History Files

European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe



The Istrian peninsula lies in modern northwest Croatia and western Slovenia. Istria was a possession of the Eastern Roman empire and then a province of Carinthia until it established a margraviate of its own in 1062.

c.626 - c.641

Slavs which include the early Croats are invited by Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius to help him fight the Avars. The dominance of the Avars is broken by their defeat at Constantinople, which also allows the 'Slav Kingdom' to flourish in Carinthia, Hungary, and Moravia. It has been suggested that the ruler of this kingdom, Samo, is working with Eastern Roman influence. Curiously, and perhaps not coincidentally, a similar confederation soon also forms on the northern Black sea coast, that of Great Bulgaria, possibly part of a Roman-inspired chain of defences against the Avars. Avar control of the Bulgars is thrown off in 635.

The Croats receive their present-day lands to settle as a reward, with further Slav groups also settling Slovenia. The Slav presence in Dalmatia and Istria leads to the destruction of churches, and Pope John IV, a Dalmatian, is forced to pay large sums of money to free prisoners. The relics of some of the more important Dalmatian saints are interred in Rome.


The Eastern Romans recover the exarchate of Ravenna, although control over Venice is weaker now that the city has its own elected doge in place of a Roman tribune. The remaining territory within the exarch consists of Ferrara, Istria, the Pentapolis, Perugia, and Ravenna's immediate surroundings.


MapThe intervention of the Niceta fleet reaffirms Eastern Roman sovereignty over the lagoon region of Venice, Istria and Dalmatia.


Istrian pirates kidnap some intended Venetian brides on 31 January, but they are soon freed at Caorle.


With the accession of the Saxon king, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed. Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders. The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gains the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc (the later Luxemburg), Arnulf I the Elder is restored in Flanders, and the March of Austria is formed from territory already captured from Hungary (around 960).

Map of Germany AD 962
Germany in AD 962 may have had its new emperor to govern the territories shown within the dark black line, but it was still a patchwork of competing interests and power bases, most notably in the five great stem duchies, many of which were attempting to expand their own territories outside the empire, creating the various march or border regions to the east and south (click or tap on map to view full sized)

At the same time, Saxony gains Hermann Billung as its duke, charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process that is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.


Pietro Orseolo II of Venice leads an expedition against Slavonic pirates, becoming doge of Venice, Istria and Dalmatia.

Margraves of Istria

In the tenth century, after the partitioning of the Frankish empire, the lands in which lived speakers of Slavic languages were assigned to the German kingdom. As part of the defence of that kingdom against the invading Magyar horsemen they were divided up into 'marks', border marches (satellite territory around the edge of a kingdom), of Carinthia, Carniola (essentially Slovenia), Istria, and Styria. German lay and clerical lords arrived, along with dependent peasants, and enserfed the Slavic locals, whom they called Wends or Winds.

Over the next three centuries, the marches came under the tenuous authority of several territorial dynasts, starting with a German-led margraviate in 1040. It was Holy Roman Emperor Henry III who divided the march of Verona from Carinthia and created two new marches from it - Carniola and Istria. Thanks to ties forged through marriage, Poppo, count of Weimar-Orlamünde in Thuringia, was appointed margrave of both marches. Unlike many of the other marches, Istria was not brought under the control of Ottokar II of Bohemia-Moravia. Instead it went to Aquileia and Venice and was eventually partitioned.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Geschichte Kärntens bis 1335 (Vols 1 & 2), A Jaksch (Klagenfurt, 1928-29), from Geschichte Kärntens (Vols 1 & 2), C Fräss-Ehrfeld (Klagenfurt, 1984-94), from Dynasties of the World, John E Morby, and from External Link: Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

1012 - 1044

Poppo I

Thuringian count. First margrave of Carniola (1040).

1045 - 1070

Ulrich I

Son. Count of Weimar-Orlamünde. Margrave of Carniola.

1070 - 1077

The title is vacant, and control may pass back to Carinthia.

1077 - 1090

Henry I Eppenstein

Died 1127.


Count Siegfried I of Spanheim (1010-1065) had served with distinction under Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II (the Salian) against Adalberon of Eppenstein, duke of Carinthia, in a campaign in 1035. He had also soon married one Richgard, daughter of Count Engelbert of the Sieghardingers of Bavaria. Through this he had inherited large tracts of territory in Carinthia and Tyrol and, in 1045, had been appointed margrave of the Hungarian march. His son is Engelbert, who now becomes margrave of Istria while a descendant becomes duke of Carinthia in 1122.

