Tomislav of Croatia

Tomislav (pronounced [tǒmislaʋ], Latin: Tamisclaus) was the first king of Croatia. He became Duke of Croatia in c. 910 and was elevated to kingship in 925, reigning until 928. During his rule, Croatia forged an alliance with the Byzantines against the Bulgarian Empire. Croatia's struggles with the Bulgarian Empire eventually led to war, which culminated in the decisive Battle of the Bosnian Highlands in 926. To the north, Croatia often clashed with the Principality of Hungary; the state retained its borders and to some extent expanded on the disintegrated Lower Pannonia.

King of Croatia
Reignc. 925–928
SuccessorTrpimir II
Duke of Croatia
Reignc. 910–925
FatherMuncimir (suspected)

Tomislav attended the Church Council of Split in 925, which was convened by Pope John X to discuss the use of Slavic language in liturgy and the ecclesiastical jurisdiction over Croatia and the Byzantine Theme of Dalmatia. Although the Pope sought to prohibit Slavic liturgy, the Council did not agree. Jurisdiction over the region was given to the Archbishop of Split instead of Bishop Gregory of Nin. Since historical information on Tomislav is scarce, the exact years of his accession and death are not known. The rules of his successors were marked by a series of civil wars in Croatia and a gradual weakening of the country.


Early Duke of CroatiaEdit

Map of the Southeast Europe in 910.

Tomislav's ancestry is not known, but he could have hailed from the House of Trpimirović.[1] There is a nearly twenty year time difference between the first documentation of Tomislav's name and the last mention of Muncimir, his predecessor as the Duke of Croatia. The historical records of Tomislav are scarce, but it is assumed that he was the son of Muncimir. Tomislav succeeded Muncimir, son of Trpimir I, to the throne of the Duchy of Croatia, either directly in about 910, which is the most widely accepted view,[2] or after the rule of different figures following Muncimir's death. In any case, Tomislav gained the throne of Croatia at some time between 910 and 914.[3] 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.[4]

Following the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin in the late 9th and early 10th century, the Hungarians immediately began raiding and expanding their territory. They particularly threatened the Lower Pannonia, that was still nominally under Frankish suzerainty, and killed the last Pannonian Duke Braslav.[3] The Hungarians also fought against Croatia,[3] although it wasn't a primary target of their raids.[5]

The Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja mentions that Tomislav, whose rule was specified at 13 years, successfully fought many battles with the Hungarians. Since the Venetian chronicler Andrea Dandolo and a notary of King Béla III mention Hungarian victories against Croatia in the same period, both sides had occasional gains.[6] Croatia did manage to maintain its northern borders, but also to expand on a part of the collapsed Pannonian Duchy, such as its former capital Sisak. The plains north of Sisak were difficult to defend in front of the Hungarian cavalry, while Sisak was well fortified since the times of Duke Ljudevit.[2] The sparsely populated area between the Sava and Drava rivers was on the outskirts of the Hungarian state, as well as of the Duchy of Croatia that was centered on the coastal areas, so neither country had the power to strengthen its rule there after the dissolution of the Duchy of Pannonia.[7]

East of Croatia, the power of the First Bulgarian Empire increased significantly. After a war between the Bulgarian Knyaz Boris I and Croatian Duke Trpimir I, the Croatian-Bulgarian relations were fairly good. Papal legates regularly went through Croatian territory, where they received protection, to Bulgaria. The situation changed in the 10th century during the reign of Simeon I, who decided to subordinate the Byzantine Empire to his rule.[2]

Tomislav's realm covered most of Southern and Central Croatia, the Dalmatian coast excluding the Theme of Dalmatia, parts of western present-day Herzegovina and northern and western present-day Bosnia.[3] In the early 10th century Croatia was divided into 11 counties: Livno, Cetina, Imotski, Pliva, Pset, Primorje, Bribir, Nona, Knin, Sidraga, and Nin. 3 counties, Lika, Krbava, and Gacka, where under the rule of a ban (viceroy of the king). Presumably within Tomislav's state, after its expansion, there were more than eleven counties.[8] Byzantine emperor and chronicler Constantine VII states in De Administrando Imperio that at its peak Croatia could have raised a vast military force composed out of 100,000 infantrymen, 60,000 horsemen and a sizable fleet of 80 large ships and 100 smaller vessels.[9] However, these figures are viewed as a considerable exaggeration and an overemphasis of the Croatian army.[3] According to the palaeographic analysis of the original manuscript of De Administrando Imperio, the population of medieval Croatia was estimated at between 440,000 and 880,000 people, while the military force was most probably composed of 20,000–100,000 infantrymen and 3,000–24,000 horsemen organized into 60 allagions.[10][11]

Coronation and Croatian KingdomEdit

Coronation of King Tomislav (modern painting by Oton Iveković)
A part of the letter transcript from 16th century allegedly written by pope John X to king Tomislav of Croatia in 925: "Joannes episcopus seruus seruorum dei dilecto filio Tamisclao regi Croatorum..."

