Croatia in union with Hungary
After the death of the last member of the Trpimirović dynasty, King Stjepan II, there was a battle for the throne in Croatia, which ended with the election of the Hungarian king, Coloman from the Arpad dynasty, and the contracting of a personal union with Hungary, which lasted until 1918.
Within Within the new state union, Croatia retained territorial integrity until the reign of Bela IV (1235–79), who founded Slavonia as a new unit of the Croatian-Hungarian Kingdom, in the area which was formerly the Pannonian Principality. Its seat was Zagreb. At the same time, the Venetians conquered much of Dalmatia, while the regions by the central courses of the Vrbas and Sana rivers belonged to Bosnia. After the Arpad dynasty died out, a war of succession ensued. The Venetians took the remaining Croatian towns in Dalmatia, while the Bosnian rulers took southern Croatia from the Cetina River to the Neretva River.
The Bribir Dukes. This noble family from the Šubić line was named after the town of Bribir near Šibenik. They were the strongest feudal family in Croatia at the turn of the 14th century, and ruled most of the Croatian Kingdom, Dalmatia, Bosnia, Hum and part of the Neretva Principality. Pavao I, a Croatian ban and ‘Lord of Bosnia’, was preeminent among them. The Šubić Zrinski clan descended from the Bribir dukes and became the most powerful, richest Croatian nobles of the 16th and 17th centuries.
In 1309, Croatia came under the rule of Charles I Robert, from the Naples branch of the Anjou dynasty. His son, Louis I (Louis the Great) again united Croatia and Slavonia, seized back the territories occupied by Bosnia (1357) and the Venetians (the eastern shore of the Adriatic from Istria to the Bay of Kotor, in 1358), and enabled economic development and integration processes to take place from the Drava River to the Adriatic Sea.
During the reign of Louis’ heir, in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, a dynastic war developed, of which the Venetian Republic and Bosnia took advantage, again extending their territories into Croatian lands.
It was during this period that Dubrovnik began to arise in the far south of Croatia, built on the foundations of strong maritime, trade and crafts traditions, developing a rich culture, diplomacy, pharmacies and social institutions, and introducing mains water and a sewer system, among other things.
‘The bulwark of Christianity’ (1527–1683)
In the mid 15th century, the Ottomans began to press forward into Croatian lands, particularly after Bosnia fell under their rule in 1463. Their advance was halted by King Matthias Corvinus (ruled from 1458 to 1490), by the construction of a strong fortification system on the eastern borders of Croatia and Slavonia. However, defences were weakened after a victory by the Ottomans at the Battle of Krbava Field in 1493, in which the Croatian nobility was decimated.
‘The Bulwark of Christianity’. Antemurale christianitatis was the Latin expression used in diplomatic correspondence to describe Croatia (a letter from Pope Leo X sent in 1519 to the Croatian ban Petar Berislavić). Simultaneously, the phrase ‘remnants of the remnants’ (reliquiae reliquiarum) was also used, an abbreviation for the ‘remnants of the remnants of the once great and glorious Kingdom of Croatia’ (reliquiae reliquiarum olim magni et inclyti regni Croatiae).
Following the death of the last Croatian-Hungarian king, Louis II Jagiellon in the Battle of Mohács, the Croatian nobles elected Ferdinand I of the Habsburg dynasty as ruler in 1527. He opposed the pretender John Zápolya and fought against the Ottomans.
In order to strengthen the defences of Zagreb, the first joint Sabor (Parliament) of the Croatian and Slavonian nobility was held in 1558, at which the Croatian lands were united politically.
The Ottoman occupation of Croatian lands was halted in 1593 by the Battle of Sisak, and the Habsburgs established the Military Border for defence purposes in the border areas. The Military Border was not reunited with Croatia until 1881.
Croatia retained self-identity and statehood even in the personal union with Hungary, and later within the Habsburg Monarchy system, as can be seen from old maps on which the country is usually depicted as a separate political entity, including this map by the Dutch cartographer Gerard de Jode (Antwerp, 1593).
The dissatisfaction of the Croatian nobility with the commandeering of Croatian land, the desultoriness of the Habsburgs in terms of mounting a defence against the Ottomans, and their interference in the authority of the Croatian ban and the Sabor resulted in a failed anti-Habsburg plot in 1671, led by the ban Petar Zrinski and Fran Krsto Frankapan. The Habsburgs used the opportunity of crushing the plot to introduce absolute power over Croatia and Hungary.