History of Croatia - Roman Provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia

Roman Provinces of Pannonia and Dalmatia

Dalmatia was the northern part of the Illyrian kingdom between the 4th century BC until the Illyrian Wars in the 220s BC and 168 BC when the Roman Republic established its protectorate south of the river Neretva. Area north of the Neretva was slowly incorporated into Roman possessions until the province of Illyricum was formally established c. 32-27 BC.

Dalmatia region then became part of the Roman province of Illyricum. Between 6 and 9 AD the Dalmatians raised the last in a series of revolts together with the Pannonians, but it was finally crushed and in 10 AD Illyricum was split into two provinces, Pannonia and Dalmatia. The province of Dalmatia spread inland to cover all of the Dinaric Alps and most of the eastern Adriatic coast. Dalmatia was the birthplace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who, upon retirement from Emperor in AD 305, built a large palace near Salona, out of which the city of Split later developed.

Historians such as Theodore Mommsen and Bernard Bavant aruge that all Dalmatia was fully romanized and Latin speaking by the 4th century. Others, such as Aleksandar Stipčević, aruge that that the process of romanization was rather selective and involved mostly urban centers but not the countryside, where previous Illyrian socio-political structures were adapted to Roman administration and political structure only in some necessities.

After the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476, with the beginning of the Migration Period, Julius Nepos shortly ruled his diminished domain from the Diocletian palace after his 476 flight from Italy. The region was then ruled by the Ostrogoths up to 535, when Justinian I added the territory to the Byzantine Empire. Later, the Byzantines formed the Theme of Dalmatia in the same territory.

The Roman period ends with Avar and Croat invasions in the VI-VII century and the destruction of almost all Roman towns. Roman survivors retreated to more favourable sites on the coast, islands and mountains. The city of Ragusa was founded by such survivors from Epidaurum.

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