Dalmatia (dălmā´shə), Croatian Dalmacija, historic region of Croatia, extending along the Adriatic Sea, approximately from Rijeka (Fiume) to the Gulf of Kotor. Split is the provincial capital; other cities include Zadar (the historic capital), Šibenik, and Dubrovnik. Except for a coastal lowland, Dalmatia is generally mountainous, rising to the Dinaric Alps. The coast, which is famed for its scenic beauty and its resorts, has many bays and excellent harbors protected by a chain of islands. Although Dalmatian rivers are mostly unnavigable, they supply a substantial portion of Croatia's hydroelectricity. Agriculture, fishing, and tourism are the principal economic activities. There is also industry and mining in the region. The bulk of the population consists of Roman Catholic Croats; there are also Eastern Orthodox Serbs and some Italians (mainly at Zadar and nearby cities).
Long in conflict with Rome, Dalmatia was definitively subdued by Augustus (35 BC–33 BC) and was incorporated with part of Illyria as a Roman province. It was overrun by the Ostrogoths (5th cent. AD), reconquered by the Byzantine Empire (6th cent.), and settled, except in the coastal cities, by the Slavs in the 7th cent. By the 10th cent. it was divided between the kingdoms of Croatia (north) and Serbia (south), while Venice held several ports and islands.
After several centuries of struggle, chiefly between Venice and the crowns of Hungary and Croatia, the coastal islands and most of Dalmatia, except Dubrovnik, were under Venetian control by 1420. Hungary retained the Croatian part, which in 1526 passed to the Turks but was recovered by the Treaty of Karlowitz (1699). The Treaty of Campo Formio (1797) gave Venetian Dalmatia to Austria, and the Treaty of Pressburg (1805) gave it to France. It was first attached to Napoleon's Italian kingdom but in 1809 was incorporated into the Illyrian provs. (see Illyria). The Congress of Vienna restored (1815) it to Austria, where it was made (1861) a crown land, with its capital at Zadar.
By the secret Treaty of London (1915) the Allies promised Dalmatia to Italy in return for Italian support in World War I. In Dec., 1918, it became part of the newly established kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (after 1929 Yugoslavia), but Italy continued to claim Dalmatia. The Treaty of Rapallo (1920) gave Dalmatia to Yugoslavia, except for Zadar and several islands, which subsequently passed to Italy. During World War II, Italy held most of Dalmatia, and after the war it was returned to Yugoslavia. The Italian peace treaty of 1947 gave Yugoslavia the islands that had been ceded to Italy after World War I. Following Croatia's secession from Yugoslavia in 1991, fighting broke out between Croats and Serbs. Many of the port cities in SE Dalmatia were heavily shelled as the Serbs, backed by Yugoslavian federal forces, unsuccessfully attempted to detach that region from Croatia.