|King of the Serbian Land
|Full name||Marko Mrnjavčević|
|Died||17 May 1395|
|Place of death||Rovine, Wallachia (now Romania)|
|Successor||None (title abolished)|
|Consort||Jelena, daughter of Hlapen|
|Royal House||House of Mrnjavčević|
Marko Mrnjavčević (Serbian Cyrillic: Марко Мрњавчевић, pronounced [mâːrkɔ mr̩̂ɲaːʋt͡ʃɛʋit͡ɕ] ( ); c. 1335 – 17 May 1395) was the de jure Serbian king from 1371 to 1395, while he was the de facto ruler of a territory in western Macedonia centered on the town of Prilep. He is known as Prince Marko (Serbian Cyrillic: Краљевић Марко, Kraljević Marko, IPA: [krǎːʎɛʋit͡ɕ mâːrkɔ]) and King Marko (Bulgarian: Крали Марко; Macedonian: Kрaле Марко) in South Slavic oral tradition, in which he has become a major character during the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans. Marko's father, King Vukašin, was the co-ruler alongside Serbian Tsar Stefan Uroš V, whose reign was marked by the weakening of the central authority and the gradual disintegration of the Serbian Empire. Vukašin's personal holdings included lands in western Macedonia, Kosovo and Metohija. In 1370 or 1371, he crowned Marko "young king"; this title included the possibility that Marko succeed the childless Uroš on the Serbian throne.
On 26 September 1371, Vukašin's forces were defeated in the Battle of Maritsa and he lost his life. About two months later, Tsar Uroš died. This formally made Marko the king of the Serbian land; however, great Serbian noblemen, who had become effectively independent from the central authority, did not even consider to recognise him as their supreme ruler. At an uncertain date after 1371, he became an Ottoman vassal. By 1377, significant parts of the territory he inherited from Vukašin were seized by other noblemen. King Marko in reality came to be a regional lord who ruled over a relatively small territory in western Macedonia. He funded the construction of the Monastery of Saint Demetrius near Skopje, better known as Marko's Monastery, finished in 1376. Marko died on 17 May 1395, fighting on the Ottoman side against the Wallachians in the Battle of Rovine.
Although he was a ruler of modest historical significance, Marko became a major character in South Slavic oral tradition. He is venerated as a national hero by the Serbs, Macedonians and Bulgarians, remembered in Balkan folklore as a fearless and powerful protector of the weak, who fought against injustice and confronted the Turks during the early years of Ottoman occupation.
Marko was born around 1335 as the first son of Vukašin Mrnjavčević and his wife, Alena. The patronymic "Mrnjavčević" derives from Mrnjava, described by 17th-century Ragusan historian Mavro Orbin as a minor nobleman from Zachlumia (in present-day Herzegovina and southern Dalmatia). According to Orbin, Mrnjava's sons were born in Livno in western Bosnia, where he could have moved to after Zachlumia was annexed from Serbia by Bosnia in 1326. The Mrnjavčević familyn.b.1 may have later supported Serbian Emperor (tsar) Stefan Dušan in his preparations to invade Bosnia, as did other Zachlumian nobles, and fearing punishment, emigrated to the Serbian Empire before the war started. These preparations possibly began two years ahead of the invasion, which took place in 1350. From that year comes the earliest written reference to Marko's father Vukašin, denoting him as Dušan's appointed župan (district governor) of Prilep, which had been acquired by Serbia from Byzantium in 1334 together with other parts of Macedonia. In 1355, the Emperor suddenly died of a stroke at the age of about 47.
Dušan was succeeded by his 19-year-old son Uroš, who apparently regarded Marko Mrnjavčević as a man of trust. The new Emperor appointed him the head of the embassy he sent to Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia) at the end of July 1361, to negotiate peace between the Empire and the Ragusan Republic during the hostilities that started earlier that year. The peace was not concluded on this occasion, but Marko successfully negotiated the release of Serbian merchants from Prizren detained by the Ragusans. He was also allowed to withdraw the silver his family had deposited in the city. The account of that embassy in a Ragusan document contains the earliest known undisputed reference to Marko Mrnjavčević. An inscription written in 1356 on a wall of a church in the Macedonian region of Tikveš, mentions a Nikola and a Marko as governors in that region, but the identity of this Marko is disputed.
Dušan's death was followed by the stirring of separatist activity in the Serbian Empire. The south-western territories, including Epirus, Thessaly, and lands in southern Albania, seceded by 1357. The core of the state remained loyal to the new Emperor Uroš. It consisted of three main regions: the western lands, including Zeta and Travunia with the upper Drina Valley; the central Serbian lands; and Macedonia. Nevertheless, local noblemen asserted more and more independence from Uroš' authority even in the part of the state that remained Serbian. Uroš was weak and unable to counteract these separatist tendencies, becoming an inferior power in his own domain. Serbian lords also fought each other over territories and influence.
