Kingdom of Serbia (medieval)

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"Medieval Serbian Kingdom" redirects here. For Kingdom of Serbia (1882–1918), see Kingdom of Serbia. For the province of the Habsburg Monarchy, see Kingdom of Serbia (1718–1739).
Kingdom of Serbia
Kraljevina Srbija



Serbia, 1265, during the rule of Stephen Uroš I
Languages Old Serbian
Religion Eastern Orthodoxy
(Serbian Orthodox Church)
Government Monarchy
 -  1196-1228 Stefan Nemanjić (Grand Prince↑King)
 -  1322–1331 Stephen Uroš III of Dečani
 -  1331-1346 Stephen Uroš IV Dušan the Mighty (King↑Emperor)
Historical era Medieval
 -  Crowning of Stefan Nemanjić The First-crowned 1217
 -  Autocephaly of the Serbian Church (Sava, Archbishop of Serbs) 1219
 -  Crowning of Stephen Uroš IV Dušan the Mighty (Emperor of Serbs and Greeks) 16 April 1346
Today part of  Serbia

The Kingdom of Serbia (Serbian: краљевина Србија/kraljevina Srbija) or Serbian Kingdom (Српска краљевина/Srpska kraljevina) was a medieval Serb kingdom ruled by the Nemanjić dynasty, from 1217 to 1346. The Serbian Grand Principality was elevated with the coronation of Stefan Prvovenčani (The First-crowned) as "King of Serbia" by his brother, bishop Sava, after inheriting all territories unified by their father, Stefan Nemanja, who is regarded the most remarkable Serb according to the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.[1] It was proclaimed an Empire on 16 April 1346.


Serbian Grand Principality[edit]

In 1083, Constantine Bodin, the King of Duklja and Ruler of the Serbs, had appointed his nephews Vukan and Marko as vassals in Rascia (historiographical name), one of the four provinces of his realm, situated in the hinterland (alongside Zachumlje and Bosnia, and the seat in Duklja).[2] Each province had its own nobility and institutions, and acquired a member of the Vojislavljevići to head as Župan.[2] The Byzantines launched a campaign on Duklja between 1089 and 1091, and possibly captured Bodin, and a civil war broke out in the realm among Bodin's relatives, which greatly weakened Duklja, and gave Vukan the chance to assert himself and break away.[3] Rascia became independent in 1091, as well as Bosnia and Zahumlje; Vukan took the title of Grand Prince of Serbia.[3] Up to this point, Duklja had been the center of the Serbian realm, as well as the main resistance to Byzantium in the Balkans.[4] Rascia became the most powerful of the Serbian states, in hands of the Vukanović dynasty, and remained so throughout the Middle Ages.[5] Rascia, of which was the prestige rose, replaced Duklja as the main opponent of Byzantine rule in the 12th century.[3] Bodin's heirs were forced to recognize Byzantine overlordship, and had now only the small territories of Duklja and Travunia.[3] During the reign of Vukan's son Uroš I, the Byzantines invaded Duklja, and sought to conquer Rascia as well, but through the diplomatic ties with Hungary, Serbia kept its independence. Uroš II initially fought the Byzantines, but gave oaths of servitude to the Emperor after defeat in war. Desa, the brother of Uroš II and initially a Byzantine ally, turned to Hungarian support, but was deposed in 1163, when Stefan Tihomir of a cadet line (which would become Nemanjić dynasty), was put on the throne by the Emperor.

Stefan Nemanja[edit]


Reign of Stefan the First-Crowned[edit]

Stefan Nemanja was succeeded by his middle son Stefan, whilst his first-born son Vukan was given the rule of the Zeta region (present-day Montenegro). Stefan Nemanja's youngest son Rastko became a monk and took the name Sava, turning all his efforts to spread religion among his people. Since the Roman Catholic Church already had ambitions to spread its influence to the Balkans as well, Stefan used these propitious circumstances to obtain his crown from the Pope, thereby becoming the first Serbian king, in 1217. In Byzantium, his brother Sava managed to secure autocephaly (independence) for the Serbian Church and became the first Serbian archiepiscope in 1219. In the same year Sava published the first constitution in SerbiaSt. Sava's Nomocanon (Serbian: Zakonopravilo).[6][7][8] This legal act was well developed. St. Sava's Nomocanon was the compilation of Civil law, based on Roman Law[9][10] and Canon law, based on Ecumenical Councils and its basic purpose was to organize functioning of the young Serbian kingdom and the Serbian church. Thus the Serbs acquired both forms of independence: political and religious.

