Đurađ I Balšić

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Đurađ Balšić
Lord of Zeta
Balšić seal, January 17, 1368.jpg
Seal of the Balšić brothers, January 17, 1368
Predecessor Balša I
Successor Balša II
Spouse(s) Olivera Mrnjavčević
Teodora Dejanović Dragaš
Jevdokija (Eudokia)
Konstantin (Košta)
Đurađ (illegitimate)
Father Balša I
Died 13 January 1378
Skadar, Lordship of Zeta (now Shkodër, Albania)
Religion born Serbian Orthodox
Roman Catholic (conversion)[1]

Đurađ Balšić (Serbian Cyrillic: Ђурађ Балшић), also known as Đurađ I (Ђурађ I) was the Lord of Zeta between 1362 and 13 January 1378. He was the eldest of the three sons of Balša I, and belonged to the Balšić family.


He was the eldest son of Balša, a petty nobleman that held one village during the rule of Emperor Dušan the Mighty (r. 1331–1355), who was said to be "kin to Nemanja". The family started taking Lower Zeta sometime following the death of Dušan in 1355. In 1362 they murdered Đuraš Ilijić who was Head of Upper Zeta, the Balšići are henceforth recognized as Oblastni Gospodari (Lords) of Zeta, as evident in charters of Uroš the Weak (r. 1355–1371).

Campaign against Karlo Thopia[edit]

In 1363, Đurađ declared war against the Thopias, an Albanian noble family which controlled northern Albania. The Matarangos, an Albanian noble family which controlled southern Albania, were allied with the Balšićs as a result of a quarrel with the Thopias in the south. In the spring of 1364, Karlo Thopia took Đurađ captive due to a skirmish, ending Zetan involvement in the war. Đurađ was held captive until 1366 when Republic of Ragusa mediated peace and procured his release.

In January 1368, a Ragusan document reported that the three Balšić brothers: Stracimir, Đurađ and Balša II, were preparing for a campaign against Karlo Thopia. They were camped on the Mati River, of which Karlo's lands lay south of. The fighting was apparently small-scale as two months later, Karlo had no difficulty capturing Dyrrhachium from the Angevins.[2]

Siege of Kotor[edit]

Hoping to acquire suzerainty over the town, Đurađ had waged war against Kotor in 1368. Kotor, as a result of warfare, was suffering economic decline. Accepting Zetan rule wasn't going to aid Kotor economically either. Kotor resisted Đurađ's assault after seeing the town of Bar paying an annual tribute of 2,000 ducats to Đurađ, previously paying 100 perpers under Serbian Imperial rule, expecting the same fate for Kotor. Kotor sought aid from Nikola Altomanović, but after his major defeat in Kosovo, he could provide little assistance. Kotor sought aid from the weak Emperor Uroš V and Venice. Neither provided much help as Venice was concerned that only their warships were on the Adriatic. In fact, Venice wrote to Tsar Uroš V in 1368, complaining that Serbia's armed ships were on the Adriatic, citing Bar, Budva nand Ulcinj to have them. They had also stated that this was also a violation of the Venetian-Serbian treaty and threatened to treat the ships as pirate vessels. However, Uroš replied to that letter, stating that those ships that Venice were complaining about belonged to Đurađ I Balšić, the lord of Zeta.

Uroš was unhappy with Đurađ's actions as they were directed against Kotor, which was under Uroš' suzerainty. Concluding that Đurađ was a rebel, the Serbian court claimed no responsibility for Đurađ's actions that might violate the Venetian-Serbian treaty.

In 1369, Đurađ laid siege to Kotor, which, having no choice, turned to the Kingdom of Hungary for support and sought for Hungarian suzerainty. Hungary sent a nobleman from Zadar to hold Kotor. This action only increased Kotor's troubles, as it lost its trade privileges with Serbia for a time, causing a larger economic turmoil for Kotor. By spring 1370, probably through Venetian mediation, Đurađ had made peace with Kotor. However, in the same year, Nikola Altomanović attacked Kotor.[3]

Campaign against Nikola Altomanović[edit]

Zeta in time of Stracimir and Djuradj I Balsic (1372-1378). A) The territory of Balšić ; B) Temporary estates