Vukašin Mrnjavčević was a skilful politician, and gradually assumed the main role in the Empire. In August or September 1365, Uroš crowned him king, making him his co-ruler. By 1370, Marko's potential patrimony increased as Vukašin expanded his personal holdings from Prilep further into Macedonia, Kosovo and Metohija, acquiring Prizren, Pristina, Novo Brdo, Skopje, and Ohrid. In a charter he issued on 5 April 1370, Vukašin mentioned his wife Queen Alena, and his sons Marko and Andrijaš, signing himself as "Lord of the Serb and Greek Lands, and of the Western Provinces" (господинь зємли срьбьскои и грькѡмь и западнимь странамь). In late 1370 or early 1371, Vukašin crowned Marko Young King. This title had been given to heirs presumptive of Serbian kings to secure their position as successors to the throne. Since Uroš was childless, Marko could thus become his successor, starting a new—Vukašin's—dynasty of Serbian sovereigns. This would mean the end of the two-centuries-long reign of the Nemanjić dynasty. Most of the other Serbian lords were not happy with this situation, which strengthened their aspirations towards independence from the central authority.
Vukašin wanted to obtain a well-connected spouse for his eldest son Marko. A princess of the Croatian House of Šubić from Dalmatia, was sent by her father Grgur to the court of their relative Tvrtko I, the ban of Bosnia, to be raised and suitably married by Tvrtko's mother Jelena. The latter was the daughter of George II Šubić, whose maternal grandfather was Serbian King Dragutin Nemanjić. As the ban and his mother approved of Vukašin's idea to marry the Šubić princess to Marko, the wedding was about to be held. In April 1370, however, Pope Urban V sent a letter to Tvrtko in which he forbade him to give the Catholic lady in marriage to the "son of His Magnificence, the King of Serbia, a schismatic" (filio magnifici viri Regis Rascie scismatico). The pope also wrote about this impending "offence to the Christian faith" to King Louis I of Hungary, the nominal overlord of the ban, and that marriage never happened. Marko subsequently married Jelena, the daughter of Radoslav Hlapen, the lord of Veria and Edessa, the major Serbian nobleman in southern Macedonia.
In the spring of 1371, Marko participated in the preparations for a campaign against Nikola Altomanović, the major lord in the west of the Empire. The campaign was planned jointly by King Vukašin and Đurađ I Balšić, the lord of Zeta, who was married to Olivera, the king's daughter. In July of that year, Vukašin and Marko camped with their army outside Scutari, on Balšić's territory, ready to make an incursion towards Onogošt in Altomanović's land. The attack never happened, as the Ottomans threatened the land of Despot Jovan Uglješa, the lord of Serres, Vukašin's younger brother who ruled in eastern Macedonia. The forces of the Mrnjavčevićs were quickly directed eastward. Having in vain looked for allies, the two brothers finally entered with their own troops into the territory controlled by the Ottomans. At the Battle of Maritsa on 26 September 1371, the Turks annihilated the Serbian army. The bodies of Vukašin and Jovan Uglješa were never found. The place where the battle was fought, near the village of Ormenio in the east of present-day Greece, has ever since been called Sırp Sındığı ("Serbian Rout" in Turkish). The outcome of this battle had serious consequences for the entire region because it opened up the Balkans to the Turks.
When his father died, "young king" Marko legally became a king and the co-ruler of Emperor Uroš. The end of the Nemanjić dynasty came soon afterwards, when Uroš died on 2 or 4 December 1371, which formally made Marko the sovereign of the Serbian state. Serbian lords, however, did not even consider to recognise him as their supreme ruler, and the separatism within the state increased even more. After the demise of the two brothers and the destruction of their armies, the Mrnjavčević family was left without any real power. Lords surrounding Marko exploited the opportunity and seized significant parts of his patrimony. By 1372, Đurađ I Balšić took Prizren and Peć, and Prince Lazar Hrebeljanović took Pristina. By 1377 Vuk Branković acquired Skopje, and Albanian magnate Andrea Gropa became practically independent in Ohrid. The latter possibly remained a vassal to Marko as he had been to Vukašin. Gropa's son-in-law was Marko's relative Ostoja Rajaković of the clan of Ugarčić from Travunia. He was one of the Serbian nobles from Zachlumia and Travunia (adjacent principalities in present-day Herzegovina) who had received lands in the newly conquered parts of Macedonia during Emperor Dušan's reign.
The only significant town that Marko kept was Prilep, from which his father's rise had started. King Marko then became a petty prince who ruled over a relatively small territory in western Macedonia, bordered in the north by the Šar mountains and Skopje, in the east by the Vardar and the Crna Reka rivers, and in the west by Ohrid. The southern limits of his territory are uncertain. Marko was not the sole ruler even in this little domain, as he shared it with his younger brother Andrijaš, who had his own land in it. Their mother, Queen Alena, became a nun after Vukašin's death, taking the monastic name Jelisaveta, but she was the co-ruler with Andrijaš for some time after 1371. The youngest brother, Dmitar, lived on the territory controlled by Andrijaš. There was yet another brother named Ivaniš, about whom very little is known. The exact date when Marko became an Ottoman vassal is uncertain, but it probably did not happen immediately after the Battle of Maritsa.
