THE close of the twelfth century witnessed the birth of Slavonic independence in the Balkan Peninsula. The death of Manuel I in 1180 freed the Southern Slavs from the rule of Byzantium, and in the following decade were laid the foundations of those Serbian, Bosnian, and Bulgarian states which, after a brief period of splendour acquired at the expense of one or other Christian nationality, fell before the all-conquering Turk to rise again in modified form and on a smaller scale in our own time. As has usually happened in the history of the Balkans, the triumph of the nation was in each case the work of some powerful personality, of Stephen Nemanja in Serbia, of Kulin in Bosnia, and of the brothers Peter and John Asen in Bulgaria.

The founder of the Serbian monarchy was a native of the Zeta, the older Serbian kingdom of Dioclea and the modern Montenegro. Starting from his birthplace on the banks of the Ribnica, Nemanja made Rascia, later the Sanjak of Novibazar, the nucleus of a great Serbian state, which comprised the Zeta and the land of Hum, as the Herzegovina was then called, with outlets to the sea on the Bocche di Cattaro and at Antivari, North Albania with Scutari, Old Serbia, and the modern kingdom before 1913 as far as the Morava. Of the Serbian lands Bosnia alone evaded his sway, for there his kinsman Kulin, ignoring the authority alike of the Hungarian crown and of the Byzantine Empire, governed with the title of ban a rich and extensive country, then "at least a ten days' journey in circumference," and became the first great figure in Bosnian history, whose reign was regarded centuries afterwards as the golden age. Italian painters and goldsmiths found occupation in his territory, and Ragusans exploited its trade. Miroslav, Nemanja's brother and Kulin's brother-in-law, whom the former made prince of the land of Hum, formed the link between these two separate yet kindred Serbian communities.

The Bogomile heresy

Before the time of Nemanja the chiefs of the various Serbian districts, or zupy, who were thence styled zupans, had considered themselves as practically independent in their own dominions, merely acknowledging the more or less nominal supremacy of one of their number, the so-called “Great Zupan”. Nemanja, while retaining this traditional title, converted the aristocratic federation as far as possible into a single state, whose head in the next generation took the corresponding name of king. Further, to strengthen his position with the majority of his people, he embraced the Orthodox faith, and endeavoured to promote ecclesiastical no less than political unity. With this object he laboured to extirpate the Bogomile or Manichaean heresy, which was then rife in the Balkan lands and had attained special prominence in Bosnia. The simple worship of the Bogomiles, the Puritans of south-eastern Europe, was sometimes encouraged and sometimes proscribed by the Bosnian rulers, according as they wished to oppose the pretensions, or invoke the aid, of the Papacy. Thus Kulin at one time found it expedient to join the Bogomile communion with his wife, his sister, and several other members of his family, whose example was followed by more than 10,000 of his subjects; while at another, the threat of Hungarian intervention, supported by the greatest of the Popes, led him to recant his errors. On 8 April 1203 the ban and the chief Bogomiles met the papal legate on the “white plain” by the river Bosna, and renounced their heretical practices and beliefs. The oldest Bosnian inscription tells us how Kulin and his wife proved the sincerity of their re-conversion by restoring a church. While Kulin thus ended his career as a devout Roman Catholic, Nemanja, at the instigation of his youngest son, the saintly Sava, retired from the world in 1196 to the monastery of Studenica, which he had founded, leaving to his second son Stephen the bulk of his dominions with the dignity of "Great Zupan," and to his eldest son Vukan his native Zeta as an appanage, a proof that the unification of the Serbian monarchy was not yet completely accomplished. From Studenica he moved to Mount Athos, where, on 13 February 1200, he died as the monk Simeon in his humble cell at Chiliandarion. After his death he received the honours of a saint, and his tomb is still revered in his monastery of Studenica. Just as the lineage of the ban Kuhn is said to linger on in the Bosnian family of Kulenovie, just as later rulers regarded the customs and frontiers of his time as a standard for their own, so the Serbs look back to Nemanja as the author of the dynasty with which their medieval glories alike in Church and State are indissolubly connected.

Second Bulgarian Empire

Meanwhile, in 1186, a third Slavonic nation had asserted its independence of the Byzantine Empire. The unwise imposition of taxes to furnish forth the wedding festivities of the Emperor Isaac II Angelus aroused the discontent of the Bulgarians and Wallachs (Vlachs) of the Balkans. The rebels found leaders in the brothers Peter and John Asen, descendants of the old Bulgarian Tsars, who summoned the hesitating to a meeting in the chapel of St Demetrius which they had built at Trnovo, and by means of a pious fraud persuaded them that the saint had migrated thither from his desecrated church at Salonica, and that providence had decreed the freedom of Bulgaria. Peter at the outset assumed the imperial symbols and the style of “Emperor of the Bulgarians and Greeks”; but his bolder brother soon took the first place, while he contented himself with the former capital of Preslav and its region, which in the next century still bore the name of "Peter's country." Three Byzantine commanders in vain strove to stamp out the insurrection: John Asen, driven beyond the Danube, returned at the head of a body of Cumans, the warlike race which then occupied what is now Roumania; Nemanja availed himself of the Bulgarian rebellion to extend his dominions to the south; and the Serbian and Bulgarian rulers alike hoped to find in Frederick Barbarossa, then on his way across the Balkan peninsula to the Holy Land, a supporter of their designs. Isaac Angelus barely escaped with his life near Stara Zagora; the victorious Bulgarians captured Sofia, and carried off the remains of their national patron, St John of Rila, in triumph to their capital of Trnovo. Such was the contempt of the brothers Asen for their former masters that they rejected the terms of peace offered them by the new Emperor, Alexius III, and advanced into Macedonia. But, in the midst of their successes, two of those crimes of violence so common in all ages in the Balkans removed both the founders of the second Bulgarian Empire. John Asen I was slain by one of his nobles, a certain Ivanko, after a nine years' reign; the assassin temporarily occupied Trnovo and summoned a Byzantine army to his aid; but Peter associated with himself his younger brother Kalojan, and carried on the government of the Empire until, a year later, he too fell by the hand of one of his fellow-countrymen, and Kalojan reigned alone as “Emperor of the Bulgarians and Wallachs”.

The new Tsar continued to extend his dominions at the expense of his neighbours: from the Greeks he captured Varna in the east, from the Serbs, divided among themselves by a fratricidal struggle between the two elder sons of Nemanja, he took Nig in the west; his Empire extended as far south as Skoplje, as far north as the Danube, while his relative, the savage Strez, held the impregnable rock of Prosek in the valley of the Vardar as an independent prince. Thus, on the eve of the Latin conquest, Bulgaria had suddenly become the most vigorous element in the Balkan peninsula, while Serbia lay dismembered by the disunion of her reigning family and the foreign intervention which it produced. For Vukan, not content with his appanage in the Zeta, had invoked the aid of the Pope and the Hungarians in his struggle to oust his brother from the Serbian throne; King Emeric of Hungary occupied a large part of Serbia in 1202, with the object of allowing Vukan to govern it as his vassal, while he himself assumed the style of “King of Rascia”, as his predecessors had long before assumed that of “King of Rama” from a Bosnian river—two titles which ever since then remained attached to the Hungarian crown. His brother had already made the subsequent Herzegovina a Hungarian duchy, and Bosnia was only saved from premature absorption by Kulin’s politic conversion to Catholicism. Even the Bulgarian Tsar was treated as a usurper by the proud Hungarian monarch whose newly-won Serbian dependency he had dared to devastate.

Kalojan’s success

Menaced alike by his Hungarian neighbour and by the new Latin Empire, which had now arisen at Constantinople and which claimed authority over his dominions as the heir of the Greeks, Kalojan thought it prudent, like other Slav rulers, to obtain the protection of the Papacy. He begged Innocent III to give him an imperial diadem and a Patriarch; the diplomatic Pope sent him a royal crown and ordered his cardinal legate to consecrate the Archbishop of Trnovo as “Primate of all Bulgaria and Wallachia”; two archbishops and four bishops completed the Bulgarian hierarchy, and on 8 November 1204 Kalojan was crowned by the cardinal at Trnovo.

But the crafty Bulgarian was not restrained by respect for the Papacy from attacking the Latins as soon as occasion offered. His old enemies the Greeks of Thrace, who had at first welcomed the erection of Philippopolis into a Flemish duchy for Renier de Trit, speedily offered to recognise Kalojan as Emperor if he would aid them against their new masters. He gladly accepted their offer, and soon the heads of some thirty Frankish knights testified to the savagery of the Bulgarian Tsar. The Latin Emperor Baldwin I set out with Count Louis of Blois to suppress the rebellion and relieve the isolated Duke of Philippopolis. On 14 April 1205 a decisive battle was fought before Hadrianople. The Count of Blois was killed; Baldwin fell into the hands of the Bulgarian victor. Even now the end of the first Latin Emperor of Constantinople is not known with certainty. Two months after the battle he was reported to be still alive and treated as a prisoner of distinction. But he soon fell a victim to the rage of his barbarous captor. Nicetas tells us that the desertion of the Greeks of Thrace to the Latins infuriated Kalojan, who vented his indignation on his prisoner, ordered his hands and feet to be cut off, and then cast him headlong into a ravine, where on the third day he expired. A Flemish priest, however, who was passing through Trnovo, heard a Bulgarian version of the story of Potiphar's wife, according to which the virtuous Baldwin was sacrificed to the injured pride of Kalojan’s passionate Cuman consort, and cut down in the presence of the Tsar. Twenty years later a false Baldwin was hanged in Flanders, and tradition attaches the name of the first Latin Emperor to a ruined tower of the medieval Bulgarian capital.

Kalojan did not long survive his victim. For a time his career was a series of unbroken successes over Franks and Greeks alike. Renier de Trit was driven from Philippopolis; King Boniface of Salonica was slain in a Bulgarian ambush and his head sent to the Tsar; so fatal were Kalojan’s raids to the native population that he styled himself “the slayer of the Greeks”, and they called him “the dog John”. He was about to attack Salonica in the autumn of 1207, when pleurisy, or more probably a palace revolution prompted by his faithless wife, ended his life. The popular imagination ascribed the deed to St Demetrius, the patron-saint of the city, but the usurpation of the dead Tsar’s nephew Boril and his speedy marriage with the widowed Empress pointed to the real authors of the deed. Kalojan’s lawful heir, his son John Asen II, fled to Russia, while Boril reigned at Trnovo. At first he pursued his predecessor’s policy of attacking the Franks, only to receive a severe defeat near Philippopolis. Later on, we find him receiving the visit of a cardinal sent him by the Pope, persecuting the Bogomiles as the Serbian and Bosnian rulers had done, doubtless for the same reason, and marrying his daughter to his former enemy, the Latin Emperor Henry, a striking proof of the growing importance of Bulgaria. But there was a large party which had remained faithful to the legitimate Tsar; John Asen II returned with a band of Russians and besieged the usurper in his capital. Trnovo long resisted but, at last, in 1218 Boril was captured while attempting to escape, and blinded by his conqueror's orders.

