Serbian nobility in the Middle Ages

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In the medieval Serbian states, the privileged class consisted of nobility and clergy, distinguished from commoners, part of the feudal society. The Serbian nobility (vlastela, sing. vlastelin) were roughly grouped into "magnates" (velikaši, velmoža), the upper stratum, and the lesser nobility (vlasteličići). Serbia followed the government model established by the Byzantine Empire.

The nobility possessed hereditary allodial estates, which were worked by dependent sebri, the equivalent of Byzantine paroikoi; peasants owing labour services, formally bound by decree. The nobility was obliged to serve the monarch in war.


The nobility (vlastela) of Serbia in the Middle Ages is roughly divided into magnates (velikaši), nobility (vlastela) and petty noblemen (vlasteličići). Sometimes, the division is made between vlastela (including "great" and "small" ones) and vlasteličići, the petty nobility. The lower-half social class, commoners, were the sebri (себри).

  • The velikaši (великаши) were the highest nobility class of Serbia.
  • The vlasteličići (властеличићи) were the lower nobility class of Serbia.[1] It was a relatively numerous class of the small, warrior nobility, originating from the vojnici (warriors) from sources from the end of the 12th- and beginning of 13th century.[2] They held villages, with full rights,[1] and in socioeconomic and legal terms stood below the vlastela.[3] They had military obligations, such as joining the army individually or with a group his men (soldiers), dependent on his wealth.[4]


Main article: Serbian noble titles


Early and High Middle Ages[edit]

The Serbs at that time were organized into župe (sing. župa), a confederation of village communities (roughly the equivalent of a county), headed by a local župan (a magistrate or governor); the governorship was hereditary, and the župan reported to the Serbian prince, whom they were obliged to aid in war.[5]

According to Fine Jr.: Bosnia, Zahumlje and Rascia were never incorporated into an integrated state with Duklja (1043–1101); each principality had its own nobility and institutions, simply requiring a member of the royal family to rule as Prince or Duke.[6] After Constantine Bodin died, the principalities seceded from Duklja, and Vukan became the most powerful Serb ruler, as Grand Prince.[6] Subordinate to the ruler were local counts who seem to have been more or less autonomous in the internal affairs of their counties, but who swore loyalty and were obliged to support in war.[7] It seems that the counts were hereditary holders of their counties, holding their land before Duklja annexed Rascia.[7]

Kingdom of Serbia[edit]

Mourning nobility at the burial of Queen Anna Dandolo.

The hierarchy of the Serbian court titles was the following: stavilac, čelnik, kaznac, tepčija and vojvoda, the supreme title.[8]

In the Dečani chrysobulls, King Stefan Dečanski (r. 1321–1331) mentioned that the court dignitaries present at the Dečani assembly were the kaznac, tepčija, vojvoda, sluga and stavilac.[9]

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.[10] The assembly and clerics agreed on, and then ceremonially performed the raising of the autocephalous Serbian Archbishopric to the status of Serbian Patriarchate.[11] The Archbishop from now on is titled Serbian Patriarch, although some documents called him Patriarch of Serbs and Greeks, with the seat at the Patriarchate of Peć Monastery.[11] The first Serbian Patriarch Joanikije II now solemnly crowned Dušan as "Emperor and autocrat of Serbs and Romans" (Greek Bασιλεὺς καὶ αὐτoκράτωρ Σερβίας καὶ Pωμανίας).[11] 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.[11]

A further increase in the Byzantinization of the Serbian court followed, particularly in court ceremonial and titles.[11] As Emperor, Dušan could grant titles only possible as an Emperor.[12] 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.[12] The raising of the Serbian Patriarch resulted in the same spirit, bishoprics became metropolitans, as for example the Metropolitanate of Skopje.[12]

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",[13] 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.[14]

List of nobility[edit]

Early (780–1100)[edit]

Serbian Grand Principality (1100–1217)[edit]

  • Grdeša (fl. 1154–56), župan of Trebinje
  • Vučina (fl. 1150–51), župan
  • Radomir (fl. 1170), župan in Trebinje
  • Slavogast (fl. 1154–56), ban of Hum
  • Hramko, Lord of provinces in Hum (ca 1177–1200)
  • Svergius (?), župan
  • Dimitri Progoni, Prince of Arbanon, vassal to Serbia (fl. 1208–16)

Serbian Kingdom (1217–1345)[edit]

Serbian Empire (1345–1371)[edit]

Fall of the Serbian Empire (1371–1395)[edit]

Lazar of Serbia
  • Crep (fl. 1380), vojvoda. Governed Paraćin. Son of Vukoslav.
  • Vitomir (fl. 1380), vojvoda.
  • Grubac (fl. 1377), protovestijar.
  • Nenad(a) (fl. 1372–87), logotet.[22] Son of kaznac Bogdan.
  • Petar (fl. 1387), župan[22]
  • Miho (fl. 1387), čelnik[22]
  • Gojislav (fl. 1387), kefalija.[22] Served Lazar. Governed Novo Brdo.[23]
  • Ljudina Bogosav (fl. 1381). Governor of Smederevo.[24]
  • Desivoje (fl. 1380).
  • Detoš (before 1389). Governed Dragobilj.
  • Dragoslav Veter (before 1389).[25] Lord of Sinji Vir.
  • Dragosav Probiščić, vojvoda.[26] Unknown in history.[27]
  • Vlatko Vlađević. Unknown in history.[27]
  • Ivaniš Ivanišević. Grandson of Ivaniš.[28]
  • Jugda (fl. 1381)
  • Krajmir or Krajko (d. 1389), vojvoda. Son of Jovan Oliver.[29]
  • Novak (fl. 1381), logotet.
  • Obrad Dragogaljić (fl. 1387)
  • Ognjan (fl. 1381).
  • Petar Vojinović
  • Uglješa Desisalić (d. 1394)
Mrnjavčević brothers