At some point, Marko separated from his spouse Jelena and lived with Todora, the wife of a man named Grgur. Jelena returned to her father Radoslav Hlapen in Veria. Marko later sought to reconcile with her, but to get his wedded wife back, he first had to send Todora to Hlapen. As Marko's domain was bordered to the south by Hlapen's land, this reconciliation may have been motivated by the fact that Marko did not want an enemy in the south, after all the territorial losses that he had in the north. That this marital episode is known is due to scribe Dobre, a subject of Marko's. Dobre transcribed a liturgical book for the church in the village of Kaluđerec,n.b.2 and when he finished the job, he wrote an inscription in the book which begins as follows:
Слава сьвршитєлю богѹ вь вѣкы, аминь, а҃мнь, а҃м. Пыса сє сиꙗ книга ѹ Порѣчи, ѹ сєлѣ зовомь Калѹгєрєць, вь дьны благовѣрнаго кралꙗ Марка, ѥгда ѿдадє Ѳодору Грьгѹровѹ жєнѹ Хлапєнѹ, а ѹзє жєнѹ свою прьвовѣнчанѹ Ѥлєнѹ, Хлапєновѹ дьщєрє.
Marko's fortress was situated on a hill to the north of present-day Prilep. Its remains, partially well-preserved, are called Markovi Kuli ("Marko's towers"). Beneath the fortress lies a village named Varoš—the site of medieval Prilep. The village contains the Monastery of Archangel Michael renovated by Marko and Vukašin, whose portraits are depicted on the walls of the monastery's church. Marko was the ktetor of the Church of Saint Sunday in Prizren, which was finished in 1371, just before the Battle of Maritsa. In the inscription above the church's entrance, he is titled "young king".
The Monastery of St. Demetrius, popularly known as Marko's Monastery, is situated at the village of Markova Sušica near Skopje. Its construction lasted from c. 1345 to 1376 or 1377. Kings Marko and Vukašin, its ktetors, are portrayed above the southern entrance of the monastery's church. Marko is represented as an austere-looking man in purple clothes, wearing a crown adorned with strings of pearls. With his left hand he holds a scroll, the text on which begins with the words: "I, in the Christ God the pious King Marko, built and inscribed this divine temple ..." In his right hand he holds a big horn that symbolizes the horn of oil with which the Old Testament kings were anointed at their enthronement (as described, e.g., in 1 Samuel 16:13). According to an interpretation, Marko is shown here as the king chosen and anointed by God to lead his people in the times of crisis after the Battle of Maritsa.
Marko minted his own money, as did his father and other Serbian nobles of the time. His silver coins weighed 1.11 grams, and were produced in three types. In two of them, the obverse contained this text in five lines: ВЬХА/БАБЛГОВ/ѢРНИКР/АЛЬМА/РКО "In the Christ God, the pious King Marko". The reverse depicted Christ seated on a throne in the first type, and Christ seated in a mandorla in the second. In the third type, the reverse represented Christ in a mandorla, and the obverse contained the text in four lines: БЛГО/ВѢРНИ/КРАЛЬ/МАРКО "Pious King Marko". With this simple title Marko referred to himself also in the aforementioned church inscription. He did not include any territorial designation in his title, probably in tacit acknowledgement of his limited sway. His brother Andrijaš also minted his own money; still the money supply on the territory ruled by the Mrnjavčević brothers mostly consisted of the coins that had been struck by King Vukašin and Tsar Uroš. It is estimated that about 150 pieces of Marko's coins are kept today in various numismatic collections.
By 1379, Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic, the lord of Pomoravlje, emerged as the first and most powerful among Serbian nobles. In his signatures, he titled himself as the Autokrator of all the Serbs (самодрьжць вьсѣмь Србьлѥмь); nevertheless, he was not powerful enough to unite all Serbian lands under his authority. The Balšić, Mrnjavčević, Konstantin Dragaš (maternally a Nemanjić), Vuk Branković, and Radoslav Hlapen, ruled in their respective domains without consulting with Lazar. Another king besides Marko advanced on the political scene: in 1377, the Metropolitan of Mileševa crowned Tvrtko I, maternally related to the Nemanjić dynasty, King of the Serbs and of Bosnia. He had previously taken some western parts of the former Serbian Empire.
On 15 June 1389, Serbian forces led by Prince Lazar, Vuk Branković, and Tvrtko's nobleman Vlatko Vuković of Zachlumia, confronted the Ottoman army led by Sultan Murad I at the Battle of Kosovo, the most famous battle in Serbia's medieval history. With the bulk of both armies being wiped out, both Lazar and Murad lost their lives and the battle concluded in a stalemate. However, in the wake of it the Serbs were left with too few men to effectively defend their lands, while the Turks had many more troops in the east. Consequently, the Serbian principalities that were not already Ottoman vassals, one after the other became so in the following years.
In 1394, a group of Ottoman vassals in the Balkans decided to renounce their vassalage. Marko was not one of them, but his younger brothers Andrijaš and Dmitar refused to remain under Turkish dominance. In the spring of 1394, they left their homeland and emigrated to the Kingdom of Hungary, entering into the service of King Sigismund. They travelled via Ragusa, where they withdrew two thirds of their late father's deposit of 96.73 kilograms of silver, the remaining third being left for Marko. Andrijaš and Dmitar were the first Serbian nobles who emigrated to Hungary: the northward migration of the Serbs would continue throughout the Ottoman occupation.
