The legend of the death of King Zvonimir

The legend of the violent death of King Dmitar Zvonimir appears in several medieval sources. Almost every one of them is of questionable credibility with a hard-to-verify story. However, it is interesting that the violent death (that he was killed) of King Zvonimir is mentioned in several different sources, so that this thesis was even accepted by some Croatian historians of the 19th century.

The coronation of king Dmitar Zvonimir

The assumption of Zvonimir’s violent death first appears in the “Hungarian-Polish Chronicle” from the 13th century. It mentions the alleged Croatian king Casimir, whom the rebel Croats have killed, and after him comes an unnamed Hungarian king to avenge him and take over his throne.

The most important document from which the legend of the death of King Zvonimir was later created is the “Chronicle of the priest Dukljanin” from the second half of the 12th century. The first 23 excerpts of this work were translated into Croatian only in the 15th century. Also many of the things and events he writes about are of questionable credibility. In this work, it is said that King Dmitar Zvonimir was called by the Byzantine emperor Alexius I Comnenus after the Turkish conquest of Jerusalem to help him militarily in the fight against the Seljuk Turks in Anatolia. It is known that the call for the First Crusade was sent by Pope Urban II. 1095, and King Zvonimir died (or was killed) in 1089. It is possible, and even probable, that calls for help in the fight against the Turks were made even before the pope’s official call for a crusade, but the real truth will remain only in the sphere speculation. Legend goes on to say that the king invited the nobles to an agreement in Biskupija near Knin (“… the place of 5 churches …”) and that the Croatian nobility did not want to leave their homes for war in a foreign country and they rebelled and slaughtered the king. It is very interesting that archeological excavations in the 20th century really found the remains of 5 churches in Biskupija, which only further shows how difficult it is to separate the myth from reality in this story …

Biskupija near Knin

Theses about the assassination of King Zvonimir can still be found in the documents “Historia salonitana maior” from the 16th century, which is actually a transcript of previous older editions, and in “Chronicon breve Regni Croatiae” by Ivan Tomašić from 1563, which says that King Zvonimir with his behavior drew the wrath of the people upon himself and was killed by his cupbearer Tadija Slovinac. Both works offer us no real evidence for what has been written.

Of all theories about the credibility of this legend, modern historiography almost completely rejects Zvonimir’s violent death, and in recent literature there is an opinion that the legend is actually a modified version of the Czech legend about the death of Prince Veceslav.

Most of these national legends are the product of 19th century historiography, but the roots of this story go much further, in the 12th and 13th centuries. All this time it was preoccupied with the historians who dealt with her, and each gave his own note to the whole story. We will probably never know the real truth.

Published by borisbirosevic

Hi! My name is Boris Birošević. I live in Zagreb, Croatia. My father studied history so he passed the love for it on me from my youth ages. He always told me interesting stories from history. I loved listening to him and I was always attracted to that, for me, unexplored and mystical world. I read all six books “History of the Croats” by Vjekoslav Klaić during my elementary school. During high school, I was (I could say) the best in history in my generation, and I further expanded my knowledge in college because we had a lot of history-related subjects. By the way, I have a master of journalism degree. I have been studying and dealing with history for 25 years, on a daily basis. I have a broad and deep knowledge of Croatian, European and worldwide history. My goal is to transfer my knowledge to others in an interesting and even so objective way. On my website and blog, I will try to bring details from Croatian history closer to foreigners because it is still unknown to many and difficult to access. I will also cover some topics that are close and related to Croatian history in a certain way (Western Balkans, Slavs, Austria-Hungary, etc.) I hope that on my page everyone will find something for himself. For me, history is not a job but a calling… Join me on my website "HISTORY OF CROATIA and related history"...

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