Stephen the “First-crowned”

A year earlier Serbia had been raised to the dignity of a kingdom. The Hungarian monarchs, occupied elsewhere, could no longer interfere in the domestic quarrels of the Serbs. Sava reconciled his brothers and persuaded the ambitious Vukan, the self-styled “King of Dioclea and Dalmatia”, to recognise Stephen’s right to the position of “Great Zupan”. An Italian marriage, the example of Bulgaria, the desire of papal support, and the absence of the jealous King of Hungary in Palestine, prompted Stephen to ask the Pope once more for a royal crown, an act for which the negotiations of the Serbian ruler of Dioclea with Gregory VII furnished a precedent. In 1217 Honorius III sent a legate to perform the coronation, and the “first-crowned” King “of all Serbia” connected himself with the former royal line by styling himself also “King of Dioclea”, adding Dalmatia and the land of Hum as a flourish to his other titles. But it has always been a dangerous experiment for a Balkan ruler to purchase the political support of the Western Church, at the risk of alienating the Eastern, to which the majority of his subjects belong. The King of Serbia recognised his mistake; his brother Sava availed himself of the critical position of the Greek Empire of Nicaea to obtain from the Ecumenical Patriarch, who then resided there, his own consecration in 1219 as “Archbishop of all the Serbian lands” together with the creation of a separate Serbian Church; and on his return home he crowned Stephen in 1222 in the church of Zica, which the “first-crowned” king and his eldest son had founded, and which remains to our own day the coronation church of the Serbian kings. Thanks to Sava’s influence the anger of the King of Hungary at this assumption of a royal crown was averted; and, when Stephen died in 1228, his eldest son Radoslav succeeded to his title. But the second King of Serbia was of weak character and feeble understanding. His next brother Vladislav, a man of more energy, was a dangerous rival; public opinion favoured the latter; Radoslav became a monk, and Vladislav in turn was crowned by the reluctant Sava. Together the new king and the archbishop built the monastery of Milegevo in the Sanjak of Novibazar, where their bones were laid to rest. St Sava’s memory is still held in reverence by the Serbs as the founder of their national Church; many a pious legend has grown up around his name, but through the haze of romance and beneath the halo of the saint we can descry the figure of the great ecclesiastical statesman whose constant aim it was to benefit the country and the dynasty to which he himself belonged, and to identify the latter with the national religion.

Zenith of Bulgaria

One of Sava’s last acts had been to promote a matrimonial alliance between the Serbian and the Bulgarian courts, and it was at Trnovo, then the centre of Balkan politics, that he died. Under John Asen II the second Bulgarian Empire attained its zenith, and became for a time the strongest power in the peninsula. The Latin Empire of Constantinople was already growing weaker; the vigorous Greek Empire of Salonica, which had arisen on the ruins of the Latin kingdom of the same name, received from the Bulgarian Tsar a crushing blow at the battle of Klokotinitza in 1230, and its Emperor, Theodore Angelus, became his captive; the new Emperor Manuel had married one of his daughters; the King of Serbia had married another; his own wife was a daughter of the King of Hungary. Of the two Bulgarian princelings who had made themselves independent of his predecessors in Macedonia, Strez of Prosek had long before died a violent death, in which the superstitious saw the hand of St Sava; Slav of Melnik, who had played fast and loose alike with Latins, Greeks, and Bulgarians, had been swallowed up in the Greek Empire of Salonica. On a pillar of the church of the Forty Martyrs, which he built in 1230 at Trnovo, the Tsar placed an inscription, still preserved, in which he boasted that he had "captured the Emperor Theodore" and "conquered all the lands from Hadrianople to Durazzo, the Greek, the Albanian, and the Serbian land." His mild and statesmanlike demeanour endeared him to the various nationalities included in his wide dominions; even a Greek historian admits that he was beloved by the Greeks (a very rare achievement for a Bulgarian), while a Bulgarian monk praises his piety, his generous ecclesiastical foundations, and his restoration of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. During the first Bulgarian Empire the Patriarch had resided first at Preslav and then at Ochrida. When that Empire fell, the Greeks reduced the Patriarchate to an Archbishopric; and, when the second Empire arose, the Pope, as we saw, could not be persuaded to grant more than the title of Primate to the Archbishop of Trnovo. In 1235, however, as the price of his aid against the Latins of Constantinople, John Asen II obtained from the Emperor Vatatzes of Nicaea and the Ecumenical Patriarch the recognition of the autonomy of the Bulgarian Church and the revival of the Bulgarian Patriarchate, whose seat thenceforth remained at Trnovo until the Turkish conquest placed the Bulgarian Church once more under the Greeks, from whom the creation of the Exarchate in 1870 has again emancipated it.

John Asen II

But John Asen II did not confine his energies to politics and religion. Like his contemporaries in Serbia, Bosnia, and the adjacent land of Hum, he granted to the Ragusan merchants, who during a large part of the Middle Ages had the chief carrying-trade of the Balkan peninsula in their hands, permission to do business freely in his realm. He called these intermediaries between Italy and the East his "dear guests," and they repaid the compliment by recalling his "true friendship." Gold, silver, richly-worked garments, and salt entered the Bulgarian Empire through the medium of the South Slavonic commonwealth on the Adriatic, while the centralisation of Church and State at Trnovo gave that city an importance which was lacking to the shifting Serbian capital, now at Novibazar, now at Prigtina, now at Prizren. There was the treasury, there dwelt the great nobles who occupied the court posts with their high-sounding Byzantine names, and there met the synods which denounced the Bogomiles and all their works. The stranger who visited the "castle of thorns" (Trnovo) on the festival of Our Lord's Baptism, when the Tsars were wont to display their greatest pomp, went away impressed with the splendour of their residence on the hill above the tortuous Jantra, a situation unique even among the romantic medieval capitals of the different Balkan races.

The conflict with the Greek Empire of Salonica had been forced upon the Tsar, and it was not till 1235 that he joined the Greek Emperor of Nicaea in an attack upon the Latins of Constantinople, of which the union of their children was to be the guarantee. In two successive campaigns the allies devastated what remained of the Latin Empire in Thrace, where the Frankish duchy of Philippopolis, then held by Gerard de Stroem, fell to the share of Asen, and they advanced to the walls of Constantinople. Defeated in the attempt to capture the Latin capital, the allies drifted apart; Asen saw that it was not his interest to help a strong Greek ruler to recover Byzantium; he removed his daughter from the court of Nicaea, and transferred his support to the Franks against his late ally. Suddenly the news that his wife, his son, and the Patriarch had all died filled him with remorse for his broken vows; he sent his daughter back, and made his peace with Vatatzes, a fact which did not prevent him from giving transit through Bulgaria to a Frankish relief force on its way to Constantinople. His last acts were to marry the fair daughter of the old Emperor Theodore of Salonica, whom he had previously blinded, and then to aid his blind captive to recover Salonica. In the following year, 1241, on or about the feast of his patron saint, St John, the great Tsar died, leaving his vast Empire to his son Kaliman, a lad of seven.

The golden age of Bulgaria under the rule of John Asen II was followed by a period of rapid decline. Kaliman I was well-advised to renew the alliance with the Greek Emperor of Nicaea and to make truce with the Franks of Constantinople. But his youth and inexperience allowed Vatatzes to become the arbiter of the tottering Empire of Salonica, and his sudden death in 1246, at a moment when that ambitious ruler chanced to be in Thrace, tempted the latter to attack the defenceless Bulgarian dominions. Kaliman's sudden end was ascribed by evil tongues to poison; but, whether accidental or no, it could not have happened at a more unfavourable moment for his country. Michael Asen, his younger brother, who succeeded him, was still a child; the Empress-mother, who assumed the regency, was a foreigner and a Greek; and the most powerful monarch of the Orient was at the head of an army on the frontier. One after another John Asen's conquests collapsed before the invading forces of Vatatzes. The Rhodope and a large part of Macedonia, as well as the remains of the Greek Empire of Salonica, formed a European appendage of the Empire of Nicaea, while at Prilep, Pelagonia, and Ochrida, the Nicene frontier now marched with that of another vigorous Greek state, the despotat of Epirus. In the south old blind Theodore Angelus still retained a small territory; thus Hellenism was once more the predominant force in Macedonia, while the new Bulgarian Tsar was forced to submit to the loss of half his dominions.

So long as Vatatzes lived, it was impossible to think of attempting their reconquest. But in 1253 a quarrel between the Ragusans, his father's “dear guests”, and the adjacent kingdom of Serbia, seemed to offer an opportunity to Michael Asen for obtaining compensation from his fellow-Slavs for his losses at the hands of the Greeks. A coalition was formed between the merchant-statesmen of Ragusa, their neighbour, the Zupan of Hum, and the Bulgarian Tsar, against Stephen Urog I, who had ousted, or at least succeeded, his still living brother Vladislav in 1243. It was agreed that, in the event of a Bulgarian conquest of Serbia, the Ragusans should retain all the privileges granted them by the Serbian kings, while they promised never to receive Stephen Urog or his brother, should they seek refuge there. The King of Serbia, however, came to terms with the Ragusans at once, and Michael Asen's scheme of expansion was abandoned. One result was the removal of the Serbian ecclesiastical residence to Ipek.

Constantine Asen 

When, however, Vatatzes died in the following year, the young Tsar thought that the moment had come to recover from the new Emperor of Nicaea, Theodore II Lascaris, what the Greeks had captured. At first his efforts proved successful; the Slavonic element in the population of Thrace declared for him; and the Rhodope was temporarily restored to Bulgaria. But his triumph over his brother-in-law was not for long; the castles of the Rhodope were speedily retaken; in vain the mountain-fastness of Chepina held out against the Greek troops; in vain the Tsar summoned a body of Cumans to his aid; he was glad to accept the mediation of his father-in-law, the Russian prince Rostislavi, then a prominent figure in Balkan politics, and to make peace on such terms as he could. Chepina was evacuated; the Bulgarian frontier receded to the line which had bounded it before this futile war. The failure of his foreign policy naturally discontented Michael Asen's subjects. His cousin Kaliman with the connivance of some leading inhabitants of Trnovo, slew him outside its walls, seized the throne, and made himself master of the person of the widowed Empress. But Rostislav hastened to the rescue of his daughter, only to find that the usurper, fleeing for safety from place to place, had been slain by his own subjects. With the death of Kaliman II in 1257 the dynasty of Asen was extinct. Rostislav in vain styled himself "Emperor of the Bulgarians."