In 1395, the Turks assailed Wallachia to punish its ruler Mircea I for his incursions into their territory. Three Serb vassals fought on the Ottoman side: King Marko, Lord Konstantin Dragaš, and Despot Stefan Lazarević, the son and heir of Prince Lazar. The Battle of Rovine took place on 17 May 1395, and was won by the Wallachians. King Marko and Konstantin Dragaš were killed in it. After their deaths, the Turks annexed their lands, and combined them into a single Ottoman province centred in Kyustendil. Thirty-six years after the Battle of Rovine, Konstantin the Philosopher wrote the Biography of Despot Stefan Lazarević. In this book, Konstantin recorded an account of what Marko said to Dragaš on the eve of the battle: "I pray the Lord to help the Christians, no matter if I will be the first to die in this war."
In folk poetry
Serbian epic poetry
Marko Mrnjavčević is the most popular hero of Serbian epic poetry, in which he is referred to as Kraljević Marko; with the word kraljević meaning "prince", or "king's son". This informal title was often attached to the names of King Vukašin's sons in contemporary sources. It was also used post-positively as a surname: Marko Kraljević.n.b.3 The title/surname was adopted by Serbian oral tradition, and became an integral part of the hero's name.
Poems about Kraljević Marko are not sequels that continue the same story line—the only thing that binds them into a single poetic cycle is the hero himself. His adventures are narrated with the goal of illuminating his character and personality. The epic Marko was endowed with a life of 300 years, and other prominent heroes from the 14th to the 16th centuries appear sometimes as his companions, including Miloš Obilić, Relja Krilatica, Vuk the Fiery Dragon, and Sibinjanin Janko with his nephew Banović Sekula. The poems contain few historical facts about Marko Mrnjavčević, notably his connection to the epoch of the disintegration of the Serbian Empire, and his vassalage to the Ottomans. They were composed by anonymous Serbian folk bards during the Ottoman occupation of their land. American Slavicist George Rapall Noyes characterized them as "combining tragic pathos with almost ribald comedy in a fashion worthy of an Elizabethan playwright."
Serbian epic poetry accords with the historical fact of King Vukašin being Marko's father. It asserts that his mother was Jevrosima, the sister of voivode Momčilo, the lord of the Pirlitor Fortress in Mount Durmitor (in Old Herzegovina). Momčilo is described as a man of immense size and strength, possessing magical attributes: a winged horse and a sabre with eyes. Vukašin murdered him with the help of the voivode's young wife Vidosava, despite Jevrosima's self-sacrificing attempt to save her brother. Instead of marrying Vidosava, as was the initial plan, Vukašin killed the treacherous woman. He took Jevrosima from Pirlitor to his capital city of Scutari and married her, as the dying Momčilo had actually advised him to do. She bore him two sons, Marko and Andrijaš, and the poem recounting these events concludes with the statement that Marko took after his uncle Momčilo. This epic character corresponds historically to the Bulgarian brigand and mercenary Momchil, who was for some time in the service of Serbian Tsar Dušan; he later became a despot and died in 1345 in the Battle of Peritheorion. According to another account, Marko and Andrijaš were born by a vila (Slavic mountain nymph), whom Vukašin wedded after he caught her by a lake and took off her wings so that she could not fly away.
As Marko matured he developed a strong individuality, and Vukašin once declared that he had no control over his son, who went wherever he wanted, drank and brawled. Marko grew up into an extraordinarily large and strong man, with a rather terrifying appearance which was at the same time somewhat comical. He wore a wolf-skin cap pulled low over his dark eyes; his massive black moustache was as large as a six-months-old lamb; his cloak was a shaggy wolf-pelt. A Damascus sabre swung at his girdle and a spear was slung across his back. Marko's six-flanged mace weighed 66 okas (85 kilograms), which he hung at the left side of his saddle, balancing it with a well-filled wineskin attached to the saddle's right side. His grip was such that he could squeeze drops of water out of a piece of dry cornel wood. He defeated a succession of the greatest champions, fighting triumphantly against overwhelming odds.
The hero's inseparable companion and friend was his piebald wonder-horse Šarac, who could talk. When Marko drank he always gave Šarac an equal share of the wine. The horse could leap three spear-lengths high and four spear-lengths forward, which enabled Marko to pursue and capture the dangerous and elusive vila called Ravijojla. She then became his blood sister, promising to aid him if he should ever be in evil straits. When Ravijojla helped him to kill the monstrous, three-hearted Musa Kesedžija, who almost defeated him, Marko grieved because he had slain a better man than himself.
