Medieval principalities in southern Dalmatia

In the Early Middle Ages, following the Migration Period, South Slavs formed several small states in the southern part of the former Roman province of Dalmatia, encompassing the entire eastern Adriatic coast. Pagania or Narenta was a minor duchy between Cetina and Neretva. The territories of Zahumlje/Hum and Travunia probably spread much further inland and than the current Dalmatia does. Duklja began south of Dubrovnik/Ragusa and spread down to the Skadar Lake. All of these duchies were at the time self-ruled by their Slavic population that was, by religion, mixed pagan and Christian.

To the northwest, the Principality of Littoral Croatia controlled most of the northern part of former Roman Dalmatia, while the Principality of Serbia controlled the eastern, inland part. Duklja, Zahumlje and Travunia were collectively referred to as Red Croatia[1][2] by De Regno Sclavorum from 753,[3][verification needed] found in the Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja from the late 12th century, while all four are referred to as Serbian[4] lands, their people originating from White Serbia by De Administrando Imperio by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitos from around 950.


Part of a series on the
History of Dalmatia
Roman Province
Middle Ages
Principality of Dalmatian Croatia
Dalmatian principalities
Kingdom of Croatia (medieval)
Early modern period
Republic of Ragusa
Republic of Poljica
Hvar Rebellion
Republic of Venice
19th century
Illyrian Provinces
Kingdom of Dalmatia
20th century
Littoral Banovina
Governorate of Dalmatia
Croatian War of Independence
In northern Dalmatia
In central Dalmatia
In southern Dalmatia
Main article: Pagania

The Principality border with Zachlumia at the river of Neretva. It was split on three lesser principalities (Makarska, Rastočka/Rastok,[5] Dalenska). The Pagans also controlled the islands of Mljet, Korčula,[6] Brač, Hvar. The main cities in Pagania were: fortified Omiš, Vrulja, Makarska, Ostrog, Lavćen.

The pirate-like people of Pagania/Neretva (named after river Neretva) expressed their buccaneering capabilities by pirateering the Venetian-controlled Adriatic between 827 and 828, while the Venetian fleet was off-broad, in the Sicilian waters. As soon as the Fleet of the Venetian Republic returned, the Neretvians fell back. The Neretvians were also known as Pagans, because by the time of their Christianization, all Slavs already accepted Christianity. One of their leaders was baptised in Venice. As soon as the chances were good, the Neretvians would immediately embark on new raids. In 834 and 835, they have caught and killed several Venetian traders returning from Benevent. To punish the Neretvians, the Venetian Doge had launched a military expedition against them in 839. The war went on together with the Dalmatian Croats, but a truce was signed very soon, although, only with the Dalmatian Croats and some of the Pagan tribes. In 840, the Venetians had launched an expedition against the Neretvian Prince Ljudislav, but utterly failed. In 846, a new operation is launched that raided the Slavic land of Pagania, destroying one of her most important cities - Kaorle, although this did not end the Neretvian resistance, as they continued to bravely oppose the Venetian conquers.

Neretvia was subjected to Serbian rulers like Petar Gojniković throughout the 9th century. Neretvians then aligned themselves with King Tomislav of Croatia in the first half of the 10th century. After King Trpimir II's death, Pagania was incorporated into the Serbian Principality ruled by Časlav of the Vlastimirović dynasty. The Serbian period marked Neretvia's Golden Age. In 945 King Krešimir of Croatia died, and Civil War erupted. The Neretvians used Prince Časlav's annexations of Croatian territories and took Kaza, Vis and Lastovo; also managing to defend their own islands of Mljet, Korčula, Brač and Hvar. In 948, Venetian Doge Pietro III Candiano of Crete dispatched 33 galleys against the Neretvians, but the military attempt ended so drastically, that since that moment Venetia had to pay taxes regularly to the Neretvian Princes and their supreme rulers.

The Venetian Doge Peter II Orseolo finally defeated them in 998 and self-proclaimed himself the Duke of the Dalmatians (Dux Dalmatianorum), though without prejudice to Byzantine suzerainty. In 1050, the Neretvians agreed to join the Kingdom of Croatia under King Stjepan I. The arisal of Duklja, and its reconstruction of the Serbian realm to the east would bring the occupation of Pagania, and eventual incorporation as a part of Zahumlje.


Main article: Zachlumia

Zahumlje (Zachlumia) got its name from the mountain of Hum near Bona, where the river Buna springs. There were two very old cities there: Bona and Hum. Zahumlje's ruling dynasty Višević or Vušević originated from the strims of the river of Vistula, somewhere in western White Serbia. They were referred to as Red Croats, but by the time of Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII's reign, they were Serbs. Zahumlje decisively resisted all attempts to be controlled from the Serbian Grand Princes to the north, and eventually its rulers asserted the Grand Princely title themselves. The land of Zahumlje spread eastwards to Kalinovik and the Fields of Gatak, where it bordered with Travunia. The actual border went along the Zachlumian line Popovo-Ljubinje-Dabar and the Byzantine enclave of Ragusa.

Zahumlje was divided into two Duchies: Upper Zahumlje and Lower Zahumlje by the Serbian rulers for easier control. Upper Zahumlje would soon be incorporated directly into Serbia, while lower would continue to exist. Zahumlje would pass through a period of vassalization to King Tomislav of Croatia, become dependent of the reconstructed Serbian realm under Duklja. After numerous dynastic struggles in the former Serbian lands, before which Zahumlje fully annexed Pagania, Zahumlje would become a direct part of the Grand Principality of Rascia.

Prince Peter of Zahumlje was elected Count of Split.


Main article: Travunia

Travunia or Terbounia has been a vassalaged dependent part of Serbia. It was described as part of aentity called Red Croatia. Thus, it was inhabited by Red Croats or Serbs. In the middle of the 9th century, Grand Prince Vlastimir gave his daughter to marry Prince Krajina of Travunia, giving him full independence. Although, after that, Travunia became a direct part of Serbia. After the Serbian realm of Prince Časlav Klonimirović of Serbia crumbled in the second half of the 10th century, Travunia was directly incorporated into Duklja.


Main article: Duklja

Duklja was a Serbian medieval state with hereditary lands roughly encompassing the territories of the Zeta River, Skadar Lake and the Boka bay and bordering with Travunia at Kotor. Duklja was at first a semi-independent part of the Grand Principality (Zhupanate) of Raška which was a vassal of the Eastern Roman Empire and later directly under Byzantine suzerainty until it won its independence in the mid-11th century, ruled by the Vojislavljević dynasty. After a large fall, Duklja was incorporated into the unified Serbian state, where it remained until its last remains' falling to Ottoman hands.

See also

Croatia portal



  • , De Administrando Imperio, The early history of the Slavonic settlements in Dalmatia, Croatia, & Serbia (1920),
  • , De Administrando Imperio,
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