Faculty of Philosophy, Belgrade
ARCHEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE OF SLAV CULTURES ON THE EASTERN ADRIATIC
COAST IN MEDIEVAL TIMES
by Jelena Stojićević
1st International Conference on Succesion of Adriatic Sea &
on Borders Inside Former Yugoslavia, Belgrade, September 2003
Takođe, srpska verzija:
Arheološka svedočanstva o slovenskim kulturama
na istočnoj obali Jadrana u Srednjem veku
Ćirilica • Latinica
This presentation will be based on archeological and written sources about the Slavs on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. From the 6th century onwards Slavic predominance in this region is undisputable. Of course, cultural and ethnic history of this region has a preceding history. The so-called Illyrians used to live there, but Greeks inhabited this coast between the 5th and 4th century BC. The Romans invaded Dalmatia in the Illyrian Wars and finally conquered it in the 9th century BC by crushing the Panonnian uprising. The era of Latin colonization and Romanization of urban indigenous population began. According to available facts, the people who started coming to this region in the 4th century during the Great Migrations, encountered the Roman-Hellenic culture in towns, while the natives who lived in rural areas preserved many of their cultural traits.
Slavs from the Danube Basin started to come to this region in the 6th century.
Of course, written records are exclusively of Latin and Greek origin. There are very few records from this time which explicitly mention the Slavs in the Adriatic from 6th until 9th century. Epistles of Pope George I (590-604) indicate that the Slavs lived in the vicinity of Salona in the 600s AD and that they were penetrating Italy.(1) Paul Deacon (720-797AD) noted Slav conflicts with Langobards in Northern Italy, and the Slav attack on the Langobard Benevent in 662.(2) Written sources from the 10th century contain data related to earlier centuries; these are facts from the work De administrando imperio of czar Constantine VII Porphiorgenitus (DAI)(3) and Historia Salonitana Maior of Thomas the Archdeacon.(4) These scriptures contain stories about the Slavs on the Adriatic. Serbs were allowed to inhabit Dalmatia by czar Iraklije (610-641); it was noted that the Croats inhabited this region during the lifetime of the same czar, but before the Serbs, which has not been confirmed by archeological sources. The Serbs were baptized then by Roman priests. In the beginning of the 7th century the Slavs living in Dalmatia north of Cetina conquered Salona, the capital of Dalmatia, and the surrounding coast, out of retribution. Afterwards, in 641, the Slavs allowed the Romans from Split to take the remains of their saint form the ruins of Salona, upon the order of Byzantine czars, as they were obviously the allies of Byzantium. According to Thomas the Archdeacon, the Slavs of Dalmatia embraced Christianity very early.
The proportion of might in the Adriatic significantly changed with the arrival of the Francs, who had destroyed the Langobard kingdom.(5) They conquered Istria in 788 AD, and then they invaded Dalmatia, having as an excuse an alleged attack of Tarsantians, who were of course Romans, on the Franc army. War with Byzantium and the Serbs followed, which ended with a peace agreement in Ahen in 812. The consequences of this agreement were that the Francs took over Istria, the Croats inhabited the region stretching from Tasatika (Rijeka) until Cetina and Licik in rear Zahumlje, between Neretva and Dubrovnik. Conflicts followed between the settled Slavs, Croats on the one hand and Latin towns on the other. A first class epigraphic source comes from this period, a basin of a baptistery made during Prince Višeslav, a Serbian ruler from the beginning of the 9th century which was noted in DAI. This baptistery was probably brought from the monastery of St. Archangel Mihailo from the surroundings of Tivat in Boka to Dalmatia; it was brought to Zagreb in 1942 and then to Split, where it is now held. (6)
Thanks to a detailed description in DAI, and to many other facts, we now know the arrangement of Slavic kingdoms on the Adriatic coast in the mid 10th century. The first kingdom to the south was Diocletia, later known as Zeta, then Travunia (Trebinje) and Konavli, which were inhabited by the Serbs; Zahumlje with its capital in Stono, where the Serbs lived and where the Slavic Liciks were the ruling layer of society; and the people of Neretva, who were also Serbs, whose kingdom was bordering with the town of Split on the coast. Croatia stretched further from the sea until Labino in Istria, excluding the Roman islands and towns which were part of Byzantine thema of Dalmatia. Roman towns on the border with Croatia had to pay taxes. Later, in the 11th century, the Neretvans were united with the Croats, and afterwards they became part of the Nemanjić state.