Marko is portrayed as a protector of the weak and helpless, a fighter against Turkish bullies and against injustice in general. He acted as an ideal bearer of patriarchal and natural norms of life: amidst a Turkish military camp, he beheaded the Turk who dishonourably killed his father; he abolished the marriage tax by killing the tyrant who imposed it on the people of Kosovo; he saved the sultan's daughter from an unwanted marriage, after she entreated him as her blood brother to help her; he rescued three Serbian voivodes, his blood brothers, from a dungeon; he helped animals in distress. He is shown as a rescuer and benefactor of people, and a promoter of life; "Prince Marko is remembered like a fair day in the year," as is stated in a poem.
A striking characteristic of Marko's was his devotion to his mother Jevrosima, for whom he cherished a limitless reverence and love. He constantly sought her advice and obeyed it even when it contradicted his own impulses and desires. She lived with Marko at his mansion in Prilep, shining as his lodestar that led him toward the good and away from the evil, along the path of moral improvement and Christian virtues. Marko's honesty and high moral courage are conspicuous in the poem in which he happened to be the only person who knew the will of the late Tsar Dušan regarding his heir. Marko refused to bear false witness in favour of the pretenders—his own father and uncles—and spoke out the truth that Dušan had appointed his son Uroš heir to the Serbian throne. This almost cost him life as Vukašin tried to kill him.
Marko is also represented as a loyal vassal to the Ottoman sultan, fighting to protect the potentate and his empire from dangerous outlaws. When summoned by the sultan, he participated in Turkish military campaigns. Yet even in this relationship, the hero's strong personality and sense of dignity were expressed. More than once the sultan actually showed anxiety towards his burly, wayward vassal, and the interviews between Marko and his imperial master usually ended in this way:
Цар с' одмиче, а Марко примиче,
"Prince Marko and Musa Kesedžija"
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
Marko's fealty was skilfully combined with the suggestion that the nominal servant was in reality greater than his lord. Serbian bards thus reversed the roles and turned the tables on their conquerors. This dual aspect of Marko could be a reason why he became a national hero of the Serbs: for them he grew into "the proud symbol expressive of the unbroken spirit that lived on in spite of disaster and defeat," as stated by David Halyburton Low, translator of Serbian epic poems.
In fights, Marko used not only his strength and prowess but also cunning and trickery. Despite all his extraordinary qualities, he was not depicted as an abstract superhero or a god, but as a mortal man. There were opponents in the presence of whom his courage wavered and those who surpassed him in strength; there were times when his spirit quailed. He had his evil moments, when he acted capricious, short-tempered, or even with cruelty, but these were few in number. The prevailing traits of the hero's nature were honesty, self-sacrificing loyalty, and the fundamental goodness.
With his comically stylized appearance and behaviour, and his wry remarks at opponents' expense, Marko is regarded as the most humorous character in Serbian epic poetry. When a Moor smote him with a mace, the hero spoke to the attacker laughingly, "O valiant black Moor! Are you jesting or smiting in earnest?" Jevrosima once advised her son to cease from his bloody adventures and to plough fields. He obeyed, but in his grimly humorous way, ploughing the sultan's highway instead of fields. There came a group of Turkish Janissaries, who transported three packs of gold. They shouted at him to stop ploughing the highway, to which he responded by warning them to keep off the furrows. Marko quickly wearied of the exchange of words:
Диже Марко рало и волове,
Marko, aged 300 years, rode on 160-years-old Šarac by the seashore towards Mount Urvina, when a vila told him that he was going to die. Marko then stooped over a well and saw no reflection of his head from the water, hydromancy thus confirming the vila's words. He killed Šarac lest Turks capture and use him for menial labor, and gave his beloved companion an elaborate burial. He broke his sword and spear and threw his mace far out into the sea, before lying down to die. The hero's body was found seven days later by Vaso, the abbot of the Monastery of Hilandar on Mount Athos, and his deacon Isaija. Abbot Vaso transported Marko to Mount Athos and buried him at the monastery, leaving no sign of his grave.
Epic poetry of Bulgaria and Macedonia
"Krali Marko" has been one of the most popular characters in Bulgarian folklore for centuries. Bulgarian epic tales in general and those about Marko in particular seem to originate from the southwestern part of the Bulgarian ethnic area, much of it on the territory of the present-day Republic of Macedonia. Therefore, the same tales are also seen as part of the ethnic heritage of the present-day Macedonian nation.
According to local legends, Marko's mother was Evrosiya (Евросия), sister of the Bulgarian voivoda Momchil, who ruled territories in the Rhodope Mountains. At the birth of Marko, three narecnitsi (fate-fairies) appeared and foretold that he would become a hero and replace his father, the king Vukašin. When his father heard this he threw his son in a basket in the river to get rid of him. But a samodiva (also called samovila) named Vila found Marko and brought him up, becoming his foster mother. Because Marko suckled the samodiva's milk, he acquired supernatural powers. He is portrayed as a Bulgarian fighter for freedom against the Turks. He has a winged horse, called Sharkolia (meaning "dappled") and a stepsister — the samodiva Gyura. The Bulgarian legends incorporate important fragments of pagan mythology and beliefs, even though the Marko epos itself was created as late as the 14–18th century. Among Bulgarian epic songs, songs from the cycle about Krali Marko are particularly common and occupy a central place in it. Some prominent Bulgarian folklorists who collected stories about Marko were teacher Trayko Kitanchev (in the region of Resen in Western Macedonia), and Marko Cepenkov from Prilep (in different areas in the region).
