Zadar, Italian Zara, Roman Iadera, occupies a peninsula on the mid-Adriatic Croatian coast. Despite her distinguished history as the political capital of Byzantine Dalmatia, Zadar’s peripheral geo-political position has also rendered her vulnerable, and for centuries she has struggled for self-determination against Venetian pressure. Though Zadar in the 1348-1418 period is not yet a centre of humanistic literary experimentation, she is nevertheless the source and setting of a major work of historiographic action literature that retains its power to grip readers to the present day. The town also lies at the centre of a remarkable Church Slavonic and vernacular regional literacy written in arcane Glagolitic script.
To allow readers to experience the drama of the former, and sense the texture of the latter, which is far removed from the norms of either Western or Eastern Europe, my contribution is organized into two sections, each based on a flashback to a crucial event in the distant past that provides a necessary perspective to the Regeneration-era present.
The first flash-back transports the reader to the 7th-century Slavic invasion of Dalmatia, out of which Zadar’s unique Croatian-Roman synthesis arose. We briefly lay out Zadar’s subsequent history of struggle against Venetian domination, which provides the backdrop and context for the chronicle of The Siege of Zadar. The second flashback takes us to Greater Moravia and the Cyrillo-Methodian mission. It then moves back toward the post-1348 period, outlining the unlikely and partially obscure development of Croatian Glagolitic literacy, which is approaching its golden age in Regeneration-era Zadar. Zadar, during our period, finds itself simultaneously an urban hub both of Dalmatian Latinate culture and of the regional Church-Slavonic and vernacular Glagolitic literacy, the only area in Catholic Europe in which a non-Latin liturgy was at that time tolerated and actively practiced.