The nobles, or boljare, convoked a council for the election of a new Tsar. Their choice fell upon Constantine, a man of energy and ability settled near Sofia, but descended through the female line from the founder of the Serbian dynasty, whom he vaunted as his grandfather. In order to obtain some sort of hereditary right to the crown, he divorced his wife and married a daughter of Theodore II Lascaris, who, as the granddaughter of John Asen II, would make him the representative of the national line of Tsars. To complete his legitimacy, he took on his marriage the name of Asen. Another competitor, however, a certain Mytzes, who had married a daughter of John Asen II, claimed a closer connexion with that famous house, and for a time disputed the succession to the throne. But his weakness of character contrasted unfavourably with the manly qualities of Constantine; he had to take refuge in Mesembria, and by surrendering that city to the Greeks obtained from them a peaceful retreat for himself and his family near the site of Troy.

Constantine's marriage with a, Greek princess had benefited him personally; but it soon proved a source of trouble to his country. The Tsaritsa, as the sister of the dethroned Greek Emperor John IV, nourished a natural resentment against the man who had usurped her brother's throne, and urged her husband to avenge him. Michael Palaeologus had, indeed, foreseen this effect of his policy; and in the winter before the recapture of Constantinople from the Latins, he had sent his trusty agent, the historian Acropolita, to Trnovo with the object of securing the neutrality of the Tsar during the accomplishment of that great design. The re-establishment of the Greek Empire at Byzantium, which had been the goal of the Bulgarian Tsars, offended the national susceptibilities of the nobles, and a sovereign who owed his election to that powerful class and who was half a foreigner would naturally desire to show himself more Bulgarian than the Bulgarians. Thus a conflict with the Greeks was inevitable. Its only result was the loss of all Bulgaria south of the Balkans.

History of Bosnia

Constantine Asen was also occupied in the early years after the recapture of Constantinople with resisting Hungarian invasions from the north. The Kings of Hungary had always resented the resurrection of the Bulgarian Empire and the independence of Bosnia; and the patronage of the Bogomile heresy by the rulers of both those countries gave them, as the champions of the Papacy, an excuse for intervention. The history of Bosnia during the half-century which followed the death of Kulin in 1204 mainly consists of Hungarian attempts to acquire the sovereignty over the country by means of its theological divisions. First the King of Hungary and the Pope granted Bosnia to the Hungarian Archbishop of Kalocsa, on condition that he purged the land of the "unbelievers" who infested it. Then, when the Bosniaks retorted by making Ninoslav, a born Bogomile, their ban, the king took the still stronger step of bestowing their country upon his son Koloman, who in 1237 made himself master of not only Bosnia but of Hum also. The great defeat of the Hungarians by the Tartars four years later temporarily rid Bosnia of Hungarian interference, and the Papacy tried concessions instead of crusades, allowing Ninoslav, now become a Catholic, to reign unmolested, and the priests to use the Slavonic tongue and the Glagolitic characters in the services of the Church. At last, however, in 1254 religious differences and a disputed succession caused both Bosnia and Hum to fall beneath Hungarian suzerainty. Bosnia was then divided into two parts; while the south was allowed to retain native bans, the north, for the sake of greater security against Bulgaria and Serbia, was at first entrusted to Hungarian magnates, and then combined with a large slice of northern Serbia, which under the name of the banat of Macva was governed by the Russian prince Rostislav, whose name has been already mentioned in connexion with Bulgaria, and who, as son-in-law of the King of Hungary, could be trusted to carry out his policy. This enlarged (and in 1264 reunited) banat or duchy of Macva and Bosnia, as it was officially called, thus formed, like Bosnia in our own time, an advanced post of Hungary in the Balkan peninsula.

Bulgaria was stronger and less exposed than Bosnia; but it was equally coveted by the Hungarian sovereigns. One of them had already assumed the title of "King of Bulgaria"; another, after a series of campaigns in which the Hungarian armies reached the walls of Trnovo and temporarily captured the "virgin fortress" of Vidin, not only adopted the same style, but handed down to his successors a shadowy claim to the Bulgarian crown. Thus, in the second half of the thirteenth century, the Hungarian monarchs were pleased to style themselves "Kings of Bulgaria, Rascia, and Rama," sovereigns (on paper) of all the three South Slavonic States.

When the Hungarian invaders retired, Constantine Asen bethought him of revenge upon the Greeks. He did not scruple to call the Sultan of Iconium and the savage Tartars to his aid; Michael Palaeologus narrowly escaped capture at their hands, and it was long before the rich plain of Thrace recovered from their ravages. These exhausting campaigns caused the Greek Emperor to propitiate so active an enemy. Constantine's wife was now dead, and Michael VIII accordingly endeavoured to attach the Bulgarian Tsar to the new dynasty at Constantinople by offering him the hand of his own niece Maria, with Mesembria and another Black Sea port as her dowry. No sooner, however, had the marriage been celebrated than Michael refused to hand over those places, on the plea that their inhabitants, being Greeks, could not be fairly transferred to Bulgaria against their will. To his surprise, his niece, as soon as she had become a mother, threw in her lot entirely with her adopted country, and urged her husband to assert his claims. The Greek Emperor only avoided a Bulgarian invasion by another diplomatic marriage, that of his natural daughter to the powerful Tartar chief Nogai Khan, who from the steppes of southern Russia kept Bulgaria quiet.

Stephen Uros I

The great design of Charles of Anjou, now established on the throne of Naples, for the recovery of the Latin Empire, affected both Bulgaria and Serbia. Stephen Uros I had married a daughter of the exiled Latin Emperor Baldwin II, and Queen Helena, whose name is still preserved in the cathedral at Cattaro and in a ruined church on the river Bojana, played as important a part as the Bulgarian Empress in advocating an attack upon the Greeks. In vain the Greek Emperor tried to win over the Serbian monarch by a marriage between one of his daughters and a son of Stephen I Uros. But the pompous Byzantine envoys, who were ordered to report upon the manners and customs of the Serbian court, were horrified to find " the great" king, as he was called, living in a style which would have disgraced a modest official of Constantinople, his Hungarian daughter-in-law working at her spindle in an inexpensive gown, and his household eating like a pack of hunters or sheep-stealers. The lack of security for property, which was to be characteristic of the Serbian lands under Turkish rule, deepened this bad impression, and the projected marriage was broken off. Negotiations were resumed between Naples and the Serbian and Bulgarian monarchs, and the Greek Emperor sought to save himself by accepting the union of the Churches at the Council of Lyons, and by repudiating the rights of the Bulgarian and Serbian ecclesiastical establishments to autonomy. But here again the crafty Palaeologus over-reached himself. By his concessions to the Ecumenical Patriarch he aroused the national pride of the two Slav States; by his concessions to the Pope he alienated the Orthodox party in his own capital. At the Bulgarian court the Empress Maria, who was in constant communication with the opposition at Constantinople, worked harder than ever against him, and even tried to incite the Sultan of Egypt to attack the Byzantine Empire in conjunction with the Bulgarians.

Ivailo the Swineherd

This ambitious woman now wielded the supreme power in Bulgaria, for the Tsar was incapacitated by a broken leg, and their son Michael, whom she caused to be crowned and proclaimed as his colleague, was still a child. One powerful chieftain alone stood in her path, a certain James Svetslav, who in the general confusion had assumed the style of “Emperor of the Bulgarians”. A Byzantine historian has graphically described the sinister artifice by which his countrywoman first deluded, and then destroyed, this possible but ingenuous rival. She invited him to Trnovo, and there, in the cathedral, amidst the pomp and circumstance of the splendid eastern ritual, adopted the elderly nobleman as her son. Svetslav’s suspicions were disarmed by this solemn act of adoption, but he found when it was too late that his affectionate “mother” had only embraced him in order the better to kill him. Even this assassination did not, however, leave her mistress of Bulgaria. A new and popular hero arose in the place of the murdered man. Ivailo (such seems to have been his real name) had begun life, like some much more famous Balkan heroes, as a swineherd, and his nickname of “the lettuce”, from which the Greeks called him Lachanas, may have been given him from his habitual diet of herbs. Saintly forms appeared to him in visions as he tended his herd, urging him to seize the throne of the nation which he was destined to rule. His credulous comrades flocked to the side of the inspired peasant; two victories over the Tartar hordes, which were devastating the country with impunity, convinced even the better classes of his mission to deliver their country; and the lawful Tsar, crippled by his malady and deprived by his wife's cruel machinations of his most faithful adherents, fell, in a forlorn attempt to save his crown, by the hand of the triumphant swineherd.

The success of this adventurer disturbed the calculations of the Greek Emperor, whose recent attempts at obtaining influence over Bulgarian policy had go signally failed. His first idea was to attach the peasant ruler to his person by giving him one of his own daughters in marriage. But on second thoughts he came to the conclusion that the swineherd would doubtless fall as rapidly as he had risen, and that it would be therefore wiser to set up a rival candidate to the Bulgarian throne. He readily found an instrument for this purpose in the person of the son of the former claimant, Mytzes, whom he married to his daughter Irene and proclaimed Emperor of the Bulgarians under the popular name of John Asen III. Meanwhile the Dowager-Empress Maria was placed in a position of the utmost difficulty in the capital. Menaced on three sides—by the citizens of Trnovo, by the Swineherd, and by the Byzantine candidate—she saw that she must come to terms with one of the two latter. Self-interest suggested Ivailo as the more likely to allow her and her son to share the throne with him, especially if she offered to become his wife. At first the peasant was disinclined to accept as a favour what he could win by force; but he was sufficiently patriotic to shrink from a further civil war, agreed to her proposal, and early in 1278 celebrated the double festival of his marriage and coronation with her at Trnovo. But this unnatural union failed to secure her happiness or that of her subjects. The savage simplicity of the swineherd was revolted by the luxury of the Byzantine princess, and when their conjugal discussions became too subtle for his rude intelligence, he beat her as he would have beaten one of his own class. Another Tartar inroad increased the perils of the situation; the Byzantine claimant, at the head of a Greek army, invested Trnovo; and, though the cruelty of Ivailo struck terror into the hearts of the besiegers, accustomed to obey the recognised rules of civilised warfare, the report of his defeat at the hands of the Tartars in 1279 caused the wearied citizens to deliver both the Empress Maria and her son to the Greeks and to recognise John Asen III as their lawful sovereign. Maria was led away enceinte to Hadrianople, and ended her career, so fatal to her adopted country, unlamented and unsung.

The Tartars in Bulgaria

But the removal of this disturbing element did not bring peace to Bulgaria. John Asen III ascended the throne as a Greek nominee, supported by a foreign army, while the most popular man in the country was a certain George Terteri, who, though of Cuman extraction, was connected with the native nobility and was well known for his energetic character and shrewd intelligence. Byzantine diplomacy saw at once the danger ahead, and sought to avoid it by the usual method, a matrimonial alliance between the dangerous rival and the reigning Tsar. Terteri consented to wed John Asen's sister, even though he had to divorce his wife, who had already borne him an heir, in order to make this political marriage. But it was not long before circumstances made him the inevitable ruler of Bulgaria. Ivailo, supposed to have disappeared finally from the scene, suddenly reappeared in the summer of 1280 with a Tartar general at his side. In vain the Greek Emperor sent two armies to defend the throne of his minion; two successive defeats convinced John Asen that it was time to flee alike before the enemy outside and the rival within. He took with him all the portable contents of the Bulgarian treasury, including the imperial insignia which the founders of the Empire had captured from Isaac Angelus ninety years earlier, and which thus returned with their unworthy successor to Constantinople. Such was the indignation of Michael VIII at the cowardly flight of the man whom he had laboured to make the instrument of his policy for the reduction of Bulgaria to a vassal state, that he at first refused him admission to the city. Meanwhile, George Terteri was raised to the vacant throne by the general desire of the military and the nobles. Such was his reputation that Ivailo at once retired from a contest to which he felt himself unequal single-handed.