South Slavic legends about Kraljević Marko or Krali Marko are mostly based on mythological motifs that are much older than the historical Marko Mrnjavčević. There are differences between the hero's image in the legends and that in the folk poems. In some areas he was imagined as a giant who walked stepping on hilltops, his head knocking the clouds. It was also narrated that he helped God in shaping the Earth in ancient times, and created the river gorge of Demir Kapija ("Iron Gate") with a stroke of his sabre. Thus he drained the sea that covered the regions of Bitola, Mariovo, and Tikveš in Macedonia, which enabled people to inhabit them. After the Earth was shaped, he took to arrogantly showing off his strength. God took it away from him by leaving a bag as heavy as the Earth on a road: when Marko tried to lift it, he lost his gigantic strength and became an ordinary man.
Legends also have it that the hero acquired his strength after he was suckled by a vila. King Vukašin threw his little son Marko into a river, because he did not resemble him, but the boy was saved by a cowherd who adopted him as a son, and the vila suckled him. By other accounts, Marko was a shepherd or a cowherd who found a vila's children lost in a mountain, and made a shade for them against the scorching sun, or gave them water. As a reward, the vila suckled him three times, after which he was able to lift and throw a huge boulder. In an Istrian version of this story, he made a shade for two snakes instead of the children. In a Bulgarian version, each of the three draughts of milk that he suckled from the vila's breast, turned into a snake.
He was regularly associated with huge solitary boulders and indentations in rocks. The boulders were said to be thrown by Marko from a hill, the indentations being his footprints or those of his horse. He was also connected with other geographic objects, such as hills, glens, cliffs, caves, rivers, brooks, and groves, which he created or did something memorable at. They were often named after him, so there are many toponyms from Istria in the west to Bulgaria in the east that are derived from the hero's name. In stories from Bulgaria and Macedonia, Marko had a sister who was as strong as he, and competed with him in throwing boulders.
Marko's wonder-horse was a gift from a vila by some legends, while a Serbian story gives the following account. He was looking for a horse that could bear him. To test a steed, he would grab him by the tail and sling him over his shoulder. Noticing a leprous piebald foal owned by some carters, he grabbed him by the tail, but could not move him at all. Marko bought and cured the foal, naming him Šarac (after šara "dapple"). He grew up into an enormously powerful horse, becoming the hero's inseparable companion. A legend from Macedonia has it that Marko, on a vila's advice, captured a sick horse in a mountain and cured him. The patches on his skin that had been covered with crusts grew white hairs, so the hero's horse became piebald.
According to folk traditions the hero never died, but lives on in a cave, in a den covered with moss, or in an unknown land. A Serbian legend recounts that Marko once fought in a battle in which so many men were killed that the fighters and their horses ended up swimming in blood. He lifted up his hands towards heaven and said, "O God, what am I going to do now!" God took pity on Marko transporting him and Šarac into a cave, where the hero stuck his sabre into the rock and fell asleep. There is some moss in the cave, which Šarac eats bit by bit, while the sabre slowly comes out of the rock. When it falls down after it completely emerges, and the horse eats all of the moss, Marko will awake and reappear in the world. Some people allegedly saw him after they descended into a deep pit, where he lived in a large house in front of which his horse was also seen. Others saw him in a faraway land, dwelling in a cave. According to a tradition from Macedonia, Marko drank of "eagle's water" which made him immortal, and he now accompanies Prophet Elijah in heaven.
In modern culture
In the 19th century, Marko was the subject of multiple dramatizations. In 1831, the Hungarian drama Prince Marko was shown in Budim, possibly written by István Balog and in 1838, the Hungarian drama Prince Marko – Great Serbian Hero by Celesztin Pergő was shown in Arad. In 1848, Jovan Sterija Popović wrote the tragedy The Dream of Prince Marko which has the legend of sleeping Marko as its central motif. Petar Preradović wrote the drama Kraljević Marko which glorifies the strength of the South Slavs. In 1863, Francesco Dall'Ongaro presented his Italian drama Resurrection of Prince Marko.
Of all the epic or historical figures of Serbian history, Marko is considered to have given the most inspiration to visual artists: a monograph on the subject lists 87 authors. The oldest known depictions of Marko are 14th century frescoes from Marko's Monastery and Prilep. From 18th century a drawing of Marko on parchment is preserved in the Čajniče Gospel, reminiscent of the style of stećci reliefs, while Vuk Karadžić wrote that in his childhood (late 18th century) he saw a painting of Marko carrying an ox on his back.
In the 19th century, lithographs of Marko were made by Anastas Jovanović, Ferdo Kikerec and others. 19th century artists who painted Marko include Mina Karadžić, Novak Radonić, Đura Jakšić; 20th century Nadežda Petrović, Mirko Rački, Uroš Predić, Paja Jovanović. A well-known sculpture of Marko riding his Šarac by Ivan Meštrović was reproduced on a Yugoslav banknote and stamp. A number of modern illustrators have drawn Marko, as well. They include Alexander Key, Aleksandar Klas, Zuko Džumhur, Vasa Pomorišac, Bane Kerac and many others.
