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King Tomislav

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Title: King Tomislav  
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King Tomislav

King Tomislav, painted by Josip Horvat Međimurec (February 1941)
King of Croatia
Reign 925–928
Coronation 925
Successor Trpimir II
Duke of Croatia
Reign c. 910 – 925
Predecessor Muncimir of Croatia
House House of Trpimirović
Father Muncimir of Croatia
Died 928 ?
Burial Church of Saint Stephen, Solin ?
Religion Christian

Tomislav (pronounced [tǒmislaʋ]; died 928) was a ruler of Croatia in the Middle Ages. He reigned from 910 until 928, first as Duke (dux Croatorum) of Dalmatian Croatia in 910–925, and then became first King (rex Croatorum) of the Croatian Kingdom in 925–928.

Tomislav was one of the most prominent members of the House of Trpimirović. He united the Croats of Dalmatia and the Slavs of Pannonia into a single state and is generally credited as the founder of a kingdom which lasted for several centuries. He is said to have ruled over the territory of today's Croatia and Bosnia, rounding off his state from the Adriatic Sea to the Drava river, and from the Raša river in Istria to the Drina river. Since the historical records of him are scarce, it is assumed that he was the son of Muncimir, Duke of Dalmatian Croatia, whom he succeeded around 910.[1][2]


Early Duke of Croatia

Tomislav defeated the Magyar mounted invasions of the Arpads in battle and forced them across the Drava River. Tomislav annexed a part of Pannonian Croatia to his Croatian Dalmatia. This included the area between the rivers Drava, Sava and Kupa, so his Duchy bordered with Bulgaria for a period of time. This was the first time that the two Croatian Realms were united, and all Croats were in one state.

The Duke had to face renewed threats from the Bulgarians under Tsar Simeon I who had already conquered the Serbs. In 923, the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Byzantine Emperor offered to deal with Simeon's threat if Pope John X would accept a rejoining of the divided Sees of Rome and Constantinople. The Pope also demanded that the Patriarch give him the sovereignty over the Dalmatian Byzantine Cities. After this was done, the Byzantine Emperor gave Duke Tomislav the coastal Cities under his Governency: the Byzantine Province of Dalmatia (Zadar, Split, Trogir...).

At the peak of his reign, according to Byzantine emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos' De Administrando Imperio, written around 950, Tomislav could have raised a vast military force composed out of 100,000 infantrymen and 60,000 horsemen and a sizable fleet of 80 large ships and 100 smaller vessels.[3] These figures are largely disputed due to the historical period, historians argue that the numbers are a clear exaggeration and an overemphasis that should be interpreted differently.

Coronation and Croatian Kingdom

By the claiming of the coastal cities of Dalmatia, Tomislav raised the question of sovereignty of the Croatian Diocese of Nin. In 925 the Pope summoned a synod in Split to resolve the situation, and in a letter sent to Tomislav, recognised him as king (rex) of Croats. According to the latter medieval sources, Tomislav was crowned at the field of Duvno (named Tomislav's City in his honour), although there are no contemporary records of this event.

In 925, Tomislav attended the Synod in Split, in which the Latin Bishops and Abbeys of the Dalmatian coastal towns outvoted Grgur, bishop of Nin, and his supporters, so the supremacy of the Archbishopric of Split was affirmed. Furthermore, the use of the Slavic language in the ecclesiastical service was banned, allowing only the use of Latin. This, however, had very little effect in reality, as the number of clerics who knew Latin was sparse throughout the kingdom. Indeed, the great era of Glagolitic Slavic script was just beginning in Croatia. However, to gain support of the Pope, Tomislav probably sided with the Latinist side and the metropolitan archdioceses of Split. At the council, Split was defined as the religious center of Croats, as well as some Zachumli, who were represented by Michael of Zahumlje, who, according to some historians, recognized Tomislav's rule.[4] A second synod in Split was summoned in 927/928 to 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.[5]

In 924 the Bulgarians under Emperor Simeon destroyed the state of Raška, and a large part of the Serbian population fled to Croatia. They were chased by a Bulgarian army led by Alogobotur, but Tomislav cut his advance into Croatian realm and entirely destroyed his army at the Croatian–Bulgarian battle of 927 which probably took place in the north-eastern part of Bosnia. The Croatians under Tomislav won a great victory, decimating the entire Bulgarian force. Fearing a Bulgarian retribution, Tomislav accepted to abandon his union with Byzantium and make peace on the basis of the status quo, negotiated by the papal legate Madalbert.[6][7]

It is unknown how Tomislav's life ended, but he disappeared from the political scene after 928. At the time of his death there was discord in the country over whether the liturgical language of the Roman Catholic Church in Croatia would be Latin or Croatian. Decades of famine and pestilence raged through most of the Southern Europe. He was succeeded by Trpimir II, who was either his son or his younger brother.

Geographical extent

The geographical extent of Tomislav's kingdom is not fully known. 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.[8][9] Nevertheless, Croatian historian Nada Klaić had disputed the eastward (i.e. Bosnian) extension of Tomislav's kingdom in her 1972 and 1982 books.[10][11]

Josip Lučić and Franjo Šanjek's 1993 Hrvatski povijesni zemljovid (Croatian historical map) provided an extended depiction of Tomislav's kingdom. Lučić was a known historical geographer from the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb who authored numerous maps in Croatian history books.[12] Ivo Goldstein in turn claimed that Tomislav never ruled Bosnia in his 1995 book Hrvatski rani srednji vijek.[13] Neven Budak published a lengthy critique of the latter book but one that went even further in arguing that vague historical sources should not be broadly interpreted in favor of the national history narrative.[14] Dominant modern university history textbooks in Croatia such as Tomislav Raukar's Hrvatsko srednjovjekovlje (1997)[15] consider 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,[16] which is also used as a university textbook also includes such a view.[17]

In his 2006 book, John Van Antwerp 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".[18] 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.'"[18] 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.[18]

This issue is frequently debated due to modern Croatian national ideologies; it actually bears little importance on medieval Bosnian history, since the pre-Ottoman ethno-cultural landscape of this country was formed mainly in the period from the 13th to the 15th century.


Tomislav is celebrated as the founder of the first united Croatian state. In the Croatian capital of Zagreb, there is a square dedicated to Tomislav. A monument in Zagreb by sculptor Robert Frangeš Mihanović was raised in his honor. Near the place where he was crowned lies the town of Tomislavgrad (literally:Tomislavcity) which was the name given in 1925 at the 1,000th anniversary of his coronation by Aleksandar Karađorđević. In 1926, the obelisk in his honor was made in Livno. Tomislav's statue in Zagreb is depicted on the reverse of the Croatian 1000 kuna banknote, issued in 1994.[19] He also lends his name to a 'dark beer' which is brewed in the region.

See also

Croatia portal



  • Horvat J., Kultura Hrvata kroz 1000 godina, Prvi svezak, Ljubljana 1980.

External links

  • Karl Baricevic, Royal Croatia - Tomislav
  • Croatia in the 10th and 11th centuries: maps from the preeminent Croatian historian Šišić's book
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Muncimir of Croatia
Duke of the Dalmatian Croatia
Succeeded by
Title abolished
Preceded by
New title
King/Princeps of Croatia
Succeeded by
Trpimir II
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