Ivailo betook himself to the court of Nogai Khan, the Tartar chief who had once before been the arbiter of Bulgaria. There he found his old rival, John Asen III, well provided with Byzantine money, and calculating on the fact that the chiefs harem contained his sister-in-law. For some time the wily Tartar was equally willing to receive the presents and listen with favour to the proposals of both candidates, till at last one night in a drunken bout he ordered Ivailo to be killed as the enemy of his father-in-law, the Greek Emperor. Asen only escaped a like fate thanks to the intervention of his wife's sister, who sent him back in safety to Constantinople. Thenceforth, he abandoned the attempt to recover the Bulgarian crown, preferring the peaceful dignity of a high Byzantine title and founding a family which played a prominent part in the medieval history of the Morea. His rival, even though dead, still continued to be a name with which to conjure; several years later, a false Ivailo caused such alarm at Constantinople that the Dowager-Empress Maria was asked to state whether he was her husband or no; even her disavowal of his identity availed nothing with the credulous peasants, who regarded him as their heaven-sent leader against the Turks. For a moment Byzantine statecraft thought that he might be utilised for that purpose; but, as his followers became more numerous and more fanatical, caution prevailed, and the pretender vanished in one of the Greek prisons.

Andronicus II, who had now succeeded to the Byzantine throne, realising the hopelessness of any further attempt to festore John Ask, not only made peace with Terteri, but sent back to him his first wife on condition that he divorced his second. Thus, the Tsar was able to pacify the scruples of the Bulgarian hierarchy, which had regarded him as excommunicated, nor could the united efforts of Pope Nicholas IV and Queen Helena of Serbia induce him to abandon the national Church. But the founder of the new dynasty was soon forced to flee before another Tartar invasion. In vain he had tried to prevent that calamity by a matrimonial alliance; Nogai Khan ravaged Bulgaria; and, while the Tsar was a suppliant at the Greek court, one of his nobles, “prince Smilec”, was appointed by will of the Tartar chief to rule the country as his vassal. Smilec's reign was, however, brief; upon the death of Nogai, his son Choki claimed Bulgaria as the son-in-law of Terteri and was ostensibly supported by the latter’s son, Theodore Svetslav. The allies were successful; Smilec disappeared, leaving as the one memorial of his name the monastery which he founded near Tatar-Pazardzhik; and Choki and Svetslav entered Trnovo in triumph. Then the Bulgarian appeared in his true colours; a sudden stroke of fortune enabled him to spend money freely among his countrymen, who naturally regarded him as the rightful heir to the throne; at last, when he thought that the moment had come for action, he ordered his Tartar ally to be seized and strangled, and the Bulgarian Patriarch, who had long been suspected of intrigues with the Tartars, to be hurled from the cliffs. Two attempts to drive out the new ruler failed. There was a small Grecophil party in Bulgaria which proclaimed Michael, the son of Constantine Asen and the Empress Maria; but the reception with which he met on his arrival convinced him that his cause was hopeless. The Byzantine Court then supported the brother of Smilec, who was in his turn defeated, and the number of Byzantine magnates who were captured on that occasion enabled Svetslav to ransom his father from the custody in which the Greeks had placed him. His filial piety did not, however, so far prevail over his ambition as to make him yield the throne to the founder of his dynasty. He placed him in honourable confinement in one of his cities, where he was allowed to live in luxury provided that he did not meddle with affairs of state.

The Bulgarian Empire no longer occupied the great position in Balkan politics which it had filled half a century earlier. The rivalries of pretenders, foreign intrigues, and the sinister influence of a woman had weakened the fabric so rapidly raised by the energy of the previous Tsars. In contrast with the feverish history of this once dominant Slavonic State, that of Serbia during the same period shows a tranquillity which increased the resources of that naturally rich country and thus prepared the way for the great expansion of the Serbian dominions in the next century. The “great king”, Stephen I Uros I, whose simple court had so profoundly shocked the Byzantine officials, after a long and peaceful reign, only disturbed by a Tartar inroad, was ousted from the throne in 1276 by his elder son Stephen Dragutin (or "the beloved"), assisted by the latter’s brother-in-law, the King of Hungary. The old king fled to the land of Hum, where he died of a broken heart, but his cruel son did not long wear the Serbian crown. Disabled by an infirmity of the foot from the active pursuits necessary to a Balkan sovereign in the Middle Ages, he abdicated in favour of his brother Stephen Uros II, called Milutin (or “the child of grace”). But, like other monarchs who have resigned, he soon grew weary of retirement, and returned to the throne, till his malady, combined with qualms of conscience, compelled him, at the end of 1281, to withdraw definitely from the government of Serbia. As some compensation for this loss of dignity and as occupation for his not too active mind, he received from his brother-in-law, the King of Hungary, the Duchy of Macva and Bosnia, and also governed Belgrade. There he busied himself entirely with religious questions; while he mortified his own flesh, to atone for his unfilial conduct, he and his son-in-law and vassal, Stephen Kotroman, the founder of the subsequent Bosnian dynasty, persecuted the Bogomiles with a zeal which became all the greater after his conversion to the Roman Church. At his request, the Franciscans, who have since played such an important part in Bosnian history, settled in the country; but, even with their aid, the fanaticism of Dragutin could make no headway against the stubborn heretics. At his death in 1316, the bishopric of Bosnia had been "almost destroyed," despite all the efforts of the Popes.

Stephen Uros III

Stephen Uros II has been judged very differently by his Serbian and by his Greek contemporaries. One of the former, who owed everything to him, extols his qualities as a ruler; one of the latter, who was naturally opposed to him, depicts him as a savage debauchee. The two characters are, however, by no means incompatible; and if this "pious king," the founder of churches and the endower of bishoprics, was anything but an exemplary husband, he left Serbia in a stronger position than she had ever held before. The chief object of his foreign policy was to enlarge his kingdom at the expense of the Byzantine Empire, which, he bitterly complained, had annexed foreign territory without being able to defend its own. Some two years before his accession, the Serbian troops under the guidance of a Greek deserter had penetrated as far as Seres; and the first act of his reign was to occupy Skoplje and other places in Macedonia, an undertaking all the easier in that his father-in-law, the bold Duke John of Neopatras, at that time the leading figure of Northern Greece, was at war with the Byzantine Emperor. Michael VIII died before he could punish the confederates, and his successor contented himself with sending the Tartar auxiliaries whom his father had collected to glut their desire for plunder in Serbia, and thus incidentally to weaken a nation which caused constant vexation to his subjects. The Tartars came and went, but the Serbian raids continued; Serbian standards approached the holy mount of Athos, and the Greek commander of Salonica confessed that his orthodox tactics were no match for the guerrilla warfare of these marauders. He therefore advised the Emperor, especially in view of the Turkish peril in Asia Minor, to make peace with the Serbs. Andronicus II took his advice and, to render the treaty more binding upon the volatile Serbian temperament, resolved to give the hand of one of the imperial princesses to Stephen Uros. Such marriages were not, as a rule, happy; had not the gossips told how the "first-crowned" king had turned his Greek wife out of doors all but naked? Stephen Uros II, it was pointed out, had an even worse reputation. That uxorious monarch, the Henry VIII of the Balkans, had already, it was true, had three wives, and had divorced two of them, while the third was still his consort. But Byzantine sophistry declared the second and third marriages null, as having been contracted during the first wife's lifetime; as she was now dead, it followed that her husband could put away his third wife and marry again without offending the canons of the Church. Stephen Uros was nothing loth; he wanted an heir, and had no further use for his third wife, a daughter of the dethroned Tsar Terteri; the only difficulty was that the widowed sister of Andronicus vowed that she, at any rate, did not share her brother's views as to the legality of such a second marriage. The Greek Emperor was not, however, discouraged by her refusal; he sacrificed his only daughter Simonis, though not yet six years of age, to the exigencies of politics and the coarseness of a notorious evil-liver who was older than her father and in Greek eyes his social inferior. The scruples of the Ecumenical Patriarch, increased by the theological flirtations of Stephen Uros with the Roman Church, availed as little as the opposition of the Queen-Dowager Helena, who, as a good Catholic, regarded her son's marriage with abhorrence. The parties met on an island in the Vardar; the King of Serbia handed over his Bulgarian consort together with the Greek deserter who had for so long led his forces to victory, and received in exchange his little bride with all the humility of a parvenu marrying into an old family.

This matrimonial alliance with the imperial family suggested to the ambitious mind of Stephen Urog the possibility of uniting the Byzantine and Serbian dominions under a single sceptre. His plan was shared by his mother-in-law, the Empress Irene, who, as an Italian, was devoid of Hellenic patriotism, and, as a second wife, knew that her sons could never succeed to their father's throne. In the King of Serbia she saw the means of acquiring the Byzantine Empire for her own progeny, if not for the offspring of Simonis, then for one of her own sons. From her retreat at Salonica she made Stephen Uros the confidant of her conjugal woes, loaded him with presents, and sent him every year a more and more richly jewelled tiara, almost as splendid as that of the Emperor himself. When it became clear that Simonis was not likely to have children, she persuaded the King of Serbia to adopt one of her two surviving sons as his heir. But the luxurious Byzantine princeling could not stand the hard and uncomfortable life in Serbia, and his brother also, after a brief experience of the Serbian court, was thankful to return to the civilisation of northern Italy. Simonis herself, when she grew up, disliked her adopted country quite as much as her brothers had done. She spent as much of her time as possible at Constantinople; and, when her husband threatened vengeance on the Greek Empire unless she returned to him, she was sent back in tears to his barbarous embraces. Obviously, then, Balkan capitals were even less agreeable places of residence for luxurious persons of culture at that period than they are now.