1090 - 1096

Engelbert I Spanheim-Ortenburg

Son of Count Siegfried I of Spanheim in Carinthia.

1096 - 1098

Poppo II Weimar

Count of Weimar-Orlamünde. Margrave of Carniola.

1100 - 1103

Ulrich II Weimar

Brother. Count of Weimar-Orlamünde. Margrave of Carniola.

1103 - 1125

Engelbert II Spanheim-Ortenburg

Engelbert II of Spanheim. Duke of Carinthia. Abdicated. Died 1141.

1124 - 1125

The somewhat unexpected death of the young Henry IV means that his brother, Engelbert II of Spanheim, succeeds him in Carinthia. Engelbert has already been appointed by Pope Urban II in 1098 as the reeve (in German, 'vogt') of St Paul's Abbey which had been founded by Engelbert I. About two years later he had created the county of Kraiburg from the estates of his wife, Uta. Then in 1103 he had been granted the margraviate of Istria in place of Ulrich II of Weimar. Now he becomes duke of Carinthia and margrave of Verona. In 1125 he passes Istria to his son, Engelbert III of Spanheim-Ortenburg.

1125 - 1171

Engelbert III Spanheim-Ortenburg

Son. Died 1173.

1171 - 1188

Berthold I Andechs

1172 - 1204

Berthold II Andechs

Son. Joint rule. Also duke of Merania.


When Berthold dies his titles are divided between two successors (somewhat adding to the air of confusion about Merania, given that it seems to incorporate Carniola and part - or all - of Istria). His son Otto succeeds as Duke Otto I of Merania, while also acquiring the free county of Burgundy (a division of, but not to be confused with, the duchy of Burgundy and the former kingdom of Burgundy, formed in 1004) as Otto II in 1208. His younger brother, Henry, becomes margrave of Carniola and Istria.

1204 - 1228

Henry II of Meran

Son. Margrave of Carniola.

1228 - 1230

Otto I of Meran

Brother. Duke of Merania. Died 1234.


The margraviate of Istria passes from Otto to Berthold III, his younger brother and also patriarch of Aquileia. Otto continues to hold the title of duke of Merania and seemingly also margrave of Carniola until his death in 1234.

1230 - 1251

Berthold III

Brother. Patriarch of Aquilea (1218-1251).

1251 - 1420

The title passes to Aquileia.


Venice annexes Istrian Muggia.

1420 - 1797

The margraviate is partitioned between Austria and Venice.

1797 - 1805

Napoleon Bonaparte, leader of the French First Republic begins campaigning against Austria in northern Italy, starting with the Battle of Rivoli on 14-15 January. The Treaty of Leoben is signed with Austria on 17 April, which leads to the loss for Austria of the Austrian Netherlands and Lombardy, but which gains it the Venetian territories of Dalmatia and Istria in return. The treaty is confirmed and extended by the Treaty of Campo Formio, which is signed on 17 October 1797.

1805 - 1810

Istria is merged with the French First Empire's kingdom of Italy under Napoleon Bonaparte's control.

1810 - 1814

Following a further Austrian defeat in 1809, at the Battle of Wagram, Bavaria agrees to grant the Tyrol to Italy, while Istria, Dalmatia and Ragusa are incorporated into the new Illyrian Provinces.

1814 - 1918

Austria takes Istria back, detaching it from Italy. Following Austria's humiliating defeat by Prussia in 1866, Istria gains autonomy as a province within Austria.

1918 - 1943

In the secret Treaty of London of 26 April 1915, Italy agrees to abandon its allies, Germany and Austria-Hungary, declaring war on them instead. Italy has been promised territory in compensation for its change of allegiance, which will certainly be at Austria's expense. With the collapse of Austria's empire at the end of the First World War, and the agreement of a ceasefire on 3 November 1918, Italy inherits the province of Istria.

1943 - 1945

The territory is controlled by Nazi Germany.

1945 - 1991

The peninsula is made part of Communist Yugoslavia. Many ethnic Italians leave during what is known as the Istrian exodus.


On 25 June, Croatia, Istria, and Slovenia leave Yugoslavia and declare themselves independent. Serbia begins a war which lasts until 4 August 1995. Croatian and Slovenian independence is secured and recognised by Europe. The majority of Istria becomes part of the republic of Croatia, while a smaller northern slice of it falls within Slovenia's borders, and the northern most edge is pert of Italy.

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