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Zadar is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Croatia. It is situated on the Adriatic Sea, at the northwestern part of Ravni Kotari region. Zadar serves as the seat of Zadar County and the wider northern Dalmatian region. The city proper covers with a population of 75, in , making it the fifth largest city in the country. The area of present-day Zadar traces its earliest evidence of human life from the late Stone Age, while numerous settlements have been dated as early as the Neolithic.
Before the Illyrians, the area was inhabited by an ancient Mediterranean people of a pre-Indo-European culture. Zadar traces its origin to its 4th-century BC founding as a settlement of the Illyrian tribe of Liburnians known as Iader. It was during the Roman rule that Zadar acquired the characteristics of a traditional Ancient Roman city with a regular road network, a public square, and an elevated capitolium with a temple.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in and the destruction of Salona by the Avars and Croats in , Zadar became the capital of the Byzantine theme of Dalmatia in the 7th century. In the beginning of the 9th century, Zadar came under short Frankish rule, and was returned to the Byzantines by the Pax Nicephori in The first Croatian rulers gained control over the city in 10th century. In , Zadar was conquered and burned by the Republic of Venice, which was helped by the Crusaders.
Croats again regained control over the city in , when it was given to the Croatian-Hungarian king Louis I. In , king Ladislaus I sold Zadar to the Venetians. When the Turks conquered the Zadar hinterland at the beginning of the 16th century, the town became an important stronghold, ensuring Venetian trade in the Adriatic, the administrative center of the Venetian territories in Dalmatia and a cultural center.
After the fall of Venice in , Zadar came under the Austrian rule until , except for the period of short-term French rule, still remaining the capital of Dalmatia.