The Greek connexion had naturally given offence to the national party in Serbia, which was opposed to foreign influence and suspicious of feminine intrigues. Stephen Dragutin protested from his retirement at an arrangement which might deprive his own son Vladislav of the right, which he had never renounced for him, of succeeding to the Serbian throne upon the death of Stephen Uros. A more dangerous rival was the king's bastard, Stephen, who had received the family appanage in the Zeta, but was impatient of this subordinate position and ready to come forward as the champion of the national cause against his father’s Grecophil policy. Stephen Uros, however, soon suppressed his bastard's rebellion; the rebel fled to the banks of the Bojana, where stood the church which still bears his father's name, and begged for pardon. But the king was anxious to render him incapable of a second conspiracy, and his Byzantine associates suggested to him that blinding was the best punishment for traitors of the blood royal. The operation was, however, only partially successful; but the victim had the sense to conceal the fact, and lived unmolested in a monastery at Constantinople, until his father in his old age, at the instigation of the historian Daniel, recalled him to Serbia and assigned him the ancient royal city of Dioclea, whose ruins may yet be seen near the modern Podgorica, as a residence.

Serbia and the Papacy

The failure of his scheme for the union of the Serbian and Greek realms under his dynasty by peaceful means led Stephen Urog to enter into negotiations, in 1308, with Charles of Valois, then seeking to recover the lost Latin Empire of Constantinople in the name of his daughter, the titular Empress. In order the better to secure the aid of the West, the crafty Serb expressed to Pope Clement V the desire to be received into that Roman Church of which his mother had been so ardent a devotee, and which could protect him from a possible French invasion. A treaty was then concluded between him and Charles, pledging both parties to render mutual assistance to one another, and securing for the King of Serbia the continued possession of Prilep, Stip, and other Macedonian castles formerly belonging to the Byzantine Empire. A further proposal for a marriage between the two families, contingent on the conversion of Stephen Uros, fell through, and the feebleness and dilatoriness of the French prince convinced the shrewd Serbian monarch that such an alliance would not further his designs, and that he had nothing to fear from that quarter. He therefore abandoned Western Europe and the Papacy, and was sufficient of a Balkan patriot to assist the Greeks against the Turks.

The death of his brother Dragutin gave Stephen Urog an opportunity of expanding his kingdom in another direction. He imprisoned his nephew, whom the royal monk had commended to his care, and made himself master of his inheritance in Macva. Stephen Urog II was now at the zenith of his power. It was no mere flourish of the pen which made him sign himself “King of Serbia, the land of Hum, Dioclea,Albania, and the sea-coast”, for his authority really corresponded with those titles, and under him Serbia had, what she has at last regained, a sea-board on the Adriatic. But his unprincipled annexation of a former Hungarian land brought down upon him the vengeance of the King of Hungary, while his designs against the Angevin port of Durazzol, which he had already once captured, aroused the animosity of its owner, Philip of Taranto, now husband of the titular Empress of Constantinople. The Pope bade the Catholic Albanians fight against the schismatic Serb who had played fast and loose with the Holy See, and the league was completed by the adhesion of the powerful Croatian family of Subic, which had latterly become predominant in Bosnia and would brook no Serbian interference in their domain. Stephen Urog lost his brother’s Bosnian duchy together with Belgrade; but to the last he was bent on the extension of his dominions. Death carried him off in 1321, as he was scheming to make political profit out of the quarrel between the elder and the younger Andronicus.

Policy of Stephen Uros II

Stephen Uros II was an opportunist in both politics and religion. His alliances were entirely dictated by motives of expediency, and he regarded the filioque clause as merely a pawn in the diplomatic game. If he delighted the Orthodox Church by his gifts to Mount Athos, and his pious foundations at Salonica, Constantinople, and even Jerusalem; if a chapel near Studenica still preserves the memory of this “great-grandson of St Simeon and son of the great King Uros”—he was so indifferent, or so statesmanlike, as to permit six Catholic sees within his realm and to allow Catholic bishops and even the djed, or “grand-sire”, of the Bogomiles to sit in his Council at Cattaro. One of his laws prevented boundary disputes between villages; he was anxious to encourage commerce; and, though he more than once harassed Ragusa, he wrote to Venice offering to keep open and guard the great trade route which traversed his kingdom and then led across Bulgaria to the Black Sea. But in commercial, as in other matters, his code of honour was low, and his issue of counterfeit Venetian coin has gained him a place among the evil kings in the Paradise of Dante.

Upon the death of Stephen Uros II the crown should have naturally devolved upon his nephew Vladislav, who had now been released from prison. But the clergy, always a dominant factor in Serbian politics, favoured the election of the bastard Stephen, who, during his father's later years, had borne all the royal titles as a designation of his ultimate succession, and had already once championed the national idea. Stephen proclaimed that he was no longer blind, and astutely ascribed to a miracle what was the result of the venality or clumsiness of the operator. To cover his illegitimacy, he assumed the family name of Uros, already associated in the popular mind with two successful kings, but posterity knows him by that of Decanski from the monastery of Decani in Old Serbia, which he founded. With the ruthlessness of his race, he speedily rid himself of his two competitors, Vladislav and another natural son of the late king, a certain Constantine. Vladislav died an exile in Hungary; Constantine was nailed to a cross and then sawn asunder; while the usurper tried yet further to strengthen his position by wooing a daughter of Philip of Taranto and by obtaining from the Pope a certificate of his legitimacy. To secure these objects he surrendered Durazzo and offered to become a Catholic, only to withdraw his offer when the support of the Orthodox clergy seemed more valuable to him than that of Rome.

Stephen Decanski and his court

The civil war which was at that time threatening the Byzantine Empire involved both the neighbouring Slav states, each anxious to benefit by the struggle, which ultimately resulted in a pitched battle between them. The dynasty of Terteri had become extinct in Bulgaria a year after the accession of Stephen Uros III to the Serbian throne. Svetslav, although he had domestic difficulties with Byzantium, had kept on good terms with the Serbs, and his warlike son George Terteri II, who succeeded him in 1322, died after a single Greek campaign. Bulgaria was therefore once more distracted by the claims of rival claimants, of whom the strongest was Michael of Vidin, already styled "Despot of Bulgaria," and founder of the last dynasty of Bulgarian Tsars. His father had established himself as a petty prince in that famous Danubian fortress; the son, as was natural in one living so near the Serbian frontier, had married a half-sister of the new King of Serbia and owed his success to Serbian aid. In order, however, to secure peace with the Greeks and at the same time to consolidate his position at home, he now repudiated his consort with her children, and espoused the widow of Svetslav, who was a sister of the younger Andronicus. This matrimonial alliance led to a political treaty between the Bulgarian Tsar and the impatient heir of Byzantium; they met in the autumn of 1326, and came to terms which seemed favourable to both: Michael promised to assist Andronicus to oust his grandfather from the throne; Andronicus pledged himself to support Michael against the natural indignation of the insulted Serbian king, and, in the event of his own enterprise succeeding, to give money and territory to his Bulgarian brother-in-law. On the other side, the elder Andronicus sent the historian Nicephorus Gregoras on a mission to the Serbian government, with the object of conciliating Stephen Uros III. The literary diplomatist has left us a comical picture of the peripatetic Serbian court, then in the vicinity of Skoplje, as it struck a highly-cultured Byzantine. The inadequate efforts of his barbarian majesty to do honour to the high-born Greek lady whose daughter he had recently married, seemed ridiculous to a visitor versed in the etiquette of Constantinople. Still, as the historian complacently remarked, one cannot expect apes and ants to act like eagles and lions, and he re-crossed the Serbian frontier thanking Providence that he had been born a Greek. Similar opinions with regard to the Balkan Slavs are still held by many of his countrymen.

After making, however, due allowance for the national bias of a Greek author, it is clear that Serbia, then on the eve of becoming the chief power of the peninsula, was still far behind both the Greek and Latin states of the Levant in civilization. The contemporary writer, Archbishop Adam, who has left a valuable account of the country at this period, tells us that it contained no walled and moated castles; the palaces of the king and his nobles were of wood, surrounded by palisades, and the only houses of stone were in the Latin towns on the Adriatic coast, such as Antivari, Cattaro, and Dulcigno, the residences of the Catholic Archbishop and his suffragans. Yet Rascia was naturally a very rich land, producing plenty of corn, wine, and oil, well-watered, and abounding in forests full of game. Five gold mines and as many of silver were being constantly worked, and Stephen Uros II could afford a gift of plate and a silver altar to the church of St Nicholas at Bari. But his subjects were too heterogeneous to be united; the Latins of Scutari and the coast-towns, as well as the Albanians, also Catholics, were oppressed by the Serbs, whose priesthood was debased and whose bishops were often in prison. As against this last statement, obviously caused by the theological zeal of the archbishop, we may set the gloomy account of the abuses in the six Roman churches of Serbia, which we have from Pope Benedict XI some twenty years earlier, while, at the moment when Adam wrote, the Orthodox Archbishop was no less eminent a man than the patriotic historian Daniel. If, then, Serbia was still uncultured, if the manners and morals of her rustic court still left much to desire, she was obviously possessed of great natural energy and capacity, which only awaited a favourable moment and the right man to develop them.

While the Serbian nobles, whose influence was usually predominant in deciding questions of public policy, soon wearied of supporting the elder Andronicus, and plainly said that if their sovereign insisted on fighting he would fight alone, the Bulgarian Tsar suddenly changed sides, warmly espoused the cause of the old Emperor, and sent 3000 horsemen under a Russian general with the object (so it was suspected) of seizing Constantinople for himself and thus realising the dream of his greatest predecessors. Self-interest and patriotism alike urged the younger Andronicus to warn his grandfather of the danger which he would incur if he entrusted the palace to the custody of these untrustworthy allies. Andronicus II acted on this timely hint from his rival; for neither of them could desire to see a Bulgarian conquest of Constantinople as the result of their family disputes. The Russian was alone admitted within the gates, and the reproaches and bribes of the younger Andronicus speedily effected the recall of the Bulgarian force. A few days later Andronicus III entered the city in triumph; Byzantium never again so nearly fell beneath the Bulgarian yoke as in that memorable spring of 1328, until the famous campaign of 1912-13.

