Caciur, Venice and the Morlachs in Dalmatia in mid-16th century

Questi tristi Morlacchi: Venetian efforts in reducing the Morlachs’ incursions in Dalmatia at the middle of the 16th century

Dana-Silvia Caciur (University of Bucharest)

During the 16th century the hinterland of the Dalmatian cities suffered visible devastation caused by the Ottoman offensive. Many inhabitants of this territory sought protection and refuge in other Venetian places, while the conquered lands became part of the Ottoman Empire and home for all kinds of potential attackers. Severely depopulated, the rural territory of Zadar (Zara), Šibenik (Senbenico) and Trogir (Traù) was a permanent target for the Turkish subjects. The Morlachs are those who have the greatest experience in this kind of action, especially if we remember the frequent damages they used to make with their sheep herds on the Dalmatian pasturelands since the 14th century. However, during the 16th century, Morlach intrusions in Venetian Dalmatia continued in numerous forms: theywere soldiers in irregular Ottoman troops, as well as feared thieves and semi-nomadic shepherds who did not obey any rule.

The period of peace established in Dalmatia between 1540 and 1570, by the Venetian Republic and the Ottoman Empire provided the Morlachs with the chance of becoming members of some organised and recognised communities. For this period we can observe Venetian efforts in colonising the Morlachs and in reducing their outlaw activities for the protection of the region. The success of Serenissima took two main forms: the Morlachs were colonised equally in Dalmatia, Istria and other territories or became tenants in the agricultural lands owned by the nobles from the coastal cities.