Split's Ethnic and Political Identity until the Beginnings of the New Age

Saša Mrduljaš


In the early 7th century the Split palace-fortress of Emperor Diocletian became the last line of Roman (Byzantine) defense against the Slavic-Croatian penetration to the Adriatic area. While the penetration stopped under its walls, the Roman- -Dalmatian city of Split gradually formed within them. In the immediate neighbourhood of Split, however, the most important centre of the early medieval Croatian state was formed. The initial conflicts were eventually replaced by integrative processes. They in turn led to political unification and Split assumed the role of the Croatian centre of religion. Further development led to the Croatisation of Split's Roman population and a growing immigration of Croats. Thus, by the 14th century Split had become an ethnically Croatian city and one of the most important centres of Croatian culture. Because Split belonged to various government entities, its citizens were required to express their loyalty to these countries in various ways. But from its beginnings, Split had demonstrated an aspect of political self-sufficiency, which would have a crucial effect on the features, roughly speaking, of the patriotic dimensions of Split's political identity. Although its ideological and organizational foundations were laid when it was predominantly a Roman city, Split expressed its political individuality to its fullest in a time when its ethnic character was distinctly Croatian. Yet by the beginning of the new age, affected by the penetration of the Ottoman Empire, Split's patriotism had been complemented by expressions of strong support for the idea of political unification of Christians under the leadership of the papacy and striking manifestations of proto-national Croatianhood.


Split; ethnic identities; Romans; Croats; patriotism

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Print ISSN 1330-0288 | Online ISSN 1848-6096