Fall of The Serbian Empire and Despot Era (1371–1530)
The crumbling Serbian Empire under Uroš the Weak was to be of little resistance to the powerful Ottoman Empire. In light of conflicts and decentralization of the realm, the Ottomans defeated the Serbs at the Battle of Maritsa in 1371, making vassals of the southern governors, soon thereafter, the Emperor died. As Uroš was childless and the nobility could not agree on the rightful heir, the Empire was ruled by semi-independent provincial lords, who often were in feuds with each other. The most powerful of these, Tsar Lazar, a Duke of present-day central Serbia (which had not yet come under the Ottoman yoke), stood against the Ottomans at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. The result was indecisive, but it resulted in the subsequent fall of Serbia.
The administration was divided in the following:
- Moravian Serbia: Lazar, a nobleman and close friend of the Nemanjić, would govern modern Central Serbia. He married Milica, a descendant of Stefan Nemanja's eldest son Vukan. He held the title of Lord during the Empire, and Prince after the death of Uroš V. He had a son, Stefan, who would succeed as Prince, and in 1402 he was given the title despotēs (hence "Serbian Despotate").
- District of Branković: Vuk Branković, the son of Ohrid deputy Branko, would govern Sjenica, Kosovo and Skopje under the suzerainty of Lazar. He had a son, Đurađ Branković, who would succeed Despot Stefan. Their province continues as part of the Serbian Despotate.
- Lordship of Zeta: Balša, a nobleman and distant relative of the Nemanjić, held only one town during Dušan, and during Uroš V, he is recognized as "provincial lord" holding Zeta region. He is succeeded by Đurađ, who ruled independently and was in rivalry with Marko. Đurađ II recognizes the overlordship of Lazar in 1386. The Balšić continue ruling Lower Zeta, while in Upper Zeta, Radič Crnojević take the rule, and by 1421 Crnojević held all Zeta under the Serbian Despotate. (see List of rulers of Zeta)
- Lordship of Prilep: King Vukašin, a nobleman and close friend of Uroš V, would govern most of the Macedonia region. He held the title of Lord during Dušan, and under Uroš V, he was crowned King as co-ruler in 1365. Vukašin ruled as "Lord of the Serbian and Greek lands, and of the western provinces." He was succeeded by Prince Marko, who became an Ottoman vassal. Their province is annexed by 1395.
- Lordship of Kumanovo/Velbazhd: Constantine Dragaš, a nobleman and brother-in-law of Dušan, would govern Preševo to Kyustendil. Jovan Dragaš succeeds him as Despot in 1365, and becomes an Ottoman vassal in 1371. Their province is annexed by 1395.
|District of Pomoravlje/Lordship of Serbia/Serbian Despotate (Lazarević)|
|1371–1389||None||After Uroš V died, the last of the Nemanjić emperors, through a combination of diplomacy, military action, and family alliances, Lazar emerged from the resulting power vacuum as the most powerful Serbian noble not in the Ottomans' service. He acquired dynastic legitimacy by marrying Milica Nemanjić, and despite retaining only the minor title of knez ("prince"), he nevertheless used the imperial name of 'Stefan' as well as the designation "autocrator". Lazar spent his time strengthening the Serbian state, knowing fully well that he would eventually have to face the Ottoman threat. He unified most of Serbia under his rule and managed to gain the loyalty of a majority of the Serbs. He also ceded the title "King of Serbs" to King Tvrtko of Bosnia (who was maternally a Nemanjić). His first major military action was at the Battle of Dubravnica where his two subjects, Crep and Vladimir managed to decisively defeat an Ottoman army in southern Serbia. No further recorded hostilities took place until the Battle of Pločnik where Knez Lazar managed to crush an Ottoman force and drive them back to Niš. Serbian troops also took part in the Battle of Bileća where again he defeated the Turks. Lazar was killed during the 1389 Battle of Kosovo along with most of Serbia's political elite.|
|1389–1427||Ottoman 1391–1404----Hungarian 1404–1427||son of Lazar. In 1391, Serbia became an Ottoman vassal, so Stefan was obliged to aid the Ottoman sultan in battles when asked. He did so in the Battle of Rovine in May 1395 against the Wallachian prince Mircea I and the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396 against the Hungarian king Sigismund. After that, Sultan Bayezid awarded Stefan with the Vuk Branković's land on Kosovo, as Branković sided with the Hungarian king at Nicopolis. When Mongols entered the Ottoman realm, Stefan Lazarević participated in the Battle of Angora in 1402 when Ottomans were defeated and sultan Bayezid was captured. Returning to Serbia, Stefan visited Constantinople where the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos granted him the title of despot. In previous years, title would mean that the despot would rule some vassal state, but as the Byzantine Empire was too weak to assert such a rule and Serbia was not its vassal state, Stefan Lazarević took this title as the personal style of the Serbian monarchs, thus the Principality of Serbia became the Serbian Despotate.|
|See "Serbian Despotate".|
|Lordship of Prilep (Mrnjavčević)|
|1365–1371||None||Killed in the Battle of Maritsa.|
|1371–1395||Ottoman||son of Vukašin. Killed in the Battle of Rovine.|
Read more about this topic: Serbian Monarchs
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