Serbian nobility

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Serbian nobility (Serbian: Srpsko plemstvo, Српско племство) refers to the privileged order or class (aristocracy) of Serbia in the Middle Ages and early modern period.

The first nobles recorded in Serbian history were those in the 9th to 11th century, who were connected to the royal family by marriage. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Serbia greatly expanded with its geo-political and economical culmination during the Serbian Empire. With the fall of Serbia in the 15th century, Serbian nobility survived in Montenegro, Venetian territories and in the Austro-Hungarian lands. In the 19th century, with the independence from the Ottoman Empire, a new nobility based out of warriors and other wealthy intelligentsia emerged.


Middle Ages

In historiography, high and late medieval Serbian nobility ("lords, nobles" - plemići/племићи, vlastela/) could be grouped into "magnates" (velikaši/великаши - "Great, Grand", or velmoža, or vlastela) and "lesser lords" (vlasteličići).[1][verification needed] A military rank was vojvoda (war-leader, war-bringer), which was bestowed upon talented general, regardless of descent and social rank.

The ruling nobility possessed hereditary allodial estates, which were worked by dependent sebri, the equivalent of Greek paroikos; peasants owing labour services, formally bound by decree.

All noblemen were obliged to serve the monarch in war.

Titles include:

  • Prince, possessor of a lordship styled principality, a title which was only semi-official and never gave his possessor precedence at the court. Not to be confused with the rank of Prince.
  • despot, (court title)
  • sevastokrator,
  • kesar, (court title)
  • gospodar (Lord), possessor of a lordship directly under the rule of the monarch
  • ban (administrative)
  • kefalija (from Greek kephalē, meaning "Head"), (administrative)
  • čelnik (Head), (administrative)
  • logotet (administrative)
  • protovestijar (protovestiarios), used after Stefan Milutin (financial)
  • kaznac, (financial)
  • sevast, (court title)
  • protosevast
  • tepčija, (court title)
  • veliki domestik
  • domestik (domestikos)
  • veliki čauš


Early and High Middle Ages[edit]

The Serbs, who lived in so-called sklavinia, were organized into župa, a confederation of village communities headed by a local župan, a magistrate or governor.[2] The title subsequently acted as the superior title among some Slavic monarchs. The župan was later in turn subordinate the veliki župan (Grand Prince). In Bosnia, since the early Middle Ages, the ban held the superior office, nominally under a foreign power.

In the mid 9th century, Grand Prince Vlastimir married his daughter to the son of župan Beloje of Trebinje. Krajina Belojević rules the appanage of Travunia under the Serbian crown. Prince Časlav (r. 927-960) marries his daughter to his voivode Tihomir, who receives the appanage of the Drina župa.

During the reign of Constantine Bodin, neither Bosnia, Zachlumia nor Rascia were ever integrated into Duklja (the seat).[3] Each Županate had its own nobility and institutions and acquired a Vojislavljević to head as Župan.[3]

In 1091 or 1092, Vukan, earlier a subordinate to Bodin, became independent,[4] taking the title of Grand Prince (Veliki Župan).[5] His state was centered around present-day Novi Pazar.[5] Subordinate to him were local dukes (Župan, holding a territory equivalent of a county), who seem to have been more or less autonomous in the internal affairs of their counties, but who were obliged to be loyal to Vukan, and supporting him in battle.[5] It seems that the dukes were hereditary holders of their counties, holding their land before Duklja annexed Rascia.[5]

Serbian Empire[edit]

On April 16, 1346 (Easter), Stephen Uroš IV Dušan of Serbia convoked a huge assembly at Skopje, attended by the Serbian Archbishop Joanikije II, the Archbishop of Ochrid Nikolaj I, the Bulgarian Patriarch Simeon and various religious leaders of Mount Athos.[6] The assembly and clerics agreed on, and then ceremonially performed the raising of the autocephalous Serbian Archbishopric to the status of Patriarchate.[7] The Archbishop from now on is titled Patriarch of Serbia, although one document called him Patriarch of Serbs and Greeks, with the seat at the monastery of Peć.[7] The new Patriarch Joanikije II now solemnly crowned Dušan as "Emperor and autocrat of Serbs and Romans" (Greek Bασιλεὺς καὶ αὐτoκράτωρ Σερβίας καὶ Pωμανίας).[7] Dušan had his son crowned King of Serbs and Greeks, giving him nominal rule over the Serbian lands, and although Dušan was governing the whole state, he had special responsibility for the "Roman", i.e. Greek lands.[7]

