168 BC) mainly against the kingdom of the Ardiaei to the south of the region. In 168 BC, they abolished this kingdom and divided it into three republics.[1] The area became a Roman protectorate. The central and northern area of the region engaged in piracy and raided north-eastern Italy. In response, Octavian (who later became the emperor Augustus) conducted a series of campaigns in Illyricum (35–33 BC).[2][3] The area became the Roman senatorial province of Illyricum probably in 27 BC. Due to troubles in the northern part of the region in 16–10 BC,[4][5] it became an imperial province. The administrative organisation of Illyricum was carried out late in the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD) and early in the reign of Tiberius (14–37 AD).[6]

Part of Illyricum[edit]

Due to Octavian having subdued the more inland region of Pannonia (along the mid-course of the River Danube), the Romans changed the name of the coastal area to Dalmatia. In 6–9 AD, there was a large scale rebellion in the province of Illyricum, the Bellum Batonianum (Batonian War).[7] Velleius Paterculus describes Gaius Vibius Postumus as the military commander of Dalmatia under Germanicus in 9 AD;[8] this is the earliest extant writing which indicates that the province of Illyricum comprised Dalmatia and Pannonia.

The province of Illyricum was eventually dissolved and replaced by two smaller provinces: Dalmatia (the southern area) and Pannonia (the northern and Danubian area). It is unclear when this happened. Kovác noted that an inscription on the base of a statue of Nero erected between 54 and 68 AD attests that it was erected by the veteran of a legion stationed in Pannonia and argues that this is the first epigraphic evidence that a separate Pannonia existed at least since the reign of Nero.[9][full citation needed] However, Šašel-Kos notes that an inscription attests a governor of Illyricum under the reign of Claudius (41–54 AD) and in a military diploma published in the late 1990s, dated July 61 AD, units of auxiliaries from the Pannonian part of the province were mentioned as being stationed in Illyricum.[10] Some other diplomas attest the same.[11] This was during the reign of Nero (54–68 AD). Therefore, Šašel-Kos supports the notion that the province was dissolved during the reign of Vespasian (69–79 AD).[12]

Administrative changes[edit]

Dalmatia in the 4th century

In 337, when Constantine the Great died, the Roman Empire was partitioned among his sons. The empire was divided into three praetorian prefectures: the Galliae; Italia, Africa et Illyricum; and Oriens. The size of the provinces had been decreased and their number doubled by Diocletian. The provinces were also grouped in dioceses. Dalmatia became one of the seven provinces of the diocese of Pannonia. Initially, it was under the praetorian prefecture of Italy, Africa and Illyricum. It seems that the three dioceses of Macedonia, Dacia and Pannonia were first grouped together in a separate praetorian prefecture in 347 by Constans by removing them from the praetorian prefecture of Italy, Africa and Illyricum (which then became the praetorian prefecture of Italy and Africa) or that this praetorian prefecture was formed in 343 when Constans appointed a prefect for Italy.[13]


German historian Theodor Mommsen wrote (in his The Provinces of the Roman Empire) that coastal Dalmatia and its islands were fully romanized and Latin-speaking by the 4th century.[14]

The Croatian historian Aleksandar Stipčević writes that analysis of archaeological material from that period has shown that the process of romanization was rather selective. While urban centers, both coastal and inland, were almost completely romanized, the situation in the countryside was completely different. Despite the Illyrians being subject to a strong process of acculturation, they continued to speak their native language (Illyrian language), follow their own gods and traditions, and maintain their own social-political organization, which was adapted to Roman administration and political structure only in some necessities.[15]


Independent Dalmatia - Extent of Marcellinus' Control (454–468), Julius Nepos' Control (468–480) and Ovida (480)

