White Croatia and the arrival of the Croats: an interpretation of Constantine Porphyrogenitus on the oldest Dalmatian history


  • The material for this article was collected thanks to a grant offered by the Ca' Foscari University of Venice during the academic year 2008/9, when I worked as a research assistant with Stefano Gasparri. The opportunity to return to this topic was provided by a sponsored visit to the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften in the autumn of 2009, when I collaborated on the Wittgenstein Projekt 2005–2010, Ethnische Identitäten im frühmittelalterlichen Europa, coordinated by Walter Pohl. I would like to express my gratitude to these host institutions. Further thanks go to Florin Curta, Ewald Kislinger and Herwig Wolfram, who patiently helped me to make my own mind clear about the ideas summarized here. I would also like to thank Richard Corradini, Max Diesenberger, Stergios Laitsos, Stefano Petrungaro, Marianne Pollheimer and Roland Steinacher.


The article examines Constantine Porphyrogenitus' (913–59) witness on the arrival of the Croats in Dalmatia during the seventh century. The emperor's narrative proposes a migration from a land called White Croatia, located somewhere in central Europe, and a battle with the Avars in order to secure their new territory. The migration, although becoming an important element in nationalist thought, is not confirmed by any other source, neither contemporary, nor later, being reported only by Constantine. I propose that the migration was instead a literary pattern deployed by the emperor in order to explain the complex developments which brought a new elite, called Croats, to a leading position in tenth-century Dalmatia.