Battle of Velbuzd, 1330

The same Bulgarian Tsar, who had thus all but achieved the ideal of every Balkan nationality, was destined to bring his country to the verge of ruin. Stephen Uros III had never forgiven the insult to his sister, and Michael therefore resolved to forestall a Serbian invasion by acting first. He had no difficulty in forming a formidable coalition against the rising Serbian state. Andronicus III, whose Macedonian frontier near Ochrida had lately been ravaged by the Serbs, joined the league and menaced Serbia from the south; the Prince of Wallachia and 3000 Tartar mercenaries swelled the native army of Bulgaria, already 12,000 strong. At the head of such forces, Michael boasted that he would be crowned in his enemy’s land, and set out down the valley of the Upper Struma to cross the frontier a little to the north of Kostendil, then a Serbian but now a Bulgarian town. On 28 June 1330, the most decisive battle in the mutual history of the two Slav states was fought in the plain of Velbuzd, as Kostendil was then called. The Tsar was taken by surprise, for he had expected no fighting that day; indeed, it was afterwards stated that his opponent had given his word not to begin hostilities till the morrow. Thus, at the moment when the Serbs charged from a narrow defile into the plain, the bulk of the Bulgarian army was away foraging. Aided by a body of several hundred tall German knights, Stephen Uros easily routed his distracted foes; Michael himself was unhorsed, and died, either in the battle, or of his wounds a few days afterwards; but the conquerors merely disarmed the fugitives, whom, as men of their own race, it was not lawful to take captive. On the hill where his tent had been pitched, the victor founded a church of the Ascension, the ruins of which still serve as a memorial of this fratricidal war. Bulgaria was now at his mercy, for the rest of the native army had fled at the news of their sovereign's defeat, and Andronicus III at once returned to Constantinople. The proud Bulgarian nobles, who had deemed themselves their Tsar’s “half-brothers”, came to meet their conqueror and hear his decision. Stephen Uros might have united the two Slav states under his own sceptre, and thus prevented those further rivalries which have governed Balkan politics in our own time. But he preferred to allow Bulgaria, then more than twenty days' journey in extent, to remain as a dependency of his family; he contented himself with restoring his sister and her young son John Stephen to the throne of the Tsars. The immediate effect of this policy was the expulsion of the late ruler's Greek consort, which gave her brother Andronicus an excuse for annexing a large part of Southern Bulgaria. Thus Greeks and Serbs alike had profited by the victory of Velbuzd; Serbia had won the hegemony of the Balkan States.

Accession of Stephen Dusan 

Stephen Uros III did not long enjoy the fruits of his triumph. His worst enemies were those of his own household, and he fell a victim to one of those domestic tragedies which were characteristic of his family. He had married a second time, and his eldest son Stephen, then twenty-two years of age but still unprovided with a wife, looked with suspicion on the offspring of his Greek step-mother, a cousin of Andronicus III. He had been carefully educated as a crown prince; indeed, his father had had him crowned with himself, and had promised to make him ruler over half his kingdom. The courtier-like Archbishop Daniel, anxious to please his young master, asserts that Stephen Uros had not kept this promise; an impartial Greek contemporary says that the prince’s suspicions were exploited by those Serbian nobles who were weary of his father’s rule and hoped to benefit by a change. They proclaimed him king; he was crowned on 8 September 1331; the flower of the army, attracted by his prowess at Velbuzd, flocked to his standard; the old king was easily captured and imprisoned in the castle of Zvecan near Mitrovica. There, two months later, he was strangled, either by the orders or at least with the tacit consent of his son, who durst not oppose the will of his powerful followers; and the name of Dugan, by which Stephen Uros IV is known in history, is variously derived, according to the view taken of his share in his father's murder, either from dusa (“soul”), a pet name given him by his fond parent, or from dusiti (“to throttle”). The epithet of “strong”, which his countrymen applied to him, was fully justified by the masterful character and the great achievements of this most famous of all Serbian sovereigns.

His first care was to secure himself on the side of Bulgaria, where, a few months before, a revolution organised by two court officials had driven the Serbian Empress and her son from the throne, and had placed upon it John Alexander, a nephew of the late Tsar, who assumed the ever popular surname of Asen. Instead of attempting to restore his aunt to Bulgaria against the will of the nobles, Dugan adopted the wiser policy of marrying the sister of the usurper and thus attaching the latter to his side, while John Stephen, after wandering as an exile from one land to another, now a suppliant at Constantinople and now a prisoner at Siena, ended his days at Naples. Thus Bulgaria under John Alexander was practically a dependency of Serbia.

Foundation of Wallachia and Moldavia

But Dugan by his Bulgarian marriage disarmed the enmity, and gained the support, of another powerful Balkan ruler, the Prince of Wallachia, who was father-in-law of the Bulgarian Tsar, and who had first made the land which was the nucleus of the present kingdom of Roumania a factor in Balkan politics. During the former half of the thirteenth century, while Serbia and Bulgaria were already independent states, the opposite bank of the Danube had been traversed by successive barbarian tribes, the Cumans and the Tartars, who had driven the Roumanian population before them to the mountains. A Slav population dwelt in the plains, the banat of Craiova, or “little Wallachia”, was Hungarian, while here and there the fortresses of the Teutonic Knights and the Knights of St John availed but little to stem the tide of invasion. But about 1290 the Roumanians descended from Transylvania into Wallachia to escape the religious persecutions of the Catholic Kings of Hungary, and the generally received account ascribes the foundation of the principality to a colony from Fogaras, which, under the leadership of Radou Negrou, or Rudolf the Black, established itself at Campulung, and gave to the essentially flat country of Wallachia the local name of “land of mountains”, in memory of those mountains whence the founder came. His successor, Ivanko Basaraba, the ally of the Bulgarians in the campaign of 1330, extended his authority over “little Wallachia”, completely routed the Hungarians, and strengthened his position by marrying his daughter to the new Tsar of Bulgaria. About the same time as the foundation of the Wallachian principality, a second principality, dependent however on the Hungarian crown, was created in Moldavia by another colony of Roumanians from the north of Transylvania under a chief named Dragoche. This vassal state threw of its allegiance to Hungary about 1349, and became independent. Such was the origin of the two Danubian principalities, which thenceforth existed under various forms till their transformation in our own day into the kingdom of Roumania.

Thus connected with the rulers of Bulgaria and Wallachia, Dugan was able to begin the realisation of that great scheme which had been cherished by his grandfather of forming a Serbian Empire on the ruins of Byzantium. While his ally, the Bulgarian Tsar, recaptured the places south of the Balkans which Andronicus III had so recently occupied, Dugan, assisted by Sir Janni, a political adventurer who had abandoned the Byzantine for the Serbian court, easily conquered nearly all Western Macedonia. The assassination of Sir Janni by an emissary of the Byzantine Emperor and the threatening attitude of the King of Hungary led him, however, to make peace with the Greeks and even to seek their aid against this dangerous enemy. The Greek and the Serbian monarchs met and spent a very pleasant week in one another's society; and this meeting had important results, because it gave Dugan an opportunity of making the acquaintance of the future Emperor John Cantacuzene, then in attendance on Andronicus. Thus, for the moment, peace reigned between the Greeks and the Balkan Slays; Dugan was content to bide his time; John Alexander obtained the hand of the Emperor's daughter for his eldest son, and could afford to ignore the appeal which the Pope made to him to join the Church of Rome.

Dusan and Cantacuzene

Dusan availed himself of this peace with the Greeks to attack the Angevin possessions in Albania. Durazzo, however, the most important of them, resisted all his efforts, and the Angevin rule there survived the great Serbian conqueror. But this aggressive policy had made him an object of general alarm. The King of Hungary, himself an Angevin, and the powerful Bosnian ban, Stephen Kotromanie, who had succeeded the family of Subic in 1322, regarded him with suspicion, and their attitude so greatly alarmed him that he wrote to Venice in 1340, begging for a refuge there in the event of his being defeated by his numerous enemies, offering to assist the republic in her Italian wars, and guaranteeing her merchants a safe transit across his dominions on their way to Constantinople. Venice bestowed the rights of citizenship upon the serviceable Serbian monarch and his family.

The death of Andronicus III in 1341 and the rebellion of John Cantacuzene against the rule of the young Emperor John V and his mother Anne of Savoy were Dusan’s opportunity. He at once disregarded his treaty with the Greeks, and overran the whole of Macedonia. Soon this barbarian, as the elegant Byzantine authors considered him, had the proud satisfaction of receiving at Pristina, which, though it had been the Serbian capital, was still only an unfortified village, bids for his alliance from both parties in the struggle for the dominion of the Empire. Cantacuzene, in the hour of need, sought a personal interview with him there; the King and Queen of Serbia welcomed their distinguished suppliant with every mark of respect; but, when it came to business, Dusan demanded as the price of his assistance the whole of the Byzantine Empire west of the pass of Christópolis near Kavala, or, at any rate, of Salonica. Cantacuzene informs us that he indignantly declined to give up even the meanest of Greek cities; the utmost concession which he could be induced to make was to recognise Dusan’s rights over the Greek territory which he already held. Anne of Savoy, as a foreigner, was less patriotic; she more than once promised Dusan that, if he would send her Cantacuzene alive or dead, she would give him what her rival had refused, so that the Serbian Empire would stretch from the Adriatic to the Aegean. The matter was referred to the Council of twenty-four officers of State whom the Serbian kings were wont to consult, and this Council, acting on the advice of the queen, repudiated the suggestion of assassinating an honoured guest, and advised Dusan to be content with a formal oath from Cantacuzene that he would respect the territorial status quo. Baffled in her negotiations with the King of Serbia, Anne of Savoy did not scruple to purchase the aid of the Bulgarian Tsar by the cession of Philippopolis and eight other places, the last aggrandisement of the Bulgarian Empire. Thus, the divisions of the Greeks benefited Serbia and Bulgaria alike, while both Cantacuzene and his rival found ere long that their Slav allies only looked to their own advancement. In the general confusion, both parties invoked the assistance of the Turks, who had taken Brasa (Prusa) in 1326 and Nicaea in 1330, and who now appeared sporadically in Europe. Brigand chiefs formed bands in the mountains, changing sides whenever it suited their purpose, and one of these guerrilla leaders, a Bulgarian named Momchilo, not only survives in the pages of the imperial historian but is still the hero of Slavonic ballads.

Dusan crowned Emperor, 1346

It was the policy of Dusan to allow the two Greek factions to exhaust themselves, and to strengthen his position at the expense of both. While they fought, he occupied one place after another, till, by 1345, he had acquired all that he had originally asked Cantacuzene to cede, and the whole of Macedonia, except Salonica, was in his power. It was scarcely an exaggeration when he described himself in a letter to the Doge, written from Seres in this year, as “King of Serbia, Dioclea, the land of Hum, the Zeta, Albania, and the Maritime region, partner in no small part of the Empire of Bulgaria, and lord of almost all the Empire of Romania”. But for the ruler of so vast a realm the title of King seemed insignificant, especially as his vassal, the ruler of Bulgaria, bore the great name of Tsar. Accordingly, early in 1346, Dusan had himself crowned at Skoplje, whither he had transferred the Serbian capital, as "Emperor of the Serbs and Greeks," soon to be magnified into “Tsar and Autocrat of the Serbs and Greeks, the Bulgarians and Albanians”. Shortly before, with the consent of the Bulgarian, and in defiance of the Ecumenical, Patriarch, he had raised the Archbishop of Serbia to that exalted dignity with his seat at Ipek, and the two Slav Patriarchs of Trnovo and Ipek placed the crown upon his head. At the same time, on the analogy of the Western Empire with its “King of the Romans”, he had his son Stephen Uros V proclaimed king, and assigned to him the old Serbian lands as far as Skoplje, reserving for himself the new conquests from there to Kavala. Byzantine emblems and customs were introduced into the brand-new Serbian Empire; the Tsar assumed the tiara and the double-eagle as the heir of the great Constantine, and wrote to the Doge proposing an alliance for the conquest of Constantinople. The officials of his court received the high-sounding titles of Byzantium, and in the papal correspondence with Serbia we read of a “Sebastocrator”, a “Great Logothete”, a “Caesar”, and a “Despot”. The governors of important Serbian cities, such as Cattaro and Scutari, were styled "Counts," those of minor places, like Antivari, were called “Captains”. In vain did Cantacuzene, as soon as the civil war was over, demand the restitution of the Greek territory which Dugan had conquered since their meeting in 1342. The Tsar had no intention of keeping his word or of returning to the status quo of that year.