Reign of Radoslav, Vladislav and Uroš I[edit]

The next generation of Serbian rulers — the sons of Stefan PrvovenčaniRadoslav, Vladislav and Uroš I, marked a period of stagnation of the state structure. All three kings were more or less dependent on some of the neighbouring states — Byzantium, Bulgaria or Hungary. The ties with the Hungarians played a decisive role in the fact that Uroš I was succeeded by his son Dragutin whose wife was a Hungarian princess. Later on, when Dragutin abdicated in favour of his younger brother Milutin (in 1282), the Hungarian king Ladislaus IV gave him lands in northeastern Bosnia, the region of Mačva, and the city of Belgrade, whilst he managed to conquer and annex lands in northeastern Serbia. Thus, some of these territories became part of the Serbian state for the first time. His new state was named Kingdom of Srem. In that time the name Srem was a designation for two territories: Upper Srem (present day Srem) and Lower Srem (present day Mačva). Kingdom of Srem under the rule of Stefan Dragutin was actually Lower Srem, but some historical sources mention that Stefan Dragutin also ruled over Upper Srem and Slavonia. After Dragutin died (in 1316), the new ruler of the Kingdom of Srem became his son, king Vladislav II, who ruled this state until 1325.

Reign of Milutin[edit]

Under the rule of Dragutin's younger brother — King Milutin, Serbia grew stronger despite having to occasionally fight wars on three different fronts. King Milutin was an apt diplomat much inclined to the use of a customary medieval diplomatic and dynastic marriages. He was married five times, with Hungarian, Bulgarian and Byzantine princesses. He is also famous for building churches, some of which are the finest examples of Medieval Serbian architecture: the Gračanica monastery in Kosovo, the Cathedral in Hilandar monastery on Mount Athos, the St. Archangel Church in Jerusalem etc. Because of his endowments, King Milutin has been proclaimed a saint, in spite of his tumultuous life. He was succeeded on the throne by his son Stefan, later dubbed Stefan Dečanski.

Reign of Stefan Dečanski[edit]

Spreading the kingdom to the east by winning the town of Nis and the surrounding counties, and to the south by acquiring territories on Macedonia, Stefan Dečanski was worthy of his father and built the Visoki Dečani monastery in Metohija — the most monumental example of Serbian Medieval architecture — that earned him his nickname. Stefan Dečanski defeated the Bulgarians in Battle of Velbužd in 1330.


Serbian Empire[edit]

Main article: Serbian Empire
Corronation of Tsar Dušan
Serbian Empire, 1355 A.D.

Taking advantage of the Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347, Dušan doubled the size of his kingdom seizing territories to the south, southeast and east at the expense of Byzantium and conquered almost the entire territory of today's Greece, except the Peloponnese and the islands. After he conquered the city of Serres, he was crowned the Emperor of Serbs and Greeks in Skoplje by the Serbian Patriarch on April 16, 1346. His goal was to become the successor of the Byzantine Emperors. Before his sudden death, Dušan the Mighty tried to organize a Crusade with the Pope against the threatening Turks. He died in December 1355 at the age 47. The Imperial constitution, the Dušan's Code (Serbian: Dušanov zakonik)[11] was enacted in 1349 and added in 1354. The Code was based on Roman-Byzantine law. The legal transplanting is notable with the articles 171 and 172 of Dušan's Code, which regulated the juridical independence. They were taken from the Byzantine code Basilika (book VII, 1, 16-17). Dušan opened new trade routes and strengthened the state's economy. Serbia flourished, becoming one of the most developed countries and cultures in Europe. Medieval Serbia had a high political, economic, and cultural reputation in Europe.