Some common motifs are present in works of multiple authors. These are: Marko and Ravijojla; Marko with his mother; Marko and Šarac; Marko shooting an arrow; Marko plows the roads; Fight between Marko and Musa; and death of Marko. Also, several artists have tried to reconstruct a realistic portrait of Marko on the basis of his frescoes.
In 1924, the Prilep Brewery introduced a light beer called Krali Marko.
^n.b.1 The family name "Mrnjavčević" was not mentioned in contemporary sources, nor was any other surname associated with this family. The oldest known source mentioning the name "Mrnjavčević" is Ruvarčev rodoslov "The Genealogy of Ruvarac", written between 1563 and 1584. It is unknown whether it was introduced into the Genealogy from some older source, or from the folk poetry and tradition.
^n.b.2 This liturgical book, acquired in the 19th century by Russian collector Aleksey Khludov, is kept today in the State Historical Museum of Russia.
^n.b.3 The name Despotović ("despot's son") was applied in a similar way to Uglješa, the son of Despot Jovan Uglješa, King Vukašin's younger brother.
- Fostikov 2002, pp.49–50.
- Orbin 1968, p.116.
- Fine 1994, pp.362–3.
- Fine 1994, p.323.
- Stojanović 1902, p.37.
- Fine 1994, p.288.
- Fine 1994, p.335.
- Mihaljčić 1975, p.51. Ćorović 2001, "Распад Српске Царевине".
- Mihaljčić 1975, p.77.
- Šuica 2000, p.15.
- Fine 1994, p. 358
- Fine 1994, p. 345.
- Šuica 2000, p. 19
- Mihaljčić 1975, p.83.
- Miklošič 1858, p.180, № CLXVII.
- Šuica 2000, p. 20
- Fajfrić (2000), "Први Котроманићи".
- Jireček 1911, p.430.
- Theiner 1860, p.97, № CXC.
- Theiner 1860, p.97, № CLXXXIX.
- Mihaljčić 1975, pp. 170–1
- Mihaljčić 1975, p. 137; Fine 1994, p. 377
- Ćorović 2001, "Маричка погибија".
- Fine 1994, pp. 379–82
- Mihaljčić 1975, p.168.
- Šuica 2000, pp.35–6.
- Šuica 2000, p.42.
- Fostikov 2002, p.51.
- Mihaljčić 1975, pp.164–5.
- Stojanović 1902, pp.58–9
- Mihaljčić 1975, p.166.
- Mihaljčić 1975, p.181.
- Šuica 2000, pp.133–6.
- Mandić 2003, pp.24–5.
- Mihaljčić 1975, p.183.
- Mihaljčić 1975, p.220.
- Fine 1994, p.393.
- Fine 1994, pp.408–11.
- Fostikov 2002, pp.52–3.
- Fine 1994, p.424.
- Konstantin 2000, "О погибији краља Марка и Константина Драгаша".
- Noyes 1913, "Introduction".
- Rudić 2001, p.89.
- Deretić 2000, "Епска повесница српског народа".
- Low 1922, "The Marko of the Ballads".
- Popović 1988, pp.24–8.
- Low 1922, "The Marriage of King Vukašin".
- Ćorović 2001, "Стварање српског царства".
- Bogišić 1878, pp. 231–2.
- Low 1922, "Marko Kraljević and the Vila"
- Low 1922, "Marko Kraljević and Musa Kesedžija"
- Popović 1988, pp.70–7.
- Karadžić 2000, "Марко Краљевић познаје очину сабљу".
- Low 1922, p.73.
- Karadžić 2000, "Марко Краљевић укида свадбарину".
- Karadžić 2000, "Орање Марка Краљевића".
- Low 1922, "Marko's Ploughing".
- Low 1922, "The Death of Marko Kraljević".
- For further information, read Veliko Iordanov (1901). Krali-Marko v bulgarskata narodna epika. Sofia: Sbornik na Bulgarskoto Knizhovno Druzhestvo.
- Mihail Arnaudov (1961). "Българско народно творчество в 12 тома. Том 1. Юнашки песни." (in Bulgarian).
- The River Danube in Balkan Slavic Folksongs, Ethnologia Balkanica (01/1997), Burkhart, Dagmar; Issue: 01/1997 , pp. 53–60
- A History of Macedonian Literature 865–1944, Volume 112 of Slavistic Printings and Reprintings, Charles A. Moser, Publisher Mouton, 1972.
- Прилеп; зап. Марко Цепенков (СбНУ 2, с. 116–120, № 2 – "Марко грабит Ангелина").
- Radenković 2001, pp.293–7.
- Popović 1988, pp.41–2.
- Karadžić 1852, pp.345–6, s.v. "Марко Краљевић".
