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Emergence of the Croatian People in the Balkans

Ivan Mužić ; HR, Split, Čiovska 2

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 465 Kb

str. 19-41

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Historical sources, particularly those from the mid-sixth century onward, indubitably speak of the settlement of certain ethnic groups from Northern Europe in the Central Balkans. Written sources and archaeological artefacts testify to the arrival of the Goths in the territory of Roman Dalmatia, and their rule in this area. Procopius said that the Goths in Dalmatia and Liburnia, after the end of their rule in the sixth century, were induced to remain by the Byzantine commander Constantianus, so that they did not emigrate from these regions. Anthropological and craniometrical investigations confirm that a slight number of new inhabitants settled in the central section of today’s Croatia. It is impossible to imagine that in the fifth, sixth or seventh century, or indeed anytime earlier, the until then unknown “Sclavini” rather suddenly appeared, and that they were so numerous that they conquered, in addition to other areas, the entire Balkans. Such a migration is confirmed neither by historical sources nor by archaeological finds. The continuity of numerous remains from the “Illyrian era“ of prehistoric culture of the indigenous inhabitants unquestionably proves the supremacy of the indigenous element in the ethnic sense. It was physically impossible to transport hundreds of thousands of people over a distance of more than thousand kilometres, with many natural barriers and the problem of transporting provisions, and to resettle them in new territories essentially different from their previous ones. Multidisciplinary investigations, especially anthropological and anthropogenetic research, prove without a doubt that the same population preponderantly lived in the Danube Basin and the Balkans from the prehistory to the Middle Ages under various names, and they were later designated by the common “Slavic” name. The three mediaeval sources which deal with migrations to the present Croatian territory (Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Libellum Gothorum, Thomas the Archdeacon) lead to the conclusion that the name Sclavi(ni)/Sklabenoi was used to designate in particular the immigrants arriving in the Balkans. However, these immigrants were also known by other names (Scythians, Avars, Goths), which makes it probable, that the appellation Sclavi(ni)/Sklabenoi, by which they were known in some Latin and Byzantine sources, may also have a polyethnic meaning. According to De administrando imperio, the first conquest of Dalmatia was Slavic-Avar, and the second wave was conducted by the Croats exclusively, who also carried out the second conquest of Salonae. In view of the fact that the Croats reconquered Dalmatia from the Avars, who were also called Slavs by Constantine Porphyrogenitus, it is obvious that these Croats were not identical to the Avars, or Slavs, who had conquered Dalmatia prior to the Croats. According to Thomas the Archdeacon, the Goths who settled in this area were referred to by some as Sclavi(ni) as well, while Thomas also called them Croats. His “Gothi et nichilominus Sclavi” completely correspond to the designation “Gothi qui et Sclavi” made by the Priest of Duklja (Presbyter Diocleas). It cannot coincidental that the writings of Thomas the Archdeacon (as well as the Latin edition of the writings of the Priest of Duklja) lead to the conclusion that to these two authors accorded the same meaning to the name Goth and Slav. According to the Priest of Duklja and Thomas the Archdeacon, the ethnic core under the Croatian name was in the Iapydic territory in the mid-sixth century or, according to Constantine Porphyrogenitus, in the mid-seventh century. It is important that all three sources are in complete agreement when they locate the Croats in the earlier Iapydic area of present-day Croatia. The description of the territory of Croatia under the suzerainty of the Croatian ban in De administrando imperio corresponds completely to the description of the Croatian territory in “The Croatian Chronicle” and Historia salonitana. All three sources in particular single out Lika, Krbava and Gacka as a unified area which can be considered the core of the early Croatian state. This motherland of the Croats was, according to Thomas the Archdeacon and the Libellus Gothorum, also a part of the Liburnian hinterland during the eighth century, which was very likely already occupied by the Franks by the end of the same century. The Sclavi(ni) from Liburnia and its hinterland were already staging occasional raids into the territory of the Dalmatae by the mid-sixth century. But they were able to actually occupy a part of the Dalmatian land only at the end of the eighth century or, more likely, at the beginning of the ninth century with the help of the Franks. The majority of the indigenous inhabitants continued even Antiquity to live under their old names. In the era of Frankish conquests in Dalmatia and the neighbouring countries, the population was distinguished by their special names (Guduscani, Dalmati). Disputes about differentiation, mentioned in Frankish sources dating to the first decades of the ninth century, could exist only between the newcomers called Sclavi(ni) and the existing native population called Dalmatae and Romans. The Romans (Latins) in the towns and the Dalmatae outside of the towns must have settled all possible disputes concerning their mutual borders long before the ninth century. It is clear from Frankish sources that up to the time of Borna two separate historical-political entities had existed, Liburnia and Dalmatia, which became a single political community under Borna with Frankish consent. From the wording of the Frankish sources it is apparent that in the second decade of the ninth century the following people lived in the wider territory of the Dalmatae (Dalmatini): 1. the newly-settled Croats (Sclavini), the Romans in the towns (sometimes also called Latins), and 3. in the hinterland, the non-Romanized indigenous Dalmatae (Dalmatini). Gottschalk’s testimony corroborates that besides the Latins in the towns, the Dalmatini and the Sclavi (Croats) were living in Dalmatia in the first half of the ninth century. The indigenous Dalmatae (Dalmatini) existed as a separate people also during the tenth and eleventh centuries, and this name, as confirmed also by Byzantine sources, did not designate the inhabitants of the coastal settlements. Extant documents refer to the Croatian rulers as the kings of the Croats and Dalmatini for the first time in the second half of the tenth century. If the Dalmatini were the same people as the Croats, such a differentiation in the name would make no sense. Croatia and Dalmatia then became a single geopolitical unit, which is proved by the designation “kingdom” (regnum). The palaeo-Balkan element is particularly important in the Croatian ethnogenesis, since it is evident the anthropological type of the prehistoric indigenous population is preponderant among the Croats. The Goths, who continued to live in the territory of Liburnia after the Gothic-Byzantine wars, also participated in the ethnogenesis of the Croats to a certain extent. The primeval nucleus under the Croatian name, even if it was not itself of Gothic origin, existed in very close military and political community with the Germanic Goths . The names of the Croatian rulers, especially those found on stone inscriptions, frequently have Germanic (Gothic) suffixes: -mer (-mereis). The existence of Gothic (Germanic) names and meanings in a comparatively great number of Glagolitic letters proves that this alphabet may have originated only in a political community or military alliance between the Croatian ethnos, on one hand, and some Germanic ethnos, on the other. The Croatian name spread over time even outside of the Liburnian-Dalmatian area. The geographical location of Lika, Gacka and Krbava was very favourable to the spread of Croatian dominion, and together with it to the spread of the Croatian name to present-day Slavonia, Bosnia and the seaboard. The same Catholic faith of the people who were living in what are nowadays the Dinaric, Mediterranean and Pannonian areas has particularly contributed to the feeling that they belong to the same people. Consequently, the modern Croatian people in the Balkans grew out of the merger of the warrior units of the “Gotho-Sclavians” from Northern Europe with the numerous indigenous populations already residing in the area. Judging by the remains of their indigenous pre-Christian culture and their anthropological-genetic traits, the Croats are for the most part ethnic descendants of the ancient Balkan population, to whom the collective designation of “Illyrian” had been imposed since the Roman era. Translated by Prof. Branimir Lukšić, Ph.D.

Ključne riječi

indigenous inhabitants; Dalmatae; Romans; Latins; Sclavini; Goths; Croats; Liburnia; Lika; Krbava; Gacka

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