King Reign Notes
Stefan the First-Crowned, Ljeviška.jpg Stephen
the First-crowned
  • second son of Stefan Nemanja. He inherited the title of Grand Prince in 1196 when his father retired as a monk. His reign began with a struggle against his brother Vukan II, who expelled Stefan to Bulgaria.
  • Kaloyan gave him an army of Cumans in exchange for eastern territories. The crisis ended when Sava negotiated a peace between the brothers and Stefan's power was cemented.
  • He was crowned King in 1217, and then Sava gains autocephaly, becoming the first Archbishop of Serbs in 1219, thus Serbia retained full independence.
Stefanradoslav.jpg Stephen Radoslav
  • son of Stefan II. He ruled Zahumlje during the reign of his father, and also held a governor status of Zeta. He was the co-founder of the Žiča monastery with his father, who would abdicate in 1227 due to illness, taking monastic vows.
  • Radoslav was crowned by his uncle Sava, the Archbishop of Serbia.
  • His marriage to Anna Doukaina Angelina would prove unpopular as she undermined his authority, he lost the loyalty of the people and in 1233 a revolt against them prompted the couple to flee to Dubrovnik.
Fresco of Stefan Vladislav, Mileševa, edited.jpg Stephen Vladislav
  • son of Stefan II. He succeeded his brother Radoslav in 1233 and ruled for 10 years, before being overthrown by his younger brother Uroš. He continued to rule Zeta.
  • The first known flag design of Serbia was found in his treasury.
King Stefan Uroš I with his son Stefan Dragutin.jpg Stephen Uroš I
  • son of Stefan II. He succeeded his brother Vladislav.
  • He boosted trade with Dubrovnik and Kotor, marking a beginning of economic prosperity.
  • In 1253 a war was fought against Dubrovnik, peace was signed in 1254, and in the 1260s a second war begun that ended in 1268.
  • Uroš immediately turned towards Hungary, successfully taking Mačva, he was however captured and peace was ensured between the two Kings through marriage of Dragutin and Catherine, the daughter of Stephen V of Hungary.
  • His oldest son Dragutin would have succeeded his rule, but Uroš favored Stefan Milutin, the younger son, as successor. He was overthrown by Dragutin in 1276.
Fresco of Stefan Dragutin, Arilje.jpg Stephen Dragutin
  • son of Stefan Uroš I. He overthrew his father with help from the Hungarian royalty (through his marriage to Catherine of Hungary) after the Battle of Gacko.
  • He was injured in 1282, and gave the supreme rule to his younger brother Milutin, but continued to rule what would later become the Kingdom of Srem with the capital at Belgrade.
  • Milutin boosted relations with the Byzantine Emperor, and refused to give the rule to Vladislav II (Dragutin's son), causing a split of the Kingdom. Dragutin continued to rule the northern frontier in Hungarian alliance, but in the last years re-connected with Serbia, acting as a vassal.
Milutinst.jpg Stephen Uroš II Milutin
  • son of Stefan Uroš I. He succeeded his brother Dragutin.
  • Upon his accession, he immediately turned towards Macedonia, conquering the northern part with Skoplje, which became his capital. He continued deep into Byzantine lands, taking northern Albania and as far as Kavala. He also took Bulgarian Vidin, and later Durres.
  • He was in a succession war with Dragutin after peace was signed with the Byzantines in 1299. Milutin aids the Byzantines against the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Gallipoli (1312), which ended in a victory. When Dragutin died he put most of his lands with Belgrade under his rule, in the same year his son Stefan Uroš III tried to overthrow him, resulting in him being exiled to Constantinople. In 1319 the Hungarians took all of Dragutin's lands but Braničevo.
  • Stefan Konstantin was to be King, but Uroš III returns to Serbia in 1321, being pardoned, retaining the rule.
Stefan Decanski ktitor.jpg Stephen Uroš III
of Dečani
  • son of Stefan Uroš II Milutin
Serbian Emperor Stefan Dušan, cropped.jpg Stephen Uroš IV Dušan
the Mighty
  • son of Uroš III. He was a very skilled military leader, and defeated Bosnia and Bulgaria at the age of 20. As his father was not an able conqueror, Dušan removed him from the throne.
  • Dušan doubled the size of the realm, taking Byzantine lands as far as the Peloponnese. He was crowned Emperor in 1346. The Serbian Empire flourished, becoming one of the most developed countries and cultures in Europe.
  • He enacted the constitution - Dušan's Code in 1349.


See also[edit]

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  1. ^ „100 najznamenitijih Srba", Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, 1993, ISBN 86-82273-08-X : He has the first place
  2. ^ a b Fine, 233
  3. ^ a b c d Fine, p. 224
  4. ^ The early medieval Balkans, p. 224
  5. ^ Fine, p. 225
  6. ^ Alan Watson Foundation
  7. ^ "Nomocanon". Reference. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  8. ^ John V. A. Fine (1994). The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. ISBN 978-0-472-08260-5. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  9. ^ S. P. Scott (1932). The Civil Law: Vol. I. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  10. ^ Yves LASSARD, Alexandr KOPTEV. "The Roman Law Library". Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  11. ^ "Serbian Culture of the 14th Century. Volume I". Dusanov Zakonik. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 


  • John V.A. Fine. (1994). The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. The University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08260-4
  • John V.A. Fine. (1991). The early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the 6th to the Late 12th Century. The University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08149-7
  • Alexander Soloviev, "Greek charters of Serbian rulers" (1936), Soloviev and Makin