A further increase in the Byzantinization of the Serbian court followed, particularly in court ceremonial and titles.[7] As Emperor, Dušan could grant titles only possible as an Emperor.[8] In the years that followed, Dušan's half-brother Symeon Uroš and brother-in-law Jovan Asen became despotes. Jovan Oliver already had the despot title, granted to him by Andronikos III. His brother-in-law Dejan Dragaš and Branko is granted the title of sebastocrator. The military commanders (voivodes) Preljub and Vojihna receive the title of caesar.[8] The raising of the Serbian Patriarch resulted in the same spirit, bishoprics became metropolitans, as for example the Metropolitanate of Skopje.[8]

Fall of the Serbian Empire[edit]

Emperor Uroš V died childless in December 2/4 1371, after much of the Serbian nobility had been destroyed in Maritsa earlier that year. This marked an end to the once powerful Empire. Vukašin's son Marko, who had earlier been crowned Young King was to inherit his father's royal title, and thus became one in the line of successors to the Serbian throne. Meanwhile the nobles pursued their own interests, sometimes quarreling with each other. Serbia, without an Emperor "became a conglomerate of aristocratic territories",[9] and the Empire was thus divided between the provincial lords: Marko, the Dejanović brothers, Djuradj Balšić, Vuk Branković, Nikola Altomanović, Lazar Hrebeljanović and other lesser ones.[10]

List of nobility[edit]

Early (768-960)[edit]

Byzantine overlordship/Principality of Duklja (960-1101)[edit]

Serbian Grand Principality (1101-1217)[edit]

  • župan Grdeša, Lord of Trebinje (fl. 1150-1151)
  • župan Vučina, (fl. 1150-1151)
  • župan Radomir, in Trebinje (fl. 1170)
  • ban Slavogast, Lord of Hum (fl. 1154-1156)
  • Hramko, Lord of provinces in Hum (ca 1177-1200)
  • župan Svergius, (?) (жупа Требшье)
  • Dimitri Progoni, Prince of Arbanon, vassal to Serbia (fl. 1208-1216)

Serbian Kingdom (1217-1345)[edit]

Serbian Empire (1345-1371)[edit]

Fall of the Serbian Empire/Serbian Despotate (1371-1540)[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Balkan studies, Vol 27, p. 4
  2. ^ pr. 21
  3. ^ a b The early medieval Balkans, p. 223
  4. ^ The early medieval Balkans, p. 224
  5. ^ a b c d The early medieval Balkans, p. 225
  6. ^ Temperley Harold William Vazeille (2009), History of Serbia, p. 72. ISBN 1-113-20142-8
  7. ^ a b c d e The Late Medieval Balkans, p. 309
  8. ^ a b c The Late Medieval Balkans, p. 310
  9. ^ Ross-Allen 1978, p. 505
  10. ^ Ćorović 2001, ch. 3, XIII. Boj na Kosovu
  11. ^ Mihaljcic (1982), pp. 112-114
  12. ^ Šufflay, Milan; St. Stanojević (1925), H. Barić, ed., Srbi i Arbanasi : njihova simbioza u srednjem vijeku, Istorijska Serija (in Serbian) (Biblioteka Arhiva za Arbanasku Starinu, Jezik i Etnologiju ed.), Belgrade: Seminar za Arbanasku Filologiju, p. 47, OCLC 249799501 
  13. ^ Lee (1906), p. 314
  14. ^ Zprávy o zasedání královské českē společnosti nauk (1889), p. 128
  15. ^ Blagojević, Miloš (2001). Državna uprava u srpskim srednjovekovnim zemljama (in Serbian). Belgrade: Službeni list SRJ. p. 210. Retrieved 8 July 2012. За челника Бранка може се са знатном сигурношћу рећи да је... по рангу био нижи од казнаца Мирослава а виши од жупана Владислава 
  16. ^ a b Leskovac̆ki zbornik (in Serbian). 1965. p. 26. У време краља Милутина град и варош Врање држао је казнац Мирос- лав, за време Стевана Дечанског теп- чија Кузма и кнез Болдовин, под Ду- шаном жупан Маљушат, а после тога ћесар Угљеша. Овај последњн, од 1404. до 
  17. ^ Nicol, Meteora: the rock monasteries of Thessaly, "Jeremias+Chranislav"&dq="Jeremias+Chranislav" p. 84
  18. ^ Ljubomir Maksimović (1988), The Byzantine provincial administration under the Palaiologoi, p. X
  19. ^ Radosthlabos Sampias - Radoslav Sablja


Amedeo MICELI di SERRADILEO,La nobiltà in Serbia nel XVIII e XIX secolo, "Rivista Araldica", Rome, 1974.