History of Bosnia and Herzegovina
from the origins to 1992

Mr. Thierry Domin
First published in
SFOR Informer#117, July 11, 2001

Chapter 1
From the Origins through the End of the First Millennium

The Illyrian times
The Illyrians - a group of tribes who spoke a language similar to modern Albanian - were the earliest known inhabitants of Bosnia and the most ancient race in south-eastern Europe. All indications suggest that they are descendants of the earliest Aryan immigrants. The Illyrians formed the core of the pre-Hellenic population which inhabited the southern portion of the Balkan Peninsula and extended into Thrace (parts of modern-day Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey and east of Macedonia) and Italy. The ancient Greek writers described the Illyrians as "barbarous" and "non-Hellenic," indicating the perceived and real differences between the cultures.
According to historians, the first conflicts between Illyrian tribes and the Romans took place in 229 BC. Two subsequent conflicts occurred during the second century BC. The Romans finally conquered the Illyrians circa 9 AD, and annexed the territory of today's Bosnia to the Roman province of Dalmatia, thus resulting in the collapse of Illyrian kingdom.
The Roman Empire
The Romans opened mines and exploited the region's mineral wealth. In time, some of the Illyrians became "romanised." Colonisation of the lands along the Adriatic coast and the lower Neretva River brought more Roman settlers and Roman influence, and the Roman civilization significantly penetrated BiH. Life in the region began to resemble the empire as a whole, as everything was done according to the model in Rome, including road construction, development of towns, the state cult of Capitol Gods, and obedience to the emperor as the incarnation of overall authority. Thermal baths were even constructed in several places throughout the country, including Ilidza, the site of the former SFOR headquarters in a western suburb of Sarajevo. Statues, mosaics and tombstones from the first five centuries AD can be seen in many locations all over the country.
The Roman Emperor Diocletian (c. 295 AD), whose palace can be seen in Split, Croatia, established the system of two empires with two Caesars beneath him. Emperor Constantine (c. 314 AD), moved the imperial capital of the still-united Roman Empire to Constantinople (Constantine's polis, i.e. town in Greek), former called Byzantium, and now named Istanbul. The capital went back and forth between Rome and Constantinople for a century. In 395 AD, the division between the Eastern Roman Empire, known as the Byzantine Empire and the Western Roman Empire became final. The dividing line between east and west was the Drina River, making Bosnia a regional buffer between empires, peoples, philosophies and theologies.
The Southern Slavs
Around the time of the fall of the Roman Empire in 460 AD, Slavic tribes, including those of the Slovenes, Croats and Serbs, migrated to the Balkans over many years. There is no agreement on where any of the Slavic tribes originated or why they came. However, it is thought that the migrants came from what are now Ukraine, Russia and perhaps the Nordic countries. They settled in different places throughout the region, and experienced separate development as the three cultures evolved. But - and it is to be underlined today - Slovenians, Croats and Serbs share a common ancient Slavic origin.
By the time of Emperor Charles the Great (c. 800 AD), the Slavs had increasingly settled in the region and become its permanent inhabitants. The region, called the Land of the Slavs or Slavinia, became modern-day Yugoslavia. The population slowly adopted Christianity, but were variously influenced by its two major sects from the outset. The Slovenes and Croats became Roman Catholics and adopted the Roman alphabet, while the Serbs became Eastern Orthodox Christians and adopted the Cyrillic alphabet to represent the same language. In 1054, the centuries-old power struggle between the Roman church and the eastern Byzantine churches (Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria), culminated in the schism between east and west, which divided Christianity into two Christian churches and empires. The schism cemented the religious border represented by the Drina River, with modern-day Slovenia, Croatia and BiH on the west, and Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia on the east.

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6