- Šarenac 1996, p. 26
- Šarenac 1996, p. 06
- Šarenac 1996, p. 02
- Šarenac 1996, p. 05
- "Serbian Medieval Royal Attire". 2006-11-21. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
- Šarenac 1996, p. 27
- Šarenac 1996, p. 44
- Šarenac 1996, p. 45
- Šarenac 1996, p. 28
- Šarenac 1996, p. 24
- Šarenac 1996, p. 46
- Šarenac 1996, p. 33
- Šarenac 1996, p. 6–14
- "Krali Marko". Prilep Brewery. Retrieved 2011-06-28.
- Rudić 2001, p.96.
- Bogišić, Valtazar (1878). Народне пјесме: из старијих, највише приморских записа [Folk poems: from older records, mostly from the Littoral] (in Serbian). 1. The Internet Archive.
- Ćorović, Vladimir (November 2001). Историја српског народа [History of the Serbian People] (in Serbian). Project Rastko.
- Deretić, Jovan (2000). Кратка историја српске књижевности [Short history of Serbian literature] (in Serbian). Project Rastko.
- Fajfrić, Željko (7 December 2000). Котроманићи (in Serbian). Project Rastko.
- Fine, John Van Antwerp (1994). The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. The University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-08260-5.
- Fostikov, Aleksandra (2002). "О Дмитру Краљевићу [About Dmitar Kraljević]" (in Serbian). Историјски часопис [Historical Review] (Belgrade: Istorijski institut) 49. ISSN 0350-0802.
- Jireček, Konstantin Josef (1911). Geschichte der Serben [History of the Serbs] (in German). 1. The Internet Archive.
- Karadžić, Vuk Stefanović (1852). Српски рјечник [Serbian dictionary]. Vienna: Vuk Stefanović Karadžić.
- Karadžić, Vuk Stefanović (11 October 2000). Српске народне пјесме [Serbian folk poems] (in Serbian). 2. Project Rastko.
- Konstantin the Philosopher (2000). Gordana Jovanović ed. Житије деспота Стефана Лазаревића [Biography of Despot Stefan Lazarević] (in Serbian). Project Rastko.
- Low, David Halyburton (1922). The Ballads of Marko Kraljević. The Internet Archive.
- Mandić, Ranko (2003). "Kraljevići Marko i Andreaš" (in Serbian). Dinar: Numizmatički časopis (Belgrade: Serbian Numismatic Society) № 21. ISSN 1450-5185.
- Mihaljčić, Rade (1975). Крај Српског царства [The end of the Serbian Empire] (in Serbian). Belgrade: Srpska književna zadruga.
- Miklošič, Franc (1858). Monumenta serbica spectantia historiam Serbiae Bosnae Ragusii (in Serbian and Latin). The Internet Archive.
- Noyes, George Rapall; Bacon, Leonard (1913). Heroic Ballads of Servia. The Internet Sacred Text Archive.
- Orbin, Mavro (1968). Franjo Barišić, Radovan Samardžić, Sima M. Ćirković eds. Краљевство Словена [The Realm of the Slavs] (in Serbian). trans. Zdravko Šundrica. Belgrade: Srpska književna zadruga.
- Popović, Tatyana (1988). Prince Marko: The Hero of South Slavic Epics. New York: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0-8156-2444-1.
- Radenković, Ljubinko (2001). "Краљевић Марко" (in Serbian). Svetlana Mikhaylovna Tolstaya, Ljubinko Radenković eds. Словенска митологија: Енциклопедијски речник [Slavic mythology: Encyclopedic dictionary]. Belgrade: Zepter Book World. ISBN 86-7494-025-0.
- Rudić, Srđan (2001). "O првом помену презимена Mрњавчевић [On the first mention of the Mrnjavčević surname]" (in Serbian). Историјски часопис [Historical Review] (Belgrade: Istorijski institut) 48. ISSN 0350-0802.
- Stojanović, Ljubomir (1902). Стари српски записи и натписи [Old Serbian inscriptions and superscriptions] (in Serbian). 1. Belgrade: Serbian Royal Academy.
- Šarenac, Darko (1996). "Марко Краљевић у машти ликовних уметника (in Serbian). Belgrade, BIPIF. ISBN 978-86-82175-03-2
- Šuica, Marko. (2000). Немирно доба српског средњег века: властела српских обласних господара [The turbulent era of the Serbian Middle Ages: the noblemen of the Serbian regional lords] (in Serbian). Belgrade: Službeni list SRJ. ISBN 86-355-0452-6.
- Theiner, Augustin (1860). Vetera monumenta historica Hungariam sacram illustrantia (in Latin). 2. The Internet Archive.
|Wikisource has several original texts related to: Prince Marko|
- The Ballads of Marko Kraljević, translated by David Halyburton Low (1922).
- Heroic Ballads of Servia, translated by George Rapall Noyes and Leonard Bacon (1913).
- Macedonian songs, fairy tales and legends about Marko (Macedonian).
- Bulgarian ballads (also here, with more information) and legends about Marko (Bulgarian).
- Marko, The King's Son: Hero of The Serbs by Clarence A. Manning (1932).
- Web comic strip.
Videos of Serbian epic poems sung to the accompaniment of the gusle:
- Prince Marko Recognises His Father's Sword.
- Prince Marko Abolishes the Marriage Tax.
- Prince Marko and the Eagle.