In 1371, Đurađ announced to the Republic of Ragusa that he, Vukašin Mrnjavčević and his son, Marko, along with their armies, were in Scutari, preparing an attack on Nikola Altomanović. Ragusa assisted their campaign by providing ships to transport men and supplies, since their campaign was in Ragusa's interest. However, the campaign never took place as Vukašin and Marko went to aid Vukašin's brother, Jovan Uglješa, in a campaign against the Turks, which ended up in total disaster, Vukašin and Uglješa and their army being wiped out in the Battle of Maritsa. Serbian Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović and Bosnian Ban Tvrtko I allied themselves to defeat Nikola Altomanović. Desperate for a strong ally, Altomanović began negotiations with Đurađ. Most historians agree that in concluding negotiations, Đurađ gained the towns of Trebinje, Konavle and Dračevica (Herceg Novi) from Altomanović, possibly a bribe to remain neutral within the war. Other historians, however, follow Mavro Orbini's account and argue that Đurađ never concluded such an agreement, rather conquered the towns he gained from the agreement himself after Altomanović was defeated in 1373.[4]

1373 edict[edit]

On 30 November 1373, the Balšić brothers issued an edict in the Republic of Ragusa that confirmed the laws of Emperor Uroš V of the Serbian Nemanjić dynasty and gave privileges to Ragusan traders, including imposed taxes to the Adriatic City. It also included a unique clause, recognizing the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Serbian Empire even though for years without an Emperor and any form of centralized strong authority, a note that if anyone would became the new sovereign Emperor of the Serbs and the Serbian nobility and lands, all the points shall be transferred from the Balšićs to him. Đurađ I's Logotet Vitko was the witness, as well as Dragaš Kosačić.[5] The collectivity of the family of the Balšićs marked this unique feudal system applied to their domain.

Rivalry with Prince Marko[edit]

After the Battle of Maritsa, Marko, the son of Vukašin Mrnjavčević, was crowned king and gained his father's lands. However, his friendship with the Balšićs soon crumbled. This was a result of Đurađ, in 1371, expelling his first wife Olivera, Marko's sister, and took Prizren from Marko. Lazar Hrebeljanović, prince of Moravian Serbia, conquered Priština in the same year. Đurađ took Peć a year later, stripping most of Marko's lands north of Šar mountain.[6]


Đurađ I died on 13 January 1378 in Skadar. However, recent studies now conclude that Đurađ died in 1379 rather than in 1378. The rule of Zeta was passed down to his younger brother, Balša II. Đurađ's death caused quite a stir between Zeta's neighbours. Bosnian Ban Tvrtko I annexed Đurađ's territories bordering Dubrovnik in 1377, along with the remainder of Đurađ's coastal lands between the Bay of Kotor and the land previously annexed in 1377 at the time of his death. Tvrtko secured these possessions through Đurađ's death, free of worry of any counter-attack.

Vuk Branković also took this opportunity to gain Đurađ's land. Branković sent his forces into Metohija and seized Prizren, along with the rest of Đurađ's holdings in the region.[7]


Đurađ I was married to two women: Olivera Mrnjavčević (daughter of Vukašin Mrnjavčević) before 1364 and Teodora Dejanović (daughter of despot Dejan) after 1371. He had the following issue:


  1. ^ Fine 1994, p. 388
  2. ^ Fine 1994, p. 372
  3. ^ Fine 1994, p. 376
  4. ^ Fine 1994, p. 377
  5. ^ Nemirno doba srpskog srednjeg veka, Vlastela srpskih oblasnih gospodara. Marko Šuica, Belgrade, 2000.
  6. ^ Fine 1994, p. 380
  7. ^ Fine 1994, p. 389
  8. ^ Gopčević, Spiridon (1914). Geschichte von Montenegro und Albanien (in German). Gotha: F.A. Perthes. p. 460. OCLC 9968504. Retrieved 29 March 2012. Bezüglich der Strez herrscht Verwirrung. Hopf macht Ivo und Gojko BalSid zu Söhnen des Stefan Strez, welcher Vlajka Kastriota geheiratet hätte und Sohn des Gjuragj Balšić gewesen wäre, eines Bastards des Gjuragj I. 
  9. ^ Musachi, John (1515). "Brief Chronicle on the Descendants of our Musachi Dynasty". Retrieved 29 November 2011. To the fourth sister, Lady Vlaica, who was married to Lord Balsha, was born John and Coico Balsha. 


Đurađ I Balšić
Born:  ? Died: 1378
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Balša I
Ruler of Zeta
1362 – 13 January 1378
Succeeded by
Balša II