In 454 Marcellinus, a military commander in Dalmatia, rebelled against Valentinian III, the Roman emperor in the West. He seized control of Dalmatia and governed it independently until his death in 468.[16] Julius Nepos became the governor of Dalmatia even though he was a relative of the emperor of the East, Leo I the Thracian, and Dalmatia was under the western part of the Roman empire. Dalmatia remained an autonomous area. In 474, Leo I elevated Nepos as emperor of the western part of the empire in order to depose Glycerius, a usurper emperor. Nepos deposed the usurper, but was in turn deposed in 475 by Orestes, who made his son Romulus Augustus emperor in the west.[17] Leo I refused to recognise him and still held Julius Nepos as the emperor of the west. Romulus Augustus was deposed in 476 by Odoacer, who proclaimed himself king of Italy. Nepos remained in Dalmatia and continued to govern it until he was assassinated in 480. Ovida, a military commander, was in charge of Dalmatia thereafter. However, Odoacer used Nepos' murder as a pretext to invade Dalmatia, defeated Ovida and annexed Dalmatia to his kingdom of Italy. In 488 Zeno, the new emperor of the east, sent Theodoric the Great, the king of the Ostrogoths, to Italy so as to depose Odoacer. Zeno also wanted to get rid of the Ostrogoths, who were Roman allies and were settled in the eastern part of the empire, but were becoming restless and difficult to manage. Theodoric fought a four-year war in Italy, killed Odoacer, settled his people in Italy and established the Ostrogothic Kingdom there.[18] Dalmatia and the rest of the former diocese of Pannonia came under the Ostrogothic Kingdom.

List of governors of Dalmatia[edit]

Independent rulers in the 5th century[edit]


  1. ^ Livy, The History of Rome, 45.26.11-15
  2. ^ Appian, The Foreign Wars, The Illyrian Wars, 10.18-27
  3. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, 48.11,, 49.37-38
  4. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, 54. 24.3, 28.1-2 31.2-3, 36.2 3, 55.2.4
  5. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History, 2.96.2‑3
  6. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 2.25-26, 28
  7. ^ Cassius Dio, Roman History, 55.29-32. 34.4
  8. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History, 2.116.3
  9. ^ [73][74]
  10. ^ Dusanic, S., An Early Diploma Milirare, Starinar (1998) 51-62 = AE 1998, 1056 = M
  11. ^ Holder R., P Roman Military Diplomas IV (2003), no. 202
  12. ^ Šašel-Kos, Pannonia or Lower Illyricum? Tyche Beitrage zur Alten Geschichte, Paryrologie und Epigraphik, Band 25.2010, pp. 123-130
  13. ^ Barnes, Constantine: Dynastyr, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire, p. 160, 2011
  14. ^ Theodor Mommsen; William Purdie Dickson; Francis Haverfield (1886). The Provinces of the Roman Empire: From Caesar to Diocletian. Gorgias Press LLC. pp. 203–. ISBN 978-1-59333-025-5.
  15. ^ A. Stipčević, Iliri, Školska knjiga Zagreb, 1974, page 70
  16. ^ Damascius, Epitome Photiana, 91, fragments 158
  17. ^ Bury, J. B., History of the Later Roman Empire, p. 408.
  18. ^ Burns, T., (1984). A History of the Ostrogoths (1984), p. 44
  19. ^ CIL III, 2973, CIL III, 10017
  20. ^ Syme, Ronald (1989). The Augustan Aristocracy. Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-814731-2.
  21. ^ Dzino, Danijel (2010-01-21). Illyricum in Roman Politics, 229 BC-AD 68. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-19419-8.
  22. ^ Unless otherwise stated, the names of the proconsular governors from 69 to 139 are taken from Werner Eck, "Jahres- und Provinzialfasten der senatorischen Statthalter von 69/70 bis 138/139", Chiron, 12 (1982), pp. 281–362; 13 (1983), pp. 147-237
  23. ^ Unless otherwise stated, the names of the proconsular governors from 147 to 182 are taken from Géza Alföldy, Konsulat und Senatorenstand unter der Antoninen (Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 1977), pp. 224-227
  24. ^ Unless otherwise stated, the names of the proconsular governors from 182 to 235 are taken from Paul Leunissen, Konsuln und Konsulare in der Zeit von Commodus bis Severus Alexander (Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1989), pp. 240f


Sources and external links[edit]