Vlastimirović dynasty

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Serbian Principality

  • Archont (ἄρχων)
  • Prince (Кнез/Knez, Жупан/Župan)
Founded 700s
Founder Unknown Archon (mythological)
Višeslav (first)
Vlastimir (eponymous)
Final ruler Časlav († 960s)
Dissolution 960s
Cadet branches Vojislavljević

The Vlastimirović Dynasty (Serbian: Властимировићи, Vlastimirovići[A]) was the first Serbian royal dynasty, named after Prince Vlastimir (r. 831–851), who was recognized by the Byzantine Empire. The dynasty starts with the Unknown Archont, who ruled during Emperor Heraclius (610–641).

The Vlastimirović ruled Serbia until the 960s, when some Serbian lands were annexed, first by Bulgaria, then the Byzantine Empire.


Slavs ravaged Eastern Roman territories beginning in 518, by the 580s they had conquered much of Central Balkans. According to De Administrando Imperio of Constantine VII, the Serbs had claimed the protection of Heraclius (r. 610–641), who had settled them in the Serbian lands.[1] Archaeological evidence in Serbia and Macedonia conclude that the Serbs reached the Balkans between 550–600, as much findings; fibulae and pottery found at Roman forts point at Serb characteristics.[2]

The regions of which the Serbs and other Slavs settled were called Sclavinia (transl. Slavdom, from Sklavenoi - Σκλαυηνοι, the early South Slavic tribe which is eponymous to the current ethnic and linguistic Indo-European people).[3]

The Slavs initially had no strong central administration, instead they were organized into Župas, a form of territorial organization, being roughly equivalent to a county, led by a clan (i.e. extended family, see zadruga) under Byzantine suzerainty (foederati). The supreme chief, the Župan, initially held the lands of his family (pater familias), evolving with the expansion of the Župas - provinces becoming part of the Serbian principalities; headed by a knez ("duke, prince").

According to German historian L. A. Gebhardi, the two brothers (one who was the Unknown Archon) were sons of prince Dervan.[4]

"The Serbs are descended from the unbaptized Serbs, also called 'white', who live beyond Turkey in a place called by them Boiki, where their neighbour is Francia, as is also Great Croatia, the unbaptized, also called 'white': in this place, then, these Serbs also originally dwelt. But when two brothers succeeded their father in the rule of Serbia, one of them, taking a moiety of the folk, claimed the protection of Heraclius, the emperor of the Romans, and the same emperor Heraclius received him and gave him a place in the province of Thessalonica to settle in, namely Serbia, which from that time has acquired this denomination."...
..."Now, after some time these same Serbs decided to depart to their own homes, and the emperor sent them off. But when they had crossed the river Danube, they changed their minds and sent a request to the emperor Heraclius, through the military governor then governing Belgrade, that he would grant them other land to settle in."...
..."And since what is now Rascia (Serbia) and Pagania and the so-called country of the Zachlumi and Trebounia and the country of the Kanalites were under the dominion of the emperor of the Romans, and since these countries had been made desolate by the Avars (for they had expelled from those parts the Romans who now live in Dalmatia and Dyrrachium), therefore the emperor settled these same Serbs in these countries, and they were subject to the emperor of the Romans; and the emperor brought elders from Rome and baptized them and taught them fairly to perform the works of piety and expounded to them the faith of the Christians."...
..."And since Bulgaria was beneath the dominion of the Romans * * * when, therefore, that same Serbian prince died who had claimed the emperor's protection, his son ruled in succession, and thereafter his grandson, and in like manner the succeeding princes from his family"...

-De Administrando Imperio chapter 31, Constantine VII[1]


A Serbian delegation with Basil I

Prince Višeslav (fl. 768–814), the first known Serbian monarch by name, ruled the hereditary lands (Županias, counties) of Neretva, Tara, Piva, Lim. He managed to unite several more provinces and tribes into a Serbian Principality. Višeslav was succeeded by his son Radoslav and then Prosigoj, during which time "the Serbs inhabit the greater part of Dalmatia" (Royal Frankish Annals, 822). At this time, there was peace with the eastern neighbours of Bulgars, who had begun to expand their territory significantly. Prosigoj's son, Prince Vlastimir, further expanded the realm, which prompted the Bulgars, who had already taken parts of Macedonia, to invade in 839. The invasion led to a three-year-war, which ended in 842, with a decisive Serbian victory. The Bulgars were driven out and Vlastimir expanded to the west and south, meanwhile the Bulgars had taken most of modern Serbia's east. Prince Mutimir (r. 851–891),[5] the son of Vlastimir, managed to defeat the Bulgars once again in 834–835, also capturing the son of the Bulgar Khan. The Serbs and Bulgars concluded peace, and the Christianization of the Slavs began; by the 870s the Serbs were baptized and had established the Eparchy of Ras, on the order of Emperor Basil I. The remaining years, well into the 920s, are characterized by dynastic civil wars.

