Dalmatia is a historical region of Croatia on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometres in width in the north to just a few kilometres in the south.
The Dalmatian breed of dog received its name from Dalmatia, as did the dalmatic, a Roman Catholic liturgical vestment worn by deacons and bishops.
The name Dalmatia derives from the name of the Dalmatae tribe, which is connected with the Illyrian word delme meaning “sheep”.
In antiquity the Roman province of Dalmatia was much larger than the present-day Split-Dalmatia County, stretching from Istria in the north to historical Albania in the south. Dalmatia signified not only a geographical unit, but was an entity based on common culture and settlement types, a common narrow eastern Adriatic coastal belt, Mediterranean climate, sclerophyllous vegetation of the Illyrian province, Adriatic carbonate platform, and karst geomorphology.
Among other things, the ecclesiastical primatical territory today continues to be larger because of the history: it includes part of modern Montenegro, notably around the city of Bar, the (honorary) Roman Catholic primas of Dalmatia, but an exempt archbishopric without suffragans while the archbishoprics of Split (also a historical primas of Dalmatia) have provincial authority over all Croatian dioceses except the exempt archbishopric of Zadar.
The southernmost transitional part of Dalmatia, the Gulf of Kotor, is part of Montenegro and considered in Dalmatia by some sources.
Culture and ethnicity
The inhabitants of Dalmatia are culturally subdivided into two or three groups. The urban families of the coastal cities, sometimes known as Fetivi, are culturally akin to the inhabitants of the Dalmatian islands. The two are together distinct, in the Mediterranean aspects of their culture, from the more numerous inhabitants of the Zagora, the hinterland, referred to (sometimes derogatorily) as the Vlaji.The latter are historically more influenced by Ottoman culture, merging almost seamlessly at the border with the Herzegovinian Croats and southern Bosnia and Herzegovina in general.
There was a sizeable community of Italians in Dalmatia, mostly in the littoral and in the islands, but now this community counts only a few hundred people. The cities of Zadar and Split had big Italian communities until the end of the Second World War.
Geography and climate
Most of the area is covered by Dinaric Alps mountain ranges running from north-west to south-east. On the coasts the climate is Mediterranean, while further inland it is moderate Mediterranean . In the mountains, winters are frosty and snowy, while summers are hot and dry. To the south winters are milder. Over the centuries many forests have been cut down and replaced with bush and brush. There is evergreen vegetation on the coast. The soils are generally poor, except on the plains where areas with natural grass, fertile soils and warm summers provide an opportunity for tillage. Elsewhere, land cultivation is mostly unsuccessful because of the mountains, hot summers and poor soils, although olives and grapes flourish. Energy resources are scarce. Electricity is mainly produced by hydropower stations. There is a considerable amount of bauxite.
The largest Dalmatian mountains are Dinara, Mosor, Svilaja, Biokovo, Moseć, Veliki Kozjak and Mali Kozjak. The regional geographical unit of historical Dalmatia– the coastal region between Istria and the Gulf of Kotor – includes the Orjen mountain with the highest peak in Montenegro, 1894 m. In present-day Dalmatia, the highest peak is Dinara (1913 m), which is not a coastal mountain, while the highest coastal Dinaric mountains are on Biokovo (Sv. Jure 1762 m) and Velebit (Vaganski vrh 1758 m), although the Vaganski vrh itself is located in Lika-Senj County.
The largest Dalmatian islands are Brač, Korčula, Dugi Otok, Mljet, Vis, Hvar, Pag and Pašman. The major rivers are Zrmanja, Krka, Cetina and Neretva.
The Adriatic Sea’s high water quality, along with the immense number of coves, islands and channels, makes Dalmatia an attractive place for nautical races, nautical tourism, and tourism in general. Dalmatia also includes several national parks that are tourist attractions: Paklenica karst river, Kornati archipelago, Krka river rapids and Mljet island.