Archdeacon Thomas of Split (1260-1268): A Source of Early Croatian History
By Mirjana Matjevic Sokol
Review of Croatian History Vol.3:1 (2007)
Introduction: Thomas, the archdeacon of Split, one of the most interesting figures of medieval Croatia, a participant in many of events in public, political and clerical life in Split from the early to mid-thirteenth century, would have remained almost entirely unremembered had he not written a work of historiography that surpassed the customary story-telling of medieval chroniclers, the well-known “Historia Salonitana” (‘History of Salona’), as it was called by the father of Croatian historiography, Ivan Lučić Lucius, when first presenting it to the scholarly public in 1666.
Information about Thomas’s life has been obtained both directly and indirectly, from the “Historia Salonitana” itself and from other documents. His youth and schooling in Split and Italy are generally the subject of conjecture. Since the “Historia Salonitana”, besides describing the history of the Church in Split up to Thomas’s time, is nonetheless largely a memoir with emphasis on events in which the archdeacon himself participated, there are some data here which can be discerned as autobiographical or biographical notations by Thomas, since he writes of himself in the third person.
In past historiography, there were differing views of Thomas’s social origins. Beginning with Daniele Farlati and up to Kerubin Šegvić, a common view was that Thomas came from a patrician family. There is no way of knowing the basis for Farlati’s claims, but Šegvić believes that only a clergyman who was also a member of the nobility could aspire to such high positions within the Church hierarchy and play such a major role in the city’s public life as Thomas did. Franjo Rački, however, strictly adhering to historical sources and basing his assertions only on them, stated that Thomas was “from an unknown family.” Izidor Kršnjavi very sharply reproached Thomas for hating both the Croats and Hungarians because he was a “die- hard Latin, which he proudly emphasized”, and that his writing bears the stamp of his political convictions. Even today, Lujo Margetić, based on interpretations of the portrayal of the earliest eras of Croatian history in the “Historia Salonitana,” considers Thomas explicitly hostile to the Croats, while Nada Klaić recognized that age-old and still present rural-urban antagonism in Thomas’s political opinions, speculating that he may have even been a Croat.