Serbo-Greek treaty of 1350

On the contrary, he still further extended his frontiers to the south, where they marched with the former despotat of Epirus. That important state, founded on the morrow of the Latin conquest of Constantinople, had maintained its independence till, in 1336, it had been at last re-united with the Byzantine Empire. Cantacuzene had appointed one of his relatives as its governor; but upon his death in 1349 the Serbian Tsar, who had already occupied Joannina, annexed Epirus and Thessaly, assuming the further titles of “Despot of Arta and Count of Vlachia”. His brother, Simeon Uros, was sent to rule Acarnania and Aetolia as his viceroy, while the Serbian Caesar, Preljub, governed Joannina and Thessaly. Thus a large part of northern Greece owned the sway of the Serbs. Cantacuzene resolved at once to punish this culminating act of aggression. The moment was favourable to his plans, for Dusan was engaged on the Bosnian frontier, and several of the Serbian nobles, always intolerant of authority, deserted to the popular Greek Emperor, whom they knew and liked. Such was his success (for even the Serbian capital of Skoplje offered to surrender in the absence of the Tsar) that Dusan hastened back and came to terms with his enemy. The two Emperors met outside Salonica; Cantacuzene reproached the Tsar with his breach of the treaty made between them eight years earlier; and, if we may judge from the speeches which he composed for himself and his opponent, Dusan was completely dumbfounded by his arguments. A fresh treaty was drawn up between them, by which Acarnania, Thessaly, and the south-east of Macedonia as far as Seres, were to be retroceded to the Greeks, and five commissioners were appointed on either side for the transfer of this territory. But the renewal of the unhappy quarrel between Cantacuzene and John V thwarted the execution of this agreement. Emissaries of the young Emperor advised Dugan to resist, telling him that he would obtain better terms by aiding their master against Cantacuzene. The Tsar thereupon repudiated the treaty which he had just signed, promised his assistance to John V, and urged him to divorce Cantacuzene’s daughter and marry the sister of the Serbian Empress. Cantacuzene in vain warned his young rival to beware of Serbian intrigues; in vain did Anne of Savoy endeavour to prevent the unholy league; a new triple alliance was formed between John V and the two Serbian and Bulgarian Tsars. Thus Dusan was able to retain his Greek conquests, with a flagrant disregard for the treaty of 1350 which recalls the futility of such instruments in the settlement of Balkan questions.

First Turkish settlement in Europe

It was not, however, only the other Christian races of the Near East who profited by the fatal dissensions between the two Greek Emperors. The nation, which a century later was destined to grind them all to powder, owed its first permanent settlement in Europe to their divisions. The Ottoman Turks from their capital of Brasa could aid either party, according as it suited their convenience, nor did Cantacuzene hesitate to buy the support of the Sultan Orkhan by giving him his daughter to wife. For some years the Turks were content to raid the neighbouring coast; then their marauding bands penetrated farther inland, and so severely devastated Bulgaria that John Alexander complained to Cantacuzene of the depredations of his savage allies. Cantacuzene was sufficient of a statesman to foresee the coming Turkish triumph; he replied by offering to keep up a fleet at the Dardanelles for the protection of the European coast, if the Bulgarian Tsar would contribute towards its maintenance. A popular demonstration at Trnovo in favour of common action against the Turks convinced the Tsar of the wisdom of accepting Cantacuzene’s proposal. But at the last moment Dugan wrecked the scheme by remonstrating with his vassal for paying what he scornfully called “tribute” to the Greek Empire. In vain Cantacuzene warned the offended Bulgarian that Bulgaria would one day, when it was too late, rue his decision. Not long after, in 1353 according to the Greek, or in 1356 according to the Turkish account, Orkhan’s son crossed the Dardanelles and occupied the castle of Tzympe, the first permanent settlement of the Turks in Europe. Cantacuzene had offered them money to quit, and they were preparing to go when a sudden convulsion of nature tempted them to break their bargain; the great earthquake of 2 March 1354 laid the neighbouring towns in ruins; and Gallipoli, the largest of them, was colonised and re-fortified by these unwelcome guests, who had now come to stay and conquer.

It has been mentioned that Cantacuzene’s successes in 1350 were favoured by Dusan’s absence in Bosnia. That Napoleonic ruler could not be expected to acquiesce in the co-existence of another Serb state adjacent to, yet independent of, his own. He had an old grudge against Stephen Kotromanic, the Bosnian ban, because the latter had annexed, in 1325, the land of Hum, which for the previous two generations had been a dependency of the Serbian crown and furnished one of Dusan’s many titles. Kotromanic had further gained for Bosnia what she had never had before, an outlet on the Adriatic, and both Hungary and Venice were glad of the aid of so powerful a ruler, who thus laid the foundations of the future kingdom built up by his successor. As soon as he had sufficient leisure from his Macedonian conquests, Dusan demanded the hand of the ban’s only daughter for his son and, as her dowry, the restitution of the Serbian territory which his rival had annexed; and, though Venetian intervention prevented an immediate conflict, a collision between the two Serb potentates was clearly inevitable. The Bosnian ban thought it wiser to begin the attack; he availed himself of Dusan’s Greek campaign of 1349 to invade the Serbian Empire and to menace the town of Cattaro. Dusan, as soon as the subjugation of Epirus and Thessaly was complete, marched into Bosnia, and laid siege to the strong castle of Bobovac, whose picturesque ruins still recall the memory of the many Bosnian rulers who once resided within its walls. The invader found valuable allies in the Bogomiles, whose support Kotromanic had alienated by embracing Catholicism, and who, as has usually happened in the history of Bosnia, flocked to the standard of anyone who would free them from their persecutor. Their power had greatly increased; they possessed a complete organisation; their spiritual head, or djed, resided at Janjici in the Bosna valley, and twelve "teachers" formed a regular hierarchy under his orders. Moreover, the conflicts of the Dominicans and Franciscans for the exclusive privilege of persecuting the Bosnian heretics had naturally favoured the growth of the heresy. Bobovac, however, resisted all attacks, for the chivalry of its garrison no less than the zeal of the besiegers was aroused by the presence of the ban's beautiful daughter within the castle. Dusan was recalled by the troubles in his own Empire, nor did the few remaining years of his reign leave him time for repeating this invasion. The death of Kotromanic in 1353, and the succession of his young nephew Tvrtko I under the regency of a woman, might otherwise have been the Serbian Tsar's opportunity; for the Bosnian magnates, many of whom were zealous Bogomiles, were contemptuous of a ban who was not only a child but a Catholic, nor could his mother have opposed a second Serbian attack. But Dusan was occupied with greater schemes; the moment passed for ever, and it was reserved for the despised Tvrtko to make for himself the greatest name in Bosnian history, to found a kingdom, and to unite Serbia, Croatia, and Dalmatia beneath the sceptre of the first Bosnian king.

Dusan’s death, 1355

At the moment of Tvrtko’s accession, Dusan was engaged in war with Hungary. Louis the Great, who now sat on the Hungarian throne, had aided Kotromanie against the Serbs and had married his fair daughter, whose hand Dusan had demanded for his son, and whom he had besieged in Bobovac. The two monarchies had long been rivals, as they were yesterday; the Serbian Tsar marched to the Danube and the Save; Belgrade, the future Serbian capital, lost a generation earlier and already beginning to be an important fortress, was recovered. But in the following year the Catholic king made such formidable preparations for an attack upon the schismatic Tsar, that the latter considered it prudent to revert to the time-honoured diplomacy of his predecessors in such cases, and to affect a desire for conversion to Catholicism, so as to secure the intervention of the Pope on his behalf. He therefore wrote offering to restore to the Catholics of his dominions most of the monasteries and churches which he had taken from them, and begging the Pope to send him some men learned in the Catholic faith. At the same time he asked to be appointed “Captain of the Church” against the Turks. Innocent VI, with the ingenuousness characteristic of the Papacy in its negotiations with the Balkan Slavs, imagined that Dusan was in earnest, and sent two bishops to his court, while he diverted the King of Hungary's projected attack upon so hopeful a proselyte. When, however, the papal legate and his companion arrived in 1355 at the Serbian court, they found that the Tsar had no longer any interest in becoming a Catholic. Cantacuzene had just been deposed; the Byzantine Empire had fallen into the hands of John V; and there was a party among the Greeks themselves who thought that the only way of saving the remnant from the Turks was to invoke the protection of the powerful Serbian Emperor, whose chances would naturally be all the greater if he remained a member of the Orthodox Church. Accordingly, when the legate was introduced into the presence of the Tsar, “of all men of his time the tallest, and withal terrible to look upon”, he was expected to conform to the usual custom of the Serbian court and kiss the Emperor’s foot. On his refusal, Dusan ordered that none of his Catholic subjects should attend the legate's mass under pain of losing his eyesight; but neither the orders nor the savage mien of the insistent tyrant availed against the fervid faith of his German guard, whose captain, Palmann, boldly told him that they feared God more than they feared the Tsar.

Dusan might well believe that the moment had come for completing his conquests by that of Constantinople, and establishing what a poetic Serbian prince of our own day once called a "Balkan Empire," which should embrace all the races of the variegated peninsula within its borders, and keep the Turks beyond the Bosphorus, the Hungarians beyond the Save. The former were threatening his enemies, the Greeks; the latter were about to attack his friends, the Venetians. On St Michael's Day, 1355, if we may believe the native chronicler, he assembled his nobles, and asked whether he should lead them against Byzantium or Buda-Pesth. To their answer, that they would follow him whithersoever he bade them, his reply was to Constantinople, from which Thrace alone separated his dominions. But on the way he fell ill of a fever, and at Diavoli, on 20 December, he died. By a strange irony, the very site of his death is uncertain; for, while some think that he had not yet left his own dominions, others place Diavoli within a few leagues of the imperial city. No Serbian ruler has ever approached so near it; possibly, had he succeeded and had another Dusan succeeded him, the Turkish conquest might have been averted.

Dusan’s Code 

Great as were his conquests, the Serbian Napoleon was no mere soldier. Like the French Emperor, he was a legislator as well as a commander, and he has left behind him a code of law, the so-called Zakonnik, which, like the Code Napoleon, has survived the vast but fleeting empire which its author too rapidly acquired. Dusan’s law-book consists of 120 articles, of which the first 104 were published in 1349 and the remaining 16 five years later. It is not an original production, but is largely based on previous legislation; the articles dealing with ecclesiastical matters are derived from the canon law of the Greek Church, others are taken from the statutes of the Adriatic coast-towns, notably those of Budua, while the institution of trial by jury is borrowed from Stephen Uros II. For the modern reader its chief importance lies in the light which it throws upon the political and social condition of the Serbian Empire at its zenith.