Petar Gojniković managed to defeat his cousin, the reigning Prince Pribislav Mutimirović in 892. Petar was recognized by the Bulgars, now the greatest power in the Balkans, although the peace was not to last; the Byzantines had sent an envoy to Serbia promising greater independence in return of Petar leading an army against the Bulgars. A Bulgarian ally, Michael Višević, who had seen a threat in Petar during the latters conquering of Bosnia and Neretva, heard of the possible alliance and warned the Bulgarian Khan, who later sent a protege, Pavle Branović, to rule Serbia. In the meantime, Zaharija Pribislavljević is sent by the Byzantines to take the Serbian throne, he is however captured by Pavle and sent to Bulgaria. Pavle is now approached by the Byzantines, thus Zaharija is indoctrinated by the Bulgars. Pavle plans an attack on Bulgaria, but Khan Simeon is warned, and dispatches Zaharija with an army, promising him the throne if he defeats Pavle, which he did. Zaharija soon resumed his Byzantine alliance, also uniting several Slavic tribes along the common border to revolt against the Bulgars, several Bulgarian generals were beheaded, their heads sent to Constantinople by Zaharija as a symbol of alleigance. In 924 a large army led by Časlav Klonimirović, the second cousin, is sent by the Bulgars which ravages Serbia, forcing Zaharija to exile. Instead of instating Časlav, the Bulgars annex Serbia 924–927.

Časlav takes the throne in 927, with the death of the Bulgar Khan, and immediately puts himself under Byzantine overlordship. Eastern Christian (Orthodox) influence greatly increases and the two maintain close ties throughout his regn. He enlarged Serbia, uniting the tribes of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Old Serbia and Montenegro (incorporated Pagania, Zahumlje, Travunia,[6] Konavle, Bosnia and Rascia into Serbia, ι Σερβλια).[7] He took over regions previously held by Michael Višević, who disappears from sources in 925.[6] The De Administrando Imperio describes his realm: the shores of the Adriatic Sea, the Sava river and the Morava valley as well as today's northern Albania.[8]

After Časlav's death the realm crumbled, local nobles restored the control of each province. Soon the Croats, Bulgarians and Byzantines annex the Serbian territories. The written information about the first dynasty ends with the death of Časlav.[9] The Catepanate of Ras is established between 971–976, during the rule of John Tzimiskes (r. 969–976).[10] A seal of a strategos of Ras has been dated to Tzimiskes' reign, making it possible for Tzimiskes' predecessor Nikephoros II Phokas to have enjoyed recognition in Rascia.[11][12] The protospatharios and katepano of Ras was a Byzantine governor named John.[13] Data on the katepano of Ras during Tzimiskes' reign is missing.[14] Byzantine military presence ended soon thereafter with the wars with Bulgaria, and was re-established only ca. 1018 with the short-lived Theme of Sirmium, which however did not extend much into Rascia proper.[11]


The Vlastimirovići are last mentioned in ca. 960. The Byzantines annex the Serbian regions. Five decades later, Jovan Vladimir emerges as the Prince of Serbs, ruling as a Bulgarian vassal from his seat at Bar. A possible descendant, Stefan Vojislav, leads numerous revolts in the 1030s against the Byzantine Emperor (the overlord of the Serbian lands), successfully becoming independent by 1042. His realm included all lands earlier held by Časlav Klonimirović, and he would be eponymous to the second Serbian dynasty, the Vojislavljevići, who were based in Duklja. The latter may possibly be a branch of the Vlastimirović dynasty. A cadet branch of the Vojislavljević dynasty, the Vukanovići, emerge as the third dynasty in the 1090s. It was named after Grand Prince Vukan who held Rascia (the hinterland) under his cousin King of Duklja Constantine Bodin (ca. 1080–1090) in the beginning, but denounced any overlordship in 1091 when he had raided much of the Byzantine towns of Kosovo and Macedonia. The Nemanjić dynasty, the most powerful dynasty of Serbia, is founded with the emergence of Stefan Nemanja, also a descendant of the same line.

Cadet branches[edit]

Family tree[edit]

Časlav and Pavle.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Name: The name of the dynasty is predominantly sourced as Vlastimirović, after Vlastimir. Other names include; Višeslavić, after Višeslav, Vlastimir's great-grandfather.
  1. ^ a b De Administrando Imperio, ch. 32
  2. ^ http://www.rastko.rs/arheologija/delo/13047
  3. ^ "Slavyane v rannem srednevekovie" Valentin V. Sedov (Russian language), Archaeological institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 1995
  4. ^ Sava S. Vujić - Bogdan M. Basarić, Severni Srbi (ne)zaboravljeni narod, Beograd, 1998, page 40.
  5. ^ Srpsko Nasledje
  6. ^ a b The entry of the Slavs into Christendom, p. 209
  7. ^ The early medieval Balkans, p. 160
  8. ^ http://www.snaga.org.yu/Ilustrovana_istorija_srba/tekst/engleski/01/01-06-doseljavanje-slovena.html
  9. ^ Srbi između Vizantije, Hrvatske i Bugarske;
  10. ^ GK, Abstract: "the establishment of catepanate in Ras between 971 and 976"
  11. ^ a b Stephenson, Paul. The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-slayer. p. 42. 
  12. ^ Paul Magdalino, Byzantium in the year 1000, p. 122
  13. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=kw4rAQAAIAAJ&q=tzimiskes+ras
  14. ^ Bojana Krsmanović, Ljubomir Maksimović, Taxiarchis G. Kolias (2008), The Byzantine province in change: on the threshold between the 10th and the 11th century, p. 189, Institute for Byzantine Studies, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts,