Stephen I (Croatian: Stjepan I.; c. 988 – 1058) was King of Croatia from c. 1030 until his death in 1058 and a member of the Trpimirović dynasty (Krešimirović branch). Stephen I was the first Croatian king whose given name was "Stephen" ("Stjepan"), as Držislav added the name Stephen at his coronation. His ban was Stephen Praska.
As the son of former King Svetoslav Suronja, who gave him as a hostage to Pietro II Orseolo, he married Hicela Orseolo, who bore him two sons: Peter Krešimir IV, who succeeded him as the King of Croatia, and Častimir, the father of the future Croatian King Stephen II.
Reign as king
Stephen formally succeeded his uncle Krešimir III in 1030, although it is likely that he co-ruled with him from 1028. The King continued his predecessors' ambitions of spreading rule over the coastal cities and conducted activities in that course greatly, but it was all eventually in vain. He focused on rebuilding Croatia's military strength.
Between 1038 and 1041, Stephen managed to successfully conquer Zadar from the Venetians for a short period, possibly with the help of the newly crowned Hungarian king Peter Orseolo, his nephew.
In 1035, the Carinthian count Aldabero sought help in Croatia against the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad II, who he was in a feud with since he succeeded the throne. Aldabero was accused on 18 May 1035 during the Bamberg assembly for conspiring with Croatia. Because of this, the Emperor strengthened the southeastern part of his state, where it bordered with Croatia. On the same year, Stephen I sent his cousin Dobronja to Constantinople, so he could meet the Byzantine Emperor. However, since Stephen was in war with the Republic of Venice, a Byzantine ally, Dobronja was imprisoned and there he eventually died.
The circumstances changed in 1046 when Stephen's nephew Peter fled from his kingdom. The Croatian king used this to invade and pillage Hungary, and he expanded his domain all the way to the river Drina to the east. This provoked an attack by the doge Domenico I Contarini who took Zadar in 1050.
In an effort to keep the Roman influence over the Dalmatian cities, the Byzantine emperor appointed Stephen Praska, previously a ban serving under king Stephen I, as an imperial commander. Although he nominally worked for the Byzantine Empire from Zadar, he helped the king gain other littoral settlements.
Later life and death
Stephen I established the diocese of Knin in 1040, which stretched to the north until it met the river Drava. The bishop of Knin had also the nominal title as the "Croatian bishop" (Latin: episcopus Chroatensis).
Trade and commerce flourished under Stephen I. A burgeoning aristocracy emerged in Zadar, Biograd, Knin, Split and other coastal cities. It is likely that urban centres in Slavonia also grew at this time (particularly along the Sava River) as people migrated northwards and eastwards in search of new farming land. The two largest towns in Slavonia at this time were Zagreb and Sisak.
Stephen I ruled until 1058 when his son, Petar Krešimir IV, took over. His successors referenced his bural place as the "fields of Klis" (Clisio campo). Most historians assert that he was most likely buried in the Church of St Stephen on Otok.
Married Hicela Orseolo c. 1008
- Peter Krešimir IV of Croatia (? – 1074/1075), King of Croatia from 1059
- Častimir or Gojslav (? – ?)