Tomislav became King of Croatia by the year 925.[12] He was the first Croatian ruler whom the Papal chancellery honoured with the title "king".[13] It is generally said that Tomislav was crowned in 924 or 925, but is not known when, where, or by whom he was crowned.[14] The letters in which Tomislav was called a king were preserved in a version of Thomas the Archdeacon's History of Salona.[15] 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),[16] while in a letter sent by Pope John X Tomislav is named "King of the Croats" (Tamisclao, regi Crouatorum).[17] Although there are no inscriptions of Tomislav to confirm the title, later inscriptions and charters confirm that his 10th century successors called themselves "kings".[15]

In older historiography it was assumed that Tomislav was crowned at the field of Duvno near Tomislavgrad (named "Tomislav's City" in his honour), although there are no contemporary records of this event. This conclusion was derived from the Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja where a coronation of an alleged King "Svatopluk" (in a later version of the chronicle he was named "Budimir") and a council held on the field of Dalma were described. Some historians in the 19th century theorized that Tomislav and Svatopluk were in fact the same person, or that the author wrote the wrong name of the king.[18] Other theories suggest that the pope or one of his representatives had Tomislav crowned before the Church Council of Split in 925, or that Tomislav crowned himself.[19][20]

Church Councils of SplitEdit

In 925 Pope John X summoned a Church Council in Split to decide which of the bishops in the former Roman province of Dalmatia would gain ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The jurisdiction was contested between Gregory, the Croatian bishop of Nin, and John, the archbishop of Split. Prior to the council, Bishop Gregory was responsible for a significantly larger territory than Archbishop John, but his reputation and financial situation could not compete with that of the Archbishopric of Split. Split also claimed its continuity with the ancient Archbishopric of Salona, so due to this tradition, the council confirmed Split as the archiepiscopal see.[21][22] The territory from the river Raša in Istria to Kotor, including Nin, were subjected to Split.[23] Furthermore, the use of the Slavic language and Glagolitic script in the ecclesiastical service was also discussed. The Pope sought to condemn it, but the council did allow the use of Slavic for local priests and monks, although they were prevented from advancing to higher positions.[24]

Thomas the Archdeacon didn't mention the council in his History of Salona. Thomas claimed that Split had had ecclesiastical rights over former Roman Dalmatia since the 7th century, contradicting the conclusions of the council that gave these rights to Split in 925. Thomas apparently ignored the council so it wouldn't undermine his claims.[24]

The council was attended by Tomislav, who was referred to as a king in documents relating to it, and Michael of Zahumlje. According to some historians, Michael recognized Tomislav's rule, making Zachlumia a vassal of Croatia.[25] Tomislav did not protest against the decision of the council. Bishop Gregory appealed to the Pope and a second council, also in Split, was convened in 928 to resolve the controversial issues and 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.[22]

War with BulgariaEdit

During Tomislav's rule the Bulgarian and Byzantine Empires were at 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.[26] Croatia, also an ally of the Byzantines,[27] was now located between Bulgaria and the weakly defended Byzantine Theme of Dalmatia.[28] Tomislav may have been given some form of control over the coastal cities of the Theme of Dalmatia or a share of collected taxes for his assistance to the Byzantine Empire.[29] The Byzantines granted Tomislav the honorary title of proconsul, but there is no evidence that the Byzantines recognized the loss of their rights in the Theme of Dalmatia to Tomislav.[14]

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 off his advance into Croatia and completely destroyed his army at the Croatian–Bulgarian battle of 926 which probably took place in the eastern part of Bosnia. 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.[29][30][31]

It is unknown how Tomislav's life ended, but he disappeared from the political scene after 928 and was succeeded by Trpimir II.[32]

Geographical extentEdit

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

The geographical extent of Tomislav's kingdom is not fully known. 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,[33] which suggests that Tomislav's Croatia bordered Bulgaria, then under the rule of Simeon I.[34] 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.[35][36] Nevertheless, Croatian historian Nada Klaić disputed the eastward (i.e., Bosnian) extension of Tomislav's kingdom in her 1972 book.[37]

Josip Lučić and Franjo Šanjek's 1993 Hrvatski povijesni zemljovid (Croatian historical map) provided an extended depiction of Tomislav's kingdom.[clarification needed] Lučić was a known historical geographer from the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb who authored numerous maps in Croatian history books.[38] Ivo Goldstein in turn argued in his 1995 book Hrvatski rani srednji vijek that Tomislav made no crucial expansion deeper into inner Bosnia and that he incorporated only parts of Pannonia to the Kingdom of Croatia, not the whole area between Drava and Sava, which was according to him Terra nullius.[5] Neven Budak is in full agreement with Goldstein regarding the status of the Drava-Sava area, arguing that the northern Croatian border most likely passed through the wider Sisak area.[2] Dominant modern university history textbooks in Croatia such as Tomislav Raukar's Hrvatsko srednjovjekovlje (1997)[39] states 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,[40]also used as a university textbook, which includes this view.[41]

John Van Antwerp Fine stated that Tomislav's northern border was the Drava River. South of it he held "modern Croatia, Slavonia, northern and western Bosnia, and the territory along the Dalmatian coast from what is now Rijeka to at least the mouth of the Cetina River (excluding the scattered Byzantine towns)".[3] In his 2006 book, 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".[42] 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.'"[42] 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.[42]


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, named after him in November 1927. A monument in Zagreb by sculptor Robert Frangeš Mihanović was raised in his honor. The Bosnian city of Duvno was renamed Tomislavgrad (literally:Tomislavcity or Tomislavtown) in 1925 on the occasion of the 1,000th anniversary of his coronation by King Alexander I of Yugoslavia. Celebrations of the anniversary were held across the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In 1926 an obelisk in his honor was made in Livno.

