Kotor is one of those towns that summarize European history in its own. It has been part of the First Bulgarian Empire, Serbia, the Republic of Ragusa (contemporary Dubrovnik), the Venetian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy, the French Empire, the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, the Austrian Empire, Yugoslavia, Montenegro, and more. Especially Yugoslavia's history of predecessor and successor states is quite complicated.
Kotor, first mentioned in 168 BC, was settled during Ancient Roman
times, when it was known as Acruvium, Ascrivium, or Ascruvium and was
part of the Roman province of Dalmatia. Kotor (then called
"Cattaro") has been fortified since the early Middle Ages,
when Emperor Justinian built a fortress above Acruvium in 535, after
expelling the Ostrogoths; a second town probably grew up on the
heights round it, for Constantine Porphyrogenitus, in the 10th
century, alludes to Lower Kotor. The city was plundered by the
Saracens in 840. Cattaro was one of the more influential Dalmatian
City-states of romanized Illirians throughout the Middle Ages period.
Until the 11th century the Dalmatian language was spoken in Cattaro.
In 1002, the city suffered damage under occupation of the First Bulgarian Empire, and in the following year it was ceded to Serbia by the Bulgarian Tsar Samuel. However, the local population resisted the pact and, taking advantage of its alliance with the Republic of Ragusa, only submitted in 1184, while maintaining its republican institutions and its right to conclude treaties and engage in war. It was already an episcopal see, and, in the 13th century, Dominican and Franciscan monasteries were established to check the spread of Bogomilism.
In the 14th century, commerce in Cattaro (as the city was called until 1918) competed with that of the nearby Republic of Ragusa and of the Republic of Venice. The city was part of the Venetian Albania province of the Venetian Republic from 1420 to 1797, except for periods of Ottoman rule in 1538–1571 and 1657-1699. Four centuries of Venetian domination have given the city the typical Venetian architecture, that contributed to make Kotor a UNESCO world heritage site. In those centuries Renaissance-related literature enjoyed a huge develpment in Venetian Cattaro: the most famous writers were Bernardo Pima, Nicola Chierlo, Luca Bisanti, Alberto de Gliricis, Domenico and Vincenzo Burchia, Vincenzo Ceci, Antonio Zambella and Francesco Morandi.
While under Venetian rule, Cattaro was besieged by the Ottoman Empire
in 1538 and 1657, endured the plague in 1572, and was nearly destroyed
by earthquakes in 1563 and 1667. After the Treaty of Campo Formio in
1797, it passed to the Habsburg Monarchy. However, in 1805, it was
assigned to the French Empire's client state, the Napoleonic Kingdom
of Italy by the Treaty of Pressburg, although in fact held by a
Russian squadron under Dmitry Senyavin. After the Russians retreated,
Cattaro was united in 1806 with this Kingdom of Italy and then in 1810
with the French Empire's Illyrian Provinces. Kotor was captured by the
British attack on the Bay led by Commodore John Harper in the brig
sloop HMS Saracen (18 guns). To seal off Kotor in windless conditions,
residents along the shore literally pulled the ship in windless
conditions with ropes. Saracen's crew later hauled naval 18-pounder
guns above Fort St. John, the fortress near Kotor, and were reinforced
by Captain William Hoste with his ship HMS Bacchante (38 guns). The
French garrison had no alternative but to surrender, which it did on 5
It was then restored to the Austrian Empire by the Congress of Vienna.
In World War I, Kotor was one of three main bases of the Austro-Hungarian Navy and homeport to the Austrian Fifth Fleet, consisting of pre-dreadnought battleships and light cruisers. The area was the site of some of the fiercest battles between local Montenegrin Slavs, and Austria-Hungary. After 1918, the city (called Càttaro until then) became a part of Yugoslavia and officially became known as Kotor.
Between 1941 and 1943 Italy annexed the area of Kotor (with the original venetian name "Bocche di Cattaro") to the Italian "Governorship of Dalmatia" and created a new Italian Province: the Provincia di Cattaro, with 1075 km² and 128,000 population. But after 1945 it became a part of the then Socialist Republic of Montenegro within Yugoslavia's second incarnation.