The present name of the city was recorded for the first time in the Charter of Hungarian king Ladislaus II of Jagiellon on February 06, 1494.
Discussions held by philologists and historians resulted in the finding that the city name consisted of an old adjective “banj” (ban`s), which disappeared long time ago in our language, but has been preserved only in the name of the city. The noun “luka” (plain) was then added to the possessive adjective. This attributed the meaning ban`s plain to the name of the city.
Ever since the Paleolithic period the settlements of various tribes had been developed along both banks of the Vrbas River. They used to stay, live and progress in this fertile valley. It is known for certain that the region was settled by an Illyric tribe of the Maezaei, which was annexed to the Roman province of Illyricum along with the territory that they had inhabited. Numerous artefacts found in various localities in the vicinity of today`s Banja Luka bear witness to Roman`s existence in the region. The Romans were first to have discovered the healing power of mineral springs in the surroundings of the city – Gornji Šeher (Srpske Toplice today), Slatina and Laktaši.
At the time Banja Luka was situated along an important road built by the Romans, which spread all the way from Split (Salona) to Gradiška (Servitium). In today`s heart of the city, embellished with the Kastel fort, which is a monument of cultural and historic importance, the Romans had built a military fort castra. The life of a Roman military settlement flourished within its walls. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, Slavic tribes began to settle the region during the 6th and 7th century A.D. The Medieval Ages brought an increased number of forts that used to spring into existence along the Vrbas River banks. Unfortunately, the reliable information about the then settlement and the life of people inside and outside the walls are still hidden under the veil of history, waiting for ethnographers and historians to bring them to light.
After the Turkish conquest in 1582, the first Oriental settlement sprang to existence around Careva mahala in Gornji Šeher. Banja Luka became the seat of the Pashaluk of Bosnia, a Turkish administrative unit run by a pasha. This lead the city to a rapid development as Ferhat-pasha had mills and bridges built over the Vrbas River. In that period sacral Islamic edifices of huge cultural and historic importance were built – the Ferhadija Mosque, as Ferhat-pasha Sokolović`s legacy, the Arnaudija Mosque, whose founder was the Bosnian treasurer Husan-efendija, and an important element of the Osman period urban architecture Sahat kula, a clock tower, which was situated in the vicinity of Ferhadija.
During the 16th and the17th century Orthodox monasteries were built in broader Banja Luka`s surroundings to remind the future generations of the Serbian medieval construction art of extraordinary beauty and value.
Gomionica Monastery, which was built in the Raška school style, is situated in Zmijanje on the Manjača mountain. Traditional sources report that its patron was Obrad, the prince of Zmijanje. The Moštanica Monastery, which was founded in 1562, is situated at the Banja Luka – Prijedor – Kozara triple junction, and was built in the Morava school style. The Liplje Monastery, situated on the slopes of the Borje Mountain, near Maslovare. It was being built between the end of the15th and the beginning of the 16th century, with the expressive elements of the Raška school style.
Not a single development phase spared Banja Luka from a disaster of some kind. After the Austrian troops had once marched in in 1688, the city center in Šeher was burnt down. The devastation went on through numerous military encounters, fires and a severe plague, which ravaged the city at the end of the 18th century.
The 350-year long Ottoman rule had demonstrated a reckless disregard for the Banja Luka administrative unit, making no contribution to its urbanization and modernization.
First Serbian schools in Banja Luka were founded at the end of the 19th century. The first telegraph was put into operation in 1866, and the first railway along the Banja Luka-Dobrljin route had been officially set into operation in 1873, only two years prior to the Bosnian and Herzegovinian uprising, due to which it had to be put out of operation
As an outcome of the Congress of Berlin, Austro-Hungarian troops marched in Banja Luka. They were received rather peacefully and faced no resistance. Under the Austro-Hungarian protectorate Banja Luka became an industry and craft center. The foundations of such a progress were laid by the monks of the Franciscan Monastery Trapisti, which was built during the seventies of the 19th century. They started the construction of a mill, a brewery, brickyard, a fabric factory, and the hydroelectric plant in Delibašino selo as well as the construction of industrial plants for pasta and the famous Trappist cheese.
The Austrians undertook road and bridge construction at an accelerated pace, and they provided Banja Luka with a railway connection with Vienna and Budapest in 1891. The ore from the deposits in Banja Luka`s quarter Lauš and in the surroundings of Kotor Varoš were started to be exploited, and new industrial plants, educational and heath institutions were opened.
The first hospital was built in 1879, the tobacco factory was set into operation in 1888, and the first students started their education in Banja Luka`s Grammar School in 1895.
Ever more foreigners came to live to Banja Luka. The systematic Austro-Hungarian authorities conducted the first official census of population on April 22, 1895, which revealed that Banja Luka had 13 566 inhabitans at the time.
And even though the Austro-Hungarian authorities were less oppressive than the Ottomans and proclaimed the principles of freedom and equality, the spirit of resistance and labourism was getting stronger in ordinary people`s minds. They were going on strikes, initiated mutinies and incited to the liberation from the occupying forces.
After the centuries of oppressive foreign tyranny, World War I came, bringing along a waft of freedom.
The Enlightenment ideas were spread under the Turkish occupation through different social milieus by two distinguished personalities who shared the same destiny: Vaso Pelagić and Ivan Franjo Jukić.
Both of them were into clerical, political and cultural work, which gave them imprisonment, prosecution and banishment. Death caught them far from their homeland, to which they were faithful and loyal to their last breath. They did not live long enough to witness its liberation.
A distinguished fighter for freedom and a voice of truth against the Austro-Hungarian authorities was the writer Petar Kočić. His resistance to the tyranny was publicly shown by the launch of „The Fatherland” magazine in 1907.
It was for his literal creation permeated with patriotic spirit and for the public uprising against the tyrannical regime that he was being prosecuted and put to jail. He did not live long enough to see his homeland liberated from the occupational forces. Spiritually and physically exhausted, he died in Serbia in 1916.
Within the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians Banja Luka underwent a period of genuine progress. It became the center of the Vrbas Banovina, the administrative unit ruled by ban, and got a significant geo-strategic position in the newly founded country.
The city ows its rapid growth and progress to the first ban, brisk and energetic Svetislav Milosavljević (Svetislav – Tisa Milosavljević, born on September 07, 1882 in Niš, Serbia).
The most severe calamity that befell the city in the post-war period was a disastrous earthquake, which struck the city in October 1969. With its consequences remedied, Banja Luka got its recognizable appearance.
In the wake of the Former Yugoslavia`s break-up, Banja Luka was the second biggest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the tenth biggest one in Yugoslavia. According to the 1991 census, Banja Luka had 150 000 inhabitants.