On May 18, 1941, Prince Aimone, Duke of Aosta of the House of Savoy was proclaimed King Tomislav II of the Independent State of Croatia as a way to gain legitimacy for the Axis Powers Puppet State.

Tomislav's statue in Zagreb is depicted on the reverse of the Croatian 1000 kuna banknote, issued in 1994.[43] He also lends his name to a 'dark beer' which is brewed in Croatia.[44]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Tomislav", Croatian Encyclopedia (in Croatian), Leksikografski zavod Miroslav Krleža, 1999–2009, retrieved March 13, 2014
  2. ^ a b c d Budak 1994, p. 30.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Fine 1991, pp. 261–262.
  4. ^ Thomas (Spalatensis, Archdeacon): Historia Salonitanorum Atque Spalatinorum Pontificum, p.61
  5. ^ a b Goldstein 1995, p. 286.
  6. ^ Goldstein 1995, pp. 286–287.
  7. ^ Goldstein 1995, p. 285.
  8. ^ Fine 1991, p. 263.
  9. ^ De Administrando Imperio, XXXI. Of the Croats and of the country they now dwell in
  10. ^ Vedriš, Trpimir (2007). "Povodom novog tumačenja vijesti Konstantina VII. Porfirogeneta o snazi hrvatske vojske" [On the occasion of the new interpretation of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus'report concerning the strength of the Croatian army]. Historijski zbornik (in Croatian). 60: 1–33. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  11. ^ Budak, Neven (2018). Hrvatska povijest od 550. do 1100 [Croatian history from 550 until 1100]. Leykam international. pp. 223–224. ISBN 978-953-340-061-7.
  12. ^ Fine 1991, p. 297.
  13. ^ Budak 1994, p. 31.
  14. ^ a b Fine 1991, p. 264.
  15. ^ a b Florin Curta: Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250, p. 196
  16. ^ Codex Diplomaticus Regni Croatiæ, Dalamatiæ et Slavoniæ, Vol I, p. 32
  17. ^ Codex Diplomaticus Regni Croatiæ, Dalamatiæ et Slavoniæ, Vol I, p. 34
  18. ^ Goldstein 1995, pp. 299–300.
  19. ^ Nada Klaić, Povijest Hrvata u ranom srednjem vijeku; Zagreb, 1975., p. 290
  20. ^ Goldstein 1985, p. 50.
  21. ^ Goldstein 1995, pp. 278–279.
  22. ^ a b Budak 1994, p. 32.
  23. ^ Fine 1991, p. 269.
  24. ^ a b Fine 1991, p. 271.
  25. ^ Fine 1991, p. 160.
  26. ^ De Administrando Imperio: XXXII. Of the Serbs and of the country they now dwell in
  27. ^ Fine 1991, p. 157.
  28. ^ Goldstein 1995, pp. 289–291.
  29. ^ a b Florin Curta:Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250, p. 196
  30. ^ Canev, Bǎlgarski hroniki, p. 225.
  31. ^ Runciman, Steven (1930). A history of the First Bulgarian Empire. p. 176.
  32. ^ Nada Klaić, Povijest Hrvata u ranom srednjem vijeku; Zagreb, 1975., p. 311-312
  33. ^ Iohannes Diaconus, Istoria Veneticorum, p. 150 (in 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.
  34. ^ Fine 2006, p. 63.
  35. ^ Bellamy, Alex J. (2003). The Formation of Croatian National Identity: A Centuries-old Dream. Manchester University Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-7190-6502-X.
  36. ^ Darby, Henry Clifford (1968). "Croatia". In Clissold, Stephen (ed.). A short history of Yugoslavia from early times to 1966. Cambridge University Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-521-09531-X.
  37. ^ Klaić N., Izvori za hrvatsku povijest do 1526, Zagreb 1972.
  38. ^ 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.
  39. ^ Raukar, Tomislav (1997). Hrvatsko srednjovjekovlje: prostor, ljudi, ideje. Zagreb: Školska knjiga. ISBN 953-0-30703-9.
  40. ^ 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.
  41. ^ Šanjek, Franjo, ed. (2003). Srednji vijek. Povijest Hrvata, volume 1. Zagreb: Školska knjiga. ISBN 953-0-60573-0.
  42. ^ a b c Fine 2006, pp. 177–180.
  43. ^ "Description of the 1000 Kuna Banknote". Archived 2009-05-11 at the Wayback Machine Croatian National Bank. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
  44. ^ Zagrebačka Pivovara d.o.o.: Tomislav tamno pivo Archived 2013-07-26 at the Wayback Machine


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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