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Bosnia and Herzegovina, History

earliest known inhabitants, eastern Roman empires, Illyrians, Avars, Neolithic period

The earliest known inhabitants of what is now Bosnia, traceable to the Neolithic period, were the Illyrians, a people of Indo-European stock who are considered ancestors of the modern Albanians. By ad 9, when Rome crushed the last Illyrian resistance in present-day Bosnia, all of Illyria had become part of the Roman Empire. Rome’s most enduring legacy in Bosnia was the division between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian faiths along the border between the western and eastern Roman empires. That border, first drawn around 285, passed through Bosnia.

As Roman power declined, successive waves of nomadic Goths, Alans, Huns, and Avars devastated the land before moving on. In the 6th century Slavic tribes, probably swept along with the Avars, settled in the area and soon absorbed the peoples, languages, and cultures that were already there. A second wave of Slavic tribes, called Serbs and Croats, arrived in the 7th century. The names Croat and Serb probably both derive from the name of an Iranian or Sarmatian tribe that ruled and was absorbed by them on the way.

Bosnia was first mentioned by that name in a surviving document from 958. The area became a remote mountainous borderland between successive competing empires and kingdoms that subjugated or claimed all or parts of it during the early medieval period. Bosnia’s Slavs were generally Christian, either Roman Catholic or Orthodox. In 1180 Ban (“governor” or “viceroy” in Croatian and Hungarian) Kulin created the nucleus of an independent Bosnian state, which was revived, consolidated, and expanded by Ban Stephen Kotromanic (reigned 1322-1353). Kotromanic’s conquest of Hum (later Herzegovina) in 1326 united Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first time. Medieval Bosnia reached its height under Stephen Tvrtko (reigned 1353-1391), who was crowned Tvrtko I, king of Serbia and Bosnia, in 1377. Under his rule, Bosnia briefly became the most powerful and prosperous Slavic Balkan state.

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Article key phrases:

earliest known inhabitants, eastern Roman empires, Illyrians, Avars, Neolithic period, Kulin, Huns, Croats, Serbs, Alans, early medieval period, kingdoms, viceroy, nucleus, peoples, ancestors, Roman Catholic, governor, Croatian, rule, border, cultures, languages, land, division, ad, parts, height, area, way, time


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