(died 20 April 1089
) was the King of Croatia
of the Svetoslavić branch of the House of Trpimirović
. He began as a ban of Slavonia
in the service of Stephen I of Croatia
and then as duke of Croatia
for his successor Peter Krešimir IV
. Peter declared him his heir and, in late 1074 or early 1075, Demetrius succeeded to the Croatian throne. He was the last native king who exerted any real power over the entire Croatian state, which he inherited at its height.
Banate of Slavonia and Croatia
From about 1065, during the reign of Krešimir IV, his relative through the Orseoli
, Demetrius ruled in Slavonia
(the land between the rivers Drava
) with the title of ban
At the beginning of 1075, Krešimir named Demetrius by the mercy of God Duke of Dalmatian Croatia. This title made him not only the ruler of northern Dalmatia, but also the chief advisor of the king and his heir. Krešimir died soon thereafter and Demetrius succeeded him.
Demetrius was crowned
on 8 October 1076
in the Basilica of Saint Peter and Moses
by a representative of Pope Gregory VII
. He ruled from Knin
, which today is nicknamed "Zvonimir's city." He continued the expansive and pro-Roman policies of his predecessor, maintaining close alliance with the papacy. He instituted the Gregorian reform
and took up many domestic reforms. During his reign, slavery was abolished in the kingdom.
Demetrius also took the hard line against the Byzantine Empire, but, unlike Krešimir, he was also an ally of the Normans, with whom he joined in wars against Byzantium. When Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia, invaded the western Balkan provinces of the empire in 1084, Demetrius sent troops to his aid.
There are several versions of Zvonimir's death. The most commonly accepted one, asserted by Thomas, Archdeacon of Split, asserts that Demetrius died of natural causes. Another account, from the Presbyter of Doclea, says that on 20 April 1089, Pope Urban II and Alexios I Komnenos responding to pleas from Constantinople against the Seljuks and the desire to heal the East-West Schism, asked Demetrius, his strongest Balkan ally, to come to the military aid of the empire against the Turk. Demetrius convened the Sabor at Kosovo Polje near Knin that year to mobilise the army on behalf of the pope and the emperor, but the nobility refused him and a rebellion erupted. Demetrius was assassinated at the field of meeting by his own soldiers. His death marked the collapse of Croatian royal power. The myth of the "Curse of King Zvonimir" is based on the legend of his assassination.
Succession and legacy
Demetrius was married to his distant relative Jelena Lijepa
, the sister of Ladislaus I of Hungary
. Through Jelena, he was connected to the royal families of not only Hungary, but also Poland
, and Byzantium. She bore him a son, Radovan, who predeceased him, and a daughter, Claudia, who, being married to the voivode
of Lapcani Lika
, was ineligible for the throne. He was succeeded by Stephen II
, last of the Trpimirović dynasty, but he died in 1091, at which point Ladislaus of Hungary became the best candidate for the succession.
The culturally and historically significant Baška tablet was inscribed shortly after his death and contains references to him and a number of his nobles of the eleventh century.