Medieval Serbia resembled neither of the two Serb states of our own day. Unlike Montenegro, it was never an autocracy, even in the time of its first and greatest Tsar, but the powers of the monarch were limited, as in medieval Bulgaria, by the influence of the great nobles, a class which does not exist in the modern Serbian kingdom. Society consisted of the sovereign; the ecclesiastical hierarchy, ranging from the newly-created Patriarch to the village priest; the greater and lesser nobles, called respectively vlastele and vlastelicici; the peasants, some free and some serfs bound to the soil; slaves; servants for hire; and, in the coast-towns, such as Cattaro, and at a few places inland, small communities of burghers. But the magnates were throughout the dominant section; one of them established himself as an independent prince at Strumitsa in Macedonia; on two occasions Dusan had to cope with their rebellions. The leading men among them formed a privy council of twenty-four which he consulted before deciding important questions of policy; his legal code was approved by a sabor, or parliament of nobles, great and small, at which the Patriarch and the other chief officials of the Church were present; and its provisions defined their privileges as jealously as his own. Their lands were declared hereditary, and their only feudal burdens consisted of a tithe to holy Church and of military service to the Tsar during their lifetime, a compulsory bequest of their weapons and their best horse to him after their death. If they built a church on their estates, they became patrons of the living; they exercised judicial powers, with a few exceptions, over their own serfs; they enjoyed the privilege of killing their inferiors with comparative impunity, for a graduated tariff regulated the punishment for premeditated murder—hanging for that of a priest or monk, burning for parricide, fratricide, or infanticide, the loss of both hands and a fine for that of a noble by a common man, a simple fine for that of a commoner by a noble. Two days a week the peasant was compelled to work for his lord; once a year he had to pay a capitation-tax to the Tsar. But the law protected him and secured to him the fruits of his labour; no village might be laid under contribution by two successive army corps; and, in case of trial by jury, the jurors were always chosen from the class to which the accused belonged. But the peasant was expressly excluded from all share in public affairs; they were the business of his betters alone; and, if he organised or attended a public meeting, he lost his ears and was branded on the face. For theft or arson the village, for corvas or fines the household, of the culprit were held collectively responsible; the provinces had to build the palaces and maintain the fortresses of the Tsar.

Next to the nobles, the Orthodox Church was the most influential class of the community. Though on occasion Dugan coquetted with Rome, his permanent policy was to strengthen the national Church, to which he had given a separate organisation, independent of Constantinople. The early archbishops of Serbia had been drawn from the junior members of the royal family, and their interests were accordingly identified with those of the Crown; their successors were often the apologists and the sycophants of royal criminals, just as, in our own day, we have seen a Metropolitan of Belgrade condone successful regicide. In return for their support, the established Church received special privileges and exemptions: on the one hand, the Tsar protected the new Patriarchate from Greek reprisals by ordering the expulsion of Greek priests; on the other, his code enjoined the compulsory conversion of his Catholic subjects and the punishment of Catholic priests who attempted to propagate their doctrines in Orthodox Serbia. A similar phenomenon, the result of policy not of fanaticism, meets us in the kindred Empire of Bulgaria. There we find John Alexander—a man who was so little of a purist that he sent his Wallachian wife to a nunnery and married a beautiful Jewess—consigning his ecclesiastical conscience to an inspired bigot, half-hermit, half-missionary, and, at his bidding, holding two Church Councils against the Bogomiles and similar heretics, who sought salvation by discarding their clothes, and who paid for their errors by branding or banishment. "The friend of monks, the nourisher of the poor," he founded a monastery at the foot of Mt Vitos, and gave rich gifts to Rila, where one of Dusan’s great officials ended his career and built the tower which still preserves his name. Even the Jewish Tsaritsa, with all the zeal of a convert, restored churches and endowed monasteries, but her munificence could not prevent the restriction of the civil liberties of her own people, from whom the state executioner was selected.

While the great Serbia of Dusan, like the smaller Serbia of our own day, was pre-eminently an agricultural state, whose inhabitants were chiefly occupied in tilling the land and in rearing live-stock, it possessed the enormous advantage of a coastline, which thus facilitated trade. Like the enlightened statesman that he was, Dusan had no prejudices against foreign merchants. He allowed them to circulate freely, and to the Ragusans, who were the most important of them, he showed marked favours. Thus, while Ragusan chroniclers complain of his father's vexatious policy towards the South Slavonic republic, he vied with the ban of Bosnia, in 1333, in giving her the peninsula of Sabbioncello, over which both sovereigns had claims. The possession of this long and narrow strip of land enormously reduced the time and cost of transport into Bosnia, and amply repaid the annual tribute which Ragusa prudently paid to both Serbia and Bosnia to ensure her title, and the expense of the still extant fortifications which she hastily erected to defend it, lest the king should repent of his bargain. He allowed a colony of Saxons to work the silver mines of Novobrdo, and to exercise the trade of charcoal-burners; but a wise regard for his forests led him to limit the number of these relentless woodmen. His guard was composed of Germans, and its captain obtained great influence with him. He guaranteed the privileges of the numerous Greek cities in Macedonia which he had conquered, and endeavoured to secure the support of the natural leaders of the Hellenic element in his composite Empire by including them among the ranks of the nobility. Anxious for information about other, and more civilised, lands than his own, he sent frequent missions to different countries, and sought the hand of a French princess for his son; but this great match was hindered by the difference of religion, and Stephen Uros V had to content himself with a Wallachian wife. With no Western state were the relations of both Serbia and Bulgaria closer than with Venice. Dusan more than once offered her his aid; she on one occasion accepted his mediation ; while John Alexander gave her merchants leave to build a church, and allowed her consul to reside at Varna, whence she could dispute the Black Sea trade with Genoa, whose colony of Kaffa had already brought her into intercourse with Bulgaria. To show his hospitality to foreigners, Dusan decreed that ambassadors from abroad should receive free meals in each village through which they passed.

Of literary culture there are traces in both the Slav Empires at this period. Dusan, following the example of Stephen Uros II, the donor of books to the Serbian hospital which he founded at Constantinople, presented the nucleus of a library to Ragusa. John Alexander was, however, a patron of literature on a larger scale. For him was executed the Slav translation of the Chronicle of Constantine Manasses, the copy of which in the Vatican contains coloured portraits: of the Tsar; of his second son, John Asen, lying dead with the Emperor and Empress standing by the bier, and the Patriarch and clergy performing the obsequies; of the boy's reception in heaven; and of the Tsar, this time surrounded by three of his sons. These extremely curious pictures, rougher in design than Byzantine work, are of great value for the Bulgarian art and costume of the middle of the fourteenth century, just as the frescoes at Boyana are for those of the thirteenth. Three other treatises of a theological character were copied by order of this same ruler, while his spiritual adviser, St Theodosius of Trnovo, whose life was written in Greek, was the master of a school of literary monks, whose works are the swan-song of the second Bulgarian Empire. Boril, another much earlier Tsar, commanded the translation of a Greek law-book directed against the Bogomiles. But the Serbian sovereigns of the thirteenth and the early fourteenth centuries, more fortunate than their Bulgarian contemporaries, found a biographer in the Archbishop Daniel, whose partiality can only be excused by his dependence upon their bounty, but whose work forms a continuation of the various lives of Nemanja. Of Serbian music the sole contemporary account is from the pen of a Greek, who found the singing of the Easter hymns simply excruciating; but the same author mentions that the Serbs already commemorated the great deeds of their national heroes in those ballads which only attained their full development after the fatal battle of Kossovo. Their best architects came from Cattaro, where was also the Serbian mint in the reigns of both Dusan and his son. It is noticeable that under the former's rival, Stephen Kotromanic, began the series of Bosnian coins, a proof of the growing commercial importance of that third Slav state.

The Serbs look back to the reign of Dusan as the most glorious epoch of their history. But his name is more than a historical memory: it is a political programme. The five centuries and more which have elapsed since his death have seemed but as a watch in the night of Turkish domination to the patriots of Belgrade. They have regarded his conquests as the title-deeds of their race to lands that had long ceased to be theirs, and a Serbian diplomatist has been known to quote him to a practical British statesman, to whom it would never have occurred to claim a large part of France because it had belonged to the Plantagenets in the time of Dusan. But, while the lost Empire of the great Tsar is still a factor in Balkan politics, it must have been evident to those of his contemporaries who were men of foresight that it could not last. Medieval Serbia, like some modern states, was made too fast; at its zenith it comprised five Balkan races—Serbs, Greeks, Albanians, Koutzo-Wallachs, and that aboriginal tribe whose name still survived in Dusan’s code in the term neropch as a designation for a kind of serf. Of these races, the Greeks were on a higher intellectual plane and were the products of an older civilization than that of their conquerors, who recognised the fact by imitating the usages of the Greek capital, where Dusan himself passed his boyhood. Moreover, the natural antipathy between the Hellene and the Slav was accentuated by Dugan's creation of a Serbian Patriarchate, a measure which produced similar bitterness to that caused by the erection of the Bulgarian Exarchate in 1870, and which had a similar political object. The Greeks of the Serbian Empire naturally regarded with suspicion and resentment a Tsar who was excommunicated by the Ecumenical Patriarch and who had expelled their priests; and the negotiations of the Serbian government show the importance which it attached to official Greek recognition of the national Church. The Albanians, again, were first-class fighting men, who then, as now, had little love for the Serbs, from whom they differed in religion, while the hands of the Bogomile heretics were always against the established order in their own country, although they might side with a foreign invader of another faith. Thus, despite Dusan's attempt to enforce theological uniformity, four religious bodies yet further divided the five races of his Empire, and experience has shown, alike in India and in the Balkans, that such a mixture of nationalities and creeds can only be governed by a foreign race which stands outside them all. The Serbian element, even if united, was not sufficiently numerous to dominate the others, nor did Dusan in all his glory unite the whole Serbo-Croatian nor even the whole Serb stock beneath his sceptre. The one unifying force in the Empire, the monarchy, was weakened by its limitations, which in their turn corresponded with the national traditions and character. Even the strongest of Serbian monarchs was barely equal to the task of suppressing the great nobles, and it was doubtless distrust of the native aristocracy which led him to surround himself with a German guard and to give important posts to foreigners who owed everything to him. While, therefore, Stephen Dusan is justly considered to have been the ablest and most famous of Serbian rulers, the vast Empire which he built up so rapidly was as ephemeral as that of Napoleon. Still, short-lived as was that Serbian hegemony of the Balkan races which was his work, it will be remembered by his countrymen as long as the Eastern Question, in which these historical reminiscences have played such an embarrassing part, continues to perplex the statesmen of Western, and to divide the nationalities of South-Eastern, Europe.