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Essay/Term paper: Bosnia

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Papers

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The origin of the arms with the argent between 6 fleur-de-lys, which is
now on the flag of the republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, has long puzzled
me, but they are in fact the arms of the Kotromanic family, which ruled
Bosnia in the 14th and 1 5th centuries. Other arms have also been
attributed to Bosnia in the 19th century. I finally thought of a way to
get at this question of the origin of the current Bosnian flag:
numismatics, of course. I found a book by one Ivan Rengjeo, Corpus der
mittel-alterlichen Münzen von Kroatien, Slavonien, Dalmatien und Bosnien,
Graz, 1959, which is as exhaustive as you can get on the topic (coins from
those regions, that is). I have also consulted an article by Pavao Andelic
on Medieval Seals of Bosnia-Hercegovina, in the monograph series of the
Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia-Hercegovina (Sarajevo, 1970), but
it is in Serbo-Croat, so I can only look at the (numerous) illustra tions.
What follows is a historical/heraldic account, pieced together from these
sources, and a few encyclopedias. Bosnia was dominated alternatively by
Serbia and, from the 12th c. onward, by Croatia (in personal union with
Hungary) until the early 14th c. Typically, the king of Hungary and
Croatia appointed bans, or local governors; and, in typical medieval
fashion, these bans took advantage of any weakness of the central monarchy
to carve out territories for themselves. In the early 14th c., the ban of
Croatia was Pavao (Paul) Subic of Brebir or Breberio (a town in Dalmatia
which was given to the family in 1222): his father and grandfather were
counts or Trau or Trogir, his cousins were counts of Spalato or Split.
This p owerful man titles himself ban of Croatia and dominus Bosniae, and
appoints his brother Mladen I Subic (1302-04) and later his eldest son
Mladen II (1312-14) as ban of Bosnia. His second son Georg was count of
Trau and Split, his third son Pavao was count of Trau. By the third
generation, however, the family had lost its power. This first dynasty of
bans issued byzantine-style coins, with no heraldry. Their seals, however,
show the Subic arms: an eagle wing displayed, and 5 flowers with stems as
crest (mi sread by Siebmacher as ostrich-feathers). The style of the arms
is very German, with the shield tilted to the left, a German helm,
lambrequins, and a crest. There are no tinctures, but a junior branch
issued from Pavao count of Trau, the Subic de Zrin, bo re Gules, two wings
sable (an interesting violation of the so-called tincture rule). Pavao
Subic was forced to cede control of Southern Bosnia to Stjepan Kotromanic
(died 1353); and, in 1314, Mladen II ceded the banate of Bosnia to him.
This established the Kotromanic dynasty in Bosnia. Stjepan styles himself
dei gratia Bosniae banus, whi ch asserts a fair measure of independence.
Stjepan's brother married Helena, daughter of Mladen II Subic, and his son
Stjepan Tvrtko (1353-91) succeeded Stjepan. In 1377, Tvrtko assumed the
title of King of Racia and Bosnia. His seals show the following a rms: a
bend between six fleurs-de-lys, the helm is a hop-flower on a long stem
issuant from an open crown of fleurs-de-lys. The Kotromanic were close to
the Hungarian kings, and Stjepan's daughter Elisabeth married Louis I of
Hungary (reigned 1342-82). Trvtko I was succeeded by Stjepan Dabisa
(1391-98) and Stjepan Ostoja (1398-1404, 1409-18). The latter's seal shoes
different arms, namely an open crown of fleurs-de-lys and the same helm
and crest as before. Tvrtko's son Tvrtko II (1404-09, 1421-43) used a seal
similar to his father's, with the arms of the Kotromanic family itself,
which are the bend between 6 fleur-de-lys, a crowned helm with the same
crest. New coins are issued starting in 1436, markedly Western in style,
which display a full-blown achievement: an escutcheon bearing the letter
T, crowned with an open crown of fleur-de-lys. The helm is crowned and the
crest is a hop-flower on a long stem. The letter T seems to stand for the
name of the king. Later, around 1450, impressive new gold coins show the
Kotromanic arms. The last kings are Stjepan Tomas Kotromanic (1444-61)
and Stjepan Tomasevic Kotrmomanic (1461-63). The kingdom disappears in
1463 when he is killed by the Turks. In the southern region called Hum or
Chelm, a local ban called Stjepan Vukcic Kosaca (died 14 66) had
proclaimed himself duke or herceg in 1448, and is recognized by the Holy
Roman Empire as duke of Saint-Abbas or Saint-Sava in some texts (whence
the name Hercegovina for that area). Siebmacher says that the family was
descended from the Byzantine Comneno. The Vukcic family arms appear on
the seal of Stjepan Vukcic, and his successors Vladislav Hercegovic (died
1489), Vlatko Hercegovic (died 1489) and Stjepan Hercegovic (died 1517).
namely Gules, three bends argent, crest: a lion issuant holding in its two
paws a banner gules with a double cross argent (the Hungarian state banne,
according to Siebmacher). The same arms appear on coins issued by a
self-proclaimed duke of Split in the early 15th c., namely on a bend
between two crosses, three fleur-de-lys ben dwise. The remaining question
is: where did the fleur-de-lys in the Kotromanic (and the Vukcic) arms
come from? One distinct possibility is Byzantium, whose style the first
Bosnian coins imitate closely. Byzantine emperors started using the
fleur-de-lys on their coinage soon after the creation of the empire of
Nicaea, after the fall of Constantinople in 1204. But more realistically,
the connection would be with the Hungarian dynastic struggle which broke
out in 1302 with the end of the Arpad dynasty. The kings of Naples claimed
the throne, and it was during the struggle that, by pledging alliegance to
one side and to the other, the Bosnian bans managed to carve out their
independent fief. The Bosnian dynasty became quite close to the Angevins,
and the daughter of Stjepan, king of Bosnia, married Louis I, king of
Hungary. The kings of Naples were the Anjou fami ly, a junior branch of
the French royal family, and bore France differenced with a label gules. I
can well imagine the Kotromanic adopting, or being granted, fleur-de-lys
on their coat of arms as reward for taking the Angevin side. For the
moment, Bosnian history books are hard to come by, so I can't easily
confirm my hunch. For some reason, these arms were forgotten after the
16th century. A 18th c. French genealogy of the Angevin kings of Hungary
blazons the arms of Louis' wife as: Or, issuing from the sinister flank an
arm embowed proper, vested Gules, holding a sabre Arge nt. These are also
the arms attributed by the Austrians to Bosnia-Hercegovina after it was
annexed from Turkey in 1908. However, a number of 19th century
encyclopedias give yet another coat of arms (for example, the French
Larousse), namely: Gules, a cres cent Argent beneath an 8-pointed star of
the same. The crown over the shield is an Eastern crown, i.e. with
"spikes". These arms recall the old symbol of Croatia on its early
coinage. They are also the arms attributed to the old kingdoms of Illyria
and Bo snia in Siebmacher. There is some evidence for a medieval use of
the shield with the arm holding a saber. William Miller, in Essays on the
Latin Orient (Cambridge, 1921, p.510) describes the arms displayed in Rome
on the tomb of Catherine (died 1478), da ughter of Stjepan Vukcic duke of
Saint-Abbas, and married in 1446 to Stjepan Tomas Kotromanic, last king of
Bosnia (d. 1461): his description is unfortunately imprecise, but he
mentions two horsemen (which he says is the Kotromanic emblem) and a
"mailed a rm with a sword in the center" (which he says represents
Primorje, or the Coastland).

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