Mihailo I of Duklja

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Mihailo I
Mihailo Vojislavljević
King of Slavs (rex Sclavorum)
Srpski kralj Mihajlo lik 140x190.jpg
Mihailo I on a fresco in the Church of St. Michael in Ston.
Prince of Duklja/Prince of the Serbs [1][2]
Reign 1050-1081
Predecessor Vojislav
Successor Constantine Bodin
Issue Vladimir
Constantin Bodin
Dobroslav II
House Vojislavljević
Father Vojislav
Died 1081
Religion Eastern Christianity

Mihailo I Vojislavljević (Serbian Cyrillic: Михаило I Војислављевић, Anglicised: Michael I) was the Grand Prince of Duklja from 1050 to 1081. He alienated himself from the Byzantines and sought to improve relations with the West. In 1077 he was recognized as King by Pope Gregory VII in the aftermath of the Church schism of 1054. He succeeded his father as Prince of the Serbs,[1] a title signifying supreme leadership among Serbs.


Early rule[edit]

With the death of Stefan Vojislav his dominion was divided among his five sons.[3] Gojislav received Travunia (Trebinje) ruled briefly until he was killed by local nobles, who set up Domanek in his place.[3] Mihailo expelled him and Saganek chosen to rule,[3] but Domanek returned and drove him out.[3] Mihailo offered the office to Radoslav, who declined, afraid of losing Luška župa (future Zeta).[3] Radoslav perhaps distrusted his brother, thinking he would seize Zeta, but Mihailo seems to have offered him a deal.[3]

The Byzantine Empire, keen to take advantage of the death of Stefan Vojislav, prepared an offensive against unstable Duklja.[3] At this time, the four remaining brothers made peace and signed an alliance.,[3] the oldest treaty in Serbian history.[3] After the agreement, Radoslav attacked Travunia, killing Domanek.[3] After this event, their mother (who had acted as an stability in the relations between the brothers) died.[3] Mihailo succeeded as Knez of "Duklja" in 1046, or as his realm was called by contemporary Cedrenus: "Triballorum ac Serborum principatum".[4]

While in no imminent danger from that side, Mihailo found it favorable to further strengthen ties with Byzantium and, in 1050, he received the title of protospatharios and married a niece of Constantine IX Monomachos.,[4] something that might have implied a titular recognition of Constantinople's authority, but without no real concessions on his part. It corresponded to the then-current balance of forces and bought some 20 years of peace and prosperity to his land.

Aid to anti-Byzantine uprising in Macedonia[edit]

Matters started to change after 1071, the year of Byzantium's key Asian debacle at the Battle of Manzikert, as well as of the Norman conquest of southern Italy.

In 1072, the Bulgarian noblemen in Skopje planned a revolt against Byzantine rule under the leadership of Georgi Voiteh, the exarchos of the city. The rebel chieftains (proechontes) asked Mihailo I for help and, in exchange, offered to one of his sons, a descendant of the House of the Cometopuli, the Bulgarian throne.[5][6] In the fall of 1072, Michael I gladly sent Constantine Bodin with 300 troops, which arrived at Prizren and met with Voiteh and other magnates. There[7] they crowned Bodin "Emperor of the Bulgarians" and gave him the name 'Peter III', recalling the names of the Emperor-Saint Peter I (d. 970) and of Peter II Delyan (who had led the first major revolt against Byzantine rule in 1040–1041).[6] Despite some initial successes, Bodin was subsequently captured.[6] When Michael I heard about his son's capture, he sent a captive Byzantine general, Langobardopoulos, whom he had married with one of his daughters, to rescue him, but he defected to the Byzantines.[6]

The aid to Georgi Voiteh moved Mihailo away from the Byzantines.[8]

Papal vassalage; crown receival, and Byzantine enemy[edit]

After the uprising, Mihailo began looking for support westward - to the Pope. This came as a result not only of his alienation from the Byzantines, but also from a desire to create an independent archbishopric within his realm and to finally to obtain a royal title. In the aftermath of the Church schism of 1054, Pope Gregory VII was interested in bestowing royal crown on rulers in the rift area and Mihailo was granted his in 1077. Thereafter, Duklja was referred to as a kingdom, a situation that lasted until its reduction in the following century.

It is not known whether his brothers accepted him as supreme ruler or if he forced it upon them. Onwards, Mihailo was the ruler of All Duklja, and his brothers may at most have had only appanages.[3]

Last years[edit]

Having sealed ties with the Normans through marriage of his heir, Constantine Bodin, with Jakvinta of Bari, Mihailo died in 1081, after a rule of 30 or so years. He left St. Michael's Church in Ston, north of Dubrovnik, a small church following mostly an early Byzantine style, which contains one of the oldest known fresco portraits of a South Slavic ruler.


Mihailo had seven sons, out of which four are known:

Royal titles
Preceded by
Stephen Dobroslav I Voislav
Grand Prince of Duklja
1050 – 1081
Succeeded by
Constantine Bodin
Title transformed
King of Duklja
1077 – 1081


  1. ^ a b Scylitzes, 408-9
  2. ^ Cedrenus, ed. Bonn, II, p. 526
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l The early medieval Balkans, p. 212
  4. ^ a b Cedrenus II, col. 338
  5. ^ Scylitzes Continuatus: 163
  6. ^ a b c d Byzantium's Balkan frontier, page 142
  7. ^ Georgius Cedrenus Ioannis Scylitzae ope ab I. Bekkero suppletus et emendatus II, Bonnae, 1839, pp 714-719
  8. ^ The early medieval Balkans, p. 215


External links[edit]