Stephen Uroš V of Serbia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Stephen Uroš V
King of Serbia
Reign 1346–1355
Predecessor Stefan Dušan
Successor Position abolished
Emperor of the Serbs
Reign 1355–1371
Predecessor Stefan Dušan
Spouse Anna of Wallachia
Full name
Stefan Uroš V
Dynasty Nemanjić dynasty
Father Dušan the Mighty
Mother Helena of Bulgaria
Born c. 1336
Died 4 December 1371
Burial Gornje Nerodimlje, near Uroševac
Monasteries of Fruška Gora (since 1690), finally to Jazak monastery

Saint Stephen Uroš V (Serbian: Свети Стефан Урош V; 1336 – 2/4 December 1371), known in historiography as Uroš the Weak (Урош Нејаки/Uroš Nejaki), was king of the Serbian Empire (1346–1355) as co-regent of his father Stefan Uroš IV Dušan Silni ("The Mighty") and then Emperor (tsar) (1355–1371).

Early life[edit]

Stefan Uroš V was the only son of Stefan Uroš IV Dušan by Helena of Bulgaria, the sister of Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria. He had been crowned as king (second highest title) in the capacity of heir and co-ruler after Dušan was crowned emperor in 1346. Although by the time of his succession as sole ruler and emperor in 1355 Stefan Uroš V was no longer a minor, he remained heavily dependent on his mother and various members of the court.

Young Uroš V, Visoki Dečani.


Incompetent to sustain the great empire created by his father, Uroš could neither repel attacks of foreign enemies, nor combat the independence of his nobility. The Serbian Empire of Dušan fragmented into a conglomeration of principalities, some of which did not even nominally acknowledge his rule. The first major challenge to Stefan Uroš was posed by his uncle, Simeon Uroš Palaiologos, who attempted to seize the throne in 1356. Defeated, Simeon Uroš withdrew into Thessaly and Epirus, where he continued to rule with the title "emperor of Romans and Serbians". This effectively amputated much of Dušan's conquests from the area under his son's control.

There is one account, early in his reign, that is held in contrast to his general record of incompetence. In 1356 Matthew Kantakouzenos, the Byzantine throne pretender, gathered an army of 5,000 Turks and marched on Serres, the Serbian held capital of Jovan Uglješa. Uroš V, whose mother also ruled at Serres, decided to raise an army to defend his mother. In 1357, when Matthew and his Turks attacked, the Serbian army under Vojihna of Drama (a major fortress in that vicinity) came to aid. The Turks were defeated. Matthew Kantakouzenos was captured and held hostage until his ransom was paid by the Emperor John V Palaiologos.

Stefan Uroš' position was not helped by his mother Helena, who started to rule autonomously from Serres in alliance with Jovan Uglješa. A similarly autonomous posture was assumed by the Dejanović family, the Balšić family, Nikola Altomanović, and Uglješa's brother Vukašin Mrnjavčević. By 1365 the latter had himself associated on the throne as king by Stefan Uroš. At the end of his reign the only lands under Stefan Uroš's direct control were those between the Šar Mountain and the Danube.

Stefan Uroš V died childless in December 1371, after much of the Serbian nobility had been destroyed by the Turks in the Battle of Maritsa earlier that year. The exact cause of his death at a relatively young age remains unknown. Vukašin's son Prince Marko inherited his father's royal title, but real power in northern Serbia was held by Lazar Hrebeljanović. The latter did not assume the imperial or royal titles (associated with the Nemanjić dynasty), and in 1377 accepted king Tvrtko I of Bosnia (a maternal grandson of Stefan Dragutin) as titular king of Serbia. Serbia proper became a vassal of the Ottomans in 1390 but remained effectively ruled by the Lazarević family and then by their Branković successors until the fall of Smederevo in 1459.

Coat of Arms of Serbian lands during Stefan Uroš V

Following the great conquests of his father, emperor Uroš became a victim of new nobles in a Serbia enriched by recent war and pillages. The maintaining of order and state instruments was impossible because of weak or nonexistent infrastructure between the old and the new territories. The exceptional modesty and tolerance of this ruler was the main reason he was called "the weak", and also the reason he was canonized 211 years after his death.

Stefan Uroš V was canonized by the Serbian Orthodox Church. His body is kept in the Jazak monastery on Fruška Gora mountain.


Stephen Uroš II Milutin of Serbia
Stephen Uroš III Dečanski of Serbia
Anna Terter of Bulgaria
Stephen Uroš IV Dušan of Serbia
Smilets of Bulgaria
Theodora Smilets of Bulgaria
Smiltsena Palaiologina
Stephen Uroš V
Stratsimir of Kran
Helena of Bulgaria
Despot Shishman of Vidin
Keratsa Petritsa
daughter of Anna-Theodora of Bulgaria


Relic case with relics of Uroš V, Jazak monastery.

Today, Stefan Uroš V is viewed mostly in contrast to his able and strong-willed father, as a lacking and indecisive ruler, unable to keep the Serbian nobility under his control, whose weak and unassertive personality greatly contributed to the fall of the Empire and the eventual destruction of the Serbian state by the Ottomans. In Serbian folklore and epic poems he is often described as a just, well-intentioned ruler of pleasant appearance but weak character. While this view is popular among historians as well, some argue that he was not especially incompetent in his role as Emperor of Serbia, and that the decline of the empire was much less spectacular and started much later into his rule than popular opinion suggests. For a long time, it was considered a historical fact that he was murdered by his co-ruler, Vukašin Mrnjavčević, but eventually Vukašin was proven to have died before the Emperor.

In 1825 Stefan Stefanović, a Serbian writer living in the Austrian Empire wrote a tragic play called "The Death of Uroš V", which drew inspiration from both facts and folk tradition about Uroš, including the aforementioned belief that he was killed by King Vukašin.

See also[edit]

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Stefan Dušan
Emperor of the Serbs and Greeks
Fall of the Serbian Empire
Royal titles
Preceded by
Stefan Dušan
as Young King
King of Serbia
(Young Emperor)

Succeeded by
as King


  • John V.A. Fine, Jr., The Late Medieval Balkans, Ann Arbor, 1987.
  • Translated with small changes from small encyclopedia "Sveznanje" published by "Narodno delo", Belgrade, in 1937 which is today in public domain.
  • This article is written from the point of view of that place and time and may not reflect modern opinions or recent discoveries.