Archeology mostly confirmed written sources; there has been greatest disagreement regarding when the Croats settled, because archeological sources indicate that this happened in the beginning of the 9th century, which is in collision with the firm stand from DAI that Croatians settled there during the time of czar Iraklije - but this has not been confirmed by any other written sources. (7) Here I shall give an outline of archeological facts about the Slavs on the Adriatic coast. They are in accord with written sources except for what was mentioned. The archeology of Slavs in the Adriatic, i.e. of their tribes and ethnicity, must be divided into years before and after Franc invasions, which had changed ethnic relations on the Adriatic coast.
Two Slavic cultures living on the eastern Adriatic coast divided in the 7th and 8th century. The third was the Byzantine culture of Latin speaking Romans who lived in coastal towns, and who had distinctions similar to those found in Sicily, Athens and Corinth or Hersones. The Serbs lived in the southern region, the border of which, according to present knowledge, stretched from the mouth of the river Drim towards the south-east, and from the north-west (vicinity of Split) further towards Velebit on the coast. This culture left monasteries along the Adriatic coast, on Prevlaka and Majsan, which contained characteristic Seerbian pottery, a cemetery with graves which bore the testimony of Trizna in the settlement of Kameno situated above Herceg Novi, as well as other archeological cites further inland.(8) There are traces of Slavic culture from Šibenik until Poreč, and its characteristic urns from the 6th and 7th centuries, which were found in the vicinity of Skradin and several other unreliable archeological cites, which contain individual cites with pottery, such as Dvograd in Istria.(9) The same region contains two kinds of tombstones. In Kašić next to Zadar, there was a find of urns craftily decorated with combs.(10) The dead buried in Istrian cemeteries wore clothes that contained Slavic distinctions (small arrows, flint and steel, buckle, etc), and clear Byzantine influence (buttons, jewelry).(11) It appears that these belonged to members of two different tribes, one of which inhabited Istria while the other inhabited the northern coast of Dalmatia. People living in Istria were in a kind of alliance with Byzantium, which is obvious from the acceptance of Byzantine culture. The Slavs in Radni Kotari were more constant in preserving their tradition, but they obviously had good relations with coastal towns.
Great changes occurred during Charlemagne's invasion. He dramatically widened the borders of his state, which stretched from the region of present-day France and Germany to Italy and Pannonia. He tried to conquer entire Dalmatia. The new archeological picture of the 9th century can now be divided into the Serbian, Croatian and an imprecisely determined Istrian culture, alongside with the Roman culture in towns. Serbian culture was established in archeological deposits on Prevlaka, which were closed down in the Arabic attack in 867, and these deposits primarily contain pottery that has been typical of Serbian regions for centuries.(12) Croatian culture was encountered on numerous archeological cites, i.e. on cemeteries characteristic for Croatian culture. (13) Apart from indisputably Croatian traits, which had not been recorded in Dalmatia before and which had a characteristic Franc influence, these cemeteries contain traits of previously settled Slavs, including Serbs (pottery).(14) This culture is entirely in accord with boundaries which were indicated in DAI, but excluding Lika. This layer of society was clearly differentiated in Istria, and there are no archeological cites characteristic of Croats from that period.(15)
Architecture of churches in the 10th and 11th centuries began to differentiate. On the territory of the Croatian state there were numerous temples, sometimes with stone decorations or inscriptions, which are testimony of important construction activities which took place on territory stretching from Solin to Knin from the 9th-11th century.(16) Churches characteristic of Istria were built during a much longer period.(17) In Dalmatian Byzantine towns there are also no such temples, except for churches which bear the base of six leaves, which were used for baptizing in the 9th and 10 century, found in Croatia as well.(18) The 11th century Zetsko-Zahumhska group of churches is found towards the south. These churches have bases that are divided into three traves, with an apsis facing the east, which has four corners in the exterior, while in the interior it is shaped into a semi-circle. They can be found on the territory stretching from Drim to Cetina, including the nearby islands, and this territory is actually equivalent to the borders of the state of king Mihailo Vojislavić and his son king Constantine Bodin. (19)
Stone inscriptions written in the Slav language begin to emerge from the 12th century. Cyrillic inscriptions are characteristic of the southern region. They are found in the west, in the area stretching from Venice, Brač, Poljice next to Split, and further inland towards Velebit. (20) These inscriptions are partly found in churches while the rest are epitaphs, called Mramors among the folks but scientifically known as Stećci.(21) The Mramors are characteristic of the Serbian population living in the 14th and 15th centuries. At the coast they stretch from the vicinity of Budva to Poljice. Glagolithic inscriptions are typical for the region of Istria and for the western island of former Byzantine thema of Dalmatia.(22) Glagolithic inscriptions were sporadically found in the region of old Croatia, and indication of this is a fast Latin transformation of the Church, uncharacteristic of Istria.