Serbian Despotate (1402–1540)[edit]

Stefan Lazarević
Đurađ Branković

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ćirković, Sima; Mihaljčić, Rade (1999). Лексикон српског средњег века. Knowledge. pp. 91–92. 
  2. ^ Šarkić, Srđan (1996). Srednjovekovno srpsko pravo. Matica srpska. p. 27. 
  3. ^ Janković, Dragoslav (1961). Istorija države i prava feudalne Srbije, XII-XV vek. Naućna knjiga. p. 46. 
  4. ^ Nikola Stijepović (1954). Srpska feudalna vojska. p. 50. 
  5. ^ Fine 1991, pp. 225, 304
  6. ^ a b Fine 1991, p. 223.
  7. ^ a b Fine 1991, p. 225.
  8. ^ Blagojević 2001, p. 211.
  9. ^ Šarkić 1996, p. 66.
  10. ^ Temperley Harold William Vazeille (2009), History of Serbia, p. 72. ISBN 1-113-20142-8
  11. ^ a b c d e The Late Medieval Balkans, p. 309
  12. ^ a b c The Late Medieval Balkans, p. 310
  13. ^ Ross-Allen 1978, p. 505
  14. ^ Ćorović 2001, ch. 3, XIII. Boj na Kosovu
  15. ^ Mihaljcic (1982), pp. 112-114
  16. ^ Glas. U Kralj.-srpskoj državnoj štampariji. 1941. p. 8. 1278 ... казнац Богдан 
  17. ^ Blagojević 2001, p. 26.
  18. ^ 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 
  19. ^ Nicol, Meteora: the rock monasteries of Thessaly, "Jeremias+Chranislav"&dq="Jeremias+Chranislav" p. 84
  20. ^ Ljubomir Maksimović (1988), The Byzantine provincial administration under the Palaiologoi, p. X
  21. ^ Mauro Orbini; Franjo Barišić; Radovan Samardžić (1968). Kraljevstvo Slovena. Srpska književna zadruga. p. 60. 
  22. ^ a b c d Blagojević 2001, p. 179: "Први по редоследу поменут је логотет Ненад, а тек после њега жупан Петар, челник Михо и кефалија Гојислав.40 Исто место у редоследу милосника имао је и логотет Богдан на исправи деспота Стефана којом се 2. децембра ..."
  23. ^ Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti (1955). Posebna izdanja. 240. p. 18. 
  24. ^ Слободан Ристановић (2005). Kroz Srbiju i Crnu Goru. КСЕ-НА. 1381. године, први пут се иомињс рсч Смедсрево. Раваничком повељом је кнез Лазар „... и у Смеде- реву Људина Богосав с опкином и баштипом" предао град маиастиру 
  25. ^ Вопросы истории славян. Изд-во Воронежского университета. 1966. p. 102. 
  26. ^ Miladin Stevanović; Vuk Branković (srpski velmoža.) (2004). Vuk Branković. Knjiga-komerc. p. 252. 
  27. ^ a b Rade Mihaljčić (2001). Sabrana dela: I - VI. Kraj srpskog carstva. Srpska školska knj. p. 157. Влатко Влађевић и Драгосав Пробишчић 
  28. ^ Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti (1908). Glas. p. 244. Још има спомен о старијем неком деспоту Иванишу на једној гробној плочи код манастира Дечана. Деспот Иваниш се помиње на гробном запису унука му Иваниша Алтоманића, који је (унук био анепсеј (синовац) кнезу Лазару. 
  29. ^ Jov Mišković (1933). Kosovska bitka 15. juna 1389. godine. Planeta. Крајмир (Крајко) и Дамњан Оливеровићи, синови деспота овчепољског Јована Оливера. Крајмир је, — по Михајлу Константиновићу, држао здељу, у коју је пала глава кнеза Лазара, када је по наредби султановој био посечен, ... 
  30. ^ Radosthlabos Sampias - Radoslav Sablja


Further reading[edit]

  • Blagojević, M. "Vladar i podanici, vlastela i vojnici, zavisni ljudi i trgovci." Rulers and subjects, lords and soldiers, dependent people and traders). In Cirkovic (ed.): 141-156.
  • Иванић, Б. "Прстење српске средњовековне властеле." (1998).
  • Ivanović, Miloš B. (2013). "Властела Државе српских деспота". Belgrade: Filozofski fakultet. 
  • Maksimović, L. (1993). "Sevasti u srednjovekovnoj Srbiji". Zbornik radova Vizantološkog instituta (32): 137–147. 
  • Острогорски, Георгије. "Душан и његова властела у борби са Византијом." Зборник у част шесте стогодишњице Законика цара Душана 1 (1951): 79-86.
  • Шаркић, Срђан. "Правни положај властеле у средњовековној Србији." Зборник радова Правног факултета у Новом Саду 1 (2010): 7-27.
  • Шуица, Марко. (2004). Властела кнеза Стефана Лазаревића (1389-1402). ГДИ, 1, 7-31.
  • Шуица, Марко. "Немирно доба српског средњег века. Властела српских обласних господара." (2000).
  • Topalović, Živko, and Marko Milutinović-Piper. Sebri i vlastela: društveni poredak u staroj srpskoj državi. Srpska književna zadruga, 2002.