The arrangement of Cyrillic inscriptions matches with the area of activities of the Orthodox Church and with the areas inhabited by Serbs. Two stone bishopric thrones of St. Sava, the 'Archbishop of Dalmatia and Dacia', were found at the coast, in Stono, in Pelješac, and next to Tivat in Boka.(23) The Roman Catholic Bar archbishopric functioned on the territory of the Nemanjić state at the same time. They were founders and donors of churches and monasteries of the Catholic Church, such as the Mother of God's monastery of the Benedictine order in Venice.(24) In other words, cultural characteristics should not be only put in relation with political predominance, reflected in belonging to a particular church or state, but also with the ethnic situation.
The archeological cites and written sources that are mentioned in this survey can help draw reliable conclusions. Two groups of Slavs lived on the eastern Adriatic coast in the 7th and 8th centuries, and they bordered somewhere between Split and Šibenik. Serbs lived in the southeast, while there were one or perhaps two south Slavic tribes which had arrived from the middle Danube Basin. They were allies of Byzantium in a certain way, as the events in Salona and Benevent show, i.e. the clashes of Slavs from the region of Istria, with the Langobards who lived westwards from Soča. After the Franc invasion, Croats began inhabiting the land which lay between them and the Francs, and the area between Krka and Nin became their home. They somewhat mingled with the Slavs who were living there before. From then on, the situation has continuously been more or less the same. The Serbs live from the mouth of river Drim to Split, the Croats live in the area stretching from Split to Rijeka, and a Slavic tribe which does not have a recorded name lived in Istria. Of course, the Latins or Romans, lived in towns from Venice to the north to Kotor in the south, including the islands between Split and Pula, and they were a kind of linking factor between them.
(1) Gregorii I papae registrum epistolarum, ed. P. Ewald, Monumenta Germaniae
Historia, Epistolae II, Berlin 1899, 374-378
(2) Pauli Diaconi Historia Langobardorum, ed. L. Betham, G. Waitz, MGH, Scriptores
rerum Langobardicarum et Italicarum, saec. VI-IX, Hanoverae 1878, IV 44.
(3) Constantine Porphyrogenitus De administrando imperio, ed. G. Moravcsik,
English translation by R.J.H.Jenkins, Budapest 1949, cap. 20-36.
(4) According to N. Klaić, Historia Salonitana Maior, Belgrade, 1967, 91-99.
(5) Annales regni Francorum (et Annales qui dicuntur Einhradi), Ed. G.H. Pertz,
(6) V. Delonga, Latin epigraphic monuments in early medieval Croatia, Split
1996, 204-207, with literature; in the interpretation of this baptistery, the existence
of king Višeslav is omitted in DAI - he was the first Serbian king, well-known, who
ruled in the beginning of the 9th century, at the time of this baptistery.
(7) L. Margetić, Constantine Porphirogenitus and the time of arrival of the
Croats, Collection of the Historical Institute JAZU 8, 1977, 5-100, and later other
researches discovered that the Croats came around 800 AD.
(8) Đ. Janković and associates, Prevlaka - monastery of St. Archangel Mihailo,
Prevlaka - Herceg Novi 2000, 12-12, 15; C. Fisković, Early medieval ruins in Majsan,
Old Croatian Prosvjeta 11, Spllit 1981, 137-163; I. Pusić, Slavic necropolis in Kameno,
Boka, Herceg Novi 972, 61-67.
(9) Z. Gunjača, cemetery in Dubravice in Skradino and other cemeteries in
8th and 9th centuries in Dalmatia, Ethnogenesis of Croats, Zagreb 1995, 159-160;
Z. Vinski, Gibt es fruhslawische Keramik aus der Zeit der sudslawischen Landnahme?
Archeologia Iugosalavica I, Belgrade 1954, 71-73; B. Marušić, The Basilica complex
of St. Sophia in Dvograd, Historiaa Archeologica II 2, Pula 1971, 41, T. 34; Material
culture of Istria from 5th to 9th centuries in Archeological research in Istria and
the Croatian coast, Pula 1987, 93, pp. 16.
(10) J. Belošević, Die erstern slawischen Urnengraber auf dem Gebeit Jugoslawiens
aus dem Dorfe Kašić bei Zadar, Balcanoslavic 1, Prilep - Belgrade 1972, 73-86.
(11) For characteristics of medieval archeology of Istria, see. B. Marušić,
ibid 1987, 81-103, with older literature.
(12) Đ. Janković, On traditional Serbian pottery in the late medieval times,
in Collection of the Ethnographic museum in Belgrade, 19041-2001, Belgrade 2001,
(13) J. Belošević, Material culture of the Croats from 7th to 9th centuries,
(14) Dishes void of decorations are typical of Croats and have not been recorded
elsewhere (pots, jugs, bottles), sometimes marked with signs that are of Bulgarian
origin (Belošević, ibid, T. LIII-LIX, LXIII). What is typical of Franc influence
is that characteristic weapons and equipment - swords, spears, spurs, flasks, etc.
- were buried with the dead. Placing dishes with food was not characteristic of Francs
and Slavs, but it was of the Avars and Bulgarians. The discovered pots were differently
decorated, and can be related to the pottery in Serbian areas and in the west of
Southeastern Europe (e.g. Belošević, ibid, T. LXI/2, 7-9)
(15) B. Marušić, Material culture of Istria from 9-12 c. in Archeological
research in Istria and the Croatian coast, 107-122.
(16) T. Marasović, Contribution to the morphological classification of early
medieval architecture in Dalmatia, in Contributions to research of old Croatian architecture,
Split 1978, 4-129.
(17) B. Marušić, Istrian group of monuments of sacral architecture with inscribed
apsis, Historia Archaeologia V 1-2, 1974
(18) T. Marasović, ibid, 31-39.
(19) T. Marasović, Regionalism in early medieval architecture of Dalmatia,
Old Croatian education 14, Split, 1985, 137-141, 150-156; B. Đurić, Art Beginnings
of Serbs, in History of the Serbian people I, 235-236.
(20) R. Mihaljčić, Nemetragende Steiniscriften in Jugosavien vom Ende des
7. bis zug Mathe des 13. Jahrhunderts, Glossar zur fruhmittelalerlichen Geschichte
im Ostlichen Europa 2, Wiesbaden 1982; S. Beslagić, Stecci, a survey of catalogues
and topography, Sarajevo, 1971, map 11.
(21) S. Bešlagić, ibid
(22) B. Fučić, Inscriptions in Glagolithic, Zagreb, 1982, 1-5, picture 2-4.
(23) M. Janković, Bishoprics and Metropolitan's residences of the Serbian
Church in the medieval times, Belgrade, 1985.
(24) B. Đurić, A change in the art of Nemanjić's period, in History of the
Serbian People, 273-281.
